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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Learning the ropes in the tropics: slavery and the plantation system on the island of São Tomé
Author:Caldeira, Arlindo ManuelISNI
Year:2011
Periodical:African Economic History (ISSN 0145-2258)
Issue:39
Pages:35-71
Language:English
Geographic term:São Tomé and Principe
Subjects:sugar
plantations
slaves
1500-1599
Abstract:This article highlights the process by which the archipelago of São Tomé and Príncipe came to be the leading producer of sugar in the world between 1530 and 1560. In São Tomé two models of economic and labour organization - European and African - systematically mingled together for the first time. It was also the place where the system of production for growing and processing sugarcane which would later become known as 'plantations', and which Europe subsequently implemented in the tropics on a large scale, was first developed. Plantations were characterized by large-scale production oriented towards foreign markets. Each plantation/mill unit articulated the specialized cultivation of sugarcane by means of industrial processing and by using almost exclusively slaves as labour force. The author examines the natural and historical conditions amidst which the plantation system emerged on the Island of São Tomé, paying particular attention to the African contribution, a contribution which was not limited to the labour force factor. Slaves in São Tomé, all coming from the West African mainland, brought with them African techniques and forms of organizing work that were later recreated and adapted to intensive production as required by the colonial context and the intense demand for sugar in European markets. From the 1570s onwards, some São Tomé owners moved their operations to Brazil. In historical terms, the most important aspect was undoubtedly the transfer of the operating model. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]
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