Rethinking the historiography of coolie integration in British Caribbean cities

by Ruma Chopra

Working Papers WP 19-01
March 2019
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

This essay situates Caribbean indentured labor migrations within the larger history of slavery. In doing so, it broadens the field of slavery studies, complicates how we define labor systems in the British Empire, and challenges the ethnically-rooted assumptions of global labor history. It compels a fundamental rethinking of the historical transition from enslaved to free labor in the Caribbean, the first associated with African slaves and the second with Asian servants.   

Keywords: Caribbean, slavery, indentured servitude, labor migrations, abolition.  

Ruma Chopra has published essays and books related to allegiances during the era of Atlantic slavery and Atlantic revolutions. Her most recent book, Almost Home: Maroons Between Slavery and Freedom in Jamaica, Nova Scotia, and Sierra Leone (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018), demonstrates how the unlikely survival of a community of escaped slaves reveals the contradictions of slavery and the complexities of the British antislavery era. Dr. Chopra is professor of history at San Jose State University.