Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 12th 2013 Contents Gerad Tikasingh, author of
Trinidad in the 19th Century: The
Indian Experience, which was
recently launched at the National
Library, interviewed by
RR: Your thesis was the first
locally-produced one to examine
Indians in Trinidad. There were
studies before, but sociological
studies, by Morton Klass and the
Niehoffs. What led you to pick the
GT: At the time there were all
kinds of myths about Indians, all
kinds of ideas about indentureship
and so on.
My understanding was that those
ideas were not really grounded in
fact. I tried to make that clear at the
launch of the book.
When you re dealing with this
topic, with so many myths, you have
to go back to the original sources.
History is not based on opinion.
There are basic facts and a time
sequence you have to get right. Basic
first principles of history are egre-
Where? How? In Trinidad?
Could you be specific?
I don t want to call any names,
but yes, here in Trinidad. You did
history, you should know.
Could you give me some exam-
ples of myths?
Ok, there are the ones that Indians
were tricked into coming here, and
they were slaves, or semi-slaves, or
the Canadian missions practised dis-
crimination by focusing on the Indi-
Were they tricked?
What do you think?
Maybe some of them, but I don t
think 80 per cent would have cho-
sen to stay if they were tricked. And
however they got here, they liked
what they came to.
Indentured immigration was one
of the most intensely regulated
immigrations in the 19th century.
At first, when Indians went to Mau-
ritius and British Guiana, it was
unregulated, and there were abuses,
and it was stopped. When it
resumed, it was under government
regulation. By 1864 we had the first
consolidated set of requirements
with regard to the recruitment of
Indians. One of the requirements
was that a local recruiter could no
longer send a prospective immigrant
to Calcutta. He had to take the
immigrant to a district magistrate,
who examined the person, to satisfy
himself that the person had some
idea what was going on.
But as we all know, laws can be
Actually because of a kidnapping
case, two major changes were made.
They had to do with the licensing
of the recruiter. At first there was
some confusion between the Pro-
tector of Immigrants and the district
magistrates as to who licensed the
recruiter. And because of this case,
it was decided the district magistrate
was responsible to make sure the
recruiter was a local, from the village.
The second change was that dur-
ing the immigrant interview, the
recruiter was not allowed to be in
the same room.
Your thesis looked at Indians
Yes, but the book has grown
beyond the thesis. Once I started
the book, I asked myself whether I
should stick with the familiar out-
line: slavery ended, search for labour,
Indians came. Well the outline is
true, but once you begin to check
that story out, you come face to face
with historical assumptions we
make, and you find there s really no
support for those historical assump-
So the outline is true, but what
are the insupportable assumptions?
Well, the assumption that Africans
were natives of Trinidad. and that
Trinidad was a slave society.
Beginning with modern Trinidad
from 1783, Trinidad went through
four major population makeovers.
In 1844, 93 per cent of the popu-
lation of Trinidad was immigrant in
origin. There is really no group who
can say they were natives. Not even
the French can say they were native.
Maybe the Spanish could---and
Spanish Trinidad was never really a
When you think of a slave society,
you think of Jamaica, Barbados.
Spanish Trinidad was what historians
call "a society with slaves." It was
a military outpost, a crown settle-
ment. The number of slaves was
insignificant. If you took the slaves
out, the Spanish military and the
Dominican missions to the Ameri
Indians would continue their oper-
Trinidad became a slave society
beginning with the French in 1783.
So the French came between 1783
and 1797 with their slaves. Then the
English came, from 1797, with their
slaves. In 1807 the slave trade ended,
but you still had free blacks and
coloureds coming in till 1834.
Then from 1841---1861, the freed
slaves from West Africa.
Right. So who is a native?
Now, when you did this thesis,
this was the height of black nation-
alism in Trinidad. The PNM essen-
tially co-opted the Black Power
movement post-1970, which was
initially very anti-PNM. The Indi-
ans were in an anomalous position.
What were your experiences pro-
posing and executing this thesis at
Well, let me say my thesis was
very narrowly focused. I initially
accepted the conventional outline
without thinking about it.
Secondly I had to work with peo-
ple whose idea of history is a little
You re saying that people s ideas
of history differed from yours, for
example, I read that the first con-
ference on Indians in the West
Indies at UWI in 1973 was supposed
to have met resistance...
Not that I recall. At another con-
ference in Barbados, I went head-
to-head with Walter Rodney, and in
a way I was head-to-head with Mil-
lette too, because they wanted to
see exploitation, injustice, and so
on.And that s one of the things about
this book, it s from the perspectives
of Indians themselves. Even when
you have people living in the same
area, their perspectives can be very
different. For example, the sugar
estates: Africans looked at estates
as the scene of their slavery. So when
Indians came to work on the estates,
they thought, well, they must be
Continues on Page A34
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Kanye West says his new album is all
The multiplatinum rapper held a listen-
ing for Yeezus late Monday in New York
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West said that his sixth effort will
showcase his growth over the last two
years and that "he had to learn about giv-
ing ... this whole process is all about giv-
"I feel like I know who I am," said West,
who turned 36 on Saturday.
Yeezus is out June 18. It has a dark,
moody vibe that expands beyond his last
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Twisted Fantasy and 2008's 808s &
Heartbreak. It's also a departure from his
first three albums, which featured a
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West held the listening in the loading
dock of Milk Studios in Manhattan's
Chelsea neighbourhood. The room was
dark as lights burst onto the walls to dis-
play colorful visuals that assisted the ten
songs the rapper played. Busta Rhymes
and Q-Tip also attended the listening.
West's new album features Bon Iver's
Justin Vernon and rapper Chief Keef.
West and girlfriend Kim Kardashian are
expecting their first child. (AP)
Kanye West: New album is 'all about giving'
Gerad Tikasingh's book has the
benefit of nearly 50 years of
reflection on subsequent
developments and subsequent
scholarship on the issue of
Indian arrival and indentureship.
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