Early Globalization and the Economic Development of the United States and Brazil

By John Dewitt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3

Plantation Agriculture Creates a New World Civilization

Plantation colonies in Brazil produced the wealth that sustained Portugal. Brazil led the world in sugar exports for one hundred years. The leadership position was lost when British and French plantations in the Caribbean came on line using production techniques transferred from Pernambuco by the Dutch.

Sugar from Caribbean colonies and tobacco from the mainland were the two most important products that Great Britain received from America. Tobacco represented 45 percent of mainland exports in 1760. Eighteenth-century merchants and capitalists considered these two commodities mainstays of British prosperity. The influence of tobacco and sugar in shaping British policy toward the colonies “was probably greater than even that of politics, war, and religion.” 1

The American plantation using slave labor was developed by European states to produce valuable export crops that would make the Americas part of the expanding global economy. Policies of mercantilism dictated that agricultural staples be exported only to the mother country. Manufacturing was banned in the colonies so they would serve as a market for the parent’s industrial goods.

For centuries the plantation was the most important institution of Brazil and the South. Created to benefit the economic interests of the mother country, plantations produced the products that linked colonies with the world economy. Legacies of plantation agriculture using slave labor influenced economic and social structures of the South and Brazil through the nineteenth century and beyond. The plantation was much more than an economic institution. It created a new way of life that continued after Brazil

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