Cane and Labour: The Political Economy of the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1862-1906

Cane and Labour: The Political Economy of the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1862-1906

Cane and Labour: The Political Economy of the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1862-1906

Cane and Labour: The Political Economy of the Queensland Sugar Industry, 1862-1906

Excerpt

This book is about the rise and fall of an unlikely and remarkable system of sugar plantations and the immigrant workers who served on them. Colonial plantations are invariably typified as Third World institutions, economically primitive, static and incapable of sustaining rates of growth sufficient to stimulate the larger economy. On all these counts, Queensland was different. First, it was a rapidly developing settler economy which sustained an extensive plantation system for nearly forty years. Not only was the growth of the sugar industry throughout this period relatively dynamic, the plantation system upon which it was based proved to be adaptable. The expansion of sugar production along the Queensland coast undoubtedly contributed to the broader development of the Queensland economy. These achievements were in no small measure due to the labour system which serviced the Queensland plantations and saw the transition of the industry to a central milling system based on small farms. From 1863 to 1906, over 60 000 Pacific island villagers were imported into Queensland as indentured workers to serve mainly as field labour in the sugar industry.

Although there is now a considerable literature on the labour trade, the overwhelming focus of attention has been on the notorious system of recruitment which saw Pacific Islanders introduced into Queensland. The topic has been treated under the umbrella of British imperial and regional history, Australian constitutional development, politics, and in studies of Australian race relations. Emphasising its more sensational features, many popular writers have also contributed to the subject, and there is almost an industry in the re-publication of books or ship's logs written by participants . . .

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