Join Mailing List

Trauma, Resilience, Recovery Workshop FAQs

Questions from the live workshop answered
What proportion of people returned to India and what proportion stayed?

The numbers returning to India from British Guiana, Trinidad, Jamaica, and other Caribbean islands have been estimated to be under 10%. However, there remains some debate as to how many Indians actually returned to India or found work elsewhere. According to reports submitted by colonial officials, those Indians that did return to India would re-submit themselves for indenture after a period back in India. Some of those re-indenturing would act as recruiters for new labour to the colonies.

For further information see:

‘Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar: Chinese and Indian Migrants to the British West Indies’ by Walton Look Lai

What was the number of emigrants that went from India to each of the British colonies?

The number of emigrants indentured to each colony varied between the dates 1834-1917. The largest emigration was to Mauritius with 453,063. The next highest was British Guiana with 238,909, then Trinidad with 143,939. Away from the Caribbean some of the highest number of emigrants indentured were to Malay with 250,000, Natal with 152,184 and Fiji with 60,965.

For further information see:

‘The Indian Labour Diaspora: A Resource Text for Students ‘ by Ashutosh Kumar, Marina Carter and Crispin Bates.


Are CO 137 files relating to Jamaica available online?

Unfortunately, most of the Colonial Office (CO) files have not been digitised or even fully catalogued. Overall, only 5% of The National Archives collection has been digitised and the bulk of these records are related to census and individual military records. To access CO files you will still need to visit The National Archives.

If I want to conduct further research at The National Archives or elsewhere, where can I look?

Transatlantic Slave Trade

Use The National Archives research guides and education resources on the transatlantic slave trade:

British colonies after 1782

Other archives in the UK that have records relating to Indian Indenture

These include the India Office records at the British Library. Records at the School of Oriental and African Studies. There are also many records about the law and decision making processes in the Parliamentary Archives.

Further guidance on Indian indentured research from The National Archives

Further reading?

There are many books on the subject of Indian Indenture, below are some suggestions:

‘A New System of Slavery: Export of Indian Labour Overseas 1834-1920’ by Hugh Tinker, Oxford University Press, 1974

‘Coolies of the Empire: Indentured Indians in the Sugar Colonies, 1830 -1920′, by Ashutosh Kumar, Cambridge University Press, 2017

 Indentured Labour: Caribbean Sugar: Chinese and Indian Migrants to the British West Indies, 1838-1918′ by Walton Look Lai, 1993

‘Girmitiyas: The origins of the Fiji Indians’ by Brij V Lal, Journal of Pacific History, 1983

 Voices from Indenture: Experiences of Indian Migrants in the British Empire’ by Marina Carter, Leicester University Press, 1996.

‘Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture’ by Gaiutra Bahadur, Hurst and Company, 2016.

‘India in the Caribbean’ edited by Dr David Dabydeen and Dr Brinsley Samaroo. Hansib, 1987.

 ‘Sugar, Sugar: Bitter Sweet Tales of Indian Migrant Workers’, by Lainy Malkani. Hope Road, 2017

Useful documentaries?

Coolies: How Britain reinvented slavery.

The Caribbean East Indians part 1 of 2:

Pin It on Pinterest

Skip to content