n English in Africa - The bitter history of sweetness : metaphor and materiality in Daphne Rooke's

Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



"Sugar," writes Sidney W. Mintz in his marvellous anthropological archaeology, , "has been one of the massive demographic forces in world history" (1985, 71). This is because the system that proved the most effective means of producing cane sugar was the plantation. Although the plantation was dependent upon forced labour, the sites where this system best took root did not necessarily coincide with the best sources of labour. This was a major contributing factor to the massive demographic shifts propelled by the slave trade, but abolition only intensified the competition for labour in the world sugar market. Technological improvement took up some of the need for different means of production, but was only a limited alternative applicable primarily to the processing of sugar. What the planting and harvesting of the cane crop needed was more ingenious ways of recreating pre-emancipation labour conditions.

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