Most usable land already under cultivation in the

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most usable land already under cultivation in the smaller British West Indian islands, Cuba was also attractive for those who might want either to obtain land, or to extend their ownership. Here there were huge tracts of largely unused and highly fertile land, in particular in the central and eastern parts of the island, offering a great prospect for whomever had the means to tame them. Cuba also had the advantage of proximity, along with an extensive coastline, surrounded by small islets, or keys, that made it quite easy for people in the neighbouring islands to find their way in, without necessarily having to go through the principal ports, or coming under the open gaze of the authorities. There had been a long history of this, with much of the island’s economy dependent on contraband. Since the sixteenth century, bays and towns around the East of Cuba had provided havens for a nationally mixed array of smugglers and pirates, upon which the local population depended for survival, largely forgotten about by the Spanish government. 10 Just as was occurring throughout the region, small trading and fishing boats would regularly ply their way across the narrow stretches of water that separated Cuba from other islands in the Caribbean, between which there were long standing ties of familiarity that 9 Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870 (London: Picador, 1997) ; José Luciano Franco, Comercio clandestine de esclavos (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1996). 10 José Luciano Franco, ‘Piratas, corsarios, filibusteros y contrabandistas’, in José Luciano Franco, Ensayos Históricos (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1974), pp.47-92. 5
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undermined the official protectionist policies imperfectly enforced by the colonial powers. 11 However, the most attractive reason to draw British West Indian planters to Cuba was that here the slave system was not merely firmly entrenched, but flourishing. As the British West Indian colonies began to move towards emancipation, in Cuba the growing sugar industry was generating a massive increase in the demand for labour, of which there was a chronic shortage in the island. 12 As a result of this, far from seeing a reduction in the slave trade following the signing of the Treaty for the Suppression of the Slave Trade by Spain and Britain in 1817, the period saw an extension of slave trading practices. The number of slaves in Cuba swelled from 38,879 in 1774, to 286,942 in 1827, and 436,495 in 1841, by which time they represented 43.3% of the total population. 13 While there was an initial reduction in the number of slaves imported in the years immediately following implementation of the Treaty, with an accompanying increase in prices in the Cuban slave market, 14 the British naval cruisers attempting to prevent the transportation of slaves from Africa to Cuba seem to have been largely unsuccessful. Between 1835 and 1865, a mere 20,000 of the almost 400,000 slaves imported into Cuba were captured in this 11
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  • Summer '17
  • allen dasu
  • The American, Legs, David Turnbull, black British subjects, David Turnbull.

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