Caribbean Project: Sephardic Jews Move To British and French Caribbean

Eastern Caribbean

Here’s another excerpt from Philip D. Curtin’s The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex which touches on the Jewish role in spreading “sugar and slavery” to the British and French Caribbean:

“Meanwhile, some “Dutch” had already migrated from Brazil to the French and British Antilles. Many of these were not even of Dutch origin; they were Portuguese New Christians. In Brazil, they had resumed their old religion under the Dutch flag. They therefore had reason not to stay around to see what the Portuguese might do if they reconquered Pernambuco. Many important Sephardic Jewish families of the Caribbean today trace their presence to this migration.”

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  1. That’s interesting, though I doubt the Portuguese would have done anything to them in the New World – they just mainly seemed to want them out of Portugal.

    In doing research yesterday for a piece on the eastern Atlantic roots of the plantation system I found that it mostly Portuguese Jews and other ‘undesirables’ who were sent to the Portuguese island colonies in the Gulf Guinea in the late 1400s and early 1500s. There were quickly too many slaves and not enough Whites on these islands to adequately control the place. Later they were converted from sugar plantation islands into slave-exporting centres. No word on how long the Jews there stayed around but eventually the islands were turned over to the Spanish, who kept them until 1968.

  2. Yes, I read the same thing in the Palmie book.

    They were heavily involved in Sao Tome, Brazil, and then spreading it to the French and British Caribbean. They were more directly involved in Curacao and Suriname in the Dutch Caribbean.

  3. There are some interesting sources referenced by both books. I recall one book by a Jewish scholar that boasted about Jewish involvement in the rise of plantation slavery. It is mentioned in an excerpt about slavery in the French Caribbean.

  4. Sao Tome was a mid Atlantic Jewlag. They were forced to go there from Portugal and Spain. Here Christian peasants (Andalusia) were replaced by blacks. It’s a little known but pivotal island.

  5. “They were forced to go there from Portugal and Spain.”

    Earliest settlers of the uninhabited islands included many criminals, orphans, and Jewish children taken from their parents to be brought up as Christians.

  6. Just came across the following info on Sephardic Jews in the Caribbean from ‘The Caribbean: A History of the Region and Its Peoples’ on page 219:

    ‘Another social factor in Dutch colonies that was largely absent from the French Caribbean was the presence of mainly Sephardic Jews in Curacao and in Suriname, where they actually outnumbered the Dutch. Although a significant Jewish community had existed in the French islands during the middle decades of the 17th century, Louis XIV’s policies led to their exodus. Thus, greater economic and religious diversity characterized the Dutch Caribbean (Klooster 1997, 73-75).’

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