Introduction
in Empire and nation-building in the Caribbean
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The Great Depression of the 1930s devastated the national economies of West Indies, which also had to already dealing with low wages, unemployment, malnutrition, illiteracy and deplorable housing. Barbados was one of the poorest areas in the West Indies with the lowest life expectancy and highest rate of child mortality. It was a white oligarchy that was wholly dependent on sugar and due to the steady fall in its prices, arable land was also turned to sugar production and rural workers with access to small plots of land were forced to grow sugar as a cash crop. The arrest and subsequent deportation of Clement Payne, a socialist from Trinidad, in 1937 finally led to the outbreak of riots in Barbados, which was followed by Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua and British Guiana. These region-wide disturbances highlighted the need for social reform and forced the British government to appoint a Royal Commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Moyne, to investigate the causes of the riots and dissent and make recommendations.

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