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The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History (Studies in Comparative World History) Paperback – February 13, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0521629430 ISBN-10: 0521629438 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Comparative World History
  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (February 13, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521629438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521629430
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Anyone interested in New World foundations should begin with this collection; even experts will find thought-provoking moments here." R.T. Brown, Choice

"...the breadth of Curtin's coverage and the immense learning and influence that he brings to this difficult task of synthesis doubtless puts The Rise and Fall on the short list of essential readings for anyone interested in Atlantic history." Francisco A. Scarano, International Journal of African History Studies

Book Description

Over a period of several centuries, Europeans developed an intricate system of plantation agriculture overseas which was quite different from the agricultural system used at home. Though the plantation complex centered on the American tropics, its influence was much wider. Much more than an economic order for the Americas, the plantation complex had an important place in world history. These essays concentrate on the intercontinental impact.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bill Perez on November 20, 1997
Format: Paperback
Despite being laced with annoying typos (this is from Cambridge Univ. Press?), I found the substance of the book to be most informative. The slave-labor sugar/cotton/tobacco plantation is a familar feature of early modern history, and is usually encountered in regional histories of, say, the Caribbean, or Brazil, or the United States. But this book traces the "plantation complex" from its beginnings in the eastern Mediterranean, on Cyprus, through its spread across the Atlantic, and its final last gasps in this century. People who are used to thinking of "slave plantations" exclusively in the context of the United States will be disappointed. For reasons explained by the author, his primary focus is on the sugar plantations of the New World--these tended to be purer examples of the phenomenon. He also spends a good deal of time analyzing the impact on African societies and economies; material which I found especially instructive. The account of the stepwise demise of slavery in Brazil was also very enlightening, especially how emancipation became an economic opportunity for entire classes of slaveholding plantation owners in the 1870's, similar to "mass layoffs" today. I think this book is crucial to understanding where the "New World" stands today--racially, economically and socially. You just have to ignore the typos.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on March 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
In a way I shudder at the idea of reviewing a book like Philip D. Curtin's "The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History" for the simple fact that a book containing fourteen detailed essays is daunting to summarize. Which essay should receive the most attention? The reviewer of Curtin's book soon realizes that such a question does not have an easy answer. Nearly all of the articles contained in this slim volume warrant far more attention than I can give them in a 1000 word review. I'll have to resort to sweeping generalization in the main, most likely, but that's acceptable considering the focus of these writings deals with a sweeping topic. Atlantic history is metahistory, encompassing as it does some three or four hundred years and stretching through Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and North America. It is also a story filled with tales of exploration, greed, bondage, and freedom. Atlantic history is a hot topic from what I've gathered, what with books like Marcus Rediker's "The Many Headed Hydra" gaining quite a lot of attention in the academic world. Then again, maybe I think it's a pressing subject since I've read several books on the theme for a class at school.

Curtin focuses on the rise and spread of the plantation complex, which he calls an "entity," beginning with the discovery of sugar in the Mediterranean during the time of the Crusades. Located primarily on the island of Cyprus, Europeans harvested sugar there for roughly two hundred years. With the reconquest of the Levant by Muslims, growers and consumers sought out new sources of the product. Enter the slow move into the New World and the introduction of a plantation structure that was feudalistic in nature, relied on slave labor, and was controlled by a political system overseas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Pactor VINE VOICE on July 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think I've mentioned this before, but always be on the look out for history books, published by Cambridge University Press, that cost less then five bucks. Paying attention to the publisher can save you a lot of wasted reading time.

A major trend in history over the last thirty years has been the shift away from books that dealt with The History of Country X or The History of the Such and Such War to books that try to relate multiple events to one another as well as the elaboration of areas of inquiry that span separate historical subjects. A major example of this trend is the rise of "Atlantic History" which seeks to relate what happened in the new world with events in the old world in a specific and non-specious manner. In American History, the most notable authors in this area are David Hackett Fischer and his seminal Albion's Seed as well as Bernard Bailyn.

The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex is a simple example of what I would call the "new atlantic history," written in an easy to read prose style that makes it accessible to anyone with an undergraduate level education. Curtin charts the rise of the Plantation complex in south America and the Caribbean with reference to the internal history of Africa, the settlement history of the New World, economic history and a heavy emphasis on demographics. It's a sophisticated, of the moment approach which undoubtably explains why the edition I read was the 13th edition of the 2nd printing (i.e. it's a hit.) Perhaps the success has something to do with the moderate length (200 pages) and almost total lack of foot notes- I'm guessing this book is an undergraduate staple in history departments on three different continents.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bill Perez on May 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Despite being laced with annoying typos (this is from Cambridge Univ. Press?), I found the substance of the book to be most informative. The slave-labor sugar/cotton/tobacco plantation is a familar feature of early modern history, and is usually encountered in regional histories of, say, the Caribbean, or Brazil, or the United States. But this book traces the "plantation complex" from its beginnings in the eastern Mediterranean, on Cyprus, through its spread across the Atlantic, to its final last gasps in this century. People who are used to thinking of "slave plantations" exclusively in the context of the United States will be disappointed. For reasons explained by the author, his primary focus is on the sugar plantations of the New World--these tended to be purer examples of the phenomenon. He also spends a good deal of time analyzing the impact on African societies and economies; material which I found especially instructive. The account of the stepwise demise of slavery in Brazil was also very enlightening, especially how emancipation became an economic opportunity for entire classes of slaveholding plantation owners in the 1870's, similar to "mass layoffs" today. I think this book is crucial to understanding where the "New World" stands today--racially, economically and socially. You just have to ignore the typos.
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The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History (Studies in Comparative World History)
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