A central feature of British West Indian economic history is the precipitous decline of the plantation system. At its peak, profitable plantation colonies such as Jamaica produced and shipped unprecedented amounts of sugar, rum, and coffee to Britain and the mainland colonies in North America. With the success of antislavery action in ending the slave trade and slavery, the forecast for the continued success and record achievements for the plantation system was not positive. Further, with the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the plantation system could no longer rely on a steady supply of enslaved labor from Africa resulting in a significantly reduced labor force that became a common feature during this important transition to freedom. To compound matters further, the relative successes gained during the Haitian Revolution and the Napoleonic conflict dissipated because the high prices sustained during this period of expansion were replaced by a steep fall in prices: this pattern continued well into the 20th century. The final and perhaps most devastating blow during this transitional period was the emergence of alternative sources for sugar coming mainly from Brazil and Cuba, the growth of beet in Continental Europe, and the loss of protection West Indian sugar enjoyed for many centuries. The intersection of these factors resulted in the dramatic economic decline of a region that was once at the center of the Atlantic trading system. What was evident is that once profitable estates laid in ruins, and colonies that were at the forefront of Atlantic commerce were now producing less than half their highest levels.
While scholars agree that the plantation system was moribund by the late 19th century, there is general disagreement on the timing of its decline. and noted that the system was overheating from as early as the American War of Independence in 1776. Williams further argued that Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 because the British West Indian colonies, with the use of enslaved labor, were inefficient and thus declined in profitability and importance to Britain. This interpretation of colonial inefficiency and decline has been the subject of criticism by many, most notably in , which argues that the colonies were highly efficient and productive enterprises even up to the time of abolition. The author posits that when Britain abolished the trade in 1807, it did so when the plantation system was operating at its zenith and sugar made up a large and increasing share of Britain’s overseas imports. Therefore, the decline of the British West Indian plantation system started after the Napoleonic Wars, and at a time when Britain was committed to the emancipation of slavery. Interest in the decline thesis has not dwindled and as such there have been important works that provide important surveys of the nuances in the historiography. examines the debate surrounding specific themes in William’s (), while brought a fresh perspective to the debate, by showing that the decline thesis was prominent in 19th-century British literature. contribute to the debate surrounding abolition with an important collection that examined the life and work of Williams. reflects on two important themes of the Williams thesis. provide coverage of some of the main themes on slavery and abolition.
This is the most detailed refutation of the economic decline thesis regarding abolition of the slave trade. Drescher used trading as his key variable to show that at the time of abolition, the British West Indian colonies were enjoying a significant share of the British market in tropical staples.
Important work that aims to show that leading British historians such as W. H. Lecky had preceded Williams in rejecting the traditional interpretation about British antislavery and abolition, focusing instead on a narrative of decline.
Paquette, Robert L., and Mark M. Smith, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. DOI:
Ragatz, Lowell. The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean, 1763–1833: A Study in Social and Economic History. New York: Octagon, 1963.
There is a long-standing, though contested, argument that in Westminster-style systems parliaments are in decline. The frequency with which the head of government intervenes in parliament is one indicator of this supposed decline. Studies conducted in Britain and Canada show that the frequency of prime ministerial interventions has declined over time, suggesting that the decline of parliament thesis holds true in this regard at least. This article examines the Irish case and shows that the situation is different. As in Britain and Canada, there has been a decline in particular forms of activity (giving speeches and making minor interventions). However, the overall level of prime ministerial activity in Ireland has increased over time. These findings suggest that in the Irish case at least and on the basis of this one indicator the decline of parliament thesis does not hold true. Moreover, when we contextualise the findings, particularly on the basis of a qualitative analysis of the changing nature of the presentation of the Order of Business over the last 30 years, we find that the decline of parliament thesis is weakened further. Thus, this paper suggests that the decline of parliament thesis is not applicable to all examples of Westminster-like parliamentary systems. It also indicates that further research on this topic needs to contextualise the changing nature of the relationship between the head of government and the legislature very carefully.
Written by an early proponent of decline who argues that the fall of the planter class was symptomatic of an inefficient plantation system characterized by debt, overproduction, and soil exhaustion. Originally published in 1928.
In his magnum opus, Williams placed the Caribbean at the center of the British Atlantic system. He achieved this by showing that the decline of the West Indian colonies figured greatly in Britain’s decision to abolish the slave trade in 1807 and slavery in 1833.
and and (2006) Testing the decline of parliament thesis: The parliamentary activity of the head of government in Ireland, 1923-2002. Politcal Studies, 54 (3). pp. 465-485. ISSN 0032-3217
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The first character item is Shostakovichs honesty. This was testified to by those whocame in contact with him, and shines through in , his memoirs. HarrisonSalisbury, speaking of his August 8, 1954 NY Times interview with Shostakovich, statesYou may disagree with Shostakovich strongly as I did ... But you are in no doubtabout one thing. He is completely honest and completely sincere, and his mistakes comefrom the heart and not from the mind. In his book onSoviet composers, American composer Stanley Dale Krebs comes to a similar conclusion.This paper indicates that he is also an honest composer.