The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary by Walton Look Lai

By Walton Look Lai

Within the first seven chapters, approximately the entire files are 'official', generated by means of executive businesses or officials. Colonial place of work correspondence and papers, reviews of Immigrations division officers and British brokers in South China, studies and papers of the Colonial Land and Emigration fee in London, Parliamentary Papers those are the most assets from which glance Lai chooses his extracts . . . yet in chapters eight and nine, which take care of the post-indenture chinese language after 1870, and the unfastened immigration beginning round 1890, the kind of documentation alterations. The chinese language have been now not the accountability of any governmental business enterprise and their arrival and next actions generated little reliable documentation. In those chapters, glance Lai will depend on non-official resources . . . even if the documentary extracts don't transcend 1950, the relations biographies were up to date to the early Nineteen Nineties. they're in keeping with own interviews with, or written bills by means of, aged relations individuals.

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By Walton Look Lai

Within the first seven chapters, approximately the entire files are 'official', generated by means of executive businesses or officials. Colonial place of work correspondence and papers, reviews of Immigrations division officers and British brokers in South China, studies and papers of the Colonial Land and Emigration fee in London, Parliamentary Papers those are the most assets from which glance Lai chooses his extracts . . . yet in chapters eight and nine, which take care of the post-indenture chinese language after 1870, and the unfastened immigration beginning round 1890, the kind of documentation alterations. The chinese language have been now not the accountability of any governmental business enterprise and their arrival and next actions generated little reliable documentation. In those chapters, glance Lai will depend on non-official resources . . . even if the documentary extracts don't transcend 1950, the relations biographies were up to date to the early Nineteen Nineties. they're in keeping with own interviews with, or written bills by means of, aged relations individuals.

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The Immigration Departments in the islands oversaw the conditions of the immigrants from the time of distribution to the time of expiry of their 5-year contracts. Complaints were handled by both the Immigration Departments and the local courts, and while immigrants often charged the officials with harbouring bias and prejudice towards them, the 70-year history of Chinese and Indian indenture was marked by less controversy than in the Latin countries. If there was any expose of brutality in the British territories comparable to those made by the 1874 Commissions of Enquiry into conditions in Cuba and Peru organised under the initiative of the Chinese Government, ex-Chief Justice Joseph Beaumont's controversial report on British Guiana, published in 1871 under the title The New Slavery: An account of the Indian and Chinese Immigrants in British Guiana, would be the closest British equivalent.

According to the terms of the treaty, the immigrants would be entitled, after their 5-year term of indenture was over, to a free return passage back to China, or a cash grant in lieu of passage. The West Indian planters, backed by the Colonial Office—who had not endorsed the treaty provisions, which had been negotiated by a representative of the Foreign Office—argued that this would have made the cost of Chinese immigration too prohibitive, compared with the indenture experiment from British India already in progress.

What was also unique was the great diversity in theory and practice among the different national-colonial systems utilising the indenture system in this period, from the Spanish Cuban/Peruvian experiments to the British, French and Dutch systems in force on the Caribbean plantations. The British system was markedly distinct from the other systems in the level of formal attention it paid to the rights of the indentured labourers (at least in theory), created as it had been in the aftermath of the vigorous British abolitionist campaign against slavery.

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