World Sugar History Newsletter

Number 1, November 1982

In this issue:

  1. Why a Newsletter?
  2. Conference Report
  3. Papers Presented
  4. Other Participants
  5. Archive Report
  6. Reference Guide
  7. New Publications

This version of the World Sugar History Newsletter, Number 1, November 1982, has been edited for the purpose of on-line display. The contents remain complete.


Following the extremely successful conference recently held in Edinburgh, (see report below) it has been decided to publish, by way of a modest experiment, a biannual newsletter on research being carried out on the history of sugar. This venture is being jointly sponsored, as was the conference, by the Economic History Sector of the School of Economic & Social Studies of the University of East Anglia and the Department of Economic History of the University of Edinburgh. The project stems not only from the wishes of the participants at the Edinburgh meeting to remain in contact with one another, but also, and most importantly, from the desire to provide a forum or an international noticeboard for all the many scholars throughout the world working on various aspects of the history of sugar production. Although our concern at the conference was for the years 1860-1914, through this newsletter we hope to bring together academics studying the industry in all periods. This first issue is intended to elicit support. We hope to have with your help a reasonably comprehensive register of research in our next number.

As explained in the conference report, one of the most exciting aspects of the meeting was the opportunity to compare one's work with colleagues studying the same industry and similar problems in so many different and varied settings. The wider comparative perspective this afforded was of immense value for all of us. The chance to meet and talk in detail with scholars carrying out research on the history of European beet was also extraordinarily illuminating, especially for those of us who, when we have bothered to look up from 'our' cane fields to the goings on in the European industries, have generally seen little more than world sugar prices falling, because of growing beet exports in the last decades of the 19th century. We hope through this newsletter to maintain and increase the vital and stimulating intellectual interchange begun in Edinburgh.

We see our primary task as making available an up-to-date list of those researching on the history of sugar throughout the world, where they are working, and the exact nature of their research topics. This will allow scholars, who in the ordinary course of events might not be aware of research going on in certain areas, to be better informed and able, if they wish, to contact others. Also, we want to run a section on archival sources, especially sources which are of importance to a number of different sugar industries. In this first issue we offer a report on an important collection held in the University of Glasgow, and in the next number we will have a similar review of valuable material in the University of Reading. Finally, space permitting, we would like to provide a series of brief bibliographical surveys covering the most significant recent work which has been published on various countries or regions. This will allow those not familiar with the material to have an easy, up-to-date guide to recent publications.

The success of this effort depends on our being able to provide an extensive and inclusive coverage of research topics. To make this possible we urge you to read the note on page 4 and fill in the postcard provided.


A Conference entitled "Crisis and Change in the International Sugar Economy 1860-1914" was held at Edinburgh University between 1st and 3rd September 1982. Lists of the conference papers and the participants are set out below. It will be plain that the meeting attracted a very broad response, not only in terms of the diversity of regions examined in the papers, but in the approaches and research interests of the participants.

The conference was organised with a twofold objective. First, to bring together colleagues working on the history of different sugar economies in the period 1860-1914. It was felt by the organisers that although late 19th century sugar history was an extremely dynamic and important area of academic research, most studies confined themselves to particular sugar economies, and, often, to specific regions within a country. There is little reference in the published material to the comparative aspects of sugar production in the period, and it was hoped that a meeting of interested colleagues would help to break down the isolated and country specific nature of research in the field and promote an interest in international sugar history. Which brings us to the second objective of the Conference.

The world sugar economy experienced a massive crisis of over-supply in the mid 1880s. This not only exposed the problems of conflict between beet and cane sugar production but posed a problem for the continued development of the world sugar economy at large. It was envisaged that the impact of the crisis on different economies and their responses would provide an interesting and unifying focus for conference discussion.

While papers for the meeting concentrated on specific regions in the period, the conference discussion was organised around the following themes: the European beet sugar industries and the international market; the nature and impact of technical change; the problems of labour supply and recruitment; labour control, conditions, and unrest; the role of the state; ownership, control, and finance; and the nature and origins of changes in the structure of sugar production. Each session began with a short commentary by an expert on the general topic under discussion who drew together points made by the contributors and suggested interesting lines of enquiry to stimulate discussion. The conference papers were distributed about six weeks before the meeting, so that the participants could read all the papers in time for the meeting. The structure of the meeting worked particularly well. Participants were very well prepared for the meeting and a very high standard of discussion and debate emerged at the conference. The conference papers, including an editors' introduction, will be published soon, by the University of Edinburgh Press. It is likely also that a follow-up meeting will be held in two or three years' time. Details of this will be published in forthcoming Newsletters.


"Les Grandes Manoeuvres de la Diplomatie Sucrière Avant 1914," Philippe Chalmin, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris.

"The State and the Beet Sugar Industry in Russia before 1914," Roger Munting, East Anglia Norwich, UK.

"Beet Sugar and Peasant Economy in the Balkans before 1914," Michael Palairet, Edinburgh.

"The Political Economy of Sugar Beet in Imperial Germany," John Perkins, New South Wales, Australia.

"Sugar Production in the 19th Century British Market: Rethinking the Roles of Brazil and the British West Indies," Roberta M. Delson*, Columbia, New York.

"From Sugar Estate to Central Factory: The Industrial Revolution in the Caribbean (1840-1905)," Christian Schnakenbourg, U. of Amiens, U. of the French Antilles.

"Sugar and Demography. Population Dynamics in the Spanish Antilles during the 19th and 20th Centuries," James Wessman*, State U. of New York, Albany.

"The Growth of the Puerto Rican Sugar Industry under North American Domination: 1899-1910," Andrés A. Ramos Mattei, U. of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.

"Formación del Capitalismo en la Producción de Azúcar en Cuba (1860-1900)," Fe Inglesias*.

"The Cauldron of the Revolution; Agrarian Capitalism and the Sugar Industry in Morelos, Mexico 1880-1910," Arturo Warman, UNAM, Mexico.

"Sugar Industries at the Periphery of the World Market: Argentina, 1860-1914," Donna Guy, U. of Arizona, Tucson.

"The Labour Force on Peru's Sugar Plantations 1820-1930: A Survey," Bill Albert, U. of East Anglia.

"Economic Crisis, Chinese Workers and Peruvian Sugar Planters, 1875-1900: A Case Study of Labour and the National Elite," Michael J. Gonzales, U. of Utah, Salt Lake City.

"Labour Relations in the Hawaiian Sugar Industry 1850-1937," Edward Beechert, U. of Hawaii.

"Crisis and Change in the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1862-1906," Adrian Graves, U. of Edinburgh.

"The Natal Sugar Industry, 1849-1905: An Interpretative Essay," Peter Richardson*, U. of Melbourne, Australia.

"Portugal's Role in the Production of Rum and Sugar in Africa, c.1850-1914," W. G. Clarence-Smith, SOAS, London.

"The Egyptian Sugar Industry, 1870-1914: From State to Private Ownership and from Export Orientation to Production for the Local Market," Roger Owen, St. Antony's College, Oxford.

* unable to attend conference.


Christopher Abel, University College London.
Alain Buffon, Centre Universitaire Antilles Guyane, Guadeloupe.
Ian Duffield, U. of Edinburgh.
Christopher Fyfe, U. of Edinburgh.
Jean Hagelberg, University College London.
Eric Hanley, U. of Edinburgh.
John Henley, U. of Edinburgh.
Michael Lyon, U. of Aberdeen.
Sidney Mintz, Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore.
Jane Orttung, Rutgers U., New Brunswick, NJ.
Christopher Scott, LSE, London.
John R. Ward, U. of Edinburgh.



The Adam Smith Business Records Store of the University of Glasgow holds the records of A. & W. Smith, who are heirs to most of the sugar manufacturing businesses that flourished in Glasgow from the early nineteenth century. The manufacture of sugar machinery began on a large scale in Glasgow in 1840 when the firm of P. & W. McOnie was established. By 1848 the concern had manufactured fifty engines and fifty mills. In that year the name was changed to McOnie & Mirrlees and in the succeeding years the business spawned a number of other concerns, notably W. A. McOnie, Mirrlees & Tait; Watson Laidlaw & Co; McOnie Harvey & Co.; and Pott Cassells & Williamson. The output from these firms was prodigious. Between 1851 and 1876 W. A. McOnie, alone, constructed 820 steam engines, 1650 sugar mills, 1200 steam boilers, 117 water wheels and 169 evaporating pans. As the industry in Glasgow expanded in the late nineteenth century, other firms began to build sugar machinery, notably Blair Campbell & McLean, Duncan Stewart & Co. and A. F. Craig & Co. After the Second World War most of the surviving firms in Glasgow were taken over by A. & W. Smith (founded in 1837 and now part of the Tate & Lyle group), with the exception of A. F. Craig & Co. (which has recently ceased trading) and Duncan Stewart & Co. (whose sugar business is now owned by Fletcher & Stewart Ltd. of Derby). A brief account of the history of the industry in Glasgow can be found in Michael S. Moss and John R. Hume, Workshop of the British Empire (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1977), pp. 30-36.

The following records relating to sugar machinery are held by the Archives:

UGD 52 Duncan Stewart & Co.

UGD 62 Mirrlees Watson & Co.

UGD 116 Blair Campbell & McLean

UGD 118 A. & W. Smith & Co.

All enquiries concerning these records should be sent to the Archivist, The University Archives, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ.


A selection of ten of the most important recent works on the history of the sugar industry in Peru.

Bill Albert, An Essay on the Peruvian Sugar Industry 1880-1920 and the Letters of Ronald Gordon, Administrator of the British Sugar Company in Cañete, 1914-1920 (Norwich, 1976).

Juan Rolf Engleson, "Social Aspects of Agricultural Expansion in Coastal Peru, 1825- 1878," (unpublished PhD thesis, University of California at Los Angeles, 1977).

Michael J. Gonzales, "Cayaltí: The Formation of a Rural Proletariat on a Peruvian Sugar Cane Plantation, 1875-1933," (unpublished PhD thesis, University of California at Berkeley, 1978).

Robert G. Keith, Conquest and Agrarian Change. The Emergence of the Hacienda System on the Peruvian Coast (London, 1976).

Peter F. Klarén, Modernization, Dislocation and Aprismo: Origins of the Peruvian Aprista Party (Austin, 1973).

-----, "Social and economic consequences of modernization in the Peruvian sugar industry, 1879-1930," in K. Duncan and I. Rutledge (eds.), Land and Labour in Latin America (Cambridge, 1977)

Pablo Macera, Las plantaciones azucareras en el Perú 1821-1875 (Lima, 1974).

Susan Ramirez-Horton, "Land Tenure and the Economics of Power in Colonial Peru," (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1977).

C. D. Scott, Machetes, Machines and Agrarian Reform: The Political Economy of Technical Choice in the Peruvian Sugar Industry, 1954-74 (Norwich, 1979).

-----, "The labour process, class conflict and politics in the Peruvian sugar industry," Development and Change (1979), vol. 10.


Philippe Chalmin, TATE AND LYLE, GÉANT DU SUCRE, L'émergence d'une firme multinationale au sein de l'économie sucrière mondiale: TATE and LYLE (1860-1981), 750 pp., price 250 F.

orders to:

NOTE: If you provide us with the details, we will publish, space permitting, similar information on recent publications, as well as other items of news which may be of interest to our readers.


We want this Letter to be first and foremost a useful and comprehensive register of research on world sugar history. To do this we need your active co-operation. Please fill out the enclosed postcard and return it as soon as possible. If you know others working in the field, including, of course, research students, either photocpy and pass on this Newsletter or send us their names, so we can forward them a copy. We would also welcome information on forthcoming conferences, recent publications, new archival sources or research grants. Please reply before February 1983.

World Sugar History Newsletter compiled by: Bill Albert, School of Economic & Social Studies, UEA, Norwich; Adrian Graves, Department of Economic History, University of Edinburgh.
Thanks to Keith Roberts for design, Judith Sparks for heroic typing, and the UEA Print Room.
All correspondence to Bill Albert, School of Economic & Social Studies, University of East Anglia, NORWICH NR4 7TJ, UK.