Environments, Economies and Contemporary Change
Chapter 6: Leaving the islands: international migration
Islands have never been apart from migration. Mobility was and is at the core of island dynamics. Many islands were settled in waves, most dramatically through the middle passage that took slaves from Africa to the Caribbean, succeeding Arawaks and Caribs, the equally complex migration in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans that brought Africans, Indians and European colonialists to empty islands, and the colonization by the Lapita people and their successors who became the Polynesian and Micronesian settlers of much of the Pacific. While Melanesian islands were settled thousands of years ago, the Seychelles, Bermuda and Barbados were unpopulated until the seventeenth century and later. Until the late nineteenth century the history of the Caribbean was largely defined by migration. The year 1834 marked both the end of the abolition of slavery in British colonies, and signalled the beginning of large scale emigration from the smaller, already ecologically stressed Leeward Islands – St Kitts, Nevis and Antigua – to rather larger islands (Potter et al. 2004). Cape Verdeans similarly began to migrate once slavery ended (Carling and Akesson 2009). Polynesian and Micronesian islands have been characterized by the repeated mobility of fragments of their populations in great canoe voyages, hence one Tongan anthropologist has emphasized that Pacific islanders inhabit a ‘sea of islands’ where population ties across the ocean are at least as important as those within the islands (Hau’ofa 1994; see D’Arcy 2006). By the mid-nineteenth century Pacific islanders had been forcibly taken to South America. Later many left voluntarily for plantations in Queensland and elsewhere.
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