Botany in the Service of Empire: The Barbados Cane‐Breeding Program and the Revival of the Caribbean Sugar Industry, 1880s–1930s

Title

Botany in the Service of Empire: The Barbados Cane‐Breeding Program and the Revival of the Caribbean Sugar Industry, 1880s–1930s

Creator

J. H. Galloway

Source

Publisher

Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Volume86, Issue4, December 1996, Pages 682-706

Date

1996

Coverage

Abstract
This paper is a report on a scientific revolution in agriculture that has so far largely escaped the notice of the scholarly community. In the late nineteenth century the Caribbean sugar industry was in a state of crisis caused by competition from the subsidized European sugar beet industry and by disease in the naturally occurring varieties of sugar cane. The revolution consisted of breeding disease‐resistant, sucrose‐rich varieties to replace the diseased ones. The cane‐breeding program, based in Barbados, was successful, and was a major factor in enabling the Caribbean sugar industry to evolve into a modern agribusiness. The Introduction to the paper describes the crisis in the sugar cane industry, sets the cane‐breeding program in the context of a “benign kind of agricultural imperialism” that was promoted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and adopted as policy by the British Colonial Office, and notes that cane breeding was part of a wider interest in the improvement of commercially important plants. The greater part of the paper consists of an examination of (a) the cane‐breeding program in Barbados and (b) the diffusion of the new varieties to other Caribbean islands. The career of John Redman Bovell, who was in charge of the program in Barbados, receives special attention. The paper draws on archival sources as well as on the specialized literature of cane breeders.

Citation

J. H. Galloway, “Botany in the Service of Empire: The Barbados Cane‐Breeding Program and the Revival of the Caribbean Sugar Industry, 1880s–1930s,” Biblioteca de la Ciencia Hispánica en Estados Pequeños, accessed June 21, 2024, https://biblioteca.ictal.org/items/show/235.

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