American Sugar Kingdom

The Plantation Economy of the Spanish Caribbean, 1898-1934

By César J. Ayala

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 35 tables, 3 maps, 3 figs., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4788-6
    Published: November 1999
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6797-6
    Published: November 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6959-3
    Published: November 2009

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Awards & distinctions

A 2000 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Engaging conventional arguments that the persistence of plantations is the cause of economic underdevelopment in the Caribbean, this book focuses on the discontinuities in the development of plantation economies in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic in the early twentieth century. César Ayala analyzes and compares the explosive growth of sugar production in the three nations following the War of 1898--when the U.S. acquired Cuba and Puerto Rico--to show how closely the development of the Spanish Caribbean's modern economic and social class systems is linked to the history of the U.S. sugar industry during its greatest period of expansion and consolidation.

Ayala examines patterns of investment and principal groups of investors, interactions between U.S. capitalists and native planters, contrasts between new and old regions of sugar monoculture, the historical formation of the working class on sugar plantations, and patterns of labor migration. In contrast to most studies of the Spanish Caribbean, which focus on only one country, his account places the history of U.S. colonialism in the region, and the history of plantation agriculture across the region, in comparative perspective.

About the Author

César J. Ayala is professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
For more information about César J. Ayala, visit the Author Page.


"Ayala makes an important contribution to Caribbean economic history with this comparative study of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. . . . An original work of tremendous interest to scholars concerned with Caribbean history, economic geography, corporate agriculture, and the political economy of development."--Cuban Studies

"Ayala has produced an accessible study of sugar in the Spanish Caribbean that will appeal to a broad audience of readers ranging from advanced undergraduates to economists, political scientists, and area specialists. Useful tables and clear, concise maps as well as detailed endnotes and an ample bibliography make this book a valuable reference tool not only for Latin Americanists, but also for anyone with interests as diverse as comparative colonialism and global economics."--Americas

"As meticulous in its research as it is evocative in its approach, Ayala's book is, without doubt, a significant contribution to the complex problem of the Caribbean plantation."--Journal of American History

"Both a contribution to the study of the sugar industry in the Caribbean and an examination of the processes of American imperialism in this tropical setting. . . . An excellent book that deserves a wide readership."--American Historical Review

"[This book] is a very welcome addition to the historiography of the Caribbean and to development-underdevelopment theory."--Business History Review

"[This book] excels in providing a coherent comparative analysis of capitalist underdevelopment in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic."--Latin American Research Review