Caribbean Project: Demographic Failure of White Settlement in the British West Indies

British West Indies

As I noted in the previous article, the British colonies in the Caribbean failed to become settler societies, unlike the plantation societies on the North American mainland, primarily because the tropical climate and diseases were too unhealthy for Whites.

The failure of White settlement was not due to lack of trying:

“The peculiar transience of British society in the Caribbean can be attributed in part to demographic failure. The white population was not sustained by natural increase, unlike the mainland colonies where the white population was doubling every twenty-five years after 1700. Deaths exceeded births in the Caribbean. The migration of a little under half a million Europeans to the British Caribbean was “roughly comparable” to that of British North America before the American Revolution. Yet there were fewer than fifty thousand whites in the British Caribbean, compared to two million in North America, in 1776.

The demographic failure of white society in the islands was linked to high mortality rates: “The low life expectancy of white men in the tropics goes far to explain the large numbers of absentee proprietors” and the small size of the white population. Jamaica was “considered the most unhealthy [place] … in the world.” Over one-third of white immigrants died within three years of arriving in the Caribbean. A posting in the islands consequently occasioned sudden rises in the military sick lists and even mutinies in the armies in Britain. Being stationed in Jamaica became a form of punishment. The danger of sudden death was a constant topic of conversation among passengers on a voyage to the West Indies in 1775. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur wrote of West Indians who at the age of thirty were “loaded with the infirmities of old age” and losing the “abilities of enjoying the comforts of life at a time when we northern men just begin to taste the fruits of our labor and prudence.” The grim prospect of a premature death was a powerful deterrent to living in the Caribbean.”

Note: The above excerpt comes from Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy’s An Empire Divided: The American Revolution in the British Caribbean.

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  1. Whites are not adapted to live in pestilential hellholes and ought not bother with them unless there is an overwhelming need for some resource there.

    On Colonization in general, the US experience is atypical in many respects. Most times no one wants to live kith and kin for the unknown and often as not men have to be enslaved or imprisoned to make it happen.

    The US had an unusual amount of men willing to go for social reasons and as the climate is close enough to home they were able to reproduce at a great rate (7 and 8) with lower than average mortality.

    even with that we resorted to slavery for cheap labor (a very stupid idea) and prison indentures and the like to make up the difference.

    Normally colonies need massive support from the homeland , the US was better off but again not repeatable

    As for women ,the shortage a chronic problem to the point where mental hospitals and prisons were being depopulated to keep the colonials from marrying the Indians

    I have a weak cite here but I’ve seen this elsewhere

    This was a mixture of indentured and mail order brides but given the admixture ranged from perfectly OK (poor, thieving and caught) to what were they thinking (barely functioning ) This might explain a lot actually

    Anyway its an important facet of society worth considering , we are only happy and prosperous in a limited climatic belt. And yes we can live elsewhere but there are consequences (c.f Florida)

  2. Oh we certainly could but I am not sure many would want to. Its warm down there and has nice beaches but birth rates aren’t going to miraculously go up just because we have a bit of extra real estate.

    However with the 50% underemployment in Spain and the like it might work. The indignatos might be game if we had the nerve. I am not sure.

    They’d have to weigh the risk of just ending up exploited colonial labor and instead of the in the ownership class . In Europe those risks are really high in peoples minds. European ideology is based around Marxists concepts of class struggle and as soon as one or two horror stories about labor abuse got spread, the colonialism will dry up . People want a nice middle class life, not being somebodies servant.

  3. Climate control solves much of the adaptation problem for whites who work indoors, but full-fledged settlement requires outdoor work. Fair white Australians have some of the highest rates of skin cancers. Blue eyes are damaged and age in a sunny climate more quickly than fully pigmented.

    Hunter wrote: “In the 21st century, now that malaria and yellow fever are under control, now that technology has rendered Africans obsolete, Whites could easily colonize the Caribbean.”

    But we already ARE: German Anabaptists have been moving out of the “too worldly” States for decades to buy and settle on inexpensive farm lands in the Dominican Republic and around the western shores of the Caribbean, in Honduras, Belize, and Costa Rica. They find they cannot work like they did in “the Promised Land” (Pennsylvania) — siestas are necessary to avoid heat exhaustion — but they work hard nonetheless and their agricultural “colonies” are succeeding. Yellow Fever may not be a present threat, but they do experience other tropical diseases and parasites such as Leishmaniasis, and crops and livestock face much more serious endemic threats than in the temperate homeland.

    They don’t need or use any slaves or cheap hired labour.

  4. Whites already live comfortably throughout the Caribbean. Florida was settled in the twentieth century. The Spanish successfully colonized Cuba. Whites are even a majority on some islands like St. Barts and St. Martins.

  5. Needless to say, it was a different story three hundred years ago when blacks were imported to work as slave laborers. Malaria used to infest even the Lower South. That’s not the case today.

  6. “Whites already live comfortably throughout the Caribbean…. Whites are even a majority on some islands like St. Barts and St. Martins.”

    Some of those true fair-skinned may be comfortable in occupations with less exposure to the outdoor climate, or along breezy shorelines, but travel inland in the humidity or take away controls for tropical diseases, and consider the immense pressure of pests and diseases on crops and livestock in the tropics, and the comparison with life in the temperate zone is poor.

    This dream of deporting all the Africans out of the Caribbean and then repopulating (re-colonising) the Caribbean with whites is unlikely to happen when whites are still unable to repopulate themselves in the States (with the exception of German Anabaptists with their seven to ten children families and Baptist homeschoolers with three or four).

  7. Forgot to add Mormons who also often have more than replacement size families, but the general point is held.

  8. really the Caribbean has nothing of real value outside of get aways for rich folks and sure White folks can settle there now, water is clean/ we no how to treat it, yellow fever, malaria etc are under control etc etc. As far as I can tell the Anabaptist didn’t show up there until the early 1900’s. it’s an apple to oranges comparison

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