Starter Source 2

The part of a letter sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies concerning working conditions for sugar workers in Jamaica. 26 January 1943, Catalogue ref: CO 137/852/7

This is part of a letter about Jamaican sugar workers who worked on large estate [for Tate and Lyle] where the sugar crop was grown.  The Secretary of State for the Colonies, or Colonial Secretary was the British Cabinet minister in charge of managing the United Kingdom’s various colonies. A colony is a country or territory controlled to by another country. Jamaica at this time was a British colony and gained independence in 1962.


[Some words are defined in brackets]

Jesmond Cottage


26TH January 1943

Col. The Rt. Hon. Oliver Stanley, M.C.M.P.

Secretary of State for the Colonies

Colonial Office

Downing Street,



Dear Minister,


I have received a communication re [regarding] the deplorable conditions of the above from an official source, which appears to demand your prompt intervention.

workers and families are suffering great hardship and impoverishment [poverty] , intolerable [not to put up with] in any British Colony today. It is further alleged [claimed] that the working day is of 12 hours without lunch time, food having to be eaten whilst working. In addition, the huts in which they are housed are the poorest character, and often situated in the morass [muddy or boggy ground], swamps, and levels [flat areas] of the sugar estates and are unfit for human habitation [living in].

It is also stated that there is a notable [serious] shortage of Doctors and Medical Supplies.

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  • Why has this letter been sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies?
  • What does letter tell us about the living and working conditions for sugar workers?
  • How does this letter link to the starter photograph you looked at? [Clue: were there other reasons to come to Britain?]