World Sugar History Newsletter

Number 9, December 1986

In this issue:

  1. Research in Progress
  2. Request for Information
  3. Book Review
  4. Conference Reports
  5. Announcement
  6. New Publications

This version of the World Sugar History Newsletter, Number 9, December 1986, has been edited for the purpose of on-line display. The contents remain complete.


Atsushi Fujioka, Kamigoryo Shinmachi Nishi, Kamigyoku, Kyoto, Japan:
Changing processes from the plantation South to the sunbelt South (U.S.A.).

Frank Ellis, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.:
Intermittent work on sugar in the general context of agricultural export commodities in the contemporary Third World.

Marina Carter, St. Antony's College, Oxford, OX2 6JF, U.K.:
Indentured migration and Indian sugar workers in 19th-century Mauritius.

Mel Jones, ITDG, Myson House, Railway Terrace, Rugby, CV21 3HT, U.K.:
Kenya: Intermediate scale, centrifugal sugar processing technology;
Bangladesh: Small scale sugar cane processing technology for gur production.

Ingrid Floering, 6 Modbury Gardens, London, NW5 3QE, U.K.:
The conflicting interests of government, farmer, and miller in the growth of Thailand's post-WWI sugar exports.

Sanjava Baru, Department of Economics, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad-500001, India:
Instability in sugar production in the context of extensive state intervention in the modern Indian sugar economy.

William H. Adams, 703 Anita St., Bloomington, Indiana 42401, U.S.A.: Industrial and historical archaeology of plantations.


El Haciendo Mexicano y Fabricante de Azucar, published in Mexico between 1895 and 1917. Anyone having any information as to holdings of this journal can they please get in touch with Professor John Womack, Jr., Department of History, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 02138, U.S.A.


E. D. Beechert, Working in Hawaii. A Labor History (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985). Pp. xi and 401. Bibliography and index. Price on application to the University of Hawaii Press, Marketing Department, 2840 Kolowalu St., Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, U.S.A.

This book represents a milestone in the history of the Hawaiian working class for it is the first comprehensive labor history of the Island Group. Previous writers have portrayed Hawaiian history in terms of its powerful figures; dwelt upon the "fatal impact" of western civilization on the island's culture; or have approached the ethnic or racial variety of the Group's population essentially as an exercise in sociological exotica. The contribution of this book lies in two important areas: its representation of the history of the Hawaiian "common people" as a class, whilst at the same time paying due regard to the wide variety of their ethnic backgrounds; and its commendable attempt to relate the history of the working class directly to changes in the political economy of the Hawaiian islands. From our point of view, the crucial role of the sugar industry in this process is of particular interest.

Professor Beechert begins at the beginning. He takes us through the transformation of the ancient communal agricultural society of Hawaii, following penetration of the Group by traders, missionaries, and planters (the first of whom established Koloa plantation as early as 1835). As the pace of proletarianisation stepped up, it articulated with fundamental superstructural changes in Hawaiian government and law, including the introduction of a stringent Masters and Servants Act in 1842. At first it was envisaged that this law would help to mobilise and control a workforce from amongst the communal producers of Hawaii, but as the local population was depleted and the plantation sector expanded, the Masters and Servants Act was increasingly applied to the control of successive waves of foreign contract workers. The author concludes that the steady erosion of safeguards to protect the workers associated with this process illustrates the tendency of systems of contract labour to devolve into more rigid forms which mimic slavery in structure and function.

This was particularly evident in the period of rapid expansion in plantation production which followed the signing of the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States in 1876 which opened up the U.S. market to Hawaiian producers under favourable terms of entry. Sugar production expanded by a phenomenal 2000 per cent between 1876 and 1898. Labour law developed along even more rigid and oppressive lines after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, a revolutionary action of critical interest to the sugar producers which was achieved with U.S. military collaboration. One of the purposes of the law was to maintain and exploit the distinctive racial divisions in the industry's workforce. Although Pacific Islanders, Chinese, and Japanese immigrants were imported to serve as sugar workers well before 1876, the period of rapid expansion in plantations saw an even greater ethnic diversity of the workforce, with the introduction of workers from several parts of the Philippine Islands and even a limited number of indentured workers from Europe, including 600 Norwegians and about 17,500 Portuguese. The pattern of cooperation between the state and the sugar industry thus established continued until the end of the second world war, and the norms and practices established in the sugar industry provided the bench mark and model for industry relations in other sectors of the economy including the construction and distribution industries.

But oppressive laws, unsympathetic courts, and the powerful institutional controls of the plantation were not the only impediments the Hawaiian working class faced in advancing their class interest. Severe structural difficulties arose out of the wide variety of cultural and language groups which composed the agricultural and later the urban based workforce, not to mention formidable geographical barriers. With the best will in the world, it must have been extremely difficult to organise a workforce divided not only by ocean but by the mountainous topography of the Hawaiian Islands. Incidentally, this could have been established more clearly for readers not familiar with the Hawaiian Islands by the inclusion of a map in the book.

Needless to say, Hawaiian workers creatively and energetically asserted themselves both through industrial strategies on the plantations and through the formation of immigrant societies. Early forms of working class organisation were, perhaps inevitably, based upon ethnic affiliations, and grievances were frequently voiced through such movements. It is extraordinary how well organised and active these poor peoples' movements were in Hawaii, to the extent that the Group must have possessed one of the most linguistically diverse and active working class presses anywhere in the world in the late nineteenth century. It is evident, however, that united industrial action, including the resort to strikes was employed increasingly across ethnic boundaries. The most enduring breakthroughs, however, appear to have occurred in the post-war period. In response to the by now consistent bloody mindedness of the sugar industry and its treatment of workers on secondment to the Island's wharves and warehouses during the second world war, membership of the U.S. based International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union rose markedly after the stringent wartime controls over labour were removed. Through its growing membership base and the energies of a small clutch of gifted and committed local trade unionists the Union established a persuasive negotiating role within the industry, which was reflected not only in markedly improved conditions for Hawaiian sugar workers, but for those in other sectors of the economy as well. Just as importantly, however, the post war period has seen the emergence of a united working class movement as such in Hawaii which continues to play an important part in the politics of the Islands.

Quite apart from its sympathetic and innovative approach to the history of the Hawaiian working class, this book is based upon an impressive diversity of printed, manuscript, and oral sources. The study also explores terrain too long ignored in the history of Hawaii -- from relatively small scale if significant issues, such as the origins of the Masters and Servants Act (which the author traces to American maritime law, though I wonder if the long-standing British laws relating to agricultural and the maritime industries might not have had some influence), to the evolution of the Hawaiian trade union movement and major issues in the economic and social history of sugar production. It is in the nature of the book, with its very broad scope, that only limited attention is given to that specific aspect of Hawaii's history. But the industry's pivotal role in the economic and social history of Hawaii suggests the need for a very specific and detailed study of the industry, and one which further addresses the extraordinary vitality of sugar production on the Hawaiian estates, its outstanding efficiency and innovativeness, and its flexibility. The history of the Hawaiian plantation rebuts the orthodox arguments that postulate the innate inflexibility and technical primitiveness of plantations as instruments of production. The challenge which remains is to reconcile the Hawaiian plantation's dynamism with the extremely oppressive industrial relations which also appear to have been their hallmark.

In the meantime, this fine work of scholarship stands as a major contribution not merely to the history of Hawaii, but as an aspect of United States and Pacific labour history long overdue for revision. We owe a great debt to Ed Beechert for his perceptive, informed, rigorous and thoroughly readable account.

Adrian Graves
University of Edinburgh



This conference, was held between 1 and 4 September at the University of East Anglia. It was sponsored jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Nuffield Foundation, the School of Economic and Social Studies of the University of East Anglia, the Department of Economic and Social History of the University of Edinburgh, and British Sugar PLC. Some of those attending also received support from the British Council. In all there were 39 participants from 15 different countries. It was a truly international meeting and, in terms of the contributions, a meeting of the highest quality.

The aims of the meeting were to explore the troubled interwar period, in order to understand better the nature of the crisis which affected sugar producers and various ways they responded to many difficulties, particularly falling prices and an increasingly restricted world market in these years. Furthermore, this was a period when many of the features which characterize modern sugar industries and the international market for sugar were firmly established. This in turn was one reason for also wanting to consider the current problems plaguing the international sugar economy. It was thought that an interchange of ideas between historians and those working in the industry today would be of interest and value to both groups. So it proved to be. Sugar has always been the most political of commodities and when comparing the two periods it was the changing nature of the political economy of sugar which emerged as possibly the chief variable in accounting for conditions in the world sugar economy and the success or failure of individual industries within this economy.

The conference was organised in the pattern established in Edinburgh in 1982. Papers were submitted well before the meeting and distributed so that not only were the participants able to read all the papers in preparation for the conference, but the organisers were also able to establish the themes for discussion. This allowed the sessions at the conference to be centred around themes rather than having participants present individual papers. Although the particular focus of the papers varied considerably because all dealt with either the interwar years or the current period, it was possible to proceed in this manner. A commentator was asked to provide a ten-minute introduction to the theme under review and then the floor was opened for a round table discussion. At this point it was possible for participants to draw on the papers they had read to develop arguments and/or to ask authors to clarify points in their essays. There was a lively opening session on the current crisis. This was followed by two meetings on the nature of the interwar crisis, and then separate meetings on innovation, changing productive structures, capital and credit, labour systems, peasant production, the role of the state, and finally a general session in which the two periods were compared in more detail, some tentative conclusions offered, and further research plans discussed. It was a very hardworking and productive conference as can be judged by the number and range of the papers offered.

A selection of these papers will be published in the near future. Details will be given in subsequent issues of the WSHN.

Contributors and Papers

"The Political Economy of Sugar in Colonial India, 1900-1940"
Dr. Shahid Amin, University of Delhi, India.

"Protectionism & Sugar Production in Central & Equatorial Africa, (Angola, Mozambique, Zaire, Zimbabwe), 1910-1945"
Dr. Gervase Clarence-Smith, School of Oriental & African Studies, London, U.K.

"The Mexican Sugar Industry, 1920-1940: State & Producers against the Crisis: Cartelization of the Sector"
Dr. Horacio Crespo, Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos, Cuernavaca, Mexico.

"Plantation Agriculture & Social Control in Northern Peru, 1914-1931"
Prof. Michael Gonzales, Northern Illinois University, U.S.A.

"Mechanisation and the Plantation Labour Supply"
Prof. Edward Beechert, University of Hawaii, U.S.A.

"The Uneasy Relationship: Peasants, Plutocrats, and the Trinidad Sugar Industry 1914-1938"
Dr. Kusha Haraksingh, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad.

"British Imperial Sugar Policy, 1920-1939"
Prof. Richard Lobdell, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

"Workers' Conditions & Labour Movements in the Largest Sugar Economies of the Caribbean, 1928-1935"
Prof. Sabine Manigat, FLACSO - Sede Mexico, Mexico D.F.

"El desarrollo frustrado de la industria azucarera de Haiti en 1914-15 - 1938/1939: rivelidades comerciales y financieras internacionales"
Prof. Guy Pierre, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa, Mexico D.F.

"The Cuban Sugar Economy and the Great Depression"
Dr. Brian Pollitt, University of Glasgow, Scotland.

"Growth and Crisis of the Brazilian Sugar Industry, 1914-1939"
Prof. Tamas Szmrecsanyi, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"The German Sugar Beet Industry and the Nazi Machtergreifung of 1933"
Dr. John Perkins, University of New South Wales, Australia.

"The Peruvian Sugar Industry 1918-1939. Response to the World Crisis"
Dr. Bill Albert, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.

"The State and the Development of the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1914-1939"
Dr. Adrian Graves, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

"Employment Practices, Sugar Technology, and Sugarmill Labour: Crises and Change in the African Sugar Industry, 1914-1939"
Dr. David Lincoln, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

"The Consolidation of the Puerto Rican Sugar Industry, 1919-1929"
Prof. Andres A. Ramos Mattei, Rutgers University, U.S.A.

"The American Pacific Territory of Hawaii in the 1930s; the Successful Adjustment of a Plantation Economy to the World Depression"
Dr. Richard Hawkins, London School of Economics, London, U.K.

"The Crisis of the Beet-Sugar Industry in Czechoslovakia in 1928-1938"
Dr. Frantisek Dudek, Institute of the Czechoslovak & World History of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czechoslovakia.

"The Spanish Sugar Industry 1914-1936"
Manuel Martin Rodriguez, Universidad de Granada, Spain.

"The Dance of the Millions and its Consequences"
Prof. Alejandro Garcia Alvarez, Universidad de la Habana, Cuba.

"The Argentine Sugar Industry in the Interwar Years: Diversification & Change"
Prof. Donna Guy, University of Arizona, Tucson, U.S.A.

"Struggles in the Cane Fields: Small Cane Growers in Mauritius, 1902-1937"
Dr. Daniel North-Coombes, University of Natal, South Africa.

"Sugar Centrals and Haciendas in the 1930s Philippines"
Yoshiko Nagano-Kano, Koryo International College, Tokyo, Japan.

"The Current World Crisis. A View from Europe"
Simon Harris, S. & W. Berisford, London, U.K.

"Treacherous Cane: the Java Sugar Industry between 1914 & 1940"
Dr. Peter Boomgaard, Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

"World Sugar Situation; its Effects on Latin American Countries"
Jose Cerro, GEPLACEA, Mexico 17, D.F.

"A Note on the History of the Sugar Sector in Fiji: 'Peasantisation under Capitalism'"
Dr. John Cameron, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.

"Changes in Industrial Structure and the Nature of Market Control in the Indian Sugar Mill Industry - Interwar Years"
Prof. Sanjava Baru, University of Hyderabad, India.

Other Participants

Lou Ferleger, University of Massachusetts-Boston, U.S.A.
Potaya Kuppan, President of the Sugar Industry Labourers Union, Quatre-Bornes, Mauritius.
Christopher Abel, University College, London, U.K.
Roger Munting, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.
Mr G. & Mrs J. Hagelberg, London, U.K.
Ann Houghton, British Sugar Laboratories, Norwich, U.K.
Ingrid Floering, London, U.K.
Chris Edwards, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.
Tidings Nhdlovu, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.
Frank Ellis, University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K.


The Second World Plantation Conference was held at Shreveport, Louisiana, from 6-10 October 1986. Sponsored by the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Southern University, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the meeting attracted a large, international field of distinguished contributors and papers. As at the previous meeting, the participants enjoyed the generous hospitality of L.S.U. and of the local citizens, and a wonderful conference venue at the Lake Bisteneau resort. Discussion and debate were of a consistently high quality throughout the meeting and benefitted enormously from the interdisciplinary nature of the event. As will be observed from the following list of papers and contributors, the scope of the conference was extremely broad. Needless to say, several issues of central importance to the subject, such as what is a plantation? and, is it possible to establish a universally applicable theory of the plantation? were intensely discussed but not satisfactorily resolved in the time available. It was felt that a further meeting to address specific issues in the study of plantations was now warranted. It would be a fitting culmination of the two extremely successful conferences organised by Dr. Sue Eakin and John Tarver with the support of L.S.U. for this to be the theme of a third meeting in two years' time. In the meantime, plans are afoot for the papers of this conference to be published by L.S.U. Press.

List of Papers and Participants

"Changing Needs & Plantation Prospects in an Energy Conscious World"
Dr. Sidney F. Mintz, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.

"U.S. Plantations and the Development of Capitalism"
Dr. S. Davis Bowman, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, U.S.A.

"Sharecropping System: Comparison between U.S. South and Pre-War Japan"
Dr. Atsushi Fujioka, Ritsumeikan University, Kita-Ku, Kyoto, Japan.

"Plantation Experience East & West: Overseas Indians in Malaysia and the Caribbean"
Dr. Ravindra K. Jain, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad, West Indies.

"Problems in Theorizing the Plantation"
Dr. Adrian Graves, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland.

"Technology and the Labor Supply: Queensland, Hawaii, Cuba, & Louisiana"
Prof. Ed Beechert, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.

"The Theory of the Plantation Economy in the Postbellum South"
Dr. Jay Mandle, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

"The 'Plantation Economic Model': Caribbean Economic History"
Dr. George Beckford, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston, Jamaica.

"The Making of Modern Worthy Park"
Dr. James Walvin, University of York, York, U.K.

"Toward a Post-Plantation Society: Reunion, Mauritius, Martinique"
Dr. Jean Benoist Universite d'Aix-Marseille III, Aix-en-Provence, France.

"L'Africain et la Deplanique Culturelle de la Plantation Guadeloupeme (debut XIX siecle)"
Dr. Josette Fallope, Universite Nationale de Cote D'Ivoire, Abijan, Republique de Cote-d'Ivoire, Africa.

"Modernization of Plantation Economy: A Case Study of the Sugar Industry in Mauritius"
Dr. Singaravelou, Universite de Bordeaux III, Talence, France.

"The God's Own Plantation: The Social History of Northeastern Brazil's Plantation Life as Reflected in Folk Cult Groups"
Dr. Roberto M. C. Motta, Fundacao Joaquim Nabuco, Recife, Brazil.

"The Sugar Plantations of Late Colonial Brazil in World Perspective"
Dr. J. H. Galloway, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

"An Analysis of Plantation System and Gender Roles on a Tea Plantation in Assam, India"
Dr. Shobhita Jain, University of the West Indies, Trinidad, West Indies.

"An Overview of Plantation Sugar History in the Hawaiian Islands"
Dr. Marie D. Strazar, Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.

"Tied versus Free Labor Regimes: Henequen Plantation and Tropical Forest Comparisons, Yucatan, 1890-1945"
Dr. Herman W. Konrad, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

"The Plantation and the Union: Sugar Workers in Trinidad since 1940"
Dr. Kusha Haraksingh, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad, West Indies.

"Tenant versus Manager on a Cotton Plantation: Peru, 1895-1920"
Dr. Vincent Peloso, Howard University, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

"The Labor Supply on Surinam Plantations after Abolition"
Dr. Pieter C. Emmer, University of Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands.

"The Formation of Plantation Society in 17th-Century Montserrat"
Dr. Riva Berleant-Schiller, University of Connecticut, Torrington, Connecticut, U.S.A.

"Economie de Plantation, Migrations et Integration Nationale en Cote d'Ivoire"
Dr. Moriba Toure, Universite d'Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Africa.

"Plantation Dissidents: Runaway Slaves in the Southern U.S.A"
Dr. John Hope Franklin, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A.


An important new research institute has recently been established in Haiti and we feel this will be of interest to all our readers. It is the Centre de Recherche Economique et d'Histoire Economique (CREHE), P.O. Box 15291, Petionville, Haiti. The main objective of the Centre is to carry out studies on the development of capitalism in Haiti in the period 1900 to 1985. The Centre is particularly interested in studying the history of the large foreign companies which were established in the country. There is also interest in investigating the history of the economically and politically dominant local families. At this moment the Centre has no outside assistance and, given the difficulties of starting such an undertaking in Haiti, there is an urgent need for help. Besides financial assistance, the Centre also needs books, journals, and general support from the international academic community. Anyone who feels he or she could provide any help or offer suggestions for raising funds for our colleagues in Haiti please write to Guy Pierre at the above address.


Stuart B. Schwartz, Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society. Bahia, 1550-1835 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). Pp. xxii + 616, hdbk and pbk. (This book will be reviewed by Peter Eisenherg in the next issue.)

Yoshiko Nagano, Firipin Keizaishi Kenkyu: Togyoshihon to Jinushi-sei (A Study of Philippine Economic History: Capitalism and Haciendas in the Sugar Industry) (Tokyo: Keiso-shobo, 1986). Pp. xii + 458 + 52. (8,500 Yen).

Karl Kaerger, Agricultura y colonization en Mexico en 1900 (Mexico: Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo y el Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social, 1986). Pp. 346. (Price and availability from Departmento de Publicaciones del CIESAS, Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo, Hidalgo y Matamoros, Tlapan, D.F., Mexico). (This is a translation of a part of a larger work, Landwirtschaft und Kolonisation im Spanischen Amerika, published at the turn of the century. The present work deals in great detail with many aspects of Mexican agriculture, including studies on henequen, cacao, tobacco, coffee, rubber, grains, cotton, and livestock. There is also an extensive section devoted to sugar cane production in the states of Morelos, Puebla, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Veracruz, Michoacan, and Jalisco. This is a most valuable primary source on Mexican agriculture.

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.