World Sugar History Newsletter

Number 12, June 1988

In this issue:

  1. Announcement
  2. Andres A. Ramos Mattei
  3. Book Reviews
  4. Publications of Interest
  5. Papers Received
  6. Archive Report
  7. Museum Notes
  8. Announcement

This version of the World Sugar History Newsletter, Number 12, June 1988, has been edited for the purpose of on-line display. The contents remain complete.


We are extremely sad to have to announce the untimely death of two of our colleagues, both major figures in the world of sugar history. In November of last year Peter Eisenberg, whose excellent work on Brazil was so important, died, at the age of 48 at his home in Campinas, Brazil. He will be greatly missed, as will Andres A. (Tony) Ramos Mattei (47), who died last February, in New Jersey. Tony, one of the world's foremost scholars on Puerto Rico, passed away after a long and courageous battle against cancer.

We carry an obituary and appreciation of Tony by his friend, Francisco Scarano. A similar tribute to Peter Eisenberg will appear in our next issue.

I am sure all readers of the Newsletter will want to join with the editors in sending our most heartfelt condolences to Peter's and Tony's families.


Andres A. (Tony) Ramos Mattei passed away on February 11th in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His premature death leaves sugar historiography devoid of one of its most skilful and accomplished craftsmen. A force among historians of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, and a scholar of stature among students of the sugar industry, he is sorrowfully mourned by friends, collaborators, and admirers. There were undoubtedly many of each among the readers of this Newsletter; we deeply grieve his passing and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.

Andres's career was a multifaceted one, as were his scholarly writings. He considered himself foremost a student of Puerto Rico. Yet, to his credit, he approached insular issues in the broadest possible perspective. His work was often explicitly comparative and always regional (Caribbean-wide) in its implications. An active member of the Association of Caribbean Historians, he was instrumental in establishing fruitful interaction between his fellow historians in Puerto Rico and those of other Caribbean nations.

Andres's intellectual passion revolved around the peculiar historical processes of his native society, a protagonist in an enduring and perplexing colonial drama. He focused this passion valuably in the two main areas of his scholarship: the history of Puerto Rico's sugar industry, on which he was an undisputed authority, and the life and thought of Ramon Emeterio Betances -- abolitionist, revolutionary, and progenitor of the Puerto Rican nation. His contributions in these two fields comprise an enduring -- and, despite their diversity, a unified body of scholarship.

Andres is best known for his work on the transition from the hacienda to the modern land-and-factory combine in Puerto Rico's sugar sector. His book, La hacienda azucarera (San Juan, 1981), is a landmark study. Based on an exhaustive investigation into the Serralles plantation archives in Ponce, it is a thorough explanation of the processes of technological and social change in the sugar industry in the late 1800s. Like the Cuban historian, Manuel Moreno Fraginals, whose work he admired, Andres ingeniously wove together the particulars of technological change with a thorough scrutiny of issues concerning labor exaction, class formation, and ideology. All told, his essays and monographs on significant aspects of abolition in the sugar areas, and on the development of the central factory system before and after the North American takeover of 1898, reshaped our thinking on Puerto Rico's economy and society during a crucial transition.

His treatises on sugar were, above all, revisionist without being polemical. Historians nowadays generally accept his view that the late nineteenth century was a period of crisis and adaptation for island planters, some of whom, however, incorporated requisite technology and were well on their way toward profitability even before the inyasion of '98 opened up the United States market. In sum, his work essentially bridged the gap between historical scholarship on the hacienda system and social-science literature on the twentieth-century plantation.

At the time of his death, Andres was working on a study of property patterns in sugar during the early decades of the twentieth century. He had, however, just published a brief monograph on the pan-Caribbean dimension of Betances's revolutionary and democratic commitments (Betances en el ciclo revolucionario antillano: 1867-1875 [San Juan: 1987]). That he could pursue these two themes concurrently not only underscores his versatility as an historian, but also reveals his talent for blending rigorous scholarship with politically meaningful writing. For these talents, and for his endearing personal qualities, Andres will be sorely missed.

Francisco L. Scarano
The University of Connecticut


Rebecca J. Scott, Slave Emancipation in Cuba: The Transition to Free Labor, 1860-1899 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985). Pp. xviii, 319.

Rebecca Scott's study of the abolition of slavery in Cuba has attracted much-deserved praise since its publication in 1985. It is a finely crafted, well researched, challenging, and readable book whose primary focus is the transition from slavery to free wage labour in Cuba in the late nineteenth century. In explaining the gradualistic nature of that process she eschews any deterministic approach, stressing instead the complexity of Cuban emancipation through an examination of both the internal and external forces, with a particular stress upon the former. She argues that most Cuban owners resisted abolition to the last moment, especially in the economically important, sugar-producing western part of the island. However, they were challenged by an increasingly strong opposition that included Madrid, the slaves, and other sectors of the Cuban population, and had to contend with factors like the end of the slave trade, shifts in the international price for sugar, and the growing ties with the United States. Particularly important in weakening slavery was the Ten Years' War (1868-1878) and the rebels' offer of abolition as a lure to slaves. The crown was forced to respond, although it remained primarily concerned with protecting the slaveowners' interests. The Moret Law of 1870 nominally freed children and the aged but remained largely ineffective. Ten years later the patronato law established an eight-year apprenticeship for slaves with complete abolition foreseen at the end of the period. In fact, the aim of the law was to delay abolition and, initially, it changed little except the name of the institution. Nevertheless, it resulted in hastening the inevitable as slaves, or patrocinados as they were now called, were made increasingly aware of their changing status and through self-purchase, manumission, and death their numbers declined until only 25,000 remained in October 1886 when the crown decided the institution was no longer practicable and abolished it once and for all.

This transition was made possible by the fact that employers were now experimenting with alternative workers, such as Chinese contract labourers, rented slaves, indentured blacks, and black, white, and mulatto proletarians. But, as Professor Scott argues, these alternatives, along with the application of technology, actually helped to maintain slavery as they took up the slack caused by the decline in the slave labour force and permitted slaves to be used elsewhere. Thus, Cuban owners found that slavery could co-exist with other forms of labour, even though the presence and examples of the latter made the slaves aware of the alternatives and ultimately helped undermine the institution.

Scott challenges other accepted views about Cuban slavery as well, especially those espoused by Manuel Moreno Fraginals. This is particularly evident in the sections dealing with the sugar industry, an important secondary focus of her work. It was the western sugar planters who wanted an orderly, subordinate, and disciplined work force and remained committed to slavery despite relatively high slave prices and stagnant sugar prices. Their ability to secure handsome returns from sugar production and to maintain an adequate labour force prompts Scott to conclude there was no internal collapse of the slavery system. Nor did the application of technology undermine Cuban slavery as slaves continued to be used in the new, most advanced mills, and technology was seen as a means of maintaining slavery. What killed slavery was the gradual ageing of the slave population, the growing opportunities for self-purchase under the patronato, manumission by owners, and legislation like the Moret Law.

Abolition, however, did not mark a great change for the slaves. They remained proletarians at the bottom of the social ladder, with little opportunity for buying or renting land. Although the sugar industry was changing with cultivation in the hands of smaller farmers (colonos) who furnished the cane for large producers, it was the whites who benefited and sugar cane farming was predominantly a white occupation by the late 1800s.

Professor Scott's book is an excellent examination of the process of abolition and the associated changing patterns of labour relations in Cuba. It also explains the changes that were occurring within the Cuban sugar industry in the late nineteenth century. And while the focus is on a specific country, it provides information and arguments that can be profitably applied to other slaveholding societies and sugar producing nations for comparisons and contrasts. It is highly recommended.

Peter Blanchard
University of Toronto

Bill Albert and Adrian Graves (eds.), The World Sugar Economy in War and Depression, 1914-40 (London and New York: Routledge, 1988). 241 pp.

Sugar is produced in many countries under complex sets of conditions peculiar to each, and the world sugar economy is not a homogeneous entity. Its component industries differ radically in their physical environments, in the role they play in their respective national economies, in their structure, degree of export dependence, insulation from changes in the world supply/demand balance and world prices, access to preferential outlets, level and composition of production costs, and so on. Few global generalizations are possible, and these are riddled with exceptions.

Albert and Graves some years ago had the felicitous idea of trying to cope with this diversity by bringing together students of sugar history from various parts of the world for an occasional meeting and publishing the proceedings. Seventeen of the essays in this collection are condensed versions of papers given at an international conference held at the University of East Anglia in September 1986, augmented by an introductory overview by the editors. An earlier volume (Crisis and Change in the International Sugar Economy, 1860-1914), which arose out of the first meeting of this kind, held in Edinburgh in 1982, took the story from the beginnings of the modern sugar industry up to World War I.

A comprehensive approach to the world's sugar industries is an immense undertaking, and it is probably only by collaborative efforts such as these that the very small existing body of general works -- not one of which, incidentally, written by a professional historian -- can be enlarged. To express the hope that the present collection, like the previous, constitutes a stepping-stone toward a more perfect treatment is not to belittle its own merits. Because the difficulties are formidable.

To start with, there is the problem of ensuring that important aspects are adequately covered. In the volume before us, the beet sugar sector is palpably under-represented, with only three essays devoted to beet sugar producing countries (Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Spain). This is not a quibble over niceties. The interwar period, after all, saw the revolutionary transformation of the Russian industry, the establishment of a substantial British industry, and the virtual doubling of U.S. beet sugar production. Another noticeable void is the absence of a systematic study of the attempts at international market regulation in these years, from the Tarafa action of 1927/28 through to the International Sugar Agreement of 1937.

Then there is the task of editing such a multi-author work with contributions of uneven quality in content and style. Inevitably, the focus varies and not all participants are sufficiently concerned to relate local history to a wider context. Careful and knowledgeable readers will get a lot out of this book, but will also put quite a few question marks in the page margins. Given the intricacies of the world sugar scene (not least on the technical side), not even editors as informed as Albert and Graves can be expected to sort out all problems. The product of future conferences would undoubtedly be improved if, before publication, contributors were asked to review each others' papers, followed by further discussion among the authors of the comments and revisions.

In addition to essays on their personal areas of interest, Peru and Australia, Albert and Graves have written an introduction which orientates the reader by linking the interwar years to the preceding period and pulling the local accounts together through a series of contrasts and comparisons under the headings of structural change, technological innovation, financing, labour, and the role of the state.

More recent happenings in the world sugar economy cannot be fully appreciated without a knowledge of developments in the interwar period. But this collection also invites wider speculation on the importance of sugar as a commodity and its role in the political and social history of many lands.

G. B. Hagelberg


Richard A. Lobdell, Economic Structure and Demographic Performance of Jamaica, 1891-1935 (Garland). Pp. 250. $40. (ISBN 0-8240-1365-4).

This is a reprint of the author's PhD thesis. It explores the relationship between the structural features of the parish economy and demographic performance among administrative parishes of Jamaica during the period 1891-1935. Using multiple regression analysis of his historical data, the author argues that the cultivation of staple exports and the plantation organization of agriculture tended to increase parish mortality, to depress parish fertility, and to encourage in-migration.

Walter C. Labys, Primary Commodity Markets and Models. An International Bibliography (Aldershot, U.K.: Gower Publishing Co. Ltd., 1987). Pp. 290. 47.50 pounds. (ISBN 0-566-05324-1).

This is an important and useful source for those interested in the economics of primary commodity markets. The book is divided into five main sections: commodity market analysis, commodity modeling approaches, commodities in trade and development, commodity model applications, and commodity information sources and data. These, in turn, are broken down into more specialized sub-sections. The author also provides a succinet introduction in which he sets out the basic issues relating to the different sections and sub-sections. This is particularly useful for the non-specialist. Although it seems that most of the publications included here deal with contemporary issues, there are a number which adopt a historical perspective. There are relatively few pieces dealing specifically with sugar, but some of the techniques employed both in the more general works and those on other commodities should be of interest to those working on the history of sugar. The one main shortcoming is the absence of an index, either of subject or author.


Yoshiko Nagano, "Philippine Sugar Economy in Crisis: Views from the Center and the Periphery," Philippine Journal of Industrial Relations (1986), viii:1, pp. 106-118.

D. M. Attwood and B. S. Baviskar, "Why do some Cooperatives work but not others? A Comparative Analysis of Sugar Co-operatives in India," Economic and Political Weekly (India), (June 27, 1987), vol. xxii, no. 26, pp. A38 - A56.

M. Baaker, "Laboratoria in de Nederlandse bietsuikerindustrie," [Laboratories in the Dutch beetsugar industry], Tijdschrift voor de Geschiedenis der Geneeskinde, Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Techniek (1986), 9:4, pp. 232-240. (Research Centre for Engineering Sciences Innovation and Society, TWIM reprints no. 13).

Roger Knight, "Peasant and Proletarian: The Development of Labour in the Sugar Industry of Southeastern Asia, 1830-1940." Paper presented to the ASAA Bicentennial Conference, Australian National University, Feb. 1988.



Peter Walne (ed.), A Guide to Manuscript Sources for the History of Latin America and the Caribbean in the British Isles (Oxford, 1973), remains invaluable. The following list gives details of collections not mentioned by Walne; in most cases they were unavailable when his Guide was prepared. They consist mainly of records sent from the West Indies to British-based absentee proprietors. Occasionally copies of the proprietors' working papers and outletters also survive.

Clwyd Record Office, Hawarden.
Gladstone MSS: Success and Vreedenhoop, Demerera, 1820-40.
A rather broken collection of accounts, inventories, and correspondence, drawn on by S. G. Checkland, The Gladstones: A Family Biography 1764-1851 (Cambridge, 1971). However, few other estate records from this colony have come to light. Perhaps the most notable item is a listing of slaves at Vreedenhoop in 1825 (CH 55), arranged bv families or households.

Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock.
Fitzherbert MSS: Turners Hall, Barbados, and Blue Mountain, Grange Hill, and Vere, Jamaica, 1750-1850.
Very full runs of correspondence and accounts. In the early nineteenth century the owner attempted, most unusually, to reform the Jamaican estates by introducing managers from Barbados.

Kent Archives Office, Maidstone.
Romney MSS (U 1515): Jefferson and Romney, St. Kitts, 1760-1835.
Much of this rather modest collection relates to Lord Romney's plantation during the period 1800-35, when the property suffered severe mismanagement and a decline in efficiency.

Royal Commonwealth Society Library, London.
Greg MSS: Hillsborough, Dominica, and Cane Garden, St. Vincent, 1796-1890.
A few acoounts 1796-1822, with a notebook summarizing the estates' subsequent history.

Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh.
Home of Wedderburn MSS (GD 267): Waltham, Grenada, 1770-1845.
Interesting correspondence; rather sparse accounts.

Sheffield City Libraries, Sheffield.
Vassall MSS (MD 2047): New Found River, Jamaica, 1769-98.
Two letter books kept by William Vassall. The Jamaican material is interspersed with correspondence relating to his other business. The letter books have been reproduced by EP Microform as part of the British Association for American Studies' British Records Relating to America series.

Somerset Record Office, Taunton.
Tudway MSS (DD/TD): Parham, Antigua, 1679-1900.
An outstanding collection, relating to the island's second largest sugar estate. An almost unbroken run of accounts from 1689 to the 1820s, with correspondence from 1717. "Monthly Journals of Plantation Works," 1823-29, record agricultural operations in detail. Thereafter, documentation becomes less complete, but acoounts and wage sheets from the post-emancipation period give opportunities to investigate the characteristics of sugar planting with free labour.

Strathclyde Regional Archives, Glasgow.
Stirling of Keir MSS (T-SK): Frontier and Hampden, Trelawny parish, Jamaica, 1750-95.
Scottish pioneers in a newly-developed sugar district. Only moderately informative.

University of London Library, Senate House, London.
Newton MSS (MS 523): Newton, Seawells, and Mount Alleyne, Barbados, 1706-1835.
Notable mainly for long runs of accounts. Exploited thoroughly by J. S. Handler, F. W. Lange, and R. V. Riordan, Plantation Slavery in Barbados: An Archaeological and Historical Investigation (Cambridge, Mass., 1978). The Newton slave family listing of 1796 has been analysed by B. W. Higman, "The Slave Family and Household in the British West Indies, 1800-1834," Journal of Interdisciplinary History (Autumn 1975), 6:2, pp. 261-87.

J. R. Ward
University of Edinburgh



The Berlin suburb of Wedding, 32 Amrunerstrasse to be precise, is the location of one of the most interesting and comprehensive sugar museums it has been my pleasure to visit.

The museum occupies the upper floor of the building that houses the Institute for the Sugar Industry (Institut der Zuckerindustrie). Originally a research organisation founded by the beet-sugar industry, the Institute now forms part of the Technical University of Berlin.

When I visited the museum a year or so ago, it was under the direction of Professor H. Olbrich. Naturally, the emphasis in the collection is upon the history of beet sugar. Here it includes portraits of early founders of the industry and other works of art depicting aspects of sugar production etc. There is also an extensive collection of packaged sugars and rum bottles, from the past and from yarious parts of the world (to which Professor Olbrich appreciates donations -- the latter preferably with the spirit still inside). By-products from sugar figure prominently, including (from memory) a can of Cyclon B (as used in Auschwitz) which was manufactured from molasses.

There are a number of items that relate to the history of the cane-sugar industry in various parts of the world. There is, for example, an early bullock-driven mill from South America.

If ever you get to Berlin, the Zucker-Museum in the Amrunerstrasse is a must for any sugar historian. The Institute also contains the best library on sugar in Germany, including works in languages other than German. Canteen facilities of an excellent standard and cheap are available at the building of the Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesministerium fur Gesundheitswesen) around the corner. Just walk in. You don't have to pretend to look like a German bureaucrat.

John Perkins



We are considering the possibility of holding another international conference on the history of sugar. The main theme will be the development of sugar industries in the years after the Second World War. Although we welcome papers dealing with current conditions and issues, we would like the authors to consider these within the context of historical change in the post-war period.

Provisionally, the conference will be held in Edinburgh in September 1990. Please send titles of proposed papers to:
Bill Albert, School of Economic & Social Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, England.

World Sugar History Newsletter compiled by: Bill Albert, School of Economic & Social Studies, UEA, Norwich. Adrian Graves, Department of Economic & Social History, University of Edinburgh. All correspondence to Bill Albert, School of Economic & Social Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, U.K.