The demographic structure of the Caribbean slave Societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth Centuries

  • Stanley L. Engerman
  • B. W. Higman


From the onset of settlement at the end of the fifteenth century the Caribbean has been rather unusual in terms of its population composition among those areas colonized by European nations. By 1700 its population was about three-fifths black, almost all enslaved, and the population of Amerindians had almost disappeared on the islands and was quite small on the Guyanese coastal areas of South America and in British Honduras in Central America. In the two centuries examined, six European nations were involved in the colonization process. Three of these represented relatively minor colonies — the Dutch, the Danish and, the smallest, the Swedish (who owned St Bartholomew between 1784 and 1877), and three were of considerable importance, although their relative shares did vary over time - the English, the Spanish and the French. The patterns of settlement of the Spanish colonies (where the shares of non-whites tended to be below onehalf) differed from those of the other European nations. Among the other European settlers, after 1700, the populations were generally about 70 to 90 per cent black, most enslaved until the ending of slavery - by revolution in Haiti and by metropolitan legislation in the other areas. For the Spanish settlements, however, there were smaller percentages of blacks, while the proportion of non-whites included more free persons of colour than did the other areas.


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© UNESCO 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanley L. Engerman
  • B. W. Higman

There are no affiliations available

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