Book Review : The Sugar Plantation in India and Indonesia

Baruah, Ved (2017) Book Review : The Sugar Plantation in India and Indonesia. Newbooks Asia. (

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The publication of Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power: Place of Sugar in Modern History in 1986 has generated an enduring interest in the structures of imperial trade and plantation economies. Although these have been studied from local, comparative and global perspectives, notably Sucheta Mazumdar’s Sugar and Society in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), histories of the slave-driven sugar industry in the Caribbean have been the focus of historical study. Given this, the lifecycle of other plantation economies and the commodities produced therein are relatively poorly understood. Sugar production in the Asian context, therefore, lacks nuanced comparative study and understanding of systems of production. In light of the overwhelming emphasis on ‘slave sugar’ and the dominant transatlantic slave trade focus in historical scholarship, Ulbe Bosma’s The Sugar Plantation in India and Indonesia: Industrial Production, 1770-2010 is a welcome contribution to the field. The volume’s main contributions lie in detailed study of Dutch and British colonial power and sugar entrepreneurship in Asia and the intrinsic links of the production system with global demand and supply as well as internal production dynamics in Java and India.


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