Title page for ETD etd-0228103-142646

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Vaughan, Elizabeth
Author's Email Address vaughan@lsu.edu
URN etd-0228103-142646
Title Louisiana Sugar: A Geohistorical Perspective
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Geography and Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Carville Earle Committee Chair
Craig Colten Committee Member
John Grimes Committee Member
Kent Mathewson Committee Member
Kalliat Valsaraj Dean's Representative
  • capitalism
  • agricultural history
  • Louisiana history
  • sugar
  • geography
  • agricultural economics
Date of Defense 2002-12-20
Availability unrestricted
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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