Cover image for American sugar kingdom : the plantation economy of the Spanish Caribbean, 1898-1934
American sugar kingdom : the plantation economy of the Spanish Caribbean, 1898-1934
Ayala, César J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [1999]


Physical Description:
xii, 321 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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HD9114.C89 A96 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Engaging conventional arguments that the persistence of plantations is the cause of economic underdevelopment in the Caribbean, this book focuses on the discontinuities in the development of plantation economies in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic in the early twentieth century. Cesar Ayala analyzes and compares the explosive growth of sugar production in the three nations following the War of 1898--when the U.S. acquired Cuba and Puerto Rico--to show how closely the development of the Spanish Caribbean's modern economic and social class systems is linked to the history of the U.S. sugar industry during its greatest period of expansion and consolidation.

Ayala examines patterns of investment and principal groups of investors, interactions between U.S. capitalists and native planters, contrasts between new and old regions of sugar monoculture, the historical formation of the working class on sugar plantations, and patterns of labor migration. In contrast to most studies of the Spanish Caribbean, which focus on only one country, his account places the history of U.S. colonialism in the region, and the history of plantation agriculture across the region, in comparative perspective.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This is an outstanding book. Ayala (Lehman College, CUNY) addresses how the changing organizational structure of the US sugar industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to, and was conditioned by, the dominance of US sugar producers in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba. This ambitious project required the author to keep straight the complex interactions of US producers, island sugar systems, and other competitors at a time of major political changes in the US and the Caribbean. Through careful attention to the development of argument, evidence, and context, the author accomplishes this with style, economy, and unusual clarity. Along the way, he makes important and innovative suggestions on continuing debates about how to frame studies of plantation economies and societies, the transitions from slavery, and the politics of industrial organization. The respect with which he handles approaches and scholars with whom he disagrees should be a model for academic discourse. Tables, figures, maps, and an excellent bibliography. Very highly recommended for libraries serving upper-division undergraduate and graduate students and faculty with interests in the Caribbean, US history from the Progressive Era to the Depression, imperialism, and associated topics. F. S. Weaver; Hampshire College