World Sugar History Newsletter

Number 19, December 1994

In this issue:

  1. Goodbye...
  2. ...and Hello
  3. Reviews
  4. Recent Publications
  5. Museum Notes
  6. Current Research

This version of the World Sugar History Newsletter, Number 19, December 1994, has been edited for the purpose of on-line display. The contents remain complete.


Adrian Graves and I decided to start the WSHN in 1982 following an extremely fruitful conference entitled "Crisis and Change in the International Sugar Economy, 1860-1914" that we organized at the University of Edinburgh. The conference brought together for the first time scholars from many parts of the world working on the history of sugar, both cane and beet. The interchange of ideas, the discovery of common intellectual concerns, and the strong friendships and sense of community that came o ut of the meeting we felt deserved to be maintained and nurtured. The WSHN was our medium for doing that.

During the following years, although remaining modest in size, the Newsletter became an important international point of contact and source of information for those interested in sugar history, and the network of subscribers grew steadily. One important measure of this success was that two further international conferences were held, in 1986 and in 1990, both at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

Although the academic achievements which were facilitated by the WSHN are possibly its most important contribution, for me as joint editor, it is the many good friends that I made through the conferences and the Newsletter whom I treasure most. Two of these friends, Peter Eisenberg and Tony Ramos Mattei, I remember at this time with particular affection.

In 1991 the last issue of the old WSHN appeared. By then it had gone through eighteen editions in nine years. We were sad to have to let it die, but personal and professional circumstances made its demise unavoidable. Fortunately, death for p ublications need not be permanent, and Adrian and I are extremely pleased that Jock Galloway and Peter Blanchard have seen fit to give the WSHN the kiss of life. We wish them all the light and all the sweetness that we had in our years as editors.

Bill Albert


When we heard that Bill Albert was planning to take an early retirement from the University of East Anglia, we wondered what was going to become of the Newsletter that had provided us with much useful information over the years. For a newssheet of its size, it had been more valuable in many ways than other academic and professional publications. So, we decided to see if we could keep it alive. Discussions with Bill indicated that he had no objections and that no one else had expressed an inte rest in assuming the task, but it has taken a couple of years for us to transform interest into actions as we first had to clear our desks of various other projects. At the same time we had to get some idea of what producing the Newsletter would e ntail, determine costs, and convince ourselves that we really had the time. It took the urging of Jorge Chullén of the International Commission for the Co-ordination of Solidarity among Sugar Workers, who also believed that the Newsletter should be reviv ed and who gave us the benefit of his experience in producing newsletters to get us moving. And here, finally, is our first effort.

We have decided to maintain the focus and format that Bill and Adrian established: a newsletter published twice a year with book reviews, archive notes, museum notes, reports on current research and recent publications, news of conferences, and any oth er items that might interest students of the sugar industry. In view of this continuity, we felt we could justifiably continue the numbering of the Newsletter, rather than starting afresh with a second series, hence Number 19.

There are certain to be some glitches as this is our first attempt at desktop publishing and the technology involved remains something of a mystery to us. One immediate and obvious problem was the mailing list: it is not complete and has inevitable inaccuracies as people have moved over the last few years. Thus, we would ask that subscribers tell us of any mistakes and please inform interested colleagues of our existence.

This leads to another point: The success of the Newsletter in large part depends on you. You are the contributors. We need your news. Let us know what you are working on and what you have published. If you have just written a book, ask your publisher to send us a review copy. If you know of a sugar museum that has just opened, let us hear about it. If you have an unusual photo or illustration, send it along with a brief commentary. We are interested in all aspects of the sugar industry: p roduction, refining, marketing, consumption, company histories, union histories, personalities, cane as well as beet, maple and manna and isoglucose too. We are equipped to receive mail electronically so that those of you who are on e-mail can communicat e via that medium. Our addresses are listed at the end of the Newsletter.

One change that we greatly regret but that we find unavoidable is that we are going to have to charge a subscription for the Newsletter. For this issue our funding needs were met by the Departments of Geography and History of the University of Toronto, and we wish to thank their respective chairs, Carl Amrhein and Richard Helmstadter, for their contributions. To meet future costs of publication and mailing we believe that we can exist on a subscription of $15 for two years (four issues). Cheq ues and money orders can be made out to the "World Sugar History Newsletter" and sent to one of us at the University of Toronto.

We wish to close this introduction by thanking Bill and Adrian for their path-breaking activities in the field and we wish them well in their future endeavours. Bill is now writing novels, and perhaps the sugar industry in one way or another will find its way into them.

Jock Galloway and Peter Blanchard


Carola Lentz, Buscando la Vida: trabajadores temporales en una plantación de azúcar (Quito, Ecuador: Ediciones ABYA-YALA, 1991). Pp. 204. Photographs.

First published in German in 1986, this is a Spanish version of an anthropological study of seasonal workers in an Ecuadorean sugar plantation and mill, the Ingenio San Carlos. It describes the links between the needs of the campesinos to migrate as a strategy for survival and social reproduction with the needs of a capitalistic enterprise to engage labourers in their production cycle.

As with every migrant group, the Ecuadorean workers' daily life and social, cultural, economic, and political conditions changed when they came to the plantation and they faced new realities. Lentz describes how and why the campesinos migrated; the so cial and cultural traits they brought from their communities; the social links built up while working in a new place; their relationship with other groups such as the mestizos and the mill's management; and their strategies for defense, resistance, and su rvival. These topics are narrated with sympathy and insight.

It is obvious from the book that Lentz's field work (1983-85) was fruitful as she had access to some 20,000 employee records from the company as well as personal interviews with the workers. In an appendix she presents photographs that are accompanied by comments from the migrants who express their own views on life. All of these have been used to construct a solid description of the labour force, although the text has some organizational problems that make reading it somewhat difficult and on occasi on prevent a clear understanding.

While a work published almost a decade ago will not give the latest news on migrant workers in the sugar industry of Ecuador, nevertheless, this book is useful for understanding the current configuration of the Ecuadorean labour sector and it is also h elpful for making comparative analyses. Issues such as the campesinos' relationship with other groups (permanent workers, for instance) with whom they share economic interests but are pushed apart by various factors, migrant workers' organizations and tr ade unionism, and life in different economic environments are issues that are faced daily by migrants elsewhere, such as those from the Guatemalan altiplano who eke out a living in coastal plantations, Bolivian zafreros in Santa Cruz, sacadas of the Filipino island of Negros, Haitian picadores in the Dominican Republic, and Jamaicans in the cane fields of Florida.

Finally, in an enjoyable section entitled "Agente patronal o compañera", Lentz looks at herself in the act of researching. It is a rare attempt at dealing with the social scientist's participation and responsibilities in the world that they research.

Jorge Chullen
ICCSAW, Toronto

John Larkin, Sugar and The Origins of Modern Philippine Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). Pp. xvi + 337. Index, tables, charts, maps, photographs. ISBN 0-520-07956-6.

The author comes straight to the point in his relatively short introduction: "This book examines the influence of an export sugar economy upon the people of the Philippines through a study of its two most important sugar-producing areas. . . . The main contention here is that the sugar industry had adverse effects on economic development, that it led to wide, harsh social and economic cleavages among the Filipino people, and that it skewed political power in the archipelago, in colonial times and later ." (p. 1)

Larkin does not stop to elaborate on the thesis that sugar, rather than anything else, has been central to the making of modern Philippine society. He moves directly to an examination of the dissimilar development of sugar production in the two main su gar producing regions in the Philippines between 1565 and 1941. The first region is Northern Pampanga, close to the national capital, Manila. The area was settled during the early Spanish era, with sugar a minor product for local consumption during the first 270 years. But those years laid the foundations for nineteenth-century developments when rising international demand triggered an expansion of sugar production. A skewed distribution of land ownership was the basis for a system of production in wh ich tenant farmers produced cane for the landholders who supplied the required inputs, credit, and processing facilities. This situation contrasts with the remote frontier region of Western Negros where later in the nineteenth century a system developed that was dominated by large plantations operating mainly with wage labour.

After the U.S. conquest in 1898, Philippine sugar producers found it difficult to maintain their position in an increasingly competitive international sugar market with their low-grade muscovado sugar. However, since 1909 they have enjoyed privileged access to the burgeoning and increasingly protected U.S. market. This access, in addition to buoyant international prices during World War I, heralded a second expansion of Philippine sugar production. Chapter 5 explains that foreign and Filipino entrepreneurs invested in sugar centrals that soon replaced the small outdated processing plants of the landholders. Sugar exports increased rapidly despite falling international sugar prices after the war. By 1929 centrifugal sugar had replaced muscovado and 96 percent of sugar exports went to the U.S. The crisis of the 1930s hardly hurt the Philippine sugar industry because of its guaranteed U.S. markets. Chapter 6 elaborates on the effects of the quota imposed by the U.S. after 1934, that curtailed the growth of sugar production in the Philippines and increased social and political discontent, especially in Pampanga.

As stated in the introduction, the book provides a historical explanation for the making of contemporary Philippine society. It alleges that the profits from sugar production under Spanish and U.S. colonial auspices nurtured the social elite who came to dominate the country's economy and politics, while it condemned "those who toiled physically in sugar factories and fields" (tenant farmers and wage labourers) to poverty. Much of the book describes the emergence of these two social groups in Pampanga and Negros, the rise of an economically and politically powerful elite (and their golf and polo clubs), and the development of peasant and labour movements. The descriptions suggest Larkin has greater familiarity with Pampanga, which features more prominently, than Negros.

The emphasis on social change leaves some questions about the Philippine industry unanswered. For instance, by concentrating on the two main sugar producing regions, Larkin gives the impression that sugar dominated the economy. Sugar may have been a very important export commodity, but sugar cane occupied only six percent of all cultivated land in 1902 and 1928, and five percent in 1939. The 1939 population census indicates that only two percent of farmers were cane farmers, while six percent of male and four percent of female agricultural workers were employed as wage labourers on sugar cane farms, and two percent of all male non-agricultural workers were employed in sugar factories. More people were involved, for instance, in coconut production and processing. Such figures suggest that a much more elaborate discussion of sugar production is required before sugar production can be seen to have shaped social and economic development throughout the Philippines.

Larkin also maintains that the profits of landholders and mill owners were high, based on the fact that workers were "grossly underpaid" (p. 5). There were blatant differences in income between the groups, but is that sufficient to conclude that net returns on total invested capital in sugar production were higher than such returns in other sectors of the economy? Or that workers and peasants were indeed underpaid? Larkin does not systematically address the question of how wages paid on plantations and in sugar factories compared with those in other sectors. He mentions that employers in Negros complained about labour shortages, which does not prove that wage rates were rock bottom. Other sources indicate that wage labour in cane and sugar production was more remunerative than other employment. Nor does Larkin address the question of how net returns to farmers from cane production compared to net returns from other crops, although he notes that cane production was more remunerative than rice production. The results from the 1939 population and agricultural census would have allowed some indications of the opportunity cost of land and labour used in cane and sugar production.

Perhaps a bibliography would have been more useful than the 54 pages of notes. A glossary of terms would also have been helpful. The extensive use of terms specific to the Philippines, such as duma'an, anticipo, sacadas, encargados, gabo, capataz , casamac, and asparcero, creates some difficulties.

Sugar historians may not be able to satisfy all their queries about the Philippine sugar industry from this book since it is essentially about social change. But as a product of an apparently career-long commitment to research on social change in the Philippines, the book is well-researched and full of illuminating, hitherto unused historical information. The descriptive regional comparison of sugar's social history in the Philippines is indeed the main innovative part of the book.

Pierre van der Eng
The Australian National University


In Spain, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first transatlantic voyage has prompted a renewed interest in the history of the sugar industry. The Comisión Nacional V Centenario has helped fund publications and seminars. Antonio Malpica Cuello, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Granada, has played a prominent role both as writer and organizer.

Professor Malpica is co-author with Manuel Martín of El azúcar en el encuentro entre dos mundos, 1992. It is available from the Asociación General de Fabricantes de Azúcar de España, Montalbán 11, 28014, Madrid, Spain. This is a very handsomely illustrated book. It covers the sugar industry in medieval Europe as well as in tropical America. However, for many readers of this Newsletter, it may contain relatively little that is new, with the possible exception of the chapter on the industry in nineteenth-century Spain. There is an English summary.

The Motril Seminars

The city of Motril on the coast of Granada is the capital of the only region of sugar cane cultivation in Europe. The city authorities, with the support of the Junta de Andalucía, the University of Granada, and the Comisión Nacional V Centenario, have been sponsoring seminars on the history of the sugar industry. Each seminar has a theme and the proceedings of three seminars have appeared so far. They are:

1. La caña de azúcar en tiempos de los grandes descubrimientos, 1450-1550 (Granada: Junta de Andalucía, Granada, 1989);

2. La caña de azúcar en el Mediterráneo (Granada: Junta de Andalucía, 1990);

3. Producción y comercio del azúcar de caña en época preindustrial (Granada: Junta de Andalucía, 1993).

(The title pages do not record the names of the editors.)

The volumes may still be available from Professor Antonio Malpica, Casa de la Palma, Ayuntamiento de Motril, 18600 - Motril, Granada, Spain.

From David Lincoln, Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town, comes this list of articles and monographs on South African sugar history published in South Africa since the last issue of the WSHN:

B. E. Beater, Founding of the South African Sugar Association Experimental Station and Development of Research over the First Fifty Years, 1925-1974 (Durban: South African Sugar Association, [n.d.]).

P. Dickinson, "The Umzinkulu Sugar Company Limited, 1904-1940," South African Journal of Economic History, 4:1 (1989), pp. 21-33.

P. Dickinson, "C. G. Smith and Company Limited, 1910-1939," Journal of Natal and Zulu History, 12 (1989), pp. 35-52.

P. Dickinson, "The South African sugar industry, 1910-1940," pp. 156-175, in B. Guest and J. M. Sellers (eds.), Receded Tides of Empire (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1994).

A. Hocking, Renishaw: The Story of Crookes Brothers (Bethulie: Hollards, 1992).

A. Jeeves, "Sugar and gold in the making of the South African labour system: the crisis of supply on the Zululand sugar estates, 1906-1939," South African Journal of Economic History, 7:2 (1992), pp. 7-33.

D. Lincoln, "An ascendant sugarocracy: Natal's millers-cum-planters, 1905-1939," Journal of Natal and Zulu History, 11 (1988), pp. 1-39.

D. Lincoln, "Manufacturing browns and whites under apartheid: a survey of the South African sugar industry, 1948-1984," Journal of Natal and Zulu History, 14 (1992), pp. 49-74.

D. Lincoln, "Flies in the sugar bowl: the Natal Sugar Industry Employees' Union in its heyday, 1940-1954," South African Historical Journal, 29 (1993), pp. 177-208.

D. Lincoln, "The Zululand sore: migrant sugar estate labour in Natal, 1914-1939," pp. 176-197, in B. Guest and J. M. Sellers (eds.), Receded Tides of Empire (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1994).

A. deV. Minnaar, "Sugar industry during the Great Depression," South African Sugar Journal, 73:6 (1989), pp. 223-225, and 73:7 (1989), pp. 290-293.

A. deV. Minnaar, "Labour supply problems of the Zululand sugar planters, 1905-1939," Journal of Natal and Zulu History, 12 (1989), pp. 53-72.

A. deV Minnaar, Ushukela: A History of the Growth and Development of the Sugar Industry in Zululand: 1905 to the Present (Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, 1992).

And published in the United Kingdom:

M. D. North-Coombes, "Indentured labour in the sugar industries of Natal and Mauritius, 1834-1910," in S. Bhana (ed.), Essays on Indentured Indians in Natal (Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 1991).

Other publications include:

Rebecca J. Scott, "Defining the boundaries of freedom in the world of cane: Cuba, Brazil, and Louisiana after emancipation," The American Historical Review, 99:1 (1994), pp. 70-102.

George S. Vascik, "Sugar barons and bureaucrats: unravelling the relationship between economic interest and government in modern Germany, 1799-1845," Business and Economic History, 22 (1992), pp. 336-342.

And last but not least:

Bill Kerr and Ken Blyth, They're All Half Crazy. Containing "128 pages jam-packed with grassroots Australian sugar industry history," it is published by Cane Growers, Box 1032, Brisbane, Q., 4001, Australia. $24.95.
Morgan Lewis Mill, Barbados



We have heard that the long-planned sugar museum has now opened at Portvale. We hope shortly to publish a review of the collection.

The Redpath Sugar Museum, Toronto:

The Redpath family played a prominent role in sugar refining in Canada. In 1854, John Redpath, a successful building contractor opened a sugar refinery in Montreal. The business prospered and became a major player in the Canadian sugar industry. In 1959 Redpath Sugars opened a refinery on the Toronto waterfront. The company is now owned by Tate and Lyle.

The Toronto refinery houses the Redpath Sugar Museum. The Museum has displays illustrating the history of sugar refining, the marketing of sugar in Canada, and the history of the Redpath company. It also holds the papers of the Redpath family.

The curator is Mr. Richard Feltoe who is the author of Redpath: The History of a Sugar House (Toronto: Natural Heritage/Natural History Inc., 1991), and Let Redpath Sweeten It (Toronto: Natural Heritage/Natural History, 1993). He can be reached at Redpath Sugars, 95 Queen's Quay East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5E 1A3. Tel: (416) 366-3561 and fax (416) 366-7550


Barry Carr (Latrobe University, Bundoora): Work and workers in the Cuban sugar industry from 1915 to 1935 and the comparative development of sugar and plantation labour systems.

Aldo Lauria (New School for Social Research, New York): The history of sugar production and other related social history issues in El Salvador during the 1800s and early 1900s.

Peter Linder (Bates College, Lewiston, Maine): The sugar industry of the Maracaibo region of western Venezuela in the twentieth century.

José O. Sola (University of South Carolina ( La defensa and the colonos of Caguas: visions of competition and control in the sugar industry of Puerto Rico. (T he purpose of this study is to examine the importance of the colonato in the sugar industry of Puerto Rico, 1900-1930.)

Pierre van der Eng (Australian National University, Canberra): Agricultural development in Indonesia during the last 100 years and the sugar industry in particular.

World Sugar History Newsletter is compiled by: Jock Galloway and Peter Blanchard. Correspondence and subscriptions to Jock Galloway, Department of Geography, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3G3 (e-mail:, or Peter Blanchard, Department of History, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 3G3 (e-mail: