The decline of sugar production and the rise of cocoa production in Grenada 1870-1917: the changing fortunes of a cocoa peasantry

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Virginia Tech


Post-emancipation Grenada poses a unique situation in the agricultural milieu of the Caribbean. Grenada not only defied the norms of a mono-cultural existence, but experienced relative prosperity during a time of general depression. The colony's prosperity between 1870-1917 can be attributed to the agricultural transformation from large-scale sugar production to small-scale peasant cultivation of cocoa in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Much of the written history concerning post-emancipation society in the Caribbean has tended to underline the collective impoverishment following the decline of sugar production. Furthermore, studies have concentrated on the handicaps and inefficiencies associated with peasant agriculture. This thesis attempts to go beyond these broad generalizations of underdevelopment and examines how Grenada's agricultural transformation to cocoa initiated fundamental change in the countryside. This agricultural transformation to cocoa not only allowed Grenada to escape the disastrous consequences experienced by its neighbors, but gave rise to an independent peasantry. An evaluation of the resulting socioeconomic consequences will focus on how the cultivation of cocoa helped the peasantry improve their situation, provided them with a greater sense of humility and most importantly contributed to the overall welfare of the colony.