The exigencies of ‘home’
Barbadian poverty and British nation-building
in Empire and nation-building in the Caribbean
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Barbados was one of the poorest of the British West Indian colonies with deplorable public health and high rates of infant, malnutrition and child mortality. The wages were also the lowest in the region which reflected the stinginess of the sugar plantation owners, who also tied plantation labourers to the plantation by linking employment with land rental. There was no assistance or public relief for the unemployed and thus the combined effect of low wages and no unemployment benefits often resulted in subsidising kin in times of hardship, an additional expense that aggravated their own impoverished conditions. The central tool for the British to combat the poverty in Barbados was the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund which was set up by the Colonial Office and was answerable to the British Treasury. However, the Colonial Office and the respective governors were reluctant to challenge the grip of planters over the economy and hardly drew up any alternative forms of economic development or organising and increasing agricultural production.

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