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The merchant princes of Nassau: the maintenance of political hegemony in The Bahamas 1834-1948

Themistocleous, Rosalyn (2000) The merchant princes of Nassau: the maintenance of political hegemony in The Bahamas 1834-1948. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86143) (KAR id:86143)


The former slave owning class in The Bahamas fought a rearguard action to defendits political, economic and social hegemony. It shaped the local Abolition Act of1834 to meet its own requirements, particularly to ensure apprentices would remainin a position of subservience and obedience.The initial period of concern for the welfare and rights of the freedmen onthe part of the Imperial Government soon waned and the white oligarchy was leftto govern the newly emancipated without much interference from London.Imperial Government policy also aided the elite in preventing the formation of aclass of independent, peasant freeholders. On the Out Islands labour orsharecropping tenancies, squatting and the working of commonage were the norm.Coercive labour systems procured a stable and dependent workforce in a number ofindustries. The cash economy was limited outside of Nassau and themerchant/landowners were in possession of the little available capital.Tough laws, designed to keep the lower classes in awe and fear ofauthorities, were passed by a Legislature dominated by the white elite. Much morewas spent on law and order than education or social reforms. The Bahamascontinued to be governed under the seventeenth century Old Representative systemand the ruling class stubbornly protected its rights and privileges. But theconstitutional system was not a responsible one and hardly representative. Openvoting, inequitable constituencies, a franchise weighted in favour of the propertiedclasses, non-payment of representatives and plural voting ensured the return of thewhite Nassau merchants. The agro-commercial elite had a limited vision beyondits own interests, particularly in regard to financial policy. There were manystruggles between the Legislature and the Governors over control of finance andexpenditure, reaching its climax in the 1930s when the Governor insisted onReserve Powers. The Colonial Office investigated the possibilities but realisedthat, barring a crisis, the initiative had to come from the Assembly, which wouldnever have arisen in The Bahamas.The ruling whites experienced little challenge from the coloured and blackmiddle classes. They sought to assimilate themselves into white society anddistanced themselves from the black lower classes. They were generallyconservative in their views. The non-whites did not attempt to form a politicalparty, despite the fact Bahamian society became more polarised in the 1920s and1930s. No leaders emerged to take advantage of the discontent. After the 1942Riot, the ruling whites made a few limited concessions that safeguarded theirdominance

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86143
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Uncontrolled keywords: Slave owners; White elite; Corruption
Subjects: A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > LA History of education
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:30 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 12:33 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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