In the colonial flurry of the first half of the 20th century, Barbadian businessmen fought against the pulling tide of ‘King Sugar’ to forge their own paths, and thus permanently altered the face of business in ‘Bim’. Dr Henderson Carter’s comprehensive survey, Business in BIM: A Business History of Barbados 1900–2000 chronicles the evolution of business in Barbados from the era when sugar cane cultivation and its processing dominated the economic, political and social life of the country through to the present time.
The book shows how the decline of the sugar industry created opportunities for the emergence of a new merchant class which included among its members a significant number of Black business entrepreneurs. The successes of this new merchant class were etched into the facades of Swan and Roebuck Streets as tangible evidence of the industrial change that swept Barbados, and in the process created a prominent commercial centre that remains a vital part of the capital, Bridgetown, to this day.
Dr Carter pays particular attention to the development and growth of Black businesses and analyses the factors that have accounted for their relatively short lifespan compared to white businesses which often survived across several generations. Through the personal profiles of the pioneering entrepreneurs the author puts a human face to the businesses they created and guided to success but oftentimes to failure as well.
The role of government as a factor in the development of business enterprises in the post-independence period comes in for special focus particularly through an examination of the policies of Errol Barrow, Erskine Sandiford and more recently Owen Arthur.
Business in Bim breaks new ground in the recording and analyzing of business history in the Caribbean. It will have immediate appeal for business practitioners whose enterprises remain viable and successful legacies of the early pioneering period and for many Barbadians who grew up to maturity alongside some of these companies. But beyond that, students of business and business history across the region will find this work a rich resource for case studies in Caribbean business history, entrepreneurship and government/private sector relationship.