The Waxing and Waning of Land for the Peasantry in Barbados

  • Janet Momsen
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


Barbados was the only older sugar colony in the Caribbean able to increase sugar production after slavery ended, as a result of the planter’s monopoly of agricultural land. Although before 1838 slaves exhibited signs of both protopeasant and protoproletarian behavior, growing much of their own food on tiny plots of plantation land and even selling surpluses on the domestic market and ginger for export, they had little opportunity to obtain their own land for farming after emancipation. Yet, gradually land did become available to the new peasantry as plantation agriculture became less profitable and the former slaves gained access to some financial capital with which to purchase land. However, as development has led to a more diversified economy, small-scale peasant farming has come under renewed threat because of increasing pressure on scarce land resources from tourism, industrialization, suburbanization, and improvements in the island’s infrastructure. At the same time, agriculture is confronting a severe structural crisis because of trade liberalization with the loss of traditional protected export markets for sugar resulting in the release of land for alternative uses.


Plantation Land Gender Ideology Diversify Economy Windward Island West Indian Island 
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© Jean Besson and Janet Momsen 2007

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  • Janet Momsen

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