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