King's College London
Online Exhibitions
‘The paradise of the world’: conflict and society in the Caribbean

Trinidad

Table showing land available for distribution and listing types of cropsA general account of the quantity of land ... , from: F Mallet. Descriptive account of the island of Trinidad. London: printed for W Faden, geographer to the King, and to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Charing Cross, 1802 [FCO Historical Collection F2121 MAL]In 1793 Revolutionary France declared war on Britain and later that same year declared war on Spain. In 1795 France defeated Spain and the two countries ended hostilities under the Peace of Basel and entered into a formal military alliance under the Treaty of San Ildefonso the following year.

On 5 October 1796 Spain declared war on Britain, citing as reasons Britain’s invasion of Hispaniola and the threat posed to Spain’s territories on the mainland after Britain’s capture of the Dutch colonies in Guiana.

On 16 February 1797 a British fleet under Rear Admiral Henry Harvey and carrying troops under the command of General Ralph Abercromby approached Trinidad’s capital Port of Spain.The British fleet easily defeated the Spanish squadron guarding the coast and landed an army the next day. The fighting was brief and on 18 February the Spanish Governor Don José Maria Chacón capitulated. One British officer and seven Spanish soldiers died in the fighting.

When Britain took over the island it was relatively underdeveloped with around 36,000 acres in agricultural production.The chief crops grown were sugar, coffee, cotton and cocoa. The population consisted of 2,151 whites, 4,476 free persons of mixed race and around 10,000 slaves, as well as around 1,000 Indians. The British were keen to see agricultural and population expansion, particularly after 1802 when Trinidad was formally ceded to Britain by Spainas part of the Treaty of Amiens. The table on display shows the land available for distribution to new settlers and the type of crops it might be useful for.

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