39. Hardscrabble Anguilla
The Caribbean island of Anguilla was conquered and colonized by English settlers in 1650. Attempts were made to transform Anguilla into a typical British plantation colony worked by African slaves, but the island’s climate and soil were unfavorable, and the plantations were largely unsuccessful. By 1819, there were only about 300 Europeans, 300 free blacks, and 2500 slaves on the island.
When the British abolished slavery in the 1830s, most whites returned to Europe, while the blacks continued to eke out a living as fishermen and subsistence farmers. To economize on the costs of administering an island that produced little of value, the British forced Anguilla – against its inhabitants’ wishes – into union with the more populous nearby islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The Anguillians grudgingly accepted the forced union. Resentment remained, however, and reared its head a century later when Britain decolonized its Caribbean holdings.