Cuban Sugar Industry: Transnational Networks and Engineering Migrants in Mid-Nineteenth Century Cuba

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9780230111394: Cuban Sugar Industry: Transnational Networks and Engineering Migrants in Mid-Nineteenth Century Cuba
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Technological innovation was central to nineteenth-century Cuba’s lead in world sugar manufacture. Along with steam-powered machinery came migrant engineers, indispensable aliens who were well rewarded for their efforts. These migrant engineers remained perennial outsiders, symbolic of Cuba's growing economic dependency, privileged scapegoats unconsciously caught up in the island's political insecurities. This book tells the story of a group of forgotten migrant workers who anonymously contributed to Cuba's development and whose experience helps illuminate both the advance of the Cuban sugar industry and the processes by which the island was bound into global commodity-driven networks of control, dependency, and resistance.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Curry-Machado is a Fellow in the Technology and Agrarian Development group at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, where he is involved with the “Commodities and Anticommodities” program, researching rural society in the Hispanic Caribbean in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, its diversity, and resistance to and accommodation with the extension of sugar-cane cultivation. He is also an Associate Fellow in the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London, where he coordinates the British Academy-supported Commodities of Empire project.

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“History at its best--crafted to link commodity and migration history, documenting networks of merchants, manufacturers, and skilled workers and how their mobility and knowledge transfer catapulted nineteenth-century Cuba to the pinnacle of global sugar production and trade, regaling us with a window onto the forgotten lives of itinerant maquinistas following the routes of British steam-driven technology, a world in which they enjoyed the privileges of a foreign white enclave in a slave plantation economy yet were also social outsiders, both catalysts and scapegoats when the contradictions of Spanish colonial slave society in an epoch of British abolitionism, erupted in the 1844 Ladder Conspiracy. A veritable tour de force in global labour history.”--Jean Stubbs, Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London

“Jonathan Curry-Machado’s social history of the engineers and mechanics that immigrated from northern Europe and North America to Cuba during the first half of the nineteenth century provides an original perspective on the industrialization of world cane sugar production and Cuba’s pioneering position in it. Curry-Machado carefully reconstructs the role of these foreign technicians in the transformation of the Cuban sugar industry, and effectively situates their experience within the tensions deriving from the relations between global networks and local conditions, technological change in a slave economy, and foreign identity in a colonial society. This book will be of interest to specialists and general readers alike.”--Dale Tomich, Binghamton University

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