Plantation economy

Plantation economy

A plantation economy is an economy which is 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 have included cotton, rubber, sugar cane, tobacco, figs, rice, kapok, sisal and indigo.

Regions with plantation economies have usually been in the southern United States, South America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Fordlândia is a 20th century exampleFact|date=June 2007 of a plantation economy. Plantation economies are also historically associated with slavery, particularly in the United States. Plantation economies usually benefit the large countries to which they are exporting, which usually manufacture the raw materials grown on the plantations into goods which are then traded back to the plantation economy. Throughout most of history, the countries receiving the crops have usually been in Western Europe.

United States

Tobacco production was labor intensive and required thousands of slaves to produce millions of pounds that were exported. The period covered by this article ranges from 1700 to the end of the American Civil War (1865).

The wealth and Influence of the so-called "tuckahoe" Virginia planters depended on one crop, and that crop was tobacco. The production of tobacco spread down the James, York, Rappahannock, and the Potomac rivers.

Tobacco and Virginia economy

Over the years tobacco contributed greatly to Virginia’s economy. In the year 1758 Virginia exported 70,000 hogsheads of tobacco. The production of tobacco in colonial times required much toil. The plants had to be grown from seeds in a cold frame, set out, weeded, tasseled, harvested, and cured. All of this work was done by man and beast. Each acre produced about 5,000 plants that required hand care over and over again. But, with slave labor, profits exceeded any other plant that could be grown. [cite web|url=|title=Tobacco in Virginia|accessdate=2006-03-24]

lave statistics

In the year 1860, one out of every four families in Virginia owned slaves. The figures cited here are from the 1860 census. There were over 100 plantation owners that owned over 100 slaves. [cite web|url=|title=PBS The Slaves' Story|accessdate=2006-03-24]

*Number of slaves in the Lower South : 2,312,352 (47% of total population).
*Number of slaves in the Upper South: 1,208,758 (29% of total population).
*Number of slaves in the Border States: 432,586 (13% of total population).

Less than one-third of all Southern families owned slaves at the peak of slavery prior to the Civil War. In Mississippi and South Carolina it approached one half. The total number of slave owners was 385,000 (including, in Louisiana, some free Negroes). (That 385,000 amounts to approx 3.8 % of the Southern and Border states population.)

On a typical plantation (more than 20 slaves), the capital value of the slaves was greater than the capital value of the land and implements.

Tobacco plantation owners (Planters)

Many of the wealthy and influential men in Colonial Virginia were Planters; tobacco plantation owners. A number of America's first presidents owned slaves. They owned numerous plantations, each with large numbers of slaves.

ugar plantations

Sugar has a long history as a plantation crop. Growing 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.

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 May-December 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 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 cane, but sugar beets not grown on plantations increased their market share.

Indigo Plantations

Indigofera was a major crop of cultivation during the colonial period, in Haiti until the slave rebellion against France that left them embargoed by Europe, Guatemala in the 18th century 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.

ee also

*Banana republic
*History of commercial tobacco in the Unites States
*History of sugar
*Tropical agriculture
*Zanj Rebellion


External links

* [ The plantation economy]
* [ Slavery in America]
* [ Indigo Plantations]

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