Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Geography and Anthropology
The planting of sugarcane in Louisiana’s southern parishes has persisted with stunning continuity since its introduction in the late eighteenth century. This industry, however, is an economic and agricultural anomaly. It is a relic of the sixteenth-century expansion of European capitalism in which granulated sugar, then a novel product, stimulated the Atlantic slave trade and contributed to the incorporation of the sugar-producing colonies of the Americas into an emerging European-world economy. The Louisiana sugar industry was launched in 1795 with a historic granulation from a new variety of sugarcane recently introduced into the Caribbean. From this early success, the industry grew rapidly as immigrants from the Caribbean poured into Louisiana to escape the unrest associated with slave revolts and incipient emancipation. The burgeoning industry contributed to a westward migration of US populations into the newly opened Louisiana Territory as entrepreneurs responded to news of the enormous wealth made by the successful sugar planters. The sugar industry of Louisiana also stimulated the expansion of intra-regional slave trade as eastern slaveholders sold surplus slaves to the widening slave economy of the state, putting in place institutions and values that remain problematic today. Sugarcane now contributes the largest share of the state’s gross farm income, having surpassed cotton in year 2000. Its cultivation in the latitudes of Louisiana , however, is at a disadvantage compared to the tropical climates, where its full maturation is not abbreviated by a short growing season. The Louisiana industry persists in this marginal climate because of tariff protection, price supports, and the on-going research to select and release ever-stronger varieties with resilience, early maturation, and high sugar concentration. When viewed from the national and global perspectives, especially the eventualities of the NAFTA and trade resolutions with Cuba, continued sugarcane cultivation in Louisiana’s subtropical climate is an uncertainty.
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Vaughan, Elizabeth, "Louisiana sugar: a geohistorical perspective" (2003). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 3693.