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West India Committee: Acquired Papers, 1750-1988

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0101 ICS 96
Held at: Institute of Commonwealth Studies - click here to see details of the physical location of collection
Full title: West India Committee: Acquired Papers, 1750-1988
Date(s): 1750-1988
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 8 standard boxes, 8 large boxes
Name of creator(s): West India Committee
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The West India Committee was formed in the 18th century by a permanent association of London merchants engaged in the West Indian trade, and absentee owners of West Indian estates who lived in London and its environs. The interests of both planters and merchants appear to have been first joined on a permanent basis in 1775; before then, the two groups tended to promote their separate interests except on occasions when their usually different priorities became united. 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. Although the campaign against slavery eventually won the day, the West India Committee did manage to secure improved compensation terms for the planters and merchants it represented.
Following the abolition of slavery in 1834, and a short period of virtual inactivity, the Committee shifted its work firstly towards the encouragement of immigrant labour from India, China and Africa (to replace the emancipated slave labour), and then to opposing the removal of preferential sugar duties for West Indian sugar. Later in the 19th century, although a more diversified range of produce was being developed, cane sugar still remained a significant element of the West Indian economy and there were further moves to support its success against the new threat of beet sugar which was now being grown in Europe. Beet sugar benefited from bounties paid by the Government as it favoured home-produced beet sugars for a variety of reasons. The West India Committee was instrumental in mounting a strong anti-bounty campaign, as well as seeking alternative markets for West Indian cane sugar in the United States. Bounties were eventually abolished throughout Europe in 1902.
Riding on this success, a concerted effort was made to widen the interests of the Committee beyond sugar alone, to the promotion of West Indian trade in general. This resulted in an increase in membership of the Committee which in turn led to a revision of its administrative structure and, in 1904, the award of a charter of incorporation. The enlarged membership included many members residing in the West Indies, and the Committee's overall knowledge of West Indian affairs improved as a result. Its role became very much a representative one, although it was still perceived as an organisation for the support of the sugar trade, reflecting sugar's continuing dominince in the region. At various times in the first half of the 20th century the Committee sought to become agents or trade representatives for individual colonies or the West Indies as a whole, but it did not achieve comprehensive or lasting success.
Later in the 20th century, with the independence of individual West Indian countries, the role of the West India Committee had to further adapt to reflect the changing political and economic scene. With the breakdown of former colonial affiliations, and changes in world trade as a whole, the Committee's traditional role in representing British interests in its West Indian colonies expanded to encompass trade between the Caribbean region as a whole, and the European Community; and in addition, trade between the Caribbean and other parts of the world, particularly the United States and other American countries. This alteration in its sphere of activities resulted in the creation of two significant autonomous bodies within the West India Committee: the Caribbean Council for Europe (CCE), and the Caribbean Trade Advisory Group (Caritag). The CCE in particular played an important part in seeking the continuance of trade agreements between the two regions, in the face of conflicts of interest arising as a result of European Union.
For more information, see A brief history of the West India Committee by Douglas Hall (Caribbean University Press, 1971), available in ICS Library.


Scope and content/abstract:

Official and collected records of the West India Committee, 1750-1988; comprising Chinese Emigration Committee Rough Memorandum Book, 1857-1859; annual reports and accounts 1885-1988; reports of the Acting Committee to the Half-Yearly Meeting of the Standing Committee of West India Planters and Merchants, 1878-1883; lists of members, 1920-1937; library catalogues 1912-1973; albums of press cuttings pamphlets, leters, reports and papers on sugar bounties, the free trade controversy and imperial agriculture, 1876-1915; albums of photographs and press cuttings on the 1907 earthquake in Jamaica; album of press cuttings on the West Indian Contingent Commitee and the British West Indies Regiment, 1915-1919; albums on visits by Sir Algernon Edward Aspinall, Secretary of the Committee to the West Indies, 1919-1924; album of papers on the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, Trinidad, 1921-1939; albums of photographs and press cuttings on Royal tours to the West Indies, 1953-1955; album of press cuttings on constitutional crisis in British Guiana, 1953-1954; album of press cuttings on General Election in British Honduras, 1954; album of press cuttings and photographs relating to Hurricane Janet and the West Indies Hurricane Relief Fund, including photographs of rehousing programme in Barbados, 1955-1956; history of the West India Commitee by Douglas Hall, [1954]; notes on the minutes of the West India Committee, and the bodies from which it originated, 1966; volume of Bank of England Certificates issued to West India merchants, 1799-1800; copies of Caribbean and English newspapers (8 items), 1761-1846; Memorial of Lieut Col Kingston, Lieutenant Governor of Demerary, Essequebo and Berbice, petitioning for relief of the debt he has incurred...together with a copy of an account of produce for taxes from Demerarie, Berbice and the three rivers, 1782; letter from Bryan Edwards, Jermyn Street, London to Edward Long, Wimpole Street, London, sending part of the introduction to his Historical, Political and Commercial Survey of the West Indian Islands, [c1792]; abstract of appraisement of Lowlands and Tiviotdate Estates, Tobago, property of the late Thomas Currie, 1804; diary of G H A Porter, Colonial Secretary, Virgin Islands, relating to hurricane and earthquakes in the Virgin Islands, 1867-1868; copy of diary of visit to the West Indies by [? Cecily Gathorne Hardy, wife of the 2nd Earl of Cranbrook], 1885; Records of the West Indian Club Ltd, 1898-1937; letters from Sir Hugh Clifford, Colonial Secretary, Trinidad, to Theodor Clemens, 1903-1907; Memories of the Jamaica Tourist Association, 1911-1915 by A M Gwladys Cox; War Diary of the 1st Btn, British West Indies Regiment, with maps and correspondence, 1915-1919; photocopies of minutes of the West India Aviation Committee, 1921-1929; volume Records of Monserrat, by T Savage English, 1930, with an appendix on the hurricane of 1928 by C A Gomez, Curator of the Agricultural Research Station; research papers of Prof Robin A Humphreyson the Mosquito Coast, 1830-1860 and British Honduras, 1743-1878; engraving showing Sir Walter Raleigh's conquest of the city of St Joseph, Trinidad, engraved for the Universal Magazine, 1750; watercolours and sketch maps of Tobago, St Vincent and Antigua, 1791-[1812] by Sir William Young, Governor of Tobago, 1807-1815; album of cuttings from the Illustrated London News on the West Indies, 1848-1851; album 'Views of Trinidad', c1870-1880; album of photographs of scenes and people in Barbados, Trinidad, St Lucia and Martinique, [early 20th century]; photographs and papers concerning Tobago, 1907-c1965; album of photographs, mainly of the British West Indies Regiment in action in Egypt and Palestine, also includes family snapshots, c1916-1918; souvenir postcard album of visit by the Prince of Wales [later King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor] to the Leeward Islands, 1920; photograph albums of the Bahamas by Fred Armbrister and F L Berry, 1923; album of photographs of the Turks and Caicos Islands, including some of hurricane damage, c1926-1928; albums of photographs of places and industries in Trinidad and Tobago, [c1900-1940]; album of photographs of scenes in Barbados, [1930-1940]; album of photographs by Harold E Box of scenes in the Cul-de-Sac Valley in St Lucia after the landslide of 1938; souvenir photograph albums of Demerara [early 20th century]; albums of photographs of scenes and people in Barbados, probably taken for promotion of the tourist trade, [c1960]; album of photographs of visit to Belize by [? Anthony Greenwood, UK Colonal Secretary], [c1965]; album of commercial transparencies of Jamaica, St Vincent, Panama and Florida, [1964-1969].

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records have been divided into three principal sections: minutes and official papers of the Committee itself; material created by the Committee but not forming part of its official records (predominantly albums of news cuttings and other papers concerning the activities of the Committee); and records presented to and collected by the Committee (miscellaneous documents and several photograph albums).

Conditions governing access:

Open although advance notice should be given. Access to individual items may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act.

Conditions governing reproduction:

A photocopying service is available, at the discretion of the Library staff. Copies are supplied solely for research or private study. Requests to publish, or to quote from original material should be submitted to the Information Resources Manager.

Finding aids:

Catalogued to file level (see link to repository catalogue).

Archival Information

Archival history:

The material formed part of the West India Committee Library which was sold by the Committee to the Crown Agents at some point prior to 1977. At the time the Library (and the incorporated archive material) was left in situ because the Crown Agents had no premises to house it. In 1977 the West India Committee moved to smaller premises and the Crown Agents arranged for the Library to be housed in ICS instead. Formal agreement for the deposit of the collection on permanent loan at ICS was reached in 1979. The archive material was initially stored with the library books at ICS, but was eventually physically and descriptively separated in order to distinguish and define its archival characteristics.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

A later donation of further archival material comprising the official records of the Committee from c1900, was received by ICS directly from the West India Committee in 1999 (ICS 97). This has been described separately because of the different provenance of this material.

The earlier minute books and other records to c1900 were sold by the West India Committee to the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and are held there. However copies are available on microfilm at the ICS Library (Ref: M915).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled 2000, revised by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project, Aug 2001.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Created 21/08/2000 ICS Archives 1, modified 6/10/2000

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