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Ulbe Bosma

Existing literature and available demographic data suggest a strong divergence between Java and the Outer Islands with regard to nineteenth-century demographic trends. In this article, I argue that such a divergence is highly plausible, because of the inchoate vaccination efforts against smallpox in the Outer Islands in contrast with those on Java during the nineteenth century. I suggest that further research is needed into other factors that might also have contributed to the perceived divergence. These include relatively low birth rates in the Outer Islands as well as the ubiquity of slavery in this part of the Indonesian archipelago and its exposure to slave-raiding and the slave trade. The article concludes by arguing that, in all likelihood, demographic growth was very limited in most, but not all, of the Outer Islands up to the late nineteenth century.

Open Access

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Edited by Ulbe Bosma and Karin Hofmeester

The Life Work of a Labor Historian: Essays in Honor of Marcel van der Linden (eds. Ulbe Bosma and Karin Hofmeester), presents the latest developments in the history of labor and capitalism. As part of Global Labor History, Jan Lucassen, Magaly Rodrígues García, Sidney Chalhoub, and Willem van Schendel discuss new concepts of work and workers, including sex workers, slaves in Brazil, and voluntary communal laborers in North-East India, while Andreas Eckert shows the relevance of area studies. Jürgen Kocka presents a history of capitalism and its critics to date, Pepijn Brandon analyzes Marx’s ideas on the link between free and coerced labor, and Jan Breman looks at the effects of capitalism on rural solidarity through the lens of Tocqueville.
Open Access

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Ulbe Bosma and Karin Hofmeester

Open Access

Jonathan Curry-Machado and Ulbe Bosma

Sugar had become, by the eighteenth century, a global commodity. Originating in East Asia, plantations in the Americas fed the growing taste for its use in Europe, with its consumption increasingly popularised. The 1791 Revolution in Saint Domingue (Haiti) and the 1807 British abolition of the slave trade prompted shifts in the epicentres of sugar, the most important of these being arguably to Cuba and Java. These two fertile islands saw the burgeoning development of sugar-plantation systems with major inputs of foreign capital and forced labour. In the process the two islands each, respectively, became central to the very much truncated Spanish and Dutch colonial empires left after the Napoleonic wars and the Latin American wars of liberation; and by the mid-nineteenth century in the case of Cuba, and by the late nineteenth century in the case of Java, they had been catapulted to global sugar pre-eminence. There has been an abundance of study on the two islands each in their own right, but none systematically examines their parallel trajectories. Yet the question arises as to how sugar came to dominate the agriculture, industry and trade of these two islands; and how these two islands in particular, in two different colonial systems and parts of the world, should rise to sugar pre-eminence in the way they did and when they did. Are there connections and similarities between the two that help explain this phenomenon? This article analyses the conditions that led Java and Cuba to become the prime cane-sugar exporters of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Initiative for this came from the linkages between their dominant elites and the transnational, transimperial networks of trade and capital. This furthered the stimulation of technological and scientific innovation in both, enabled not only through the introduction of the latest advances in machinery and method, but also the immigration of technical skilled workers from Europe and North America. New sugar frontiers were opened that offered room for expansion at a time of rapidly growing demand for sugar in Europe; but for this to occur, radical changes needed to be made to the system of land ownership and use. At the same solutions were needed for how to mobilise and control sufficient labour without jeopardising the colonial order. This question eventually came to dominate the political system through which social control could be ensured – particularly, because Cuba and Java came to be ever more closely tied to global capital and trade; and both islands become dominated by sugar while at the same time coming to dominate global sugar production.

No Access

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Edited by Ulbe Bosma, Gijs Kessler and Leo Lucassen