Cuban Rural Society in the Nineteenth Century: The Social and Economic History of Monoculture in Matanzas

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Princeton University Press, 1990 - Matanzas (Cuba : Province) - 425 pages

Among the factors inhibiting development of diversified economic structures in many Caribbean and Latin American countries, the persistence of monoculture plays a crucial role. Examining Cuba as a case study, Laird Bergad uses extensive data from Cuban archival sources to analyze the social and economic structures of a country shaped by monocultural sugar production since the mid-eighteenth century. He focuses on Matanzas, the center of the Cuban slave-based sugar economy, and shows how dependence on this one product generated great wealth but ultimately produced an unstable society in which most people remained poor and illiterate. A provocative account of nineteenth-century Cuban rural society emerges from the collective portrait of the social sectors that forged the history of Matanzas's sugar production. Bergad depicts the interaction among planters, merchants, slave traders, slaves, and free blacks while showing how sugar monoculture adapted to social and economic changes. He presents a detailed study of the economics of slave labor and new data that challenges prior interpretations of Cuban slavery.

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About the author (1990)

Laird W. Bergad is Distinguished Professor of Latin American and Caribbean history in the Department of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies at Lehman College and the Ph.D. Program in History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He was the founding director of Lehman College's interdisciplinary program in Latin American and Caribbean studies and Chair of the Department of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies, and he served on the executive committees of the CUNY/Cuba (and later Caribbean) Scholarly Exchange Program and the CUNY-University of Puerto Rico Exchange. Bergad is the founding and current director of the CUNY Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies at the Graduate Center. His previously published books include Coffee and the Growth of Agrarian Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico; Cuban Rural Society in the Nineteenth Century: The Social and Economic History of Monoculture in Matanzas; The Cuban Slave Market, 1790 1880 (co-author); The Demographic and Economic History of Slavery in Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1720 1888; and The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States.

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