Caribbean Irish, The
An examination of the legacy of the Caribbean Irish, who few know were some of the earliest settlers in the British West Indies.
An examination of the legacy of the Caribbean Irish, who few know were some of the earliest settlers in the British West Indies.
The Caribbean Irish explores the little known fact that the Irish were amongst the earliest settlers in the Caribbean. They became colonisers, planters and merchants living in the British West Indies between 1620 and 1800 but the majority of them arrived as indentured servants. This book explores their lives and poses the question, were they really slaves? As African slaves started arriving en masse and taking over servants’ tasks, the role of the Irish gradually diminished. But the legacy of the Caribbean Irish still lives on.
Click on the circles below to see more reviews
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. The Cromwellian conquest represents a turning point in the history of Catholic Ireland. It marked the beginning of what is commonly known as the “Irish Di-aspora”. Cromwell’s project to convert Ireland into a protestant country caused voluntary and forced migrations of the vast majority of Irish people. Their main destination was the Caribbean. At first, they came there as indentured servants who were forced to work in atrocious conditions for their British masters. The situation changed when planters started to prefer African slaves that were more resistant to the climate of the tropics. Indentured servants and African slaves worked side by side, but Irish were unwilling to accept that condition perpetually and they frequently rebelled against British authority. However, as Miki Garcia’s book demonstrates, many Irish people profited from this situation and accumulated a lot of wealth thanks to the slave trade. Therefore, with a well-documented analysis, Miki Garcia claims that Irish people suffered the consequences of the slave trade, but at the same time they contributed significantly to it; they were the backbone of the British Empire and also their Achilles’ heel since they repeatedly backed Catholic France and Spain to hinder the British project to control the whole world. ~ Francesco Camodeca (Reviewer), NetGalley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Miki Garcia researches professionally and that is evident in the detail provided in this book. The use of "indentured" Irish servants in the settlement of the Caribbean has come up often in the last few months. Though their treatment as documented and described by Ms Garcia, was not stellar, they were eventually "free" and not slaves. I found the book was written rather conversationally. I had no trouble following the narrative. I think it would make an excellent reference piece and could even be used as a book discussion selection. I learned a lot and Ms Garcia has spurred me to read further. ~ janet kinsella (Reviewer), NetGalley
Take what you think you know about the Irish, and throw it out the window. This well-done book will challenge all your preconceptions and set you straight in the meantime. Miki Garcia did a great job and laid out this fabulous book with an easy to follow, and well-documented facts. The slave trade changed quite a bit of the Caribbean layout, and as the slave trade grew, the role of the Irish was not as involved. However, they left their mark regardless. The enduring legacy remains, and they are not to be underestimated or discounted. This is a must-read! ~ Rebecca Hill (Reviewer), NetGalley
Garcia presents us with a fresh look at the Irish Diaspora as she explores the Irish and slavery in The Caribbean Irish. Arriving from 1620 onwards, the Irish were amongst the earliest settlers in the Caribbean, and although the majority of them arrived as indentured servants, many of them went onto be, or arrived as, influential colonisers and merchants in their own right. The life of an indentured servant in the British West Indies was no better than slavery; a cruel life of free labour promised very low survival rates, the majority of victims having been dispossessed (before being abducted in Ireland) by the oppressive weight of the British Empire. The book reveals that once the slaves from Africa arrived en masse, the function of the ‘servant’ diminished, as African slaves, hardier in the tropical climate, were considered a more valuable commodity. The Black Lives Matter movement has made the 1600s a topical era. Likewise, the Cromwellian dominated mid 1600s is now considered an era of Irish ethnic cleansing, its forced migration, emigration and indentured servitude leaving a lasting legacy. Garcia explains that the Irish Travelling community are rooted in this era, people dispossessed of lands due to wars and forced ‘West of the Shannon’ to roam, to paraphrase Cromwell ‘to Hell or to Connaught.’ Transportation agents adducted men, women and children for labour in the British West Indies, the shipping off of orphans a favoured government policy. Was ‘Hell’ the West Indies of this book? The hardship that awaited servants in the British West Indies was gruesome. Often starving, severe punishments were dished up daily while they toiled for free on sugar, cotton and tobacco farms. However, some Irish went voluntarily. Laws in Ireland now forbidding Catholics to own land, the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’ or flight of the Irish aristocracy did not limit itself to France and Spain. Many well connected and wealthier sections of Irish diaspora went to various islands in the West Indies where land ownership was allowed to become merchants, naval officers (for both the British and the Spanish), planters, and slave owners. Garcia gives us a concise history of Irish influence until 1800 on islands such as Monserrat, Jamaica, Barbados, and St Martin, spanning from those in servitude ( who, unlike the Africans, had hope of freedom at the end of their bondage) to those in business, the military, government officials, adventurers, and pirates. The political situation at home was always colouring events; we read of island rebellions against British rule and of the many Irish who eventually deflected to their preferred Spanish owned islands, Spain always considered a friend to Ireland. As Africans gradually took over their roles, the Irish spread their wings, finding opportunities on the neighbouring islands. Their evolvement at all levels of Caribbean society is discussed and we learn a two hundred year history of ports, trades, wars of religion, and insights into the poorest and richest of the Irish Caribbean community; there are accounts of poverty to testaments leaving great wealth. Detailed and well researched, Garcia’s accounts of various individuals on the different islands can seem repetitive and therefore rather confusing towards the end, however to anyone with even a passing interest in Irish or Caribbean history (we learn that the locals in Montserrat once spoke Irish) it’s a good and recommended read. ~ Carina McNally, Book Reviewer
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. The historical value of this story is awesome. To find out so many Irish lived and profited in the Caribbean is fascinating. The deeper you go into the story of the amazing people the more you learn what they went through. A book everyone should read. ~ Dawn Killian (Reviewer) , NetGalley
To me, at least, this story was completely unknown... of course history has a habit of doing that, burying the sagas that deserve the light of day, and that's great because it means authors like Garcia can then retrieve them, and books like this are the result. A fascinating tale of survival, adaptation, hardship and hard work, it's written in a way that takes you into the heart of events, and if you have any kind of Irish history collection, this is a vital addition. ~ A_Place_In_The Orchard (Media), NetGalley
I never cease to be amazed at how much one can learn each day. Perhaps that is why I enjoy reading so much! Previously, I had learned the Irish were put into servitude, along with Scotts, Scandinavian and lesser class British subjects, but never did I realize the extent. They were treated equally badly as the African slaves. They were signed up for years of servitude, supposedly to be then freed. This didn't often happen for many, many years if ever, especially for women. Many of those in servitude starved to death and many wished for death. The Vikings raided the coasts of England, Wales, and Scotland, bordering on the Iris Sea. Slaves were transported on sea from East to West. In 1169, the Anglo-Normans invaded and conquered parts of Ireland.. Some Celtic rulers slowly accepted King Henry ll's "over-lordship"and Norman lords soon became Celtic chieftains. Discord in Ireland began between the Catholics and Protestant (which has continued until recent years.). In the mid-1600's, Officer Oliver Cromwell came to Ireland to settle the dispute. He and his army conquered Ireland in a most unethical and brutal way. His theft and slaughter are described including the forced slavery, many of whom were orphaned children. Many boys over twelve were trained for military service. However, the Irish were known as "fighters" and didn't give in easily. These are just a few of the facts I learned. The further deprecation is inhumane on all accounts. All the Irish were considered low class and unintelligent. Even in early 20th century America, many regarded the Irish in this manner. I am appalled that any person in any country can delight in the mistreatment of others, yet claim to be Christian! I can understand why God stated, "the natural man is an enemy to God". This account was thorough and well-written. I offer a Five Stars rating for this book of valuable information. *This book was gifted me with no suggestion for a positive review. This is my honest review. ~ Rockin book reviews, Review
While I have heard stories of the Irish in Monserrat, I was largely ignorant of the history of Irish immigration to the Caribbean and when I came across the book, ‘The Caribbean Irish: How the Slave Myth Was Made’ by Miki Garcia, I was excited by the opportunity to finally learn about the truth of the indentured Irish and their arrival on the Caribbean islands from 1641 onwards. The work is detailed and covers topics such as religions, ports, trades, the different islands, groups within Caribbean society such as ‘redlegs’ etc. and provides an insight into the lives of Irish who have been transported to Caribbean areas like Jamaica, Barbados, St Martin. I found this book to be both a detailed and well-researched exploration of this aspect of Irish history. ~ Maria Flaherty (Reviewer), NetGalley
An engrossing look at a little known fact of history. Neither the scenery of the Caribbean nor the topic of slavery brings to mind the Irish population that migrated and settles there. Migrating as indentured servants did not give these brave souls the futures they expected, most never made it to freedom again. An excellent look at another shameful time in world history. ~ Denice Langley (Reviewer), NetGalley
An informative read, shedding a light on a somewhat murky part of Irish & English history. I wasn't aware that England had been shipping out "unwanted elements" to faraway colonies before they did so in the late 18th century to Australia, to say nothing of the way they went about it, nor even Cromwell’s involvement. It was fascinating, if not always easy reading, especially when the author went into specifics about the daily life, restrictions and punishments awaiting the Irish "servants" and later on the African slaves which, certain similarities aside, were even more horrible. I liked the quotes used throughout the narrative which at times was rather dry, but I’d have preferred it if the author had given more insights into his sources. ~ Karen Meeus (Reviewer), NetGalley
Very well written and researched piece about Irish history from an angle that I have never considered before. This book follows the impact of Cromwell's ascendancy on Ireland and the practices of forced emigration and indentured servitude. The title is a bit misleading in that there is a great deal more covered than just life in the Caribbean. I learned so much I hadn't known about this important piece of history for both the Irish and the new world. ~ Dana Keane (Reviewer), NetGalley
When the majority of people think of slaves, they usually think of the African population being taken from their homeland to be sold on, then forced to work on plantations. People are often surprised when I tell them this had happened to Irish people as well, but I was never able to explain further. I have studied empires, but I never got the opportunity to go in-depth into how it affected people's lives, the individuals who weren't in charge. I found this book very interesting. The writer gives you an insight into what went on. I thought it was a brilliant read and well written. I think if you have an interest in Irish history, I would strongly recommend this book. ~ Alannah Clarke (Reviewer), NetGalley
This is an interesting and fascinating read. I had not heard about Irish people going to the Caribbean. I was totally intrigued by all the information in the book. I will definitely be reading this book again and recommending it. ~ Julie Hosford (Reviewer), NetGalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I read non fiction pretty regularly and some can be a pretty tough subject matter. This book could have easily been dry too but it was such an interesting read, presented in a concise but understandable manner that I really loved. When I told people what I was reading they all said “there were Irish in the Caribbean?” Some of these people were born in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico and they definitely were interested in learning about this aspect of their islands. ~ Christie Sheppard (Reviewer), NetGalley
Before I picked up this book, I had no idea the Irish were among the earliest settlers in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Irish is a fascinating look at a somewhat forgotten period of history. During the 1600s, as the British set out to colonize the West Indies, they relied heavily on the Irish as a source of indentured labor. But by the 1800s, the Irish had all but disappeared as their labor was replaced by African slaves. It is hard to imagine life during Cromwell's reign as he developed a policy to rid Ireland of the Irish, particularly by encouraging the transplantation of those considered undesirable. He particularly singled out political prisoners, or the unfortunate like orphans and widows or anyone at the wrong place at the wrong time. And while some Irish did manage to become planters and businessmen, this account looks primarily at the role of servants, and how their experiences contrasted with that of slaves brought to the island as sugar production became more widespread. Although both lived and worked in deplorable conditions, the indentured servants had at least the hope of being free at the end of their contracts, provided they lived that long, unlike slaves who were kept in bondage without any of hope of freedom. And it seems that by the 1800s as their labor was less in demand, they managed to find other opportunities outside the islands. I found this to be an engaging account of those who often didn't have a voice during British global expansion into the West Indies. And I liked the fact that this book made me aware of a part of history that I otherwise wouldn't have known about. ~ Susan Miller, Reviewer
This book, about Irish emigrants and transportees to the Caribbean in the 17th century, is full of fascinating facts. It brings home the huge extent of the ethnic cleansing the English, especially under Cromwell, carried out in Ireland. There are a lot of interesting details about life in the Caribbean...... ~ Michael Cayley (Reviewer), NetGalley
This, for me, was a fascinating read as much of what I have read in the past relating to Irish history has been focused on the country itself.....this was a valuable insight into the Irish diaspora as well as the history of the British West Indies. As this was not really my field of expertise, I had no idea that Europeans supplanted the native Amerindian populations; that the Irish were transported in their hundreds of thousands (willingly or not) before the introduction of African slaves; and that once there, there was frequent cross migration between the islands and the Amazon Basin. Garcia's narrative style makes it easy to follow this tangled web, At times it feels as if you are sitting across from her having a conversation. It is easy, after reading this, to understand how the Irish slave myth arose and it is a topic well worth exploring further. Garcia's book will start you on your journey. ~ Melisende d'Outremer (Reviewer), NetGalley
This was an amazing history book -- especially given my fascination with Irish history and having parents from Puerto Rico. I don't claim to be an historian at all and normally stick to fiction, however the subject fascinated me and I learned so much; even knowing that Irish came to Aguada, Puerto Rico explains quite a bit of the people from that area centuries later. I was able to share what I learned with my mother (the historian in the family) and plan to give her the book once it's published. I think it's a great book for those that fall under the odd niche fascination of both Irish/Caribbean history. ~ Roxi Net (Bookseller, NetGalley
I’m just going to put this out there: I had no idea there was such an Irish presence in the Caribbean. Mikki introduced a completely new topic to me and I love that. I love learning new things and being exposed to things that aren’t often talked about. Whenever I think of the historical Caribbean I always think of the Spanish and the African slave trade. I had no idea that something similar was going on with the Irish. This book couldn’t have come at a better time either. For those of you who don’t know, I teach fifth grade history. We are getting ready to talk about the Caribbean and the impacts that European exploration had on the region. This will be a nice little add on for my students. It’s not talked about at all in our program, so don’t even get me started on that. This book will help give my students a little extra edge. Not only we will be talking about a subject that isn’t hardly spoken of this book does a nice job of explaining the difference between a slave and indentured servant. I love how easy this book is to read. I’ve already said that I didn’t know anything about this subject prior to reading this. Like with all books I’ve read by this publisher, it is super easy to read and everything is explained very nicely. You can jump into this book without knowing anything and walk out with a feeling that you’ve learned something. This is what I like in my nonfiction. I like being able to easy read it and learn at the same time. The everyday language and easy to follow format makes this read more like a novel than anything. I guess what I’m getting at is we don’t have that dry textbook read here. I also liked that we got to see some everyday people. A lot of times history just focuses on the upper class. I get it: we have more records about the upper class than the lower class. Here, it’s almost like Mikki does the opposite. We get to experience history through the poor and rougher ends of society. Now, the Church is involved a lot in the book and I believe that’s where a lot of the references came from, but still. I give this book a round of applause for including all aspects of life. Overall, I am very happy that I read this. It’s an easy to read book and isn’t very long at all. It’s only 240 pages. ~ Alyson Serena Willow Stone, serenastone.livejournal.com