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Chapter

Meridian chapter notes


Department
History
Course Code
HISB31H3
Professor
Neville Panthaki

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1. Coffee by Steven C. Topik
Latin America, particularly Brazil, leading producer of coffee, where it was grown on both large estates (fazendas in Brazil) and small
farms
planted, tended, and harvested by family farmers, free labour, and slave labour; and it was an agricultural and industrial process
capital intensive—trees take about 7 years to yield beans, requiring considerable investment—and labour intensive since beans need great
care in picking
19th and early 20th centuries—coffee was leading export of nearly half countries of Latin America and important in number of others
tied together archaic and bourgeois, slave and free, proletarian and intellectual, arduous toil and frivolous leisure
coffee was introduced into Brazil by a European colonial power—Portuguese
interests of Portuguese crown together with conditions within Brazil dictated continued use of slaves
initial form derived from combination of international availability of African bondsmen and reluctance of European immigrants, history
of social acceptance of slavery, and lack of a domestic alternative because of internal resistance
Brazil’s agricultural boom began to fizzle in early 19th century because of a recession in world economy
burst of European and North American demand for coffee as their economies recovered from the Napoleonic Wars redoubled Brazil’s
reliance on export economy and stimulated its craving for slaves
by far largest importer of African bondsmen and last country in Western world to abolish slavery when emancipation finally arrived in
1888
decision to force slaves to till land and pick beans had formidable consequences for Brazil
on one hand, it made Brazil world’s greatest coffee producer; Brazil had the largest railroad network, by the time slavery was abolished,
next to India, outside of Western Europe and North America, of which two-thirds was in coffee-growing provinces
abolition of slavery in 1888 created one of the most abrupt and through transformations of a labour system in history
rather than employing freedmen and free Brazilians, states attracted almost a million Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish immigrants to
plantations by 1914
transformation was so rapid that slavery’s end did not harm coffee economy at all, instead, Brazilian coffee exports ballooned five-fold in
2 decades after Golden Law of abolition was passed
decision to turn to immigrants derived from internal struggles within Brazil—resistance by Brazilian freedmen refusing to work long
hours and refusing to allow wives and children into fields; resistance by other peasants preferring to occupy own plots rather than
working for plantation owners
colono” labour system—central work unit was family; only head of household was paid; family might tend 5000 trees (about 15 acres);
little integration or specialization; provided colono about 40% of monetary income; during harvest time and occasionally at other times,
paid for day work, accounting for 25% of monetary income; most of total income came from work as peasant; subsistence may have
constituted 70% of remuneration; colono sold own corn, beans, and livestock, accounting for 33% to 40% of earnings; could and did
move about; ultimate choice of leaving Brazil altogether
slaves in Brazil were especially cheap because of proximity of Africa, volume of trade, and size of existing Brazilian slave population
2. Sugar in Brazil by Peter L. Eisenberg
massive importation of African slaves into Brazil from 1500s through 1800s was result of labour requirements of sugar plantations
sugar plantations formed heart of politics and society until emergence of coffee as Brazil’s largest export in 19th century
during late 19th century, Pernambuco sugar industry led Brazil in exports, exemplified problems of national industry well, and
experienced two kinds of difficulties: falling prices and stiffer competition
Brazilians failed to overcome these difficulties and their industry stagnated, deteriorating export revenues first indicating predicament
falling sugar prices, especially after 1860, reduced returns in early 1870s to level of 1850s
in 1880s access to US market spurred export growth, but by 1890s sugar exports were again in serious trouble
negative trends in export trade hurt industry because foreign markets absorbed over ¾ of Pernambuco’s sugar
moreover, consequence of such adverse turns were magnified by Brazil’s high dependence upon imported goods, which required foreign
exchange earned by selling abroad and falling foreign exchange rage after 1851 only compounded problem
this decline in foreign exchange rate had 2 contrasting effects: (1) benefited sugar producers because it enabled them to sell foreign
currency earned in exports for increasing amounts of milréis, (2) it hurt importers, for whom foreign exchange became more expensive
sugar producers were exporters and importers, since nearly all capital equipment, as well as many of consumption goods, came from
abroad
exchange rate falls did not compensate for sugar price falls and growing European beet sugar industry cause many of Pernambuco’s
problems
beet sugar producers invaded and conquered world market; cane sugar producers, who had enjoyed over 90% of world market in 1840s,
had access to less than 50% of world demand by beginning of 20th century
beet sugar squeezed Brazil out of European markets and to replace English markets, Brazilians exported to USA; but even there Brazil’s
position was tenuous; sales to US climbed rapidly in 1870s, and by end of Empire the US had replaced Great Britain as Brazil’s principal
foreign market
Brazilian domestic market offered only outlet for producers unable to meet foreign competition
in Second Empire, Pernambucans sold between 15 and 20% of their sugar to home consumers
vast majority was refined branco variety, for 3 reasons: (1) Brazilian consumer, like European, demanded white sugar on table; (2) since
imperial Brazil had no large refineries, the planters themselves had to transform mascavado into white sugar; (3) imperial government
imposed import taxes on foreign refined and crystallized sugars, which frequently had protectionist effects
Brazilian planters, and particularly Pernambucans, could attribute their difficulties to relatively few causes
export crisis was clear product of beet sugar boom, which drove down prices and pre-empted traditional markets
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