Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa by Catherine Higgs

By Catherine Higgs

In Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, Catherine Higgs strains the early-twentieth-century trip of the Englishman Joseph Burtt to the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe—the chocolate islands—through Angola and Mozambique, and at last to British Southern Africa. Burtt were employed by means of the chocolate company Cadbury Brothers constrained to figure out if the cocoa it was once deciding to buy from the islands have been harvested by means of slave workers forcibly recruited from Angola, an allegation that turned one of many grand scandals of the early colonial period. Burtt spent six months on São Tomé and Príncipe and a 12 months in Angola. His five-month march throughout Angola in 1906 took him from innocence and credulity to outrage and activism and finally helped switch hard work recruiting practices in colonial Africa.

This superbly written and fascinating commute narrative attracts on collections in Portugal, the uk, and Africa to discover British and Portuguese attitudes towards paintings, slavery, race, and imperialism. In a narrative nonetheless general a century after Burtt’s sojourn, Chocolate Islands unearths the idealism, naivety, and racism that formed attitudes towards Africa, even between those that sought to enhance the stipulations of its employees.

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He stayed in the guest quarters at the Eastern Telegraph Company’s compound at the invitation of A. G. Ceffala, whom Cadbury had met in Lisbon. A gentle sea breeze cooled the house, curtains around his bed kept out malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and the sound of the surf lulled him to sleep. Though the island sits just north of the equator, the night temperature was in the seventies, pleasantly cool for June. From the rear veranda, palm and banana trees, “with the head of the fruit stalk hanging down like a purple snake,” filled the view, and in the distance, he saw the island’s low volcanic mountains.

Johnston’s assessment was more generous. In a presentation to the Royal Geographical Society in London, he praised the islands’ natural beauty; the abundant vegetation and fruit trees; the extensive infrastructure of churches, schools, stores, and hospitals; and the effective system of official apprenticeship introduced following the abolition of slavery in 1875. The islands, Johnston asserted, “might be considered an ideal paradise for the Negroes, and those of S. ”13 Portuguese indignation also revealed a fundamentally different interpretation of work.

He would have fretted even more had he known that Cadbury had sought the advice about suitable representatives from H. R. Fox Bourne, the mercurial secretary of the Aborigines’ Protection Society (APS). Founded in 1837, the APS shared the Anti-Slavery Society’s mission to end slavery, but it also had a broader agenda to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in both British and foreign colonies. Fox Bourne was a thorn in the side of the British Foreign Office; he condemned the contracting of workers for the Transvaal as slave trading and was harsher still in his assessment of the Congo Free State.

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