Panama Money in Barbados, 1900-1920

  • Author(s): Richardson, Bonham C.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 0000-00-00
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $29.95 | Buy Now

On January 18, 1905, hundreds of black men left Barbados aboard a steamer for panama. They were the first Barbadian contract workers dispatched to dog the Panama Canal. In the next decade, 45,000 Barbadian men and women – one-quarter of the islands human population – traveled to the isthmus. They sent home and brought back to Barbados funds in excess of 1 million. The surge of money created irrevocable social changes on Barbados, undermining elements of the island’s antiquated sugar economy. In a broad sense, the era of “Panama money” represented a cultural watershed between the island’s quasi-feudal past and the modern Barbados of today.

In analyzing the changes created by Panama money on Barbados, Bonham Richardson combines oral history into an important contribution to Caribbean social history. He presents his study from the vantage point of the Barbadian working people and shows that the creation of the Panama Canal, conventionally viewed as a U.S. technological triumph, was of momentous social significance for the Afro-Caribbean laborers who built it.

Bonham C. Richardson is professor of geography at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He is the author of Caribbean Migrants: Environment and Human Survival on St. Kitts and Nevis, a Choice “Outstanding Academic Book of 1983.”