Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914

Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914

Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914

Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914


Cocoa & Chocolate , charts the economic consequences of the addition of chocolate to Western diets, and the consequent boom in cocoa sales, over 150 years. While the cocoa boom might have been expected to transform the economic conditions of the cocoa producers from rural poverty into prosperity, it somehow failed to achieve this.This pioneering study examines all aspects of the history of cocoa and chocolate and the effect of these commodities globally. William Gervase Clarence-Smith looks at the effects of increased production of cocoa on the environment and on land distribution, at the coercion of labour to work the plantations, at the manufacture of chocolate, at taxation and at consumption.


When I saw my first cocoa tree in Cameroon in 1966, little did I guess that I would spend long years researching the history of this handsome little tree, which, oddly, bore its pods directly on its trunk and branches. Nevertheless, I already wondered how the estate could bear the high costs of its French manager, who drove a fast car and lived in a palatial mansion. The question was raised in a more acute form by a visit later that year to Fernando Póo (Bioko), where the cocoa estates of Spanish corporations dominated the agrarian landscape of this beautiful volcanic island. Chocolate was an even earlier memory, as my favourite tea-time snack as a child in France was squares of plain dark chocolate on bread.

An academic interest in cocoa and chocolate grew out of writing about the economics of modern Portuguese imperialism. I was struck by the contribution of the tiny islands of São Tomé and Príncipe to Portugal's balance of payments in the period before 1914, underpinned by a thinly veiled slave trade that strained diplomatic relations with Britain. My first project was thus to investigate the economic viability of colonial cocoa plantations in Africa and Asia from the 1880s to 1914, giving rise to a series of articles and chapters in edited collections.

The stimulus to considering the world cocoa economy from a global perspective came from organising an international conference on cocoa and development in 1993, together with Gareth Austin, my friend and colleague from the London School of Economics. Editing the book which resulted from the conference sharpened my conviction that primary production in the tropics was not a cause of underdevelopment, a conviction born of teaching a first-year course on development in the Third World. Cocoa was rather an opportunity to resolve the problems of rural poverty. It seemed that there was no inherent reason why cocoa should not help to transform the economies of tropical countries in much the same way that wool helped to develop Australia, wheat Canada, or tea and silk Japan.

My original intention was to cover the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but I became aware that there was a chronological 'black hole' between the Seven Years War and the First World War, a period when liberalism should

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