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Tropical Babylons: Sugar and the Making of the Atlantic World 1450-1680 Americas Caribbean & West Indies Barbados Stuart B. Schwartz The University of North Carolina Press


10th July 2013 History Books 3 Comments

“The handiest volume on the subject of sugar. . . . Well produced. . . . Clear, readable prose.”
Businesss History Review

“Breathtaking. . . . Offer[s] stimulating insights. . . . Might produce some stimulating comparative discussion.”
Choice

“A substantial overall contribution to several connected fields. It provides considerably new information.
(Franklin W. Knight, The Johns Hopkins University, author of Slave Society in Cuba during the Nineteenth Century)”

“Tropical Babylons greatly enhances our understanding of two previously unexplored centuries in the history of sugar.
(Francisco Scarano, University of Wisconsin-Madison)”

This collection of original essays provides a comparative study of early Caribbean sugar economies as well as a revisionist examination of the origins of society and economy in the Atlantic world. Schwartz also examines the role of plantation colonies in the formation of multiracial, oppressive societies.

The idea that sugar, plantations, slavery, and capitalism were all present at the birth of the Atlantic world has long dominated scholarly thinking. In nine original essays by a multinational group of top scholars, Tropical Babylons re-evaluates this so-called “sugar revolution.” The most comprehensive comparative study to date of early Atlantic sugar economies, this collection presents a revisionist examination of the origins of society and economy in the Atlantic world.

Focusing on areas colonized by Spain and Portugal (before the emergence of the Caribbean sugar colonies of England, France, and Holland), these essays show that despite reliance on common knowledge and technology, there were considerable variations in the way sugar was produced. With studies of Iberia, Madeira and the Canary Islands, Hispaniola, Cuba, Brazil, and Barbados, this volume demonstrates the similarities and differences between the plantation colonies, questions the very idea of a sugar revolution, and shows how the specific conditions in each colony influenced the way sugar was produced and the impact of that crop on the formation of “tropical Babylons”–multiracial societies of great oppression.

“The handiest volume on the subject of sugar. . . . Well produced. . . . Clear, readable prose.”
Businesss History Review

“Breathtaking. . . . Offer[s] stimulating insights. . . . Might produce some stimulating comparative discussion.”
Choice

“A substantial overall contribution to several connected fields. It provides considerably new information.

“Tropical Babylons greatly enhances our understanding of two previously unexplored centuries in the history of sugar.

Tropical Babylons: Sugar and the Making of the Atlantic World, 1450-1680

“Licentious Liberty” in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region: Slavery, Gender, and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century SabarĂ¡, Minas Gerais

[A] must-read for all those interested in the African Diaspora and Brazilian slavery. –Mary Karasch, Oakland University

The author examines diverse secular and ecclesiastical administrative sources … to portray the social world of the slaves and slave owners of a typical 18th century mining town, with especial focus on religion, patterns of work, and relations between masters and slaves and men and women. Higgins is very attentive to the structural possibilities and limits on people s lives, emphasizing how these differed according to age, sex, race, ability and historical circumstances. –Unknown, British Bulletin of Publications On Latin America, Carribbean, Portugal and Spain

This well-documented book will be widely read not only by historians and students of colonial Brazil but also by a wide range of scholars of New World slave systems and race relations. It will aptly be adopted as a textbook not only for graduate seminars on comparative slavery but also for many undergraduate courses in Brazilian and Latin America history and the African Diaspora studies, in which students will enjoy and learn from the book together with the illuminating Brazilian movie: Xica da Silva. Licentious Liberty indeed helps us understand in what circumstances this ambitious slave woman became a concubine for a Portuguese diamond from Lisbon in early eighteenth-century Minas Gerais. –Mieko Nishida, The Americas –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

To studies of Brazilian slavery this book adds a new dimension by showing how it developed in a region where mining was the chief commercial activity and how important a role gender played in this frontier setting in creating opportunities for slaves to achieve some measure of autonomy, compared with slaves who worked in sugar-cane and coffee-growing areas.The interactions among masters, slaves, and royal officials were profoundly shaped by the accessibility and widespread dispersal of gold deposits, the emergence of small urban centers in which commercial activities thrived, the sexual division of labor among slaves working in mining and commerce, and the changing sex ratio within the population of free white colonists settling in the region.Focusing attention on the changing status, autonomy, and influence of nonwhite women, the author argues, is one of the most effective ways of understanding the economic, demographic, and cultural evolution of the slave society as a whole.

“Licentious Liberty” in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region: Slavery, Gender, and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century SabarĂ¡, Minas Gerais










  • 3 responses to "Tropical Babylons: Sugar and the Making of the Atlantic World 1450-1680 Americas Caribbean & West Indies Barbados Stuart B. Schwartz The University of North Carolina Press"

  • Fistula
    7:34 on July 10th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Sugar is grown in more than 100 countries today, and its history is, in some sense, the history of the expansion toward globalism. It took thousands of years to migrate from (probably) New Guinea to India, hundreds to then reach the Mediterranean, only scores to traverse the Atlantic, first hopping to the islands of Madeira and the Canaries, then, on to the Caribbean and the Mainland.

    For readers in the United States, sugar shows up in the late 17th century or even later. England’s richest American colony, Barbados, was not settled until 1630, did not start producing sugar for a generation after that. Barbadians later moved to South Carolina, bringing ideas of slavery and agriculture that influenced American history profoundly.

    However, sugar had been in the New World (if you count the previously unknown islands like Madeira) for two centuries before English-speaking people became intimately concerned. The history of those two centuries is Spanish, Portuguese and African, and most of the essayists in ‘Tropical Babylon’ are in the Latin tradition.

    The Barbadians learned about sugar from the Portuguese or perhaps the Dutch, who seized Portugal’s sugar plantations in Brazil for a while. As the essayists show here, there were several sugar traditions for the English (and roughly simultaneously the French) to learn from.

    The approach of ‘Tropical Babylons’ is primarily economic, but there is a great deal of social and even some architectural history here.

    These essays are pitched to scholars and students, and fairly specialized ones at that, yet the story of sugar is rewarding in itself, so much so that a reader who ‘likes history’ will find a lot of miscellaneous facts, perhaps an ‘ah ha!’ moment or two that illuminates his understanding of better known (to readers of early American) history.

  • SM Follower
    22:59 on July 11th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    “Licentious Liberty’ in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region : Slavery, Gender, and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Sabara, Minas Gerais” is a wonderful examination of the interactions between masters and slaves in the gold-mining areas in eighteenth-century Brazil. This masterpiece shows how the gender relations between female slaves and their white masters have often subverted the values of a hypocritical and conservative society, allowing the changing of status of black women, among which the most famous one was certainly Chica da Silva, a former slave who began to live among the members of the limited gold-mining elite after becoming the concubine of a portuguese official. This book is speacially advisable for those interested in slavery and general sociology.

  • Mark Q. Jackson
    5:18 on July 12th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    I needed this book for a class. It came really fast. Haven’t read it yet, but am happy w/ the price.

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