This statement is intended to provide context on the language and terminology that can be found throughout this resource.

Editorial decisions relating to Colonial Caribbean have been made with great care, consideration and sensitivity. At AM, our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is embedded in everything we do. You can learn more about our policies on Diversity and Representation on our website.

Every effort has been taken to preserve the historic authenticity of these documents which range widely in date from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Due to the nature of this material, colonialist viewpoints are presented by the majority of the documents within this resource and, as such, they use language that we would no longer deem acceptable, particularly in relation to enslaved people and free people of colour. Material may also include upsetting descriptions – and occasionally images – of graphic violence, which have been preserved for their historical significance.

As part of our commitment to ensuring the discoverability of primary sources within our collections, we are grateful to receive metadata from source archives which is then supplemented and enhanced by our editorial team. 

Much of the metadata included within the resource has been sourced directly from The National Archives, UK, catalogue, as this is an invaluable resource for researchers and often provides a lot of information related to each document. This metadata has been compiled since the late nineteenth century and therefore, will often include outdated language. Consultation with our editorial board members determined that this cataloguing data is part of the colonial history of the documents and should therefore be made available to researchers.

'Antigua' with a decorative drop capAn Act to lay Duties on goods imported into Antigua, CO 8/5.
Images, including Crown Copyright Images, reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England

Where primary sources contain biased or offensive views, we commit to providing searching guides and contextual materials – such as essays, video interviews and guides – to help researchers find hidden voices where historic cataloguing practices may have obscured them.

Colonial Caribbean includes a contextual essay from Dan Gilfoyle at The National Archives, UK, which provides context on the history of the metadata and how to make use of this to browse and search through the material. 

Specialist academic advice has been sought on the terminology used throughout the editorial content and a video interview from Dr Kristy Warren has been included to provide some case studies on how to search for and uncover the often hidden voices of enslaved peoples within colonial documents. 

Dr Gilfoyle and Dr Warren's contextual materials can be found under Essays and Video Interviews

We believe that technology can play a positive role in redressing the imbalance of representation in historic materials such as these. Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) software has been applied to these documents, enabling scholars to search the original text of the historic sources freely. The ability to search in this way can improve the discoverability of underrepresented narratives and help minimise historic or unintentional biases that could be present within the metadata. When searching for marginalised groups or peoples within these sources, scholars should consider contemporaneous terms that may have been used to describe such groups in nineteenth-century society. To find out more about how best to optimise and filter your results, visit the Searching Guide

If you are interested in learning more about the editorial considerations that shaped the list of sources available in Colonial Caribbean, please read the Selection Criteria

Early European interpretations identified just two broad Indigenous cultures in the Caribbean – which they called ‘Arawak’ and ‘Carib’. The British colonisers who wrote most of the documents contained within Colonial Caribbean suggest an even more basic interpretation, grouping all Indigenous peoples together as either ‘Carib’ or ‘Indian’, used almost interchangeably. Modern scholarship, based on archaeological, linguistic, historical and ethnographic evidence, has scrutinised this position and has shown instead that the precolonial Caribbean was a complex, interwoven tapestry of culturally diverse island societies. Archaeologists, for example, have identified multiple broad cultural groups in the region prior to 1492, which they have termed Saladoid, Huecoid, Ostionoid, Meillacoid, Troumassoid, Suazoid and Chicoid. Others suggest that ‘Arawak’ is too broad a term, suggesting more specific names for different groups of Arawakan speakers, such as Taíno and Lucayan. 

Since first arriving in the Caribbean in the fifteenth century, European colonisers have torn at the threads of that tapestry. Many Indigenous people were killed through war or disease. Many more were enslaved, transported from their homes, forced to flee, or partitioned into increasingly small territories. Similarly, Indigenous histories were erased by European narratives such as the bifurcation into ‘Arawak’ and ‘Carib’; the rumour put out by Columbus that the ‘Caribs’ were cannibals; or the ‘Black Legend’, an anti-Spanish propaganda disseminated by other European powers to justify their own colonisation efforts. Indigenous peoples passively and actively resisted European colonisation. Passive resistance included “establishing kinship relations, fleeing, hiding, suicide, and avoiding census takers”[1]. Active resistance involved open rebellion, such as Enriquillo’s uprising against the Spanish occupation of Hispaniola; or open warfare, as in the Carib Wars of 1769 and 1795, whereby the Kalinago population of St Vincent fought against British colonisation of the island. Modern-day Indigenous groups within the Caribbean continue to resist erasure through education about their lives, histories, customs and traditions.  

One important way that modern-day Indigenous groups resist erasure is by rejecting colonist terminology. Most notably, many Indigenous people view the term ‘Carib’ as derogatory given its connotations of cannibalism; the Indigenous people of Dominica successfully campaigned their government to officially replace the term ‘Carib’ with the preferred ‘Kalinago’.   

For editorial content in Colonial Caribbean, AM has used preferred and specific terminology such as Kalinago, Taíno and Lucayan wherever possible. Where it has been impossible to identify an appropriate term at this time, the term ‘Indigenous people(s)’ has been used instead. Every effort has been made to avoid using derogatory terms such as ‘Carib’, except in direct quotations and in the names of significant historical events such as the Carib Wars.

We welcome feedback on the language used in our sites and will use this feedback to implement specific changes and shape our use of language in future – if you have feedback
please contact us via email.


[1] Tony Castanha, Adventures in Indigenous Caribbean Resistance, Survival, and Continuity in Borikén (Puerto Rico) [accessed August 2021]