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The Sugar Masters: Planters and Slaves in Louisiana's Cane World, 1820-1860

The Sugar Masters: Planters and Slaves in Louisiana's Cane World, 1820-1860

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Focusing on the masterslave relationship in Louisiana's antebellum sugarcane country, The Sugar Masters explores how a modern, capitalist mindset among planters meshed with oldstyle paternalistic attitudes to create one of the South's most insidiously oppressive labor systems. As author Richard Follett vividly demonstrates, the agricultural paradise of Louisiana's thriving sugarcane fields came at an unconscionable cost to slaves. But above all, labor management was the secret to the planters' impressive success. Follett explains how in exchange for increased productivity and efficiency planters offered their slaves a range of incentives, such as greater autonomy, improved accommodations, and even financial remuneration. These material gains, however, were only short term. Until recently, scholars have viewed planters as either paternalistic lords who eschewed marketplace values or as entrepreneurs driven to business success. Follett offers a new view of the sugar masters as embracing both the capitalist market and a social ideology based on hierarchy, honor, and paternalism. His stunning synthesis of empirical research, demographics study, and social and cultural history sets a new standard for this subject. AUTHOR BIO: Richard Follett teaches American history at the University of Sussex, England.