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Corruption Allegations in Caribbean Settler Society (1600-1850)

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Corruption hampered national economic growth and advancement, damaged governmental credibility, and jeopardized the nation’s security in the Caribbean settler society. Despite the attempts of multilateral and nonprofit groups to combat corruption, the Caribbean’s corruption issues looked to be deteriorating in the seventeenth century. The theoretical foundation of the research is based on an integrated framework of the causes of common corruption instances that was developed using a regulation-guided constructivist focus on social science. The model starts with a logical decision assessment, which helps to describe the Caribbean’s various extents of corruption. The constructivist notion of social regulations is then applied to the structural factors that help expound Caribbean’s corruption extents. Utilizing empirical structured case reports of corruption in Jamaica and Costa Rica, and other Caribbean countries, the dissertation develops the hypothesis of its causes.


Corruption has always been a concern throughout the Caribbean. The necessity to confront the corruption issue did not become central to regional political debate until the 1990s. The 34 Western Hemisphere state heads and government present at the 1994 Miami, Florida, Summit of the Americas founded Combating corruption as among the 23 planned activities in their finished proclamation, in response to growing global and domestic burden to address their corruption issues. The Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Convention against Corruption was signed in March 1996. The absence of continuous anti-corruption attention was particularly noticeable in the Caribbean, where several countries have yet to join or ratify the Organization of American States (OAS) Convention.

Corruption is a highly complex behavior that is influenced by various societal circumstances. It is not an easy concept to master. Corruption is hard to research because of terminology, ideas, and assessment differences. This is not to say that we should abandon widespread corruption research. Instead, we need to develop new ideas and tools to comprehend this complicated social behavior better. The purpose of this study is to find out what the local and foreign causes of rampant corruption in the Caribbean were. According to the survey, we won’t solve corruption’s various problems until we first develop a thorough explanation of its roots. The study uses the principle-oriented constructivist logical approach to analyze the research issue.

Political Causes

  1. The Key Role of Caribbean Governing Elite

Incorporating corruption as an essential issue in modernization and democratic research sparked a recent academic investigation of the political reasons for bribery from 1600 to 1850s. Countless academic research in anthropology, crime, behavioral sciences, economic history, financial planning, foreign diplomacy, governance, and public administration, has been published since the 1960s, all seeking to understand the political origins of corruption. Šumah, Š. (2018) provides significant inputs to the broad modernization perspective, which views political corruption as being caused by the nature of a nation’s political structure and the form and pace of its socio-economic development.

One of the critical assumptions of the modernization method is that as countries improve, their intensity of corruption decreases. According to Šumah (2018), the extent of corruption in a developing country is determined by two factors: (1) the traditional culture of the country and (2) the character of the country’s political and economic modernization procedures. Corruption is one sign of the lack of adequate political-institutional theory,” he says Šumah (2018). According to Šumah’s (2018) thesis, large degrees of corruption in emerging countries can be caused by low economic productivity and fresh increases in economic affluence.

The modernization strategy can be subjected to three key criticisms. Firstly, modernization studies frequently concentrate on macro-level notions that give limited regular pathways for anti-corruption program development. Second, few factual reports back modernization hypotheses of political reasons of corruption due to the absence of standard processes in modernization analysis. Third, as their arguments claim, political and economic modernization has not lowered corruption in industrialized countries. Developed countries like France, and the U.S., for instance, nonetheless have high levels of governmental corruption.

The structuralist-radical movement blames corruption on colonialism and neo-imperialism, developing-world dependence ties, and global activities toward capitalism and democratic governance. The nationalist ideology of the Caribbean ruling class is based on a structural-radical understanding of the origins of corruption. Quite a few academic studies in the Caribbean have linked Caribbean corruption to structural-radical theories. Beyond the Caribbean, De Bettignies & Robinson (2018) take a structural-radical perspective, saying that corruption is a direct byproduct of contradictions between market-self-interested capitalism’s strategy and liberal-more democracy’s equitable methodology.

Others within the structural-radical movement describe corruption as a direct byproduct of capitalism or negative categories or segments; usually, the nation’s ruling elite and government bureaucracy, using a broad Marxist worldview Corruption and economic decline are abstractly related features of a similar procedure, i.e., advancement at the fringe of the capitalist financial system, according to one structural-radical corruption research. One of the structural-radical faculty’s main criticisms is that nations that embrace market-capitalist and liberal democracies have lesser instances of political corruption than nations that choose substitute socialism regimes.

Finally, the structural-culturalist movement contends that a nation’s culture impacts its amount of political corruption. When Šumah (2018) claims that corruption is more widespread in communities where the aspirations of the person, the family, the inner circle, or the clan are prevalent, he is raising the concern of culture as a reason for corruption. He also speculates that states with little social partisanship and higher perceptions of nobility will have less corruption. Prabowo, Sriyana, & Syamsudin (2018) tackle the cultural relativism issue, arguing that various cultures have diverse perspectives on corruption.

They demonstrate that current civic-cultured social structures are less corrupt than older sociocultural systems since they have a much stricter perspective on unethical behavior. Moralist political cultures in the United States are less permissive and more likely to flush out corruption than individualistic and conventional political cultures. Prabowo, Sriyana, & Syamsudin’s (2018) research of democracy in Italy also sheds light, as they discover that in more traditional regions with little social capital, patron-clientelism is deeper and more established, which is associated with increased cases of political corruption. The structural-culturalist study revealed minimal agreement on which cultural aspects ought to be employed and where they connect into the explanation of political corruption’s origins.

  1. Press Freedom and the Judiciary

Among the essential features of a non-corrupt community is a free press. A free press is a basic groundwork of state legitimacy and effective governance. The rationale is straightforward: a free and unfiltered press uncovers illegal actions and renders it harder to indulge in them unnoticed. This is consistent with Ibrahim, Yusoff, & Koling’s (2018) model, which states that sufficient monitoring is needed to prohibit an official from indulging in corrupt behavior. Numerous exploratory studies back up the idea that more press freedom lessens corruption.

In the case of Caribbean settler societies, an absence of press freedom on social media resulted in a lack of accountability for political decision-makers. The media failed to assist prosecution authorities by researching and publicizing instances of corruption, which would have led to federal investigations and prosecutions of corrupt public leaders. Since public indignation may have jeopardized elected politicians’ reputations, the media failed to influence private-to-public corruption. On the other hand, private entities were significantly less reliant on public favor, and hence private-to-private corruption was less prone to be influenced by negative media attention.

The media also failed to offer a public platform for airing objections and promoting popular opinion by publicizing failed policies, official public malfeasance, judicial corruption, and business scandals. The media could not create public pressure on corrupt leaders to quit and relinquish political power. These name and humiliating efforts can alter an unscrupulous actor’s image and encourage law compliance. There have been instances where Caribbean government officials used their discretionary authority to withhold or postpone a service intending to obtain rent from a private agency designed a bribe.

Economic Causes

  1. Role of the growing slave trade

Everyone has unknowingly encountered an enslaved person at some point in their lives. The lack of regulations prohibiting it is not the problem as international bodies issued anti-slavery policies, norms, and laws before and during the twentieth century. Countless observers are perplexed as to why the human trafficking sector thrives despite widespread criticism. The solution may be summed up in one word: money. However, it isn’t simply the traffickers who are making money.

The expansion of sugar ‘plantations’ produced a huge demand for employees in Caribbean colonial civilization (Richard Sheridan, 1998). The planters were more focused on acquiring imprisoned persons from Africa. Nearly five million African captives were shipped to the Caribbean, with over the majority of them landing in the British Caribbean (2.3 million) (SIDDIQUI, 2020). As planters became more conditioned to slave labor, the Caribbean colonies’ demographics changed, with those born in Africa or their offspring forming the bulk (Richard & Dunn, 2000). Their harsh mistreatment was defended by the ideology that they came from a lower racial group.

Indeed, throughout the Caribbean colonies, sophisticated systems of defining race arose, with ‘white’ folks at the top, ‘black’ persons at the bottom, and various ‘mixed’ groupings in between. This was a strategy for white people to legitimize the harshness of slavery (Smith, 2006). A 2011 UNODC paper examined the link between corruption and human trafficking, concluding that “corruption is perhaps the most crucial element in describing human trafficking.” Countries in the Caribbean were the laxest in enacting anti-corruption rules were also the laxest in enacting anti-slavery regulations (Susan Dwyer, 2007). Parties in those nations who took bribes disobeyed laws or controlled industrial sectors for financial benefit profit from slavery, just like those engaged in the slave trade.

  1. Piracy, tax evasions, and extortion

According to the research findings, the Caribbean has a comparatively low tax burden. Compared to OECD nations, the area relied more on indirect taxes and corporate income taxation. The reduced percentage of personal income tax and social security payments was also underlined in the report. The region has uneven wealth inequality and a limited ability to redistribute income through tax policy. Another distinguishing aspect is the high level of informality, as the research revealed a significant level of avoidance, particularly in legal entity income tax (Collier, 2000). The loss of tax bases and the transfer of advantages to avoid taxes has a significant impact. Meanwhile, they emphasized the importance of substantial tax expenditures.

In the Caribbean settler society, tax evasion eventually resulted in a rise in corruption claims. This is because culture encouraged tax evasion by allowing corrupt leaders to earn more money through bribes; on the other hand, more significant degrees of tax evasion encouraged corruption by providing more possibilities for bribes. In the Caribbean, little light has been thrown on the harsh truth of women’s perceptions and encounters of corruption. While previous research indicates that various kinds of corruption adversely impact women, there has been little evidence on how this has happened in the past. The publication of the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Latin America and the Caribbean was a significant step toward better comprehending how corruption impacted women in the region (Sample, 2018).

The GCB has highlighted statistics on sexual extortion, or sextortion, one of the most severe types of gender-based corruption, for the first time. It also included new information on women’s bribing incidents. According to the research, women were more likely to pay bribes for medical services than males. It was also an expectation that poorer women pay bribes for judicial assistance. Women with greater educational attainment were more prone to bribing officials in public schools. Evidence indicated a gender disparity that disproportionately disadvantaged women when sex was the price of the bribe (Merril & Smith, 1998). Some women resorted to sexual favors to get public services, like education and medical care.

Additionally, during the “golden period” of piracy in the 17th century, a handful of Britain’s most renowned raiders conspired with eminent politicians and business people, based on an enlightening new exhibition along London’s River Thames. Pirates could practically be seen roaming the streets of London as Britain started to grow its dominion. These pirates made confidential transactions with hidden and strong wealthy supporters in this city, and piracy was sponsored all around the globe. By looking at the history of the notorious swashbuckler Captain Kidd, the presentation “Pirates: Captain Kidd Story” uncovers the unexpected reality of how London’s politically corrupt establishment was rooted in piracy. This demonstrates governmental and business corruption in the earlier years of the empire in the Caribbean colonial civilization.

  1. An endowment of Natural Recourses

Natural resources were another economic source of corruption. In the school of thought, natural resource availability should promote advancement by encouraging trade and investment raising living conditions. Another viewpoint, known as the “resource curse,” is as follows: Because people and officials fought for rents and ventured less in other types of capital, like human capital, governments such as the Caribbean government became less effective in the face of resource plenty. In the scientific results, this idea has a lot of support. Rents are generated by natural resources, which leads to rent-seeking behavior, often coupled with corruption.

The Caribbean settler society had the reputation of being a rent-seeking nation. Natural resource abundance influenced talent divergence toward rent-seeking pursuits, which explains the area’s lack of creativity, innovation, and competitive economy. Prospective business owners were given special treatment by the government, including exploiting the natural resource rents through bribes and corruption. Contrastingly, because this industry has a profound yield, it absorbs the most significant human capital in each nation, changing prospective business owners into rent-seekers and thus destroying any chance of improving output and achieving long-term economic progress. As a result, natural resource rents encouraged corruption because their democratic institutions were weak.

Social Causes

  1. Gender Inequality

In the Caribbean settler society, corruption threatened democratization, fairness, the legal system, moral standards, and justice. Additionally, elevated levels of corruption are intimately connected to various types of gender inequality. According to research, women saw and encountered corruption differently than males, and women suffered more due to uneven power dynamics between men and women. Women’s access to public facilities, knowledge, and decision-making was hampered by corruption, promoting social, cultural, and political prejudice. Women were subjected to corruption, including sexual extortion and petty corruption, which posed a significant hardship.

One of the most heinous gendered kinds of corruption is sexual extortion, which is described as using authority to achieve a sexual reward or benefit. Women and girls across the Caribbean were impacted by this phenomenon, particularly in low- and middle-income nations and isolated places. Even though it’s been recorded that women and girls were frequently coerced to offer sexual favors as opposed to money to receive governmental services, sexual extortion is hardly incorporated in the classifications of corruption. Women’s trafficking was also linked to corruption. Attempts to minimize or eliminate human trafficking were hampered by police cooperation and the view of women as sexual objects.

Cultural Causes

  1. Trust

Since Hofstede’s cultural component model was created, culture has been increasingly critical in understanding economic nation variations. However, because there is a scarcity of good data on cultural features, economists have avoided doing so for a long time. This has altered in recent years due to more diversified and extensive data acquired by surveys such as the World Values Survey, which now enables analytical nation assessment. Corruption has been a popular study topic, with many research articles on the subject. Numerous surveys have looked at the link between trust and corruption and discovered that nations with high levels of trust had lower levels of corruption.

This is because trust enables and promotes collaboration among all community members, therefore increasing the quality of government and the economy and, as a result, lowering corruption. The most recent study on corruption in Caribbean settler societies has highlighted trust as both a cause and a consequence of corruption. According to one viewpoint, low levels of trust bred corruption. The lack of confidence in others in the community and the government, as per this viewpoint, precluded the development of a unitarist mindset and collaborative conduct, favoring rather practical and individualized answers to issues (Mark Knights, pg. 198). Distrust bred a permissive or unassertive attitude toward corruption, fuelling active engagement in corruption by creating the anticipation of corrupt conduct, among others.


Corruption is a complex, diverse, and divisive topic. Nearly as many suggested descriptions of corruption occur among the thousands of scientific works on the subject. One of the reasons that a complete concept of political corruption’s causes has never arisen is the absence of one acceptable term. According to the data presented above, there was widespread corruption in Caribbean colonial society between 1600 and 1850. We’ve spoken about public corruption, which encompasses things like bribery, extortion, and theft that happen in public, official, or government settings.

The exact degrees of Caribbean corruption is tough to define. On the other hand, corruption may be linked to various factors, including political, economic, social, and cultural factors. In the political reasons section, we look at the role of the Caribbean ruling elite in establishing the political and financial institutions that lead to political corruption in their countries. We also look at how a lack of journalistic freedom contributed to corruption. In terms of economic issues, we look at things like the burgeoning slave trade, piracy, tax evasion, and extortion, notably against women, as well as natural resource endowment.

In the social reasons section, we look at how gender inequality contributed to the rise of sexual extortion and petty corruption. Finally, we look at how a lack of confidence in others in the community and the government inhibited the development of a unitarist mindset and collaborative conduct, rather than favoring practical and individualized answers to issues. As a result of this distrust, a permissive or unassertive attitude toward corruption developed. The term “Caribbean” is used in this study to refer to states and regions that border the Caribbean Sea or share cultural or demographic traits with other Caribbean countries.


Collier, M. W. (2000). Political corruption in the Caribbean basin: a comparative analysis of Jamaica and Costa Rica. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3594&context=etd

De Bettignies, J. E., & Robinson, D. T. (2018). When is social responsibility socially desirable?. Journal of Labor Economics, 36(4), 1023-1072.

Ibrahim, R., Yusoff, M. A., & Koling, H. M. (2018). Patterns and Causes of Corruption among Government Officials in Indonesia. Adabi: Journal of Public Administration and Business, 1(1), 74-91.

Mark Knights, Trust, and Distrust: Corruption in Office in Britain and Its Empire, 1600-1850

Prabowo, H. Y., Sriyana, J., & Syamsudin, M. (2018). Forgetting corruption: unlearning the knowledge of corruption in the Indonesian public sector. Journal of Financial Crime.

Richard Sheridan, ‘The Formation of Caribbean Plantation Society 1689-1748’ in P J Marshall, The Oxford History of the British Empire: The Eighteenth Century (1998), chapter 18

Richard S.Dunn, Sugar and slaves: the rise of the planter class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713 (2000)

Sample, K. (2018). Gender mainstreaming in the transparency fund. Washington DC: Inter-American Development Bank.

Sex and sexuality in early America by Merril D. Smith, 1998. Zacek, ‘Sex, Sexuality, and Social Control in the Eighteenth Century Leeward Islands’, Chapter 8 / chapter 4

SIDDIQUI, K. (2020). The Political Economy of the Slave Trade, Capital Accumulation and the Rise of Britain. World.

Slavery, family, and gentry capitalism in the British Atlantic: the world of the Lascelles, 1648-1834, by S. D. Smith, 2006, read Chapter 4

Šumah, Š. (2018). Corruption, causes, and consequences. IntechOpen.

Susan Dwyer Amussen, Caribbean Exchanges. Slavery and the Transformation of English Society 1640-1700 (Chapel Hill, 2007) – ebook

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