Area of Research
To what extent were the planters in the British West Indies able to manage their plantation to maximize efficiency and profitability up to 1838?
In the British West Indies, there was a great demand for sugar as during the Mid 18th Century Sugar Revolution. The planters had derived many different strategies to maximize the efficiency and profitability of their plantation, such as the division of land, the layout of the plantation, the division of labour, the organization of buildings, the regular importation of slaves and the location the plantation. The planters also tried to maximize the efficiency and profitability of their plantation by laying out the plantation in a specific way. Usually the plantation would be divided into three sections, where each section was separated and used for different purposes. One third of this land in the sugar plantation was used for sugar production. Sugar was not an exhausting crop so the land could be used for a long period of time. Another third of the land was used for planting food crops such as plantains, cassava, yams and fruit. The final third of the plantation was used for the woodland and were used for some slave huts. The woodland was used to provide timber for the buildings and firewood for furnaces. The slaves lived in a village which was separate from the other plantation because the whites did not want to be constantly reminded of hoe unpleasant slaves were. Their ‘village’ consisted of slave huts which were made by the slaves themselves using timber or mud-and-wattle. The slaves were required to have provision ground of their own where they can plant food crops and make money from selling them at the market. The provision grounds were not located next to the huts but were placed in the less fertile parts of the plantation. By laying out the plantation in this way, the planters managed the efficiency and by extension the profitability of their plantation.
Another way to maximize profitability and efficiency of the plantation is by the layout of the plantation buildings. Two of the main buildings involved in the sugar production process were the boiling, the mill and curing house, which was usually located centrally on the estate. These buildings were essential to production so they were usually constructed first.
The planters invested in building the Great house. The bottom half of this Great House was made of stone and the planters used it as storage, storm cellars and as a stronghold in case of a slave revolt. The living part, however, was made of wood and had one large hall, as a dining room, sitting room, office and banquet hall. The positioning of the Great House showed the planter’s desire for comfort but it also showed their fear of the slaves. The Great House stood on a hill about one kilometer away from the heat and noise of the plantation. The planters and their family members can use the verandah to relax but they can also use it to keep a close eye on the slaves. For extra safety, some planters built their home in the centre of the plantation.
The slave huts were built with wattle and thatch were very small and had only one room, one door and one window. The planters preferred that the slaves did all their domestic work outside so that they would be in plain sight of them.
The planters used the division of labour to maximize profitability and the efficiency of their plantation. The whites were responsible for administrating punishment, planning work and supervising the work done by labourers. The whites were responsible for controlling the slaves and to do so they enforced different laws. The whites would sound an alarm every morning to start the day’s work and one at the end of the day. This was a good way to ensure that all slaves were working on the...
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