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By this time, they along with the Dutch, French and Danes, had managed to break Spanish domination of the Caribbean islands, which had been established from the late 15th century. Britain’s conquests in the West Indies had begun with Bermuda, in 1609, and included Barbados in 1625.
In the conquest of the West Indies, the indigenous peoples, such as the Arawaks and Caribs, were almost entirely destroyed.
Britain also had other colonies, and used enslaved labor on the American mainland and in other places such as Mauritius. However, the West Indies was the main destination for Africans enslaved by the British.
The West Indian islands offered the lure of high profits. These were realized through the plantation system, which was begun by the Spanish and developed by the Dutch and French. Britain took it a step further with large-scale production of tobacco, coffee, cotton and sugar cane. Original smallholdings in the West Indies were amalgamated into bigger plantations, perhaps following the practice of enclosure developed in Britain from the 17th century.
The price of slaves to plantation owners was high. A slave could cost anything from £5 to £80, depending on age, gender, state of health and skills – and also on the period. Since they were treated as commodities, their ‘value’ went up and down with the market.