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5 - The Shadow of Colonialism, 1865–1945

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2023

Kenneth Morgan
Affiliation:
Brunel University
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Summary

Crown Colony government, implemented in 1865, reserved political power in the hands of British-appointed officials, but there was no representative assembly. Only towards the end of the Second World War were improvements made towards more democracy in Jamaica, with the introduction of a new constitution and a general election held in 1944. Jamaica’s social structure remained heavily dominated by a white elite, with an emerging professional brown middle class and many impoverished black Jamaicans. The late nineteenth century witnessed the growth of the Jamaican peasantry. Sugar production was largely reorganised to centre around large sugar factories, while banana cultivation became an important new economic activity.

Elementary education improved in the late nineteenth century with a growth in the number of schools, but secondary education lagged behind and tertiary education was virtually non-existent until after the Second World War. Jamaicans remained attached to Afro-Caribbean spiritual beliefs but Christian churches, chapels and revivalist preachers gained followers. In the 1920s and 1930s, Rastafarianism emerged as a new system of belief and Marcus Garvey’s organisations offered hope for Jamaicans to find a future beyond colonialism. Worsening employment conditions in the 1930s led to major labour protests in 1938, the formation of trade unions and the birth of political parties.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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