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Title:The Slave Economy of Nineteenth Century Bahia: Export Agriculture and Local Market in the Reconcavo, 1780-1860
Author(s):Barickman, B.J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Love, Joseph L.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, Black
History, Latin American
Abstract:A narrowly "plantationist" perspective has long dominated the social and economic historiography of colonial and nineteenth-century Brazil. Historians have focused their attention on the "plantation"--the large estate that employed slave labor in the extensive production of a single export staple--and, by extension, on the trade in export staples. Scholars working within this perspective have generally assumed that no significant local markets could have developed in an export economy based on slave labor.
This dissertation challenges those views through a case study of the Bahian Reconcavo. One of the birthplaces of planatation agriculture in the New World, the Reconcavo in the years 1780-1860 remained a major producer of sugar for overseas markets. Indeed, the spread of plantation agriculture within the region led to a large increase in sugar production. The Reconcavo also supplied nearly all the tobacco Brazil exported. Yet, even when applied to this archetypical plantation region, the "plantationist" perspective proves inadequate. A large urban and rural market for locally produced cassava (the chief breadstuff in the local diet) had developed in the Reconcavo. Owners of sugar plantations regularly bought large amounts of cassava flour to feed their slaves. The use of slave labor in highly specialized export agriculture, instead of forestalling the development of a local market, encouraged hundreds of small farmers to harvest marketable surpluses of cassava. Not isolated peasants, these farmers often owned their own slaves. Production of cassava flour increased in the early nineteenth century despite real growth in the export economy (increases in the volume of commodities shipped overseas and in the value of exports).
The "plantationist" perspective also fails to account for the fundamental differences between sugar and tobacco production in the Reconcavo. Although tobacco was also an export staple, the tobacco farms were not simply smaller versions of sugar plantations. Bahian tobacco farmers relied not on the transatlantic slave trade, but rather chiefly on the natural growth of the slave population to obtain labor. Where sugar production was characterized by extensive monoculture, tobacco farmers practised a form of mixed husbandry and rotated tobacco with food crops. They were thus able to harvest large marketable surpluses of cassava. The differences between sugar and tobacco--in labor recruitment, field techniques, patterns of landholding, and estate management--point to the existence of different agrarian systems within slave-based export agriculture.
Issue Date:1991
Description:614 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1991.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9136538
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1991

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