What was the function of the Great House on Sugar Plantations during the Slave Trade?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Sugar Plantations were the major economic producers in the Caribbean between the 18-20th centuries. During the Slave Trade decades, African slaves grew to outnumber Whites on the plantations, producing massive quantities of sugar and causing Barbados to become the wealthiest of all the European colonies in the Caribbean.

On a plantation, buildings fell into three categories: slave huts, the Great House, and the Sugar Works Yard (composed of several houses for various purposes). The Great House was the primary residence of either the plantation owner or his trusted attorney, who would operate the plantation in the owner's absence. Other Whites living or working on the plantation lived in huts closer to the Great House, and these were considered part of the Great House campus. By delegating supervisory responsibility, the owner could travel and entertain; the proximity of the Great House to the supervisor huts, which were in turn closer to the Slave huts, allowed rapid communication between the work levels and helped efficiency. The Great House was also considered a work of art to be displayed and improved; owners took pride in their wealth and the quality of their House and loved to impress guests with the opulence of their lifestyle. Many Great Houses still exist today and are integral in understanding the history of the time.

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