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Chocolate Islands

Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa

Catherine Higgs

Publication Year: 2012

In Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa, Catherine Higgs traces the early-twentieth-century journey of the Englishman Joseph Burtt to the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe—the chocolate islands—through Angola and Mozambique, and finally to British Southern Africa. Burtt had been hired by the chocolate firm Cadbury Brothers Limited to determine if the cocoa it was buying from the islands had been harvested by slave laborers forcibly recruited from Angola, an allegation that became one of the grand scandals of the early colonial era. Burtt spent six months on São Tomé and Príncipe and a year in Angola. His five-month march across Angola in 1906 took him from innocence and credulity to outrage and activism and ultimately helped change labor recruiting practices in colonial Africa.

This beautifully written and engaging travel narrative draws on collections in Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Africa to explore British and Portuguese attitudes toward work, slavery, race, and imperialism. In a story still familiar a century after Burtt’s sojourn, Chocolate Islands reveals the idealism, naivety, and racism that shaped attitudes toward Africa, even among those who sought to improve the conditions of its workers.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book is about an Englishman’s journey through Africa in the first decade of the twentieth century, undertaken as European colonial powers were tightening their grip on the continent. The traveler’s name was Joseph Burtt. He had been hired by William A. Cadbury on behalf of the British chocolate firm Cadbury Brothers Limited ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

I am grateful to the many librarians, archivists, colleagues, and friends who have made this book possible. Dorothy Woodson, curator of the African Collection at Yale University, gave me access to the collection of James Duffy’s papers donated by his widow in 2000. They restored to the archival record the set of letters ...


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pp. xv-xvi

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Prologue: Joseph Burtt and William Cadbury

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pp. 1-8

Joseph Burtt and William Cadbury shared a concern for the English worker, an opposition to slavery in any form, and through their membership in the Society of Friends, a long acquaintance. Their paths crossed professionally in 1904 when Cadbury, a director of the chocolate firm Cadbury Brothers Limited, ...

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Chapter One: Cocoa Controversy

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pp. 9-24

On an April morning in 1901, William Cadbury sat at his desk in Bournville reading a catalog from a cocoa estate in São Tomé. The catalog accompanied an offer to purchase the roça (agricultural estate) named Trazos-Montes on the island of São Tomé. The estate’s 6,175 acres, its buildings, machinery, tools, and vehicles ...

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Chapter Two: Chocolate Island

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pp. 25-55

Standing on the pier of the Água-Izé plantation on a bright and beautiful morning in June 1905, Joseph Burtt watched twenty men leisurely unload boxes of parts that would become a cocoa-drying machine. Behind him was São Tomé’s lush equatorial forest, before him the Atlantic Ocean shining silver with fish. ...

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Chapter Three: Sleeping Sickness and Slavery

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pp. 56-70

At seventy-one square miles, the tiny island was a mere “speck on the map,” oneseventh the size of São Tomé, though similar in geography and climate. Burtt’s contact on Príncipe was B. W. E. Bull, “a coloured man” who managed the island’s telegraph station. Burtt thought him a “capital fellow” and assured William Cadbury ...

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Chapter Four: Luanda and the Coast

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pp. 71-95

Joseph Burtt arrived in Luanda in December 1905, his vision of the capital city already shaped by Henry Nevinson’s sonorous prose. Harper’s readers imagined Luanda from the sanctuary of Our Lady of Salvation, a church built in 1664, its walls adorned with blue and white tiles depicting the occupation of the bay by Christian soldiers in 1575. ...

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Chapter Five: The Slave Route

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pp. 96-115

The 750-mile journey from Benguela to Kavungu on Angola’s eastern border took Joseph Burtt and his party along a path familiar to local African traders, soldiers, slaves, and slave dealers. Portuguese had joined the parade of travelers beginning in the late fifteenth century. When Burtt set out in mid-1906, ...

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Chapter Six: Mozambican Miners

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pp. 116-132

Lourenço Marques, on Africa’s east coast, was a young city with an old name that honored the Portuguese ship captain who had traded for ivory with Africans at Delagoa Bay in 1542. The development of the port and the town began in earnest only in 1877, after Britain conceded Portugal’s right to Delagoa Bay, ...

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Chapter Seven: Cadbury, Burtt, and Portuguese Africa

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pp. 133-154

In mid-March 1907, William Cadbury sent proof copies of Joseph Burtt’s report to his fellow Quaker chocolate makers Fry and Rowntree and to the German firm Stollwerck in Cologne, accompanied by a bill for just under £705, or one-quarter of the cost of Burtt’s African sojourn. ...

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Epilogue: Cocoa and Slavery

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pp. 155-166

The Portuguese translation of William Cadbury’s report appeared in Lisbon and Porto in January 1910 under the title Os Serviçaes de S. Thomé (The Servants of S. Thomé). In his preface, Cadbury noted that the July 1909 labor reforms had done little to alleviate his concerns. ...

A Note on Currency

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pp. 167-168

A Note on Sources

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pp. 169-172

Abbreviations in the Notes

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pp. 173-174


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pp. 175-210

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 211-224


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pp. 225-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444221
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821420065

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 804048993
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Chocolate Islands

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Forced labor -- Sao Tome and Principe -- History.
  • Slavery -- Sao Tome and Principe -- History.
  • Cacao -- Harvesting -- Sao Tome and Principe -- History.
  • Cacao -- Harvesting -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Cacao growers -- Sao Tome and Principe -- History.
  • Portugal -- Colonies -- Africa -- Administration.
  • Burtt, Joseph, 1862-1939 -- Travel -- Africa, West.
  • Cadbury, William A. (William Adlington), 1867-1957.
  • Cadbury Brothers -- History.
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