Caribbean Project: Visualizing The Plantation Complex

New World

In The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex, Philip D. Curtin describes the geographic spread and extent of the slave plantation:

“With the passage of time, the heart of the complex moved westward by way of the Atlantic islands, Brazil, and the Caribbean. It ultimately stretched from Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil to the Mason-Dixon line, and it had outliers, even at its eighteenth century prime, on the Indian Ocean islands of Réunion and Mauritius. Later on it spread even more widely to Peru, Hawaii, Queensland, Fiji, Zanzibar, and Natal – among other places – but this worldwide dispersion during the nineteenth century took place just as the complex began to be dismantled – first, with the ending of the slave trade from Africa, then with the widespread emancipation of slaves throughout the tropical world under European control.”

As I understand the growth of the plantation complex, the core areas in the New World were Brazil, the Guianas, the Caribbean, and the American South. While there were slaves in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia, these slaves worked in the gold and silver mines, not on plantations.

The “Golden Circle” was more of a grand vision of Southern imperialism than a reality: Mexico, Central America, and Colombia weren’t part of the plantation complex. There were some cacao plantations in Venezuela but nothing on the scale of Cuba which was part of the plantation complex. Brazil and the Guianas were definitely part of the plantation complex.

The Dutch ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) were too arid for the plantation system. Dutch St. Eustatius was another exception. Saba and Barbuda had a few slaves, but I wouldn’t include these islands in the plantation complex, or Anguilla or St. Barthélemy or the Cayman Islands or the Turks & Caicos islands. The Dominican Republic was definitely not part of the plantation complex until the rise of the “American Sugar Kingdom” in the early twentieth century.

In the Caribbean, I would include Saint-Domingue, Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico, the Danish Virgin Islands the British Virgin Islands, the Leeward Islands (St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and Antigua), Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe, the Windward Islands (St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Dominica, Grenada, Tobago) and Trinidad.

I’m honestly not sure about the Bahamas because it hasn’t come up much in my research. Finally, there were large parts of the South, especially Appalachia, that were never part of the plantation complex, and when slavery was destroyed in the South there was still plenty of land available that hadn’t yet but would have eventually been developed by slave plantations.

This was true of a lot of areas like Trinidad, British Guiana, and huge sections of Brazil where the abolition of the slave trade and later the abolition of slavery itself prevented the development of the plantation system to its full potential.

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  1. “Finally, there were large parts of the South, especially Appalachia, that were never part of the plantation complex, and when slavery was destroyed in the South there was still plenty of land available that hadn’t yet but would have eventually been developed by slave plantations.”

    The mountainous terrain of Appalachia is completely unsuitable for plantation agriculture.

  2. “Henry Wiencek a Jew? Or a Catholic?”

    He went to Boston College High School which is a Jesuit institution so I assume he is/was Roman Catholic.

  3. Dr. Marc Lamont Hill and ‘Overrated White People’

    White privilege consists of being white. Black privilege consists of denouncing white people in ways that would be considered racist if the shoe were on the other foot.

    Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a man whose website modestly describes him as a “Professor, Author, Speaker, Public Intellectual,” has assembled a list of what he believes are the 15 most overrated white people to prove the point. Any college faculty member who tried assembling a list of the 15 most overrated black people would soon be the target of the most overzealous witch-hunt since Salem.

  4. @ Rudel

    Slavery had caught on in some of the mountain counties of Virginia, like Kanawha 20% slave in 1860, Hardy 15%, Hampshire 15%, Cabell 12%, Monroe 15%…

    Although, slavery in the piedmont & mountains would have taken/was taking on a resource extraction, and manufacturing basis—dangerous from a free White standpoint and a cause of the Civil War.

    Hunter is fixated on the expansionist narrative of the costal slave owners. Remember it was a narrative in their interest, and one used to draw the United States into conflicts south of the border.

    It was the Jew Judah Benjamin who was pushing Caribbean expanisionism in the US Senate—opposed by Jefferson Davis & others.

    Yeah, I saw that Wiencek went to a “Catholic” high school. What’s he hiding in his own family history???

  5. The Appalachian information is interesting. On the one hand, you hear what was said about the mountains (WV being the only state entirely in the Appalachians). OTOH, it was not a state, not even on the table to be a state, until halfway through the war, with the acts that made it so taking place in the north panhandle which is tall, skinny and only 5 miles across in places, banked on either side, by the industrializing north, and the only part of the state above the MD line.

    Since it wasn’t on the table for it to be a state, for half the war people considered themselves to be in the capital of the confederacy. They were in Virginia for half the war. There’s also the Scotch-Irish (Ulster) and English ethnic split there.

    Still, one truly couldn’t grow much—in the big planter way.

    So that was interesting, what HW was saying about the middle class nature of some of the slavery: there was big plantation land (like the islands, growing cotton, sugar, tobacco, etc.), then it seems smaller farmers (more doable in the appalachians) who may have lived with one slave family, kind of thing.

    The character of life with slaves would have been somewhat different in those places then.

  6. @Dixiegirl

    Not to dwell on western Virginia/ West Virginia, this was true of south west Virginia, northern Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennesse too, the people there knew they were sitting on mountains of coal, iron, timber, oil & natural gas that was just starting to be exploited in the 1850’s.

  7. In other words, everything wasn’t all agricultural commodities, south of the Mason Dixon Line.

  8. “Rudel says:
    October 10, 2012 at 2:47 am
    “Henry Wiencek a Jew? Or a Catholic?”

    He went to Boston College High School which is a Jesuit institution so I assume he is/was Roman Catholic.”

    That doesn’t means thing. Pope John Paul II was a Kike, and the Opus Dei money cult was founded by the Spawn of Satan.

  9. family records show there were slaves in the hills. I have old documents about my family renting some to help bring in a larger then normal crop and others about certian trades being done by negros instead of the actual master craftsmen. Can’t say for sure but I think slavery in the hills was more like the slavery up north in the early years

  10. From S.I. Newman’s Judah Benjamin. published 1963

    pp 76-77

    Below the Mason-Dixon line, an unborn empire stretched southward — Cuba, Mexico, Central America, where filibusters sought footholds that might have paved the way to conquests; South America — all might have been absorbed in a Southern Confederacy stretching from the Mason-Dixon line to Cape Horn. Benjamin’s Tehuantepac dream was dwarfed by the prospect an independent Southland offered.

    In such an empire Benjamin as a lawyer would not have belonged to the ruling caste — but Benjamin as a Senator and a plantation owner might have been of the new aristocracy. The great landowners would be the real rulers, and the professional men, the lawyers and physicians, would be an intermediary class — the system’s intellectual supporters — while the great mass was to be supported by the slave system.

    It was a gorgeous dream.

    In the political thunderings of the Fifties, Benjamin’s voice was lifted often — and usually against the background of that dream. James J. Blaine, among others saw Benjamin as a leading advocate of the doctrine that the federal government was called upon to protect slave property. Most of Benjamin’s major speeches touched on that subject.

    “Congress has no power to exclude slavery from the common territory,” said Benjamin in the Kansas-Nebraska debates. “It cannot delegate it, and the people in the territory cannot exercise it except at the time they form their constitution.”

  11. pg.78

    Where to turn? the next House he felt would be controlled by abolitionists and Free-Soilers.

    “Although the Democratic party is not yet so thoroughly disorganized as the Whig party, it requires no political sagacity to perceive that it cannot maintain itself as a national party. Impressed with these views of public affairs, I shall hold aloof from the present state canvas. . . I shall await the fast approaching time when not only Lousiana but the entire South, animated by a single spirit, shall struggle for its dearest rights, and in defense of that Constitution which is their most precious heritage.”

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