Persistence and decline: Slave labour and sugar production in the Bahian Recôncavo, 1850-1888

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Abstract

Focusing on the last decades before abolition (1888), this study examines slave labour and sugar production in the Bahian Recôncavo in Northeastern Brazil, one of the oldest slaveholding regions in the Americas. It demonstrates the marked contrast between the Recôncavo and the other main sugar-producing areas of Northeastern Brazil. In Bahia, the years 1850-88 did not witness an increase in sugar exports; on the contrary, exports stagnated and then, with abolition, suffered a nearly complete collapse. Furthermore, sugar planters in the Recôncavo, unlike other Northeastern planters, relied overwhelmingly on slave labour until the very eve of abolition. The study suggests that the explanation for the contrast between the Recôncavo and other Northeastern sugar regions lies in alternatives to sugar production for a significant segment of the planter class and in alternatives to work on sugar plantations for a substantial part of the poor free population in the Recôncavo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-633
Number of pages53
JournalJournal of Latin American Studies
Volume28
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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