Analysis of the 1776 and 1790 agricultural censuses from Carriacou overturns the notion that only farmers with small holdings cultivated cotton in the West Indies. The evidence shows that cotton squeezed out all other crops on Carriacou during the first phase of the Industrial Revolution. The island's cotton planters were socially diverse; the yeomanry with their small their farms often competed successfully with the owners of the large plantations financed by wealthy metropolitan investors. Despite the viability of the more modest operations in this industry, however, the largest estates offered creditors comparatively lower transaction and information costs. Furthermore, the data from 1790 indicate that the largest estates achieved the highest output per hand, provided that the “gangs” of enslaved laborers were sufficiently monitored by free workers.

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