I’ve just read a fascinating essay in The Caribbean: A History of the Region and Its Peoples that is essentially a prehistory of the Southern plantation system:
(1) Sugarcane comes from the Persian Gulf and was first cultivated by Muslims in Iraq with black slaves from East Africa during the seventh and eighth centuries.
(2) Sugar was unknown in Europe during Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages – honey and fruit juices were used as sweeteners.
(3) From Iraq, the Muslims spread sugarcane to Egypt, North Africa, southern Spain, and Sicily under the Caliphate.
(4) Sugar was grown throughout southern Spain during al-Andalus. It was becoming more familiar to European through merchants who traded in Egyptian ports.
(5) During the Crusades, Europeans encountered fields of “honey wood” in Palestine and Syria, and the Crusader states would harvest it and sell it to Europe where a market developed for it.
(6) The Venetians brought sugarcane to Cyprus and Crete and it was cultivated in Sicily before and after the Norman Conquest.
(7) In the Late Middle Ages, sugarcane was being grown on free labor plantations around the fringes of Europe in southern Spain, Sicily, Cyprus, and Crete. Even here, sugarcane is a tropical plant and didn’t grow well in southern Spain and Sicily which are colder and drier and are at the northern fringes of its range.
(8) In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Spanish and Portuguese would famously begin the Age of Exploration, and quickly came across the Azores, Canary Islands, Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa.
(9) In Madeira and the Canary Islands, the Spanish and Portuguese created the prototype of the plantation system.
Madeira was uninhabitated and was burned off to make way for sugarcane plantations. In the Canary Islands, the natives were enslaved, and the Portuguese brought Berbers, other North Africans, black slaves from West Africa, and some European free laborers to work on sugarcane plantations.
The conquest and colonization of the Canary Islands was the prototype for the conquest of the Caribbean and the creation of the South Atlantic System which would eventually spread to southern North America and northern South America.
The Canary Islands became a commercially oriented colony that existed not for its own sake, but as a testing ground for the type of unrestricted mercantile capitalism that would export valuable tropical commodities back to European markets.
(10) In 1493, Christopher Columbus would transplant sugarcane in La Isabela on the north coast of the Dominican Republic during his second voyage to the New World.
Why is this so significant? WNs will see it as a terrible thing: the introduction and exploitation of blacks in the Americas.
It actually represents the very beginning of a type of society that had never existed before in European history: the development of fixed ideas about race, white supremacy, whiteness as a type of racial nobility, the idea that whites are natural masters fit to command non-Whites who are natural slaves, and especially White racial consciousness.
WNs are so accustomed to thinking in terms of racial differences and racial solidarity and the desire to expel all non-Whites that they fail to realize that this is a creole way of looking at the world that has a history which begins in the plantation societies of the Early Modern Caribbean.
There is a road from the Spanish conquest of Hispanolia to the unprecedented slave society that was created in English Barbados to colonial South Carolina and Virginia and from there across all of Dixie and through the cultural influence of the South to the rest of the United States.
It will all be covered in the book.