“The second overarching initial condition was that Brazil’s soils and climate were ideal for sugar cultivation, and thus form the sixteenth century onward it was one of the world’s major sugar producers. Sugar has a number of features that predisposed it to being grown on immense plantations with slave labor. If cut sugar cane is left unprocessed for more than 12 hours, the crop is lost to fermentation. Additionally, there are tremendous economies of scale in the milling of cane and the processing of the resulting cane juice into sugar; grinding mills and boilers left idle represent money lost. As a result, there has to be very careful coordination of the harvesting and processing of sugar. The most efficient organization of the production is for the processors to own the plantations where the cane is grown, so that cane can be cut and delivered to the mill at a pace dictated by the machines. That organization of production presents something of a problem from the point of view of managing a labor force: cutting cane with a machete in the tropical sun at a pace determined by immense grinding machines is not just backbreaking, it is soul destroying. The grim solution was to use slaves, organized into gangs, so that the pace of work could be maintained regardless of what happened to backs or souls.”

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