Sugar Mill

original source unknown

Scanned from from:
Van Dantzig, A, Het Nederlandse Aandeel in de Slawenhandel Fibula 1968 (in Dutch)

H-NET List for African History and Culture [H-AFRICA@H-NET.MSU.EDU]
Date:   Mon, 22 Nov 1999
From:   Kenneth Harrow, MSU

. . .  slavery can not be
understood independently of economic circumstances. again,
as a non-historian, i will make the following claim based on
my readings of the experts themselves who have stated that
the march of the sugar cane production system, from the e.
mediterranean to w. mediterranean, to the islands near spain
(13-14th c.), and then, a century or two later, down the w.
african coast to such islands as fernando po, brought within
the proximity of africa an economic system that demanded
large numbers of agricultural workers who could harvest the
crop collectively.

the transformation of sugar cane into sugar and then rum was
systematized and developed as an industry, even with
industrial secrets. it was spread across the atlantic to
brazil by the same portuguese who had instituted the
plantation system in the islands off the african coast. and
then, finally, it was spread by the dutch in the 1620-40
sugar cane revolution period into the w. indies.

slavery took its form, its inhuman form, and spread to
specific locations, because the economic system it served
required certain kinds of labor which were easiest met by
using slaves.

does it make any sense, then, to talk about where slavery
began? about how it existed in greece, egypt, russia, or
ghana, as if the term slavery meant the very same thing?

finally, it is not my intention to exculpate people in the
past who carried out such evil practices by claiming that
economic systems were responsible.  it is just that one
cannot understand their actions, motivations, practices
without understanding what economic incentives were being



Deerr NoŽl The History of Sugar 1949

Dunn, RS, Sugar and Slaves London 1977

Mattoso, Katia M. de Queiros, To Be A Slave in Brazil 1550 -1888, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, with a foreword by Stuart B. Schwarz, Rutgers University Press,1994. First published in French 1979.

Schwarz, SB, Sugar Plantations in the formation of Brazilian Society Bahia 1550-1835 CUP