Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa

Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa

Catherine Higgs

Language: English

Pages: 236

ISBN: 0821420062

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“Catherine Higgs’s Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa is an elegantly written, well-illustrated account of the ensuing investigations into this so-called new slavery in Africa orchestrated largely by Cadbury and the British Foreign Office. …[The] study resonates today, dealing, as it does, with the often tainted international origins of our later era of mass consumerism.” —American Historical Review

In Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, Catherine Higgs traces the early-twentieth-century journey of the Englishman Joseph Burtt to the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe—the chocolate islands—through Angola and Mozambique, and finally to British Southern Africa. Burtt had been hired by the chocolate firm Cadbury Brothers Limited to determine if the cocoa it was buying from the islands had been harvested by slave laborers forcibly recruited from Angola, an allegation that became one of the grand scandals of the early colonial era. Burtt spent six months on São Tomé and Príncipe and a year in Angola. His five-month march across Angola in 1906 took him from innocence and credulity to outrage and activism and ultimately helped change labor recruiting practices in colonial Africa.

This beautifully written and engaging travel narrative draws on collections in Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Africa to explore British and Portuguese attitudes toward work, slavery, race, and imperialism. In a story still familiar a century after Burtt’s sojourn, Chocolate Islands reveals the idealism, naivety, and racism that shaped attitudes toward Africa, even among those who sought to improve the conditions of its workers.

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Francisco Mantero to WAC, December 4, 1907, CP 6/77; CB to Rowntree, June 10, 1907, CP 5/117. 18. Jeronymo Paiva de Carvalho, O Trabalho Indigena na Provincia de S. Thomé e Principe: Monographia de Defeza contra as Accusações Feitas no Estrangeiro (Lisbon: Typographia do Commercio, 1907), 7–9, 10, 12: “individuos de capacidade restricta” (first quote), 13, 15: “Se isto é escravatura, então estamos completamente ás escuras sobre o problema da mão de obra nas colonias!” (second quote), 17. 19.

however, that “at times I get so wroth” over the abuses in the labor-recruiting system that “I forget my Quaker breeding.” His inclination was to offer a more balanced analysis. At the root of the problem was the tremendous profit to be made on a worker contracted for �6 in Ambrizette and then recontracted in São Tomé for �36. The inability of officials in Luanda to govern the hinterland effectively, the low salaries of bureaucrats in rural districts, and a broad tolerance for corruption combined

1900s, Cadbury Brothers imported about 55 percent of its cocoa from São Tomé and Príncipe, the world’s third-largest exporter after Ecuador and Brazil. The firm would not knowingly use slave-harvested cocoa in the manufacture of its chocolate. Labor, whether at the Bournville Works or on the roças of São Tomé, should by definition be dignified and a worker should be free to leave his or her job.1 While Joseph Burtt tended his orchards in Crich, William Cadbury turned his attention to the island

praised the progress that Portugal had made, Cadbury and his coauthor had dismissed it as ignorance on the foreign secretary’s part. Cadbury was a hypocrite, and Andrade made no apologies for the admittedly uncivil tone of his own reply.8 In late 1912 and early 1913, Cadbury got caught up in the controversy surrounding the publication of Jerónimo Paiva de Carvalho’s pamphlet Alma Negra (Black Soul). Carvalho’s 1907 pamphlet had defended labor practices on Príncipe; in 1912, he appeared to

Trabalho Indigena (Lisbon: Livraria Ferin, 1907), vi. 13. JB to WAC, October 25, 1905, JDC, 123, 125 (quotes). 14. JB to WAC, October 21, 1905, JDC, 121 (fourth quote); JB to WAC, October 25, 1905, JDC, 123 (first through third quotes), 124 (fifth through seventh quotes). 15. JB to WAC, October 25, 1905, JDC, 126 (first quote), 129, 130 (second through fourth quotes); JB to WAC, November 15, 1905, 132, 134 (fifth and sixth quotes); William Gervase Clarence-Smith, “Labour Conditions in the

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