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BARBADOS - National Cultural Foundation

Background to Panama Canal


Article Posted: Feb 18, 2004


The 2004 Bridgetown Lecture Series continues in the Grande Salle of the Central Bank . The featured speaker was Dr. Henderson Carter, Head of the History Department (A.G.) at Queen’s College who teaches History and Caribbean Studies. In addition, he is a part-time Lecturer in History at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. Dr. Carter will lecture on the topic: Background to Panama Canal Migration.


In an abstract from his lecture Dr. Carter notes that, “Between 1904 and 1914, an estimated 60,000 Barbadians chose to migrate to the Canal Zone where they found employment opportunities under the Isthmian Canal Commission. This was by far the greatest single movement of Barbadian workers in the first half of the twentieth century.

He further adds that, “In examining the background to this migration, the lecture locates the movement within the context of an oppressive and exclusionary socio-political order created during slavery and refashioned by restrictive legislative instruments after 1838. Moreover, the persistence of the planter-merchant oligarchy with an economic framework dependent on sugar monoculture combined to produce an expanding poverty. Furthermore, a strident culture of resistance, illustrated by withdrawal from the plantation labour, labour riots and rural-urban migration provides the context in which this Panama migration might be analysed.”

The Bridgetown lectures, which run May 18, 2004, are being jointly hosted by the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) and the University of the West Indies (UWI), Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.

The public is being encouraged to attend this educational series.

Article Posted: Mar 03, 2004


The 2004 Bridgetown Lecture Series continues at Solidarity House, Harmony Hall, St. Michael. The featured speaker for the evening was Bonham Richardson, Professor Emeritus of Geography at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, whose Ph. D is from the University of Wisconsin. Professor Richardson lived in Barbados during the period 1981-82 while he was gathering information for Panama Money in Barbados, 1900-1920. The speaker for the occasion is Dr. Trevor Carmichael.


In an abstract from his lecture Professor Richardson notes that, “Roughly 45, 000 Barbadians – one-quarter of the island’s population – migrated to the Panama Canal between 1905 and 1914. About 20,000 men signed contracts at the US Isthmian Canal Commission office in Bridgetown; the other 25,000 men and women paid their own passages. The earliest recruiting was difficult but the success of those who travelled to Panama and sent or brought money home soon inspired others to go. Within months the term “craze” and “frenzy” swept through Bridgetown and the rural tenantries, inspiring more travel to Panama. The peak migration year was 1906 when more than 6,500 contract labourers went to Panama.

The Bridgetown lectures, which run May 18, 2004, are being jointly hosted by the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) and the University of the West Indies (UWI), Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.


Article Posted: Apr 01, 2004


The 2004 Bridgetown Lecture Series continues at the Solidarity House, at 8:00 p.m. The featured speaker for the evening was Lecturer at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus, Professor Woodville Marshall, who will offer his findings on the topic: Panama Money and Land Acquisition.


In an abstract from his lecture Professor Marshall notes that: “Acquisition of land by the landless requires the interaction of three main elements: land availability, money to buy land, and an agency of land transfer. My basic argument will be that, for the first time since slave emancipation, these elements were in dynamic interaction for at least two decades (1904—1930), with the result that several villages were created, the number of small landowners dramatically increased, and a few ENTIRE plantations were actually acquired by agents of Panama migrants.”

He continues by adding: “Land became available because the long-running depression in the sugar virtually bankrupted several planters. Several land speculators emerged to facilitate land transfer by subdividing plantations that were sold for debt. But the key factor was undoubtedly the money—at least five million dollars—which the migrants sent back and/or brought back. It was this cash influx which stimulated the speculators into action and made possible significant shifts in residential patterns.”

The Bridgetown lectures, which run May 18, 2004, are being jointly hosted by the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) and the University of the West Indies (UWI), Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.

The public is being encouraged to attend this educational series.

 




 

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