Chapter 1/Morant Bay
This will be very much a background chapter detailing what gave rise to the belief that Jamaica was in need of civilising. From my reading it seems that the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865 was the main catalyst. On
October 11 1865 Paul Bogle a small landowner from Stony Gut in the parish of St Thomas in the East led a band of around 400 other Afro-Jamaicans to the parish capital, Morant Bay, to protest about the lack of social justice. Four days earlier a black man had been fined for letting his horse stray onto the land of an unpopular white landlord – some small settlers on his land had been refusing to pay rent claiming that the land belonged to them. There was growing distrust amongst some black Jamaicans in regard to the legal system as in some areas the magistracy was virtually dominated by planters. Since the ending of slavery and the apprenticeship system many former slaves had moved away form the plantations by either buying or leasing land individually or grouping together to buy large plots in which “free villages” were established: others simply squatted. The mid-1860s Jamaica was also a time of a depressed economic climate and severe drought which brought existing tensions to a head.
On one hand the revolt fuelled white fears of a black ascendancy in the colony and led not only to Jamaica relinquishing its Assembly and opting to be ruled by Britain, but also confirmed British ideas that Jamaica was a colony in need of civilising. On the other the severity of the repression of the uprising, over 500 hundreds blacks killed, 100s of others flogged and 1000 homes of black Jamaicans burned, the execution of Gordon on spurious grouonds, led to much criticism of the Jamaica governor both in Jamaica and overseas and contributed to the idea that Jamaica could not be ruled by force alone – instead encouragement was to be tried.
The uprising also fed into racist notions that certain non-white peoples were ungovernable. In the 19th century ideas such as polygenesis, that different races sprang from different initial origins, were prominent in discussions on race Darwin’s theory of evolution was used to back up the idea of a racial hierarchy with white Anglo-Saxons at the top and the black race at the bottom – not entirely surprising as it was white Anglo-Saxons who were writing the racial theories. Blacks were regarded by some racial theorists as inferior not only because of colour but because they had been enslaved, and they seemed to be lacking in culture, or at least western definitions of culture. . The idea also was growing of “superior” and “inferior” races and that certain races were “dying races”; an belief which seemed to be supported by the dwindling of some indigenous peoples in areas colonised by Britain.
Interpretations of Darwinism contributed to contemporary thoughts on how the British Empire should evolve. Just as in the field of racial science there was an obsession with survival of the fittest, there was an obsession amongst imperialists about which would be the next great Power, something which began to concern Britain more and more when economic and industrial/technological growth of Germany and the USA indicated that they could be contenders on the “world power” scene. It was believed by some British imperialists that the way Britain could maintain its strength was through the size of its empire and ideas such as an economic union of Empire to help bring about imperial unity were floated. A shared language and culture were also regarded as important in keeping the Empire united, especially as Britain felt it had more in common with its white Dominions than with its largely non-white colonies.
In North Yorkshire for the summer solstice. Decided to climb Roseberry Topping (322m) on the day – it seemed appropriate to be high up on the longest day of the year.