Monday, 22 December 2014


  BLACK      SOCIAL     HISTORY                                                                                                                    Plantation economy

plantation economy is an economy based on agricultural mass production, usually of a few staple products grown on large farms called plantations. Plantation economies rely on the export of cash crops as a source of income. Prominent plantation crops includedcottonrubbersugar canetobaccofigsricekapoksisal and species in the genus Indigofera, used to produce indigo dye. The longer a crop's harvest period, the more efficient plantations become. Economies of scale are also achieved when the distance to market is long and when the crop's size is reduced. Plantation crops also differ in that they usually need processing immediately after harvesting. Sugar, tea sisal and palm oil are most suited to plantations, while coconuts, rubber and cotton are suitable to a lesser extent.[1]

North American colonies

 North American colonies, plantations were mainly concentrated in the south. These colonies included Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. These colonies had good soil and almost all year-round growing seasons ideal for crops such as rice and tobacco. Existence of many waterways in the region furthermore made transportation easier. Each colony specialized in one or two crops and animals with Virginia standing out in tobacco production[2]The Southern colonies


Plantation owners embraced the use of slaves mainly because indentured labor became expensive. Some indentured servants were also leaving to start their own farms as land was widely available. Colonists tried to use Native Americans for labor, but they were susceptible to European diseases and died in large numbers. The plantation owners then turned to enslaved Africans for labor. In 1665, there were less than 500 Africans in Virginia but by 1750, 85 percent of the 235,000 slaves lived in the Southern colonies, Virginia included. Africans made up 50 percent of the South’s population.[3]
According to the 1840 United States Census, one out of every four families in Virginia owned slaves. There were over 100 plantation owners who owned over 100 slaves.[4]
  • Number of slaves in the Lower South: 2,312,352 (47% of total population).
  • Number of slaves in the Upper South: 1,208,758 (9% of total population).
  • Number of slaves in the Border States: 432,586 (13% of total population).
Fewer than one-third of Southern families owned slaves at the peak of slavery prior to the Civil War. In Mississippi and South Carolina the figure approached one half. The total number of slave owners was 385,000 (including, in Louisiana, some free African Americans), amounting to approximately 3.8% of the Southern and Border states population.

Tobacco field
On a typical plantation of more than 100 slaves, the capital value of the slaves was greater than the capital value of the land and implements. Large presence of slaves in the colonies was due to the Atlantic slave trade

Atlantic slave trade

Slaves were brought in from Africa by the British during their colonial rule of the territory. They were shipped from ports in West Africa to the New World. The journey from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean was called “the middle passage”, and was one of the three legs, which completed the triangular trade among the continents of EuropeAmericas and Africa.
In the course of the Atlantic slave trade, millions of Africans were shipped to the New World. By some records, it is said that ten million Africans were brought to the Americas; only about 6% ended in the North American colonies while the majority were shipped to theCaribbean colonies and South America. Another reason many did not make it to the North American colonies is because of disease and illness. Underneath the ship slaves where chest to chest and could not do much moving, with this being said there was waste and urine throughout the bottom of the ship. this caused the slaves to get sick and die from illnesses that could not be cured. [5] This is no surprise since much of the trade was spearheaded by the Portuguese and the Spaniards. Nevertheless, as the plantation economy expanded, the slave trade grew so as to meet the growing need for labor.

Industrial Revolution in Europe

Western Europe was the final destination for the plantation produce. At this time, Europe was starting to industrialize, and it needed a lot of materials to manufacture goods. Being the power center of the world at the time, they exploited the New World and Africa to industrialize. Africa supplied slaves for the plantations; the New World produced raw material for industries in Europe. Manufactured goods, of higher value, were then sold both to Africa and the New World. The system was largely run by European merchants[6]

Other crops

Sugar plantations[

Sugar has a long history as a plantation crop. The cultivation of sugar had to follow a precise, scientific system in order to profit from the production. Sugar plantations everywhere were disproportionate consumers of labor—often enslaved—owing to the high mortality of the plantation laborers. In Brazil, plantations were called Casa grande's and suffered from similar issues.
The slaves working the sugar plantation were caught in an unceasing rhythm of arduous labor year after year. Sugarcane is harvested about 18 months after planting and the plantations usually divided their land for efficiency. One plot was lying fallow, one plot was growing cane, and the final plot was being harvested. During the December–May rainy season, slaves planted, fertilized with animal dung, and weeded. From January to June, they harvested the cane by chopping the plants off close to the ground, stripping the leaves, then cutting them into shorter strips to be bundled off to be sent to the sugar cane mill.
In the mill, the cane was crushed using a three roller mill. The juice from the crushing of the cane was then boiled or clarified until it crystallized into sugar. Some plantations also went a step further and distilled the molasses, the liquid left after the sugar is boiled or clarified, to make rum. The sugar was then shipped back to Europe, and for the slave laborer, the routine started all over again.
With the 19th-century abolition of slavery, plantations continued to grow sugar cane, but sugar beets, which can be grown in temperate climates, increased their share of the sugar market.

Indigo plantations

Indigofera was a major crop of cultivation during the in the 18th century, in VenezuelaGuatemala and Haiti until the slave rebellion against France that left them embargoed by Europe and India in the 19th and 20th centuries. The indigo crop was grown for making blue indigo dye in the pre-industrial age. Mahatma Gandhi's investigation of indigo workers' claims of exploitation led to the passage of the Champaran Agrarian Bill in 1917 by the British colonial government.