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Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business Paperback – July 27, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This exhaustive history of forced labor practices on the Portuguese colonial islands of São Tomé and Principé from 1901-1913 and the failed efforts on the part of the British government and British chocolate companies to force change brings to life the journalists, community leaders, businessmen and politicians whose goal of abolishing slavery was the same, but whose efforts were too often derailed by ego, politics and interpersonal conflict. Satre focuses on Cadbury Bros.-specifically William Cadbury, contrasting his well-intentioned efforts with those of journalist Henry Nevinson, whose book, A Modern Slavery, was the first to paint a vivid picture of the islands' brutal conditions and to stir popular ire. Cadbury Bros. later sued the Standard newspaper for libel, claiming one of the paper's editorials had injured the company's credit and reputation. Satre's title would lead readers to believe that the ensuing trial is the main feature of the book, when, in fact, it takes up two chapters. However, it reinforces Satre's contention that no matter how well-intentioned and philanthropic William Cadbury and the British government seemed, they waited far too long to take action. Photos.
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“This is a well-written, marvelously researched, and utterly fascinating study of an episode in the social, political, economic, and even religious history of imperial Britain.”
— Thomas C. Kennedy, author of British Quakerism, 1860–1920: The Transformation of a Religious Community

“Lowell Satre has written a fascinating book that addresses a question perennial to modern day commercial economies where complex chains of supply are at the root of production.... Satre's work is invaluable for identifying the context of today's problems, the significance of law, and strategies for mobilization.”
Law and History Review

“Satre’s story-telling ability is maintained to the very last page.... The author handles the impressive breadth of government, business, journalistic and private primary sources and evidence in a controlled and balanced way.... Satre deftly exposes the firm in this nuanced social and political history.”
Journal of African History

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press; 1 edition (July 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082141626X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0821416266
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,314,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This superb book studies the connection between slavery in West Africa and the British, and Quaker, firm of Cadbury, particularly in the first decade of the twentieth century.

From the 15th century, the slave trade was the foundation of the Portuguese empire. Even in the early 1900s, Angola was still a slave state, with half its people enslaved. The British Empire was an ally of Portugal, so it was complicit in the slavery. Portugal's islands of Sao Tome and Principe, 150 miles off Africa's west coast, had 40,000 slaves producing cocoa beans which Cadbury had been buying since 1886. From 1901 to 1908, Cadbury got half its beans from the islands.

A Foreign Office official noted, "The fact of the matter is that the system is neither more nor less than slavery but that we do not dare to say much as we might thus offend the Portuguese with whom we desire to stand well." In the 1900s, the British Empire was trying to recruit African labour from Portuguese Africa for its gold mines in South Africa. The Foreign Office warned against the "danger of learning inconvenient facts which might oblige us to make representations to the Portuguese Govt. which we don't want to do." So Britain, like Portugal, ignored the treaties obliging them to act to halt the slave trade. Prime Minister Lord Salisbury ordered, "Leave it alone."

In 1901, William Cadbury first heard rumours of slave labour on the islands. All the evidence that he later received confirmed that there was a brutal slave trade in Angola, that the labourers on the islands were forced, that the death rate was huge (often 20% a year), and that none was free ever to leave. Yet Cadbury did not boycott the products of slave labour until 1909.
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Format: Paperback
Lowell Satre's book provides an exhaustive account of the positions of British anti-slavery activists, the Cadbury company, and British government officials with regard to the use of Portuguese colonial slave labour to produce cacao on Sao Tome (off the coast of Angola) in the first decade of the 20th Century. The first half of the book, in particular, is very completist in terms of detailing what must be virtually every statement or piece of correspondence by or between the three camps on the subject of slave labour and what should be done about it. This is brilliant if you want to use the book for academic research, but can be a little hard going (with some repetition) if you do not. In essence, all parties agree that something needs to be done about the use of Portuguese slave labour (nominally contract labour), but each adopts a different approach as to how to go about it. The activists want the Cadbury company (and other chocolate companies) to boycott cacao from Sao Tome, and for the British government to use force if necessary to ensure the Portuguese government honours existing laws prohibiting slavery, and allowing for repatriation of workers at the end of their contracts. The Cadbury family come out strongly against slave labour but hold a view that they must be guided by the government and that, at least initially, a boycott would exacerbate rather than resolve the situation. The British government do not like the use of slave labour but are loathe to openly antagonise their Portuguese allies, preferring to apply a certain diplomatic pressure over time. All this leads up to the famous Cadbury Bros v The Standard Newspaper libel trial of 1909. The Standard accused Cadbury's of hypocrisy over its position on Sao Tome, and Cadbury's felt the need to defend its reputation.Read more ›
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Great book to learn more about the history of the slave trade and ethical business. I recommend this book for business people.
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