Join us for a fascinating exploration of plantations operated by Rowntree & Co. in Jamaica and Dominica between the 1890s and 1930s.
“Our idea is to bring English energy and scientific knowledge to bear upon tropical culture.”
John Wilhelm Rowntree, Managing Director of Rowntree & Co. Ltd., 1899.
In the late 1890s, Rowntree and Co. acquired several plantations on the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Dominica, which were then part of the British Empire.
Many of these were former slave plantations, and the company adapted sugar mills and other infrastructure on the estates to cultivate cocoa, limes, bananas, coffee, and coconuts.
In 1904, over 300 black labourers and 100 East Indian labourers in total worked on the Caribbean plantations, overseen by 9 white managers. By the outbreak of the First World War, Rowntree’s Jamaican estates were the largest exporters of cocoa on the island, shipping exclusively to the United Kingdom. However, the company faced significant challenges in its Caribbean operations and had withdrawn from all estates by the early 1930s.
Why did Rowntree & Co. decide to acquire its own plantations in the Caribbean? What was life like for those who lived and worked on the land? What led the company to decide to sell up? And how can we understand Rowntree & Co’s activities in the region in the broader context of colonial exploitation?
Join us for a fascinating exploration of an untold global history of the Rowntree Company, based on new archival research by historian Laura Strachan. The event will also include a slideshow of newly-digitised images from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s photo archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York. This will be followed by a discussion with Laura and Dr Catherine Oakley (Executive Director, The Rowntree Society) in which audience members are warmly invited to participate. The event will close by 9.15pm.
Laura Strachan is a post-graduate in Public History from the University of York. She specialised in Twentieth-Century Britain and post-colonialism in the Caribbean. Her dissertation focused on the Windrush Generation and their portrayal in British media, particularly following the 2018 Windrush Scandal. Her historical interests lay in British colonialism, migration, and understanding the changing public narratives regarding the British Empire.
Image: Workers lowering goods from a building at the Rowntree & Co. Dover Estate, Jamaica, 1900. From an original held at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York.