Rise of Sugar Plantation Economies Essay
Many revolutions which are known by historians, only one revolution is identified with name of its key commodity: the sugar revolution or economy in 17th century. Sugar plantation economy was based on agricultural mass production of sugar cane. Evidently, the rise of sugar economies points out to a transformative power of a single commodity, which resulted to crop determinism (Beckley, 1989; Dunn, 1972).
To this effect, economies of the Caribbean colonies expanded massively in the sense that sugar plantations shifted to production that realized economies of scale that brought massive wealth to the colonies especially Great Britain. Mass production for trade was facilitated by slave labor, large scale plantations, and high population density with Black majority who offered labor and market; there was high output per capita. In the commercial sense, the Caribbean sugar production facilitated a bilateral trade transaction with the colonies thereafter trading it again.
Empirically, Caribbean production entirely depended on the British market; resulted to cheap supply of sugar to Britain evident by sweet tooth in 1650s (Mintz, 1998, p. 321). Moreover, sugar is attributing to commercial revolution and English imperial expansion in the seventeenth century. Crucially, sugar quickly became Britain’s leading colonial import in 1640s and yielded a far higher and steadier profit than any other American cash crop grown at time.
Sugar mass production stimulated economic growth, especially to the Caribbean colonies and the world in the following ways: it provided the engine for a variety of triangular trades, contributed vitally to the industrial revolution, it generated a massive boost to the Atlantic slave trade that extended to West African states, altered European nutrition and consumption and it resulted to increased European interest in tropical colonies thus strive to be powerful politically and economically to conquer many colonies (Sheridan, 1965, p. 308).
Plantation working conditions In order to facilitate mass production to realize economies of scale, labor shifted from free labor to slave labor bought from Africa. The African slaves were preferred because of their strength, cost effective with high output, and ability to survive in the extreme conditions as opposed to reports which indicated that horses were unsuitable; due to their short life span and limited working hours. In regard to treatment of slaves, they received a horrible treatment needless to explain to a civilized human being.
Slaves were exposed to extreme brutality, physical hardship and bare survival on the plantation estates. Sadly, women were exposed to various plights from sexual abuse from their masters and their sons to consequences of sexual division of labor, while at the same time under pressure to bear children as reproduction of sugar estate direct producers or labor sustainability role (Beckley, 1989; Dunn, 1972). Thus, commercialization of the sugar estates lead to cruel working conditions that are associated with the rise of sugar economies.
Technology associated with sugar production The mills as enabling sugar processing technologies were simple technology. On the economy of scale perspective, capital equipment of factories was a costly investment. Small farmers sold their sugarcane to large central mills they owned through co-operative structured arrangements. However, most of the factory mill complexes employed animal mills like classic vertical three-crusher animal mill rather than steam mills (Green, 2007, p. 07).
This is despite the fact that byproducts like bagasse would be utilized for power production that could prove useful to steam mills. This was evident in Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Cuba and Barbados that had some reengineering techniques to maintain and sustain. Conclusion Despite much contribution of the sugar plantations to the Caribbean colonies and global economies, sugar plantation economy faced various challenges at the start of 19th century.
These challenges were in terms of slave abolition and rebellions, trade interruption and emergence of the sugar beet industry which threatened to collapse the industry in Caribbean. But UK and US trade agreements rescued the sugar plantation in the Caribbean islands. This is evident by US amalgamations and investments in 1930s, especially in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba that increased sugar productivity. The greatest move that rescued the industry was the act of carrying slaves to US, sugar to Britain and realized money going back to purchase slaves in Africa.