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18 - The Atlantic System and Africa, 1550 - 1800.doc

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HST 101
Tom Wang

CHAPTER 19 The Atlantic System and Africa, 1550–1800 I0. Plantations in the West Indies A0. Colonization Before 1650 10. Spanish settlers introduced sugar-cane cultivation into the West Indies shortly after 1500 but did not do much else toward the further development of the islands. After 1600 the French and English developed colonies based on tobacco cultivation. 20. Tobacco consumption became popular in England in the early 1600s. Tobacco production in the West Indies was stimulated by two new developments: the formation of chartered companies and the availability of cheap labor in the form of European indentured servants. 30. In the mid-1600s competition from milder Virginia tobacco and the expulsion of experienced Dutch sugar producers from Brazil combined to bring the West Indian economies from tobacco to sugar production. 40. The Portuguese had introduced sugar-cane cultivation to Brazil, and the Dutch West India Company, chartered to bring the Dutch wars against Spain to the New World, had taken control of 1,000 miles of sugar-producing Brazilian coast. Over a fifteen-year period the Dutch improved the efficiency of the Brazilian sugar industry and brought slaves from Elmina and Luanda (also seized from Portugal) to Brazil and the West Indies. 50. When Portugal reconquered Brazil in 1654, the Dutch sugar planters brought the Brazilian system to the French and English Caribbean Islands. B0. Sugar and Slaves 10. Between 1640 and the 1680s colonies like Guadeloupe, Martinique, and particularly Barbados made the transition from a tobacco economy to a sugar economy. In the process of doing so, their demand for labor caused a sharp and significant increase in the volume of the Atlantic slave trade. 20. The shift from European indentured servants to enslaved African labor was caused by a number of factors, including a decline in the numbers of Europeans willing to indenture themselves to the West Indies, the fact that the life expectancy of a slave after landing was longer than the term of the typical contract of indenture, and a rise in sugar prices that made planters more able to invest in slaves. II0. Plantation Life in the Eighteenth Century A0. Technology and Environment 10. Sugar plantations both grew sugar cane and processed the cane into sugar crystals, molasses, and rum. The technology for growing and harvesting cane was simple, but the machinery required for processing (rollers, copper kettles, and so on) was more complicated and expensive. The expenses of sugar production led planters to seek economies of scale by running large plantations. 20. Sugar production damaged the environment by causing soil exhaustion and deforestation. Repeated cultivation of sugar cane exhausted the soil of the plantations and led the planters to open new fields, thus accelerating the deforestation that had begun under the Spanish. 30. European colonization led to the introduction of European and African plants and animals that crowded out indigenous species. Colonization also pushed the Arawak and then the Carib people to extinction. B0. Slaves’ Lives 10. West Indian society consisted of a wealthy land-owning plantocracy, their many slaves, and a few people in between. 20. A plantation had to extract as much labor as possible from its slaves in order to turn a profit. Slaves were organized into “gangs” for fieldwork, while those male slaves not doing fieldwork were engaged in specialized tasks. 30. Slaves were rewarded for good work and punished harshly for failure to meet their production quotas or for any form of resistance. On Sundays, slaves cultivated their own food crops and did other chores; they had very little rest and relaxation, no education, and little time or opportunity for family life. 40. Disease, harsh working conditions, and dangerous mill machinery all contributed to the short life expectancy of slaves in the Caribbean. The high mortality rate added to the volume of the Atlantic slave trade and meant that the majority of slaves on West Indian plantations were born in Africa. 50. Slaves frequently ran away and occasionally staged violent rebellions such as that led by a slave named Tacky in Jamaica in 1760. European planters sought to prevent rebellions by curtailing African cultural traditions, religions, and languages. C0. Free Whites and Free Blacks 10. In Saint Domingue there were three groups of free people: the wealthy “great whites,” the less-well-off “little whites,” and the free blacks. In the British colonies, where sugar almost completely dominated the economy, there were very few free small landholders, white or black. 20. Only a very wealthy man could afford the capital to invest in the land, machinery, and slaves needed to establish a sugar plantation. West Indian planters were very wealthy and translated their wealth into political power, controlling the colonial assemblies and even gaining a number of seats in the British Parliament. 30. Slave owners who fathered children by female slaves often gave both mother and child their freedom; over time, this practice (manumission) produced a significant free black population. Another source of free black population was runaway slaves, known in the Caribbean as maroons. III0. Creating the Atlantic Economy A0. Capitalism and Mercantilism 10. The system of royal monopoly control of colonies and their trade as practiced by Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries proved to be inefficient and expensive. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the two new institutions of capitalism and mercantilism established the framework within which government-protected private enterprise participated in the Atlantic economy. 20. The mechanisms of early capitalism included banks, joint-stock companies, stock exchanges, and insurance. 30. Mercantilism was a number of state policies that promoted private investment in overseas trade and accumulation of capital in the form of precious metals. The instruments of mercantilism included chartered companies, such as the Dutch West India Company and the French Royal African Company, and the use of military force to pursue commercial dominance. 40. The French and English eliminated Dutch competition from the Americas by defeating the Dutch in a series of wars between 1652 and 1678. The French and the English then revoked the monopoly privileges of their chartered companies, but continued to use high tariffs to prevent foreigners from
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