Monday, 13 September 2010

West India Committee archives - handlist now available

Another newly added handlist added to the ULRLS Archives catalogue.

The West India Committee was formed in the 18th century, by London merchants, engaged in the West Indian trade, and absentee owners of West Indian estates. The Committee acted as a pressure group for West Indian interests, principally in the support of the sugar and rum trades and, in the first decades of its existence, in opposition to the abolition of the slave trade and then slavery. Following the abolition of slavery the Committee shifted its work firstly towards the encouragement of immigrant labour from India, China and Africa, and then from the 1840s to 1856 to opposing the removal of preferential sugar duties for West Indian sugar. Later in the 19th century, there were further moves to support cane-sugar grown in the West Indies against the new threat of beet sugar which was now being grown in Europe. The West India Committee mounted a strong anti-bounty campaign, as well as seeking alternative markets for West Indian cane sugar in the United States.

When bounties were eventually abolished throughout Europe in 1902, a concerted effort was made to widen the interests of the Committee beyond sugar alone, to the promotion of West Indian trade in general. The organization grew to include many members residing in the West Indies, and the Committee turned to representing their interests. The West India Committee was succeeded by the Caribbean Council for Europe, active also on trade issues, for example in relation to the Lome Agreement, in which the European Union granted some preferential terms to countries within the ACP (African Caribbean and Pacific States) group.

The Commonwealth Studies Library holds a microfilm copy of the early records of the West India Committee

M915 West India Committee minutes 1769-1924 [microfilm] contains:

Minutes and papers of the West India Committee and its predecessors, sub-committees and related organisations, including:
  • West India Merchants
  • West India Planters and Merchants
  • Admiralty Committee of the West India Merchants
  • Sub-Committee of the West India Planters and Merchants Appointed to Oppose the Abolition of the Slave Trade
  • Literary Sub-Committee of the West India Planters and Merchants
  • Merchants, Owners and Masters of Ships
  • Jamaica Planters and Merchants
  • Country Committees and Proprietors’ Groups: eg. Demerara and Berbice (later British Guiana), Jamaica, Trinidad, and Importers of West Indian Cocoa committees
  • British and Colonial Anti Bounty Association
  • Board of Commissioners of Grenada and St. Vincent
  • Meeting of MPs Interested in the West Indian Colonies
(microfilm copy of original at the University of West Indies, Trinidad)

and two collections of archives from the West India Committee

West India Committee: Acquired Papers ICS96 1750-1988

This collection was acquired with the West India Committee Library and includes reports and accounts and lists of members; the Chinese Emigration Committee Rough Memorandum Book, 1857-1859; Library catalogues; and albums of press cuttings and othe rpapers relating to the work of the West India Committee, its members and events in the West Indies (including albums relating to sugar bounties and free trade, the 1907 earthquake in Jamaica, the West Indian Contingent Committee and the British West Indies Regiment, visits by Sir Algernon Edward Aspinall, Secretary of the West India Committee, to the West Indies, the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, Trinidad, royal tours, the West India Club, Hurricane Janet and the West Indies Hurricane Relief Fund, constitutional crisis in British Guiana 1953-54, and elections in British Honduras 1954). The collection also includes watercolours and sketch maps of Tobago, St Vincent and Antigua, by Sir William Young [1749-1815], Governor of Tobago [1807-1815] and a number of photograph albums.

West India Committee: Official Archives ICS97 1799-1999
This collection was donated by the West India Committee in 1999. It contains offical records of the West India Committee from about 1900. These include minutes of Annual General Meetings, Executive Committee, Management Committee and various Sub-Committees; minutes of the West Indian Contingent Committee 1915-1919; minutes of the War Services and Ladies' Committees 1939-1940; minutes of the Merchants' and Shippers' Standing Committee, and of the Passage Accommodation Sub-Committee 1949-1954; minutes of the Committee for Exports to the Caribbean, later the West Indian Trade Advisory Group 1965-1980; meeting papers, Annual Reports, lists of members, financial records and extensive files of correspondence and general files on topics including Post Lome negotiations, the rum trade, the rice trade, the banana trade, and tourism. The collection includes photographs relating to Caribbean personalities and countries.

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