World Sugar History Newsletter

Number 52, September 2019

In this issue:

  1. From the Editors
  2. Recent Publications


This issue is a bit slimmer than our recent offerings. With the review cycle presently in a trough and the next flush of PhD’s awaited, we look forward to being able to publish our usual offerings of original pieces in the next issues and beyond. As always, we appreciate receiving your contributions and news.



Antonio Santamaría García (ed.), Azúcar, Patrimonio y Paisaje en Cuba (La Habana y Madrid: Digital CSIC, 2019), Pp. 212. Open access PDF.

Robert Mason, The Spanish Anarchists of Northern Australia: Revolution in the Sugar Cane Fields (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Distributed for University of Wales Press, 2019), Pp. 208, ISBN 9781786833082 (pb). [From the publisher’s notes: “The Spanish Anarchists of Northern Australia analyzes a little-known community of migrants and political radicals. This book reveals hidden political and social histories, which challenge assumptions about early twentieth-century Australia and reveal a dialogue between events in the Spanish- and English-speaking worlds, giving voice to a forgotten history.”]

Louis A Pérez Jr, Rice in the Time of Sugar: The Political Economy of Food in Cuba (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), Pp. 264, ISBN 978-1-4696-5142-2 (pb); 978-1-4696-5141-5 (hb); 978-1-4696-5143-9 (eb). [From the publisher’s notes: “Louis A. Pérez proposes a new Cuban counterpoint: rice, a staple central to the island’s cuisine, and sugar, which dominated an export economy 150 years in the making. In the dynamic between the two, dependency on food imports - a signal feature of the Cuban economy - was set in place.
Cuban efforts to diversify the economy through expanded rice production were met with keen resistance by US rice producers, who were as reliant on the Cuban market as sugar growers were on the US market. US growers prepared to retaliate by cutting the sugar quota in a struggle to control Cuban rice markets. Pérez’s chronicle culminates in the 1950s, a period of deepening revolutionary tensions on the island, as US rice producers and their allies in Congress clashed with Cuban producers supported by the government of Fulgencio Batista. US interests prevailed - a success, Pérez argues, that contributed to undermining Batista’s capacity to govern.”]

Chapters in books

Douglas V. Armstrong, “Early-seventeenth-century settlement in Barbados and the shift to sugar, slavery, and capitalism.” In Power, Political Economy, and Historical Landscapes of the Modern World: Interdisciplinary Perspectives edited by Christopher R. DeCorse (Albany: SUNY Press, 2019), Pp. 418, ISBN13: 978-1-4384-7343-7.

Barry Carr, “Identity, class, and nation: Black immigrant workers, Cuban communism, and the sugar insurgency, 1925–34.” In Making the Revolution: Histories of the Latin American Left edited by Kevin A. Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), Pp. 318, ISBN 9781108423991 (hb); 9781108423251 (pb).

Joel M. Sipress, “The Louisiana Sugar War of 1887.” In Industrialization and Social Conflict in the Gilded Age edited by Joel M. Sipress (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), Pp. 128, ISBN 9780190057060.

Journal article

Judith Bronstein, Edna J. Stern & Elisabeth Yehuda, “Franks, locals and sugar cane: a case study of cultural interaction in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem,” Journal of Medieval History (2019), 45:3, pp. 316-330. [Abstract: “This study examines influences and cultural interactions between Frankish settlers and the local populations in the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem through the prism of sugar cane, a local food crop unfamiliar to many crusaders and Latin settlers. Combining textual and archaeological evidence for sugar cane cultivation, production and consumption, the article explores the extent to which the Latin population – a numerical minority and the ruling elite – was influenced by and influenced their new environment and the local inhabitants. It focuses on sites near Acre for which there is historical and archaeological evidence of sugar production from before the arrival of the crusaders, and during Frankish period (twelfth and thirteenth centuries). After acquainting themselves with the new land and its products, the Franks became largely involved in the production of sugar, one of the kingdom’s most lucrative cash-crops, which brought significant technological developments and changes in the lives of local inhabitants.”]

Review essay

Kris Manjapra, “Asian plantation histories at the frontiers of nation and globalization,” Modern Asian Studies (2018), 52:6, pp. 2137-2158. [Abstract: “This is a review article of four new books on plantation histories of Asia which offer a sophisticated analysis of the configurations of liberal imperialism, colonial capitalism, and the construction of post-colonial nationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The works discussed here are Rana Behal’s A Hundred years of Servitude (2014); Jayeeta Sharma’s Empire’s Garden (2011); Ulbe Bosma’s The Sugar Plantation in India and Indonesia (2013); and Kumari Jayawardena and Rachel Kurian’s Class, Patriarchy and Ethnicity on Sri Lankan Plantations (2015).”]

Catching up

Frederick Errington & Deborah Gewertz, Yali’s Question: Sugar, Culture, and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), Pp. 360, ISBN 9780226217468 (pb); 9780226217451 (hb). [From the publisher’s notes: “Yali’s Question is the story of a remarkable physical and social creation - Ramu Sugar Limited (RSL), a sugar plantation created in a remote part of Papua New Guinea. As an embodiment of imported industrial production, RSL’s smoke-belching, steam-shrieking factory and vast fields of carefully tended sugar cane contrast sharply with the surrounding grassland. RSL not only dominates the landscape, but also shapes those culturally diverse thousands who left their homes to work there.
To understand the creation of such a startling place, Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz explore the perspectives of the diverse participants that had a hand in its creation. In examining these views, they also consider those of Yali, a local Papua New Guinean political leader. Significantly, Yali features not only in the story of RSL, but also in Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize winning world history Guns, Germs, and Steel - a history probed through its contrast with RSL’s. The authors’ disagreement with Diamond stems, not from the generality of his focus and the specificity of theirs, but from a difference in view about how history is made - and from an insistence that those with power be held accountable for affecting history.” The Errington/Gewertz-Diamond difference finds further elaboration in: Daniel Immerwahr, “All over the map”, New Republic (11 June 2019)(initially accessed via]

Gail M. Hollander, Raising Cane in the ’Glades: The Global Sugar Trade and the Transformation of Florida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), Pp. 336, ISBN 9780226349503 (hb); 9780226349480 (eb). [From the publisher’s notes: “Over the last century, the Everglades underwent a metaphorical and ecological transition from impenetrable swamp to endangered wetland. At the heart of this transformation lies the Florida sugar industry, which by the 1990s was at the center of the political storm over the multi-billion dollar ecological ‘restoration’ of the Everglades. Raising Cane in the ’Glades is the first study to situate the environmental transformation of the Everglades within the economic and historical geography of global sugar production and trade.
Using, among other sources, interviews, government and corporate documents, and recently declassified US State Department memoranda, Gail M. Hollander demonstrates that the development of Florida’s sugar region was the outcome of pitched battles reaching the highest political offices in the US and in countries around the world, especially Cuba - which emerges in her narrative as a model, a competitor, and the regional ‘other’ to Florida’s ‘self.’ Spanning the period from the age of empire to the era of globalization, the book shows how the ‘sugar question’ - a label nineteenth-century economists coined for intense international debates on sugar production and trade - emerges repeatedly in new guises. Hollander uses the sugar question as a thread to stitch together past and present, local and global, in explaining Everglades transformation.”]

This issue of the World Sugar History Newsletter has been compiled by David Lincoln and Peter Blanchard. Correspondence should be sent to David Lincoln, Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, Cape Town, 7700, South Africa, or to Peter Blanchard, Department of History, University of Toronto, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S3G3 Past issues of the Newsletter can be found at