a1 International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam
Western expansion and the large-scale cultivation of tropical crops for the world market gave rise to a strong demand for labour — plantation labour in particular. The commercial production of sugar(-cane) and other tropical produce more often than not was concentrated in areas that could not provide themselves adequate supplies of suitable labour: the Caribbean zone can serve as a model in this respect. Distance and the unattractive character of work on the fields and plantation life as such militated against the recruitment of voluntary workers on any scale. So the massive mobilization of bonded labour from more populous areas imposed itself on the planters. The extent and form of bonded migrant labour are determined both by the character of unequal power relations and significant differences in the quality of demand and supply. This subject, that is the successive stages of the recruitment and transport of non-voluntary labour (from Africa, Europe and India) to the Caribbean plantation world (including the adjacent continental zones) has been thoroughly studied. The export of Indian labour, bonded or ‘free’, in the post-slavery period has been dealt with by Tinker in a competent way. Modern scholarship only recently started to show an interest in the mobilization of labour, bonded or free, within the great Asian colonies of which two became important suppliers of overseas labour: India and Java. In the Caribbean zone, in Mauritius and similar plantation colonies, the West was in a position to create by forceful means, new plantation societies, fitted to its needs. In Asia one was confronted with states long established, ancient civilizations and relatively large populations.