‘…That Oldest and Ablest of Agitators…’: The Peasants and Workers

Part of the Institute of Social Studies book series (ISDS, volume 3)


Six months after the labour rebellion of mid-1938 a special advisor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies warned his chief that another outbreak might be expected in Jamaica before the middle of 1939. ‘I have been able to discover no evidence’, he wrote, ‘to justify any suspicion of provocative influences from outside and in my opinion any disorder which may arise will be mainly attributable to that oldest and ablest of agitators, hunger.’1 Such a diagnosis might well have been made in retrospect of the major events which had alerted the Colonial Office to the chances of further trouble. The class formation of peasants and workers had reached a stage in the late 1930s where hunger and general deprivation were a permanent part of the conditions of the poor. We shall see in subsequent chapters how these conditions were translated into action in mid-1938. Here we must try first to penetrate the material structures which gave origin to that action. A start may be made with the peasantry. This permits us to continue directly from the previous chapter, especially when we remember that the Jamaican working class in the late 1930s sprang straight from the peasantry and was still articulated closely with it.


Land Settlement Wage Labour Royal Commission Labour Power Sugar Estate 
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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1978

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