The Importance of the 1897 British Royal Commission

  • Bonham C. Richardson
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


In December 1896, a full-scale Royal Commission was convened to assess a widespread economic malaise in the British Caribbean. It was the first comprehensive investigative commission to deal with the British Caribbean in its entirety since 1842. Late in the 1800s a severe economic depression, owing to the decline of the local sugarcane industries, had created misery throughout the British Caribbean colonies. Especially in the smaller places, antiquated infrastructures and worn-out soils could not compete with the new economies of scale that were by now producing enormous quantities of cane sugar with modern equipment in such rival tropical areas as Fiji, Natal, Brazil, and Java, as well as Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the greater Caribbean region itself. Even worse, European beet sugar, supported by government subsidies that came to be known as “bounties,” had undercut British Caribbean sugar on the London market; a precipitous drop in the price of sugar in 1884 was attributed to the dumping of beet sugar in London, mainly by German producers. The resulting low wages and unemployment in the British Caribbean led to terrible local conditions. This chapter briefly outlines these conditions, yet its main focus is on the formation of the 1897 commission, its activities and conclusions, and the early implementations of some of the commission’s suggestions.1


Beet Sugar Cane Sugar Royal Commission Cane Planter Local Estate 
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Copyright information

© Jean Besson and Janet Momsen 2007

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  • Bonham C. Richardson

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