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Main article: "Sugar plantations in the Caribbean

Sugar plantations were highly valued in the Caribbean by the British and French colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries and the use of sugar in Europe rose during this period. Sugarcane is still an important crop in Cuba. Sugar plantations also arose in countries such as Barbados and Cuba because of the natural endowments that they had. These natural endowments included soil that was conducive to growing sugar and a high marginal product of labour realized through the increasing number of slaves.


"Sugarcane plantation in rural "Cuba

Plantings of para "rubber, the tree Hevea brasiliensis, are usually called plantations.

Oil palm[edit]

"Oil palm agriculture is rapidly expanding across wet tropical regions, and is usually developed at plantation scale.


Fruit "orchards are sometimes considered to be plantations.

Arable crops[edit]

These include "tobacco, "sugarcane, "pineapple, and "cotton, especially in historical usage.

Before the rise of cotton in the American South, "indigo and "rice were also sometimes called plantation crops.

Harvesting tea in Bogor, West Java


When "Newfoundland was colonized by "England in 1610, the original colonists were called "Planters" and their fishing rooms were known as "fishing plantations". These terms were used well into the 20th century.

The following three plantations are maintained by the "Government of Newfoundland and Labrador as provincial heritage sites:

Other fishing plantations:


Plantation economy and "Slavery
1913 photo: African-Americans picking cotton on a plantation in the "South
Italian immigrants working on Brazilian "coffee plantation, early 20th century

"Slave labor extracted from imported Africans was used extensively to work on early plantations (such as tobacco, rice, cotton, and sugar plantations) in the American colonies and the United States, throughout the Caribbean, the Americas, and in European-occupied areas of Africa. Several notable historians and economists such as "Eric Williams, "Walter Rodney, and "Karl Marx contend that the global "capitalist economy was largely founded upon the creation and produce of thousands of slave "labour camps based in "colonial plantations, exploiting tens of millions of purchased Africans.

In modern times, the low wages typically paid to plantation workers are the basis of plantation profitability in some areas. "Sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean and Brazil, worked by slave labour, were also examples of the plantation system.

In more recent times, overt slavery has been replaced by para-slavery or slavery-in-kind, including the "sharecropping system. At its most extreme, workers are in ""debt bondage": they must work to pay off a debt at such punitive interest rates that it may never be paid off. Others work unreasonably long hours and are paid subsistence wages that (in practice) may only be spent in the "company store.

In Brazil, a sugarcane plantation was termed an "engenho ("engine"), and the 17th-century English usage for organized colonial production was "factory." Such colonial social and economic structures are discussed at "Plantation economy.

Sugar workers on plantations in "Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean lived in "company towns known as "bateyes.

Antebellum American South[edit]

Plantations in the American South and "Plantation complexes in the Southeastern United States

In the "American South, "antebellum plantations were centered on a ""plantation house," the residence of the owner, where important business was conducted. Slavery and plantations had different characteristics in different regions of the South. As the "Upper South of the "Chesapeake Bay colonies developed first, "historians of the antebellum South defined planters as those who held 20 or more slaves. Major planters held many more, especially in the Deep South as it developed.[3] The majority of slaveholders held 10 or fewer slaves, often just a few to labor domestically. By the late 18th century, most planters in the Upper South had switched from exclusive tobacco cultivation to mixed-crop production, both because tobacco had exhausted the soil and because of changing markets. The shift away from tobacco meant they had slaves in excess of the number needed for labor, and they began to sell them in the internal slave trade.

There was a variety of domestic architecture on plantations. The largest and wealthiest planter families, for instance, those with estates fronting on the "James River in "Virginia, constructed mansions in brick and Georgian style, e.g. "Shirley Plantation. Common or smaller planters in the late 18th and 19th century had more modest wood frame buildings, such as "Southall Plantation in "Charles City County.

Old Jackson Plantation house, "Schriever, "Louisiana, June 1940

In the "Lowcountry of "South Carolina, by contrast, even before the "American Revolution, planters holding large rice plantations typically owned hundreds of slaves. In Charleston and Savannah, the elite also held numerous slaves to work as household servants. The 19th-century development of the "Deep South for cotton cultivation depended on large plantations with much more acreage than was typical of the Upper South; and for labor, planters held hundreds of slaves.

Until December 1865 "slavery was legal in parts of the United States. Most slaves were employed in agriculture, and planter was a term commonly used to describe a farmer with many slaves.

The term planter has no universally-accepted definition, but academic historians have defined it to identify the elite class, "a landowning farmer of substantial means."[3] In the ""Black Belt" counties of "Alabama and "Mississippi, the terms "planter" and "farmer" were often synonymous.[4] Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman define large planters as owning over 50 slaves, and medium planters as owning between 16 and 50 slaves.[5]

In his study of Black Belt counties in Alabama, Jonathan Wiener defines planters by ownership of real property, rather than of slaves. A planter, for Wiener, owned at least $10,000 worth of real estate in 1850 and $32,000 worth in 1860, equivalent to about the top 8 percent of landowners.[6] In his study of southwest Georgia, Lee Formwalt also defines planters in size of land holdings rather than slaves. Formwalt's planters are in the top 4.5 percent of land owners, translating into real estate worth $6,000 or more in 1850, $24,000 or more in 1860, and $11,000 or more in 1870.[7] In his study of "Harrison County, Texas, Randolph B. Campbell classifies large planters as owners of 20 slaves, and small planters as owners of between ten and 19 slaves.[8] In "Chicot and "Phillips counties, Arkansas, Carl H. Moneyhon defines large planters as owners of twenty or more slaves, and six hundred or more acres.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Forest loss". United Nations System-wide Earthwatch. United Nations Environment Programme. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved October 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ Overbeek W. (2012). "An overview of industrial tree plantation conflicts in the global South. Conflicts, trends, and resistance struggles." (PDF). EJOLT. 3: 84. 
  3. ^ a b Peter Kolchin, American Slavery 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1993, xiii
  4. ^ Oakes, Ruling Race, 52.
  5. ^ Fogel, Robert William; Engerman, Stanley L. (1974). Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery. Boston: Little, Brown. "OCLC 311437227. 
  6. ^ Wiener, Jonathan M. (Autumn 1976). "Planter Persistence and Social Change: Alabama, 1850–1870". "Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 7 (2): 235–60. "JSTOR 202735. 
  7. ^ Formwalt, Lee W. (October 1981). "Antebellum Planter Persistence: Southwest Georgia—A Case Study". Plantation Society in the Americas. 1 (3): 410–29. "ISSN 0192-5059. "OCLC 571605035. 
  8. ^ Campbell, Randolph B (May 1982). "Population Persistence and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century Texas: Harrison County, 1850–1880". "Journal of Southern History. 48 (2): 185–204. "JSTOR 2207106. 
  9. ^ Moneyhon, Carl H. (1992). "The Impact of the Civil War in Arkansas: The Mississippi River Plantation Counties". "Arkansas Historical Quarterly. 51 (2): 105–18. "JSTOR 40025847. 

External links[edit]

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