Plantation Coffee in Jamaica, 1790-1848
- Published: December 2019
Plantation Coffee in Jamaica, 1790–1848 is the first comprehensive history of the Jamaican coffee industry, covering a period of rapid expansion and decline. The primary objective is to examine the structure and performance of the industry and to demonstrate the extent to which it contributed to the diversity of the Jamaican economy and society in this period. All of this is examined within the context of a period characterized by significant structural shifts in the then emerging global economy.
As a work in economic history, the book is based on solid archival research and econometric analysis. Kathleen E.A. Monteith examines the changing levels of production, trade, productivity, and profitability of the industry and discusses the people involved in the industry, both free and enslaved. A demographic profile of the coffee planters and their familial relationships is established. The work experience of the enslaved men, women and children in the coffee industry, their organization, the nature of their works and their resistance to enslavement are also discussed. The clash of interests between the former enslaved people and coffee planters with respect to labour availability in the industry in the immediate post-slavery period are discussed also. Throughout the book, wherever possible, comparisons are made with other sectors of the Jamaican economy, especially with the sugar industry. Differences are explained in terms of environment, scale and the nature of production.
Plantation Coffee in Jamaica, 1790–1848 contributes fresh material and interrogates data in systematic ways not previously undertaken by scholars in this area. Strikingly original are the sections dealing with the backgrounds of the coffee planters, drawing on sources only recently available for exploitation, notably the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership database, family history and genealogical websites, and the sections dealing with profitability. This book compares well with other works in Caribbean history published at this level of scholarship. It has no immediate rivals in its specific field.
List of Plates
List of Tables
Preface and Acknowledgements
Parish Distribution and Size of Properties
The Coffee Planters
Planting and Processing
Labour Management, Work Regimen and Resistance
Profitability and Decline
Emancipation and Labour
Conclusion: Jamaican Coffee in the Age of Global Transformation
Appendix 1. Parish Distribution of Coffee-Producing Properties in Jamaica, 1799 and 1836
Appendix 2. Frequency Acreage of Coffee Properties, 1832
Appendix 3. Frequency Number of Enslaved Workers on Coffee Properties, 1818 and 1832
Appendix 4. Enslaved Females Assigned to Field Work on Maryland Plantation, St Andrew, 1818
Appendix 5. Abandoned Coffee Plantations, 1832–1848
Appendix 6. Coffee Plantations in Production in Jamaica, 1899
- 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Finalist (Historical, Non-Fiction)
- Award-Winning Finalist in the History: General category of the 2021 International Book Awards
TODAY COFFEE IS GROWN FOR EXPORT IN more than fifty countries across the globe, in Asia, Africa, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The Americas alone account for nearly 70 per cent of the world’s total production, with Brazilian coffee, at 2.5 million tons, responsible for approximately one- third of that production. Vietnam, with 1.6 million tons, is the second-largest producer, followed by Colombia with 810,000 tons, Indonesia with 660,000 tons, and Ethiopia with 384,000 tons. Jamaica’s production, 1,260 tons in 2016, is just a tiny fraction – 0.1 per cent – ranking it forty-sixth out of the top fifty coffee-producing countries in the world. Though accounting for a small fraction of the world supply, Jamaican coffee maintains a special place in the market, primarily because of its iconic Blue Mountain brand, first recognized in the 1880s, when it was assessed to be the finest coffee grown in the world. As a result of its very small supply and high demand on the international market, Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee is among the top ten most expensive coffees in the world, selling for around US$50 per pound.1 However, in the early nineteenth century Jamaica’s coffee for a brief period dominated world production and supply before entering a period of decline. It is this period which is the focus of this book.