Graduation Year

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

History

Major Professor

Fraser Ottanelli, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julia F. Irwin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Darcie Fontaine, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kevin Yelvington, Ph.D.

Keywords

Decolonization, Imperialism, Race, Welfare

Abstract

This dissertation analyzes struggles over the development of Barbadian health and sanitation during the period between the world wars. In doing so, it examines how the British Empire tried to use development policies to maintain its power overseas during the interwar years. During this period, British policymakers sought to improve health and sanitation to pacify restive Barbadian laborers influenced by transnational pan-African and socialist ideas following the First World War. However, white Barbadian elites, influenced by ideas of eugenics and population control, opposed metropolitan efforts to develop health and sanitation in the colony. Rather than repairing the colonial relationship, British development efforts instead resulted in a protracted legislative and public battle over health reform. White creole resistance to public health policies both destabilized British reform efforts and further undermined black Barbadian understandings of imperial identity. By the 1930s, Pan-African critiques of empire, which the British government had fought to suppress following the First World War, found renewed energy in the midst of British failures to provide basic welfare services to poor black subjects. The fractures in these bonds of empire ultimately resulted in serious labor disturbances that re-emphasized the tensions of British colonialism and redirected the course of imperial policy. By focusing on these conflicts, this project reveals how struggles over colonial reforms on the ground transformed ideas of emerging nationhood, imperial identities, and British strategies of rule in the years leading up to decolonization.

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