World Sugar History Newsletter

Number 4, May 1984

In this issue:

  1. Editors' Note
  2. Research in Progress
  3. Book Reviews
  4. Archive Report
  5. Announcements

This version of the World Sugar History Newsletter, Number 4, May 1984 has been edited for the purpose of on-line display. The contents remain complete.


In this issue we offer an informative report on the important Berlin Sugar Institute. Although the concern here is primarily with modern development, we feel that the work being carried out will be of interest to our readers. Besides more research listings and book reviews, there are announcements for a forthcoming conference and a proposed symposium. Finally, we are extremely pleased with the continued high level of support and encouragement for the Newsletter from our growing number of readers.


(An addition to the list given in issue no. 3)

Horacio Crespo, Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos, Apartado Postal 1159, Cuernavaca, Morelos 62000, Mexico.
"Process of technological modernization of the sugar industry and renovation of the management economy of the plantations. Consequences on the peasantry; the process of social differentiation and on the origin of"zapatismo" in Morelos, 1876/1914."

Barry Higman, Department of History, University of the West Indies, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
"The transmission of ideas from the Caribbean to the Australian sugar industry."

G. R. Knight, Department of History, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5001.
"19th-century Java. Pekalongan residency. Social-economic history."

Brij V. Lal, Department of History, University of Hawaii, 2530 Dole Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA.
"Social history of plantation labour in Fiji, 1879-1920. Present work focuses on protest movement, suicide, and women in the labour force."

Hans-Heinrich Muller, Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR, Institut fur Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 108 Berlin, Zimmerstrasse 94
"19th-century German sugar beet industry."
Recent works include:
"History of sugar beet industry at district of government Magdeburg in 19th century," in Magdeburger Blatter, Jahresschrift fur Heimatund Kulturgeschichte im Bezirk Magdeburg, 1983, pp. 30-41.
"The history and importance of sugar beet industry in the province of Saxony in the 19th century with special reference to the fertile plain of Magdeburg," in Landwirtschaft und Kapitalismus, Bd. 1, Teil 2, Berlin 1979, pp. 9-61, 225-296.
With Detlef Diestel, "Sugar refinery Klein Wanzleben from foundation to 1917/18," in Landwirtschaft und Kapitalismus, Bd. 1, Teil 2, Berlin 1979, pp. 63-90.

Marianne D. Ramesar, Extra-Mural Department, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad, WI.
"Migrant groups in the Caribbean. The position and role of East Indian immigrants in Trinidad in the colonial period."

Juan Jose Santibanez, FLACSO, Apartado Postal 20021, Mexico DF, Mexico.
"The reconstruction of social mobilization during the process of modernization in the sugar industry, focusing on three phases: 1910-1938, 1938-1957 and 1957-1973. The case studies are of El Mante (Tamaulipas), Zacatepec (Morelos), and Atencingo (Puebla)."

Barbara L. Solow, Department of Economics, University of Boston, Boston 02215, Mass. USA.
"Economic history of plantation slavery in the Leeward Islands."

Clive Y. Thomas, Institute of Development Studies, The University Guyana, Turkeyen Campus, Box 101110, Georgetown, Guyana.
"Threats to sugar (HFS and synthetic sweetners) and the promise (sucro-chemicals)."
Just published:
Plantations, Peasants and State: A Study of the Mode of Sugar Procduction in Guyana AAC & S Monograph 5 (to be reviewed in WHSN, no. 5).


Brij V. Lal, Girmitiyas: The Origins of the Fiji Indians (Canberra: Journal of Pacific History, 1983). Pp. viii + 151.

During the 37 years in which the recruitment was made in India for indentured labour in Fiji, 60,965 contracts were made. Of these, the majority concerned men and women recruited in Bihar and the United Provinces, who were embarked at the Emigration Depot in Calcutta. Thanks to the computer, Dr. Lal has now been able to analyse the records of each of the 45,439 Emigration Passes issued at Calcutta, and thus to provide an authoritative account of the information entered upon them, from which he can make interesting inferences about the nature of recruitment and the motives behind emigration.

In successive chapters, Dr. Lal sets out the administrative structure within which recruitment was organised; the regions in which recruitment occurred; the general social and economic backgrounds of emigrants; and the characteristic features of the women and the family groups recruited.

In doing so, he is able to correct several views which at times have been widely held. One is that emigrants were mainly of low caste. (They were not, but rather mainly of middle agricultural and artisan castes.) Another is that women were mainly of lower status and reputation. (They were not, but rather mainly of middle castes and often with husbands.) Yet another is that marriages were usually made in a haphazard manner in the embarkation depot for administrative reasons. (They were not, for most couples were of the same caste and from the same village.) And so on.

The social features of emigrants, in fact, were broadly similar to those of the general population. And this lies behind the thrust of Dr. Lal's argument. He shows that the Fiji migration was only a small part of a massive movement of people to jobs in other Indian regions (notably the city of Calcutta and the tea gardens of Assam) as well as the colonies. Hence, movement out of the village for work would not have been an unknown step, but rather an explicit option for people to consider. Lal suggests that emigrants to Fiji were not unthinking cogs recruited by false pretences, but rather men and women emigrating for their own reasons -- perhaps because of adverse socio-economic conditions, brought on sometimes by the major changes in the agrarian structure which were happening in the Gangetic valley at the time, and sometimes because of intolerable pressures at home, particularly in the case of young women marginally established in their conjugal households, such as widows or the grass widows of emigrants. Though there may have been some deception practised, this may well have confronted an already formed motive for emigrating, turning this from a wish to find work elsewhere in India to a decision to go overseas. Lal, in short, follows Douglass and others in viewing the emigrant less as a 'reactor' than as a decision-maker -- though within the context of broader economic and social forces -- and emigration as being selective of the more enterprising and independent members of the community.

Thus the indenture system was not, in his view, simply a gigantic and cruel deception; nor was it as badly managed as some have alleged (though many of the accusations refer to later conditions in Fiji than to the recruitment system). In this respect Lal's book covers similar ground to earlier writers (notably Gillion) who suggest that emigration was a complex process not to be seen in a black-and-white manner. But in doing so from the systematic study of the records he provides us with as comprehensive an account of emigration to Fiji as we are likely to get. It will also be useful for comparative studies; and Li makes an important contribution to the work which has been stimulated by the recent centenary of the 'girmit' system.

Adrian C. Mayer
School of Oriental & African Studies, London

Kay Saunders (ed.), Indentured Labour in the British Empire, 1834-1920 (London & Canberra: Croom Helm, 1984). Pp. 327.

As with an earlier form of intercontinental migration -- the involuntary movement of black slaves taken from Africa by Europeans from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century -- the key to much of the nineteenth and early twentieth century flow of indentured labourers was their use for the plantation production of sugar. Until the end of the nineteenth century most cane sugar production was based upon the use of either slave or indentured labour on large plantations, plantation labour being avoided by free workers whenever possible. The question of why the British and other Europeans overseas were limited in their ability, after the ending of slavery, to coerce ex-slaves back onto sugar plantations or, in more recently settled areas, to utilize the resident population for such labour, is infrequently discussed, but this point provides the basic economic background for the expansion of the streams of indentured labour.

Indentured Labour in the British Empire, 1834-1920, starts with a brief, informative introduction by the editor, noting the key role of Hugh Tinker's 1974 book, A New System of Slavery, a work with the moral tone of many of the area studies. Several of the studies provide useful discussions of the Indian background to migration, which serve to raise important issues about the mixed causes and motivations for such migration. Three of the nine studies deal with cases in which indentured labour, mainly from India, permitted sugar production to expand after the 1834 ending of slavery in the British Empire -- immediately in Mauritius (analyzed by M. D. North-Coombes), and with a lag in British Guiana and Trinidad (discussed by Alan H. Adamson and by Marianne D. Ramesar, respectively). Another case of free slaves replaced by indentured labour, but in which the relatively limited numbers utilized were unable to reverse a declining economic situation -- Jamaica -- is described in detail by William A. Green. Two cases in which cane production was introduced after the ending of slavery, but in which expansion of production meant imported indentured labour rather than the use of resident labour supply (indigenous Fijians in one case, white and aboriginal Australians in the other), are examined, the former by Brij V. Lal and the latter by Kay Saunders. The differing forms of labour movement from India to Malaya (including indentured, "kangany", and free migrants), for work on sugar, and other, plantations, is the subject of Ravindra K. Jain's essay, while Peter Richardson describes the brief period in the first decade of the twentieth century in which Chinese indentured labourers were brought to the Transvaal for work in the gold mining industry. In the Malayan case indentured labour was replaced by other forms of migration from India, while in the Transvaal its replacement was achieved, when politically necessary, by drawing upon Africans -- a useful reminder that the possibly differing causes and consequences of ending indentured labour movements elsewhere would bear further examination. The one essay not on indentured labour, that by Raymond Evans, is more concerned with trying to fit the Queensland treatment of the aboriginal population into Orlando Patterson's conception of slavery than with the detailed examination of the actual workings of the labour system that is the basis of the other essays in this volume.

This is a first-rate collection of essays, varying in length from 15 to 48 pages. With the one exception, each contribution deals with the nature of contract labour in an important recipient area, providing extensive information on the sources of migrants, the controls imposed on the movement and use of labour, the lives of the labourers after migration, and numerous other social, political, and economic issues. Each essay is based upon extensive primary research and a detailed knowledge of the relevant secondary literature. And, while generally based upon more detailed writings elsewhere by the authors, the essays are self-contained. Together they provide a major survey to an important, but sometimes overlooked, stream of intercontinental migration that lasted for nearly a century -- a movement important in its economic aspects as well as for its political, racial, and cultural implications.

Stanley L. Engerman
University of Rochester, USA


The Berlin Sugar Institute, Technical University of Berlin, Department of Sugar Technology, Federal Republic of Germany

During the course of its history -- which covers more than one hundred years -- the Berlin Sugar Institute belonged to the national sugar industry, yet was a non-governmental research institution at the same time. Nowadays, it is part of the Technical University of Berlin. It is here that the spheres of sugar technology, together with energy economy, analytics, biotechnology, confectionery technology and by-products are dealt with. Furthermore, the "Central Sugar Library" as well as the Sugar Museum are to be found in the same building. The tasks of the staff (twenty are permanent posts, an extra ten are for a limited period of time only) may be summarized into the following three fields: tuition, research, and information service.

Sugar Technology -- A Promising Study Course

The "Berlin Institute" has a long tradition in the training of sugar technologists. The study course, as such, has been in existence since 1930. The Institute is the only establishment in the world where the processing and engineering of sugar cane, sugar beet, and other sugar yielding plants and their by-products is taught and investigated. In consequence excellent conditions prevail to introduce new realizations -- obtained by the beet processing industry -- into the cane world and in doing so to boost development aid. For that reason many students come from abroad especially from cane countries -- and, sometimes, the majority originate from the Third World.

At present, the study of sugar technology is offered as a special field within the framework of the course "Food Technology and Biotechnology". It is divided into two parts. During the basic studies, which have a four-term duration, a broad fundamental knowledge is conveyed in the natural and engineering sciences. The emphasis of the second part, the advanced studies, is on the lectures of technology and engineering of sugar processing, which also have a four-term duration. In addition, the general engineering sciences (chemical engineering, measurement and control technique, planning, and energy economy) are dealt with in depth. Present-day training also includes the application of computers and micro-processors. Moreover, lectures and practicums which have biotechnology or fermentation technology as their subject are a significant supplement. During his studies, the student must complete at least twenty-five weeks of practical work in a sugar factory (two "campaigns"). Thus the graduates (Diplom-Ingenieure) are able to prove at the end of their studies that they already possess the practical experience which is valued so greatly by the sugar industry both at home and abroad. In the German Sugar Industry many Berlin graduates fill executive positions.

Berlin Graduates -- Always in Demand

Due to the theoretical training at the University and the practical experience obtained during the campaign or crushing season, Berlin graduates are always given preference even outside the sugar industry -- when it comes to employment. This can be attributed to the fact that sugar technology may be regarded as a special chemical engineering technology and the experience that has been gained empirically is exemplary, which similar production branches will gladly adopt.

Research Programme

Some years ago already the biotechnological conversion of waste water and cossettes into methane, ethanol, and yeast, was begun. This rests on the idea that the sugar factory is to be represented as an agro-industrial centre. The increase in the economic performance of the sugar manufacturing process, as it is effected nowadays, is served best by papers that discuss the microbial destruction of sugar or the optimisation of the application of disinfectants during extraction.

For the cane sugar industry such prerequisites are examined that are to improve the energy economy. These are scale formation, sucrose deterioration, and colour formation in juices and syrups at temperatures above 100 Celsius.

The setting up of a pilot plant, which will make it possible to conduct energy economy investigations, is in its final stages. This project involved considerable investment. The pilot plant will probably be put into operation by this autumn.

By order of ICUMSA (International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis), the Institute is continuously working to improve the determination of sucrose in sugar beets. With this in mind, the famous Isotope Dilution Method was developed for testing. Problems relating to the industrial processing of sugar extend into confectionery technology.

Know-How and How to Acquire It

The basis for the information service is provided by the library and documentation division. In fact, it is the largest sugar library in the world. The "Central Sugar Library" possesses about 40,000 monographs and 1,000 journals -- in various languages concerning the sphere of beet and cane sugar technology and the adjoining fields, of which 520 journals are received regularly. Requests for literature do not only come from European countries. A steady clientele are the Third World countries (i.e. the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and Asia) who are endeavouring to expand their sugar industry as well as diversify their production range.

Public Relations

The all-important public relations work which is to attract the consumer is effected with a view to nutrition-physiological, technological, culinary, and historical aspects. In this particular programme, films belonging to the vast collection of the sugar cinematic archives are shown, discussions as to the importance of sugar are inspired, and last but by no means least, visitors are taken to see the model sugar factory, as well as the Sugar Museum.

Thus the "Berlin Sugar Institute" is still up-to-date even after 117 years of its founding. Interested persons may send their enquiries to: The Technical University of Berlin, Department of Sugar Technology, (Berlin Sugar Institute), Prof. Dr. Ing. W. Mauch, Anrumer Str. 32, D-1000 BERLIN 65, Federal Republic of Germany.

Contents: Editors' Introduction; Phillipe Chalmin, "The World Sugar Economy before 1914"; Roger Munting, "The State and the Beet Sugar Industry in Russia before 1914"; John Perkins, "The Political Economy of Sugar Beet in Imperial Germany"; Michael Palairet, "Beet Sugar and Peasant Economy in the Balkans before 1914"; Roberta Delson, "Sugar Production for the Nineteenth Century British Market: Rethinking the Roles of Brazil and the British West Indies"; James Wessman, "Sugar and Demography: Population Dynamics in the Spanish Antilles during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"; Christian Schnakenbourg, "From Sugar Estate to Central Factory: The Industrial Revolution in the Caribbean (1840-1905)"; Andres A. Ramos Mattei, "The Growth of the Puerto Rican Sugar Industry under North American Domination: 1899-1910"; Kusha Haraksingh, "Labour, Technology, and the Sugar Estates in Trinidad, 1870-1914"; Rebecca Scott, The Transformation of Sugar Production in Cuba after Emancipation 1880-1900: Planters, Colonos, and Former Slaves"; Michael Gonzales, "Economic Crisis, Chinese Workers, and Peruvian Sugar Planters, 1875-1900: A Case Study of Labour and the National Elite"; Bill Albert, "The Labour Force on Peru's Sugar Plantations 1820-1930: A Survey"; Donna Guy, "Sugar Industries at the Periphery of the World Market: Argentina, 1860-1914"; Arturo Warman, "The Cauldron of the Revolution: Agrarian Capitalism and Sugar Industry in Morelos, Mexico, 1880-1910"; Roger Owen, "The Egyptian Sugar Industry, 1870-1914"; W. G. Clarence-Smith, "Portugal's Role in the Production of Rum and Sugar in Africa, c.1850-1914"; Peter Richardson, "The Natal Sugar Industry, 1849-1905: An Interpretive Essay"; Edward Beechert, "Labour Relations in the Hawaiian Sugar Industry 1850-1937"; Adrian Graves, "Crisis and Change in the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1862-1906".

420 pp., 61 tables, 5 graphs, 18 maps. 12.00 pounds ($16.80) including postage. ISBN 095 09580 06

The book will be available in August. Only a limited number will be printed , so please order as early as possible. Send orders to: Judith Sparks, School of Economic & Social Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK NR4 7TJ.
Orders must be accompanied with cheques payable to ISC Press.


A conference entitled "Cambio tecnologico, mercado, y economia azucarera en America Latina, 1880-1930" is in the process of being arranged. It will be held in Morelos, Mexico, in January or February 1985. Anyone interested in offering a paper or otherwise participating please get in touch with: Horacio Crespo, Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos, Apartado Postal 1159, Cuernavaca, Mor. 62000, Mexico.

Offers of papers are invited for a symposium to be held at the 45th International Congress of Americanists which is to be in Bogota, Colombia, during the second week of July 1985. The theme is "Sugar Industries in the Americas during the Inter-war Period: variable responses to crisis". Anyone interested in participating, please write to Bill Albert, School of Economic & Social Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK.

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