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  • The Mechanical Plantation: Picturing Sugar Production in the Encyclopédie

Among the eighty-three illustrations of agriculture in Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie are several depicting colonial plantations.1 Grouped together in a section titled “Economie et Agriculture Rustique,” scenes of tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar production appear among images of domestic agriculture, such as plowing, caring for grapevines, and making hemp. The colonial agriculture takes place on island plantations, except for tobacco, where the location is not indicated. A reader viewing this section sees a succession of illustrations of familiar rural activities occurring in a temperate region, interrupted by a few scenes taking place in the tropics, as if the latter were simply topographical variations of the French landscape, and not over 4,000 miles from France’s west coast.

Visually locating the West Indian colonies as if they were attached to France is one of many pictorial devices that served to normalize, indeed promote, France’s colonial ambitions by figuring plantation agriculture as a productive, efficient and rational method of exploiting human and constructed technologies for the benefit of the French economy. These qualities are amplified by the images’ emphasis on mechanical processes through detailed, close-up views of tools and machines that drive the organization of labor, that are typical of all of the Encyclopédie’s illustrations of labor. Although [End Page 71] the plantation images do not function entirely independently of articles in the text volumes, and figure as parts of a thematic collection, they act as a discrete visual information system, communicating the philosophes’ essentially favorable views on colonialism, and by extension, on slavery, in ways that texts cannot.

Scholarship on the Encyclopédie illustrations has paid some attention to the agricultural illustrations but very little to the plantation scenes.2 In what follows, my aim is to show how these images portrayed colonialism as a desirable and financially viable enterprise for the French nation as it sought to recover from the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763). The volume that included the agricultura; series was published in 1762 after six years of conflict with Britain, during which time France had lost Quebec and other parts of New France in North America, as well as its forts in Senegal and territory in India. For a time, France had also lost most of its Caribbean colonies to the British, although Saint-Domingue, Martinique, and Guadeloupe were regained by 1763.3 The damage to the French economy was devastating, and by 1760, the country was nearly bankrupt.4 The 1763 Treaty of Paris left France with its most valuable Caribbean colonies but without most of its North American possessions. I do not suggest that the images were intentionally published when they were for the explicit purpose of responding to the war, but given the effects of the conflict, the appearance of the colonies as securely linked to French soil would surely have conveyed the idea that increased investment in large-scale, mechanized monoculture plantations would restore France’s stability, and more importantly, would secure them for the nation.

I approach these images in terms of what Jill H. Casid calls “plantation as discourse.”5 Connecting representation and practice, she writes,

“…the colonial landscape was planted and replanted not only through successive eras of colonial plantation but through forms of reproductive print, visual and textual, that were to serve as prototypical models of colonial relandscaping[;]…printed views, diagrams, maps, and plans … acted primarily as vehicles for the dissemination and production of imperial power, whether in the beneficent guise of…landscape or the abstracted geometry of machinic drafting.”6

I contend that the Encyclopédie’s plantation scenes, as images circulating among the other prints, views, and texts mentioned above, similarly performed the work of spreading colonialist aims. Moreover, as descriptions of occupations and labor (the “arts et métiers” of the Encyclopédie), they fetishize technology, to the point where they figure the colonial plantation in its entirety as a perfectly synchronized machine. [End Page 72]

In what follows, I briefly provide background on the Encyclopédie’s publication chronology and address the illustrations’ visual properties and organization. I then turn to the seven plates that illustrate sugar processing as the focus of an analysis of the plantation images’ rhetorical strategies. Throughout this essay, I will vary the terminology referring to the illustrations in order to avoid repetition. Typically, the illustrations are called “plates,” a reference to the copper plates on which the engravings are incised; the term in French is “planche;” I will use the latter term when referencing whole pages of pictures, and will use others, such as “image” and “illustration,” when referring to the content of scenes and views.

Diderot’s Prospectus for the Encyclopédie (1750) promised 600 illustrations in two volumes.7 By the time the project was finally completed, there were eleven volumes of illustrations containing nearly 3,000 images, all black and white engravings, and all published separately from the text volumes. Publication of the text volumes began in 1751, with an interruption starting in 1759, due to the State’s censorship; the last 10 volumes were published in 1765. The illustrations were published between 1762 and 1772; the agricultural pictures appeared in the first volume. Because of this publication schedule, seven volumes, subjects A through G, were published with no access to illustrations.

Diderot considered the images essential to the Encyclopédie, and he exercised a great deal of control over the choice of which texts to illustrate and how many plates would be devoted to each article.8 Such was his micromanaging that the engraver Jean-Michel Papillon complained that Diderot made corrections to drawings without discussion with the engravers, resulting at times in the removal of key parts of the picture.9 Whatever Diderot’s precise role may have been in designing the plantation images, we can safely assume that their content and style were assiduously planned. He was also aware of the importance of the visual as a kind of language that would clarify and amplify comprehension of the processes described in the texts, as the Prospectus explains:

Mai le peu d’habitude qu’on a et à écrire sur les arts, rend les chose difficiles à expliquer d’une manière intelligible. De là naît le besoin de figures. … Un coup d’oeuil sur l’object ou sur la repreesentation en dit plus qu’un page de discours.10

The illustrations’ content is certainly important in considering their impact on the viewer, but what is often ignored in image analysis is the role of style, composition, and relationship to other images in structuring visual rhetorical strategies. Diderot’s style and composition unite in the images to instruct [End Page 73] and elucidate, so that every aspect of the illustrations constitutes a visual appeal to reason. The majority of these pages are composed in registers with one wide view at the top and details of the topic’s components below; the latter might comprise tools, machines, or raw materials, depending on the occupation. Diderot explained that this composition was a means of further clarification and simplification: “c’est ainsi qu’on a formé successivement la machine la plus compliquée sans aucun ambarras ni pour l’esprit ni pour les yeux.”11 This pictorial organization contributes to the didactic quality of the images and produces a sense of being lectured to by a patient and knowledgeable teacher using actual objects to demonstrate how they function. Although occasionally embellished with flourishes derived from contemporary rococo painting, the pictures fulfill Diderot’s aims. For the most part, the engravings are linear, spare, and painstakingly detailed; they are nothing if not intelligible. Their uniformity of style and composition emphasizes veracity, neutrality, and order, demonstrating otherwise unseen relationships between wholes and parts with a reassuring omniscience. This stylistic impartiality is in itself a form of persuasion: it produces a visual regime in which a predictable and well-ordered universe operates according to reason. No human emotion, no passion, appears to have distorted the truth of these visual representations. Viewing the plantation images, the viewer would have been influenced as much by this stylistic disinterestedness as by the precise descriptions of machines, tools, and carefully choreographed human-machine interactions.

The sugar sequence consists of seven plates representing the plantation and selected elements of sugar production: a plantation landscape and components of sugar production (Plate I); two sugar cane mills (Plate II); equipment and work space for the cane juice boiling process (Plate III); the boiling house and floor plans (Plates IV and V); transfer of concentrated sugar into molds for transfer to heating ovens (Plate VI); and the heating oven (Plate VII). The corresponding articles, “Sucre” and “Sucrerie,” (Vol. XV, 1765) were written by Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Romain, who was the Encyclopédie’s expert on the Caribbean colonies. Because these illustrations were published three years before Le Romain’s articles, the sugar images would have operated entirely independently when viewed at the time of publication.

The first plate introduces the topic in the top register with a wide-angle bird’s-eye view of a plantation landscape spreading out toward a horizon bordered by mountains and palm trees (fig. 1). The bottom register shows key aspects of sugar production depicted individually against a white background: the cane, the drying oven, and tools used for cane cutting and boiling the pulp. Together, these registers set the sequence’s theme of [End Page 74]

Figure 1. Plate 1, Sugar manufacturing. Image courtesy of the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, University of Chicago.
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Figure 1.

Plate 1, Sugar manufacturing. Image courtesy of the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, University of Chicago.

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man’s right to possess and manipulate nature by the efficient coordination of machines and human labor. While appealing and peaceful, the view is one of carefully coordinated spaces of mastery and servitude and of nature and culture. The master’s house sits on an elevated plateau, immediately above the two neat diagonal rows of slave cabins.12 A cane field marks the central horizon and disappears around a bend on the right. A line of six or seven slaves walks directly across the field from the cabins toward the water mill for grinding the cane, the boiling house, a container for the shredded canes, and the drying oven. This is a site of beginnings: the time appears to be early morning, as overseers arrive in the foreground and the slaves leave their homes to begin their labor.13

The elevated area in the immediate foreground situates the viewer above the expansive vista below, allowing for an all-seeing gaze at the property and people below (some of whom are also property). The figure entering the scene in the right-hand foreground surveys the terrain before and below him. He appears to be an overseer; as in other depictions of plantation overseers, he wears a hat and jacket, and carries a long stick. A similar figure enters the scene on the left. Their position on top of a hill suggests that they are arriving from another part of the plantation, hinting at an even greater expanse behind them. The overseers function in the picture as repoussoir figures leading the viewer’s eye into the picture gazing downwards; the reader is invited to share their view and assume their right to dominate. In her study of nationalism and garden design, Brigitte Weltman-Aron interprets Claude-Henri Watelet’s walking eye in his treatise on gardens as “already a metaphor for the conqueror or colonialist, and an immediate inference seems to be that the beholder dominates the landscape by the simple fact that he (partially or totally) sees it. The relation of the beholder to the landscape appears to be posited as one of mastery.”14 The walking eye concept is an apt one for describing the virtual power relations inherent in the positionalities of actual beholders, beholders within the picture, and the terrain under scrutiny.

Having mastered the layout of the impeccably organized plantation, the viewer is introduced to the machines and interior work spaces. Illustrated on the second plate are two views of sugar mills (fig. 2). The mill scenes introduce a sequence of stagings of relationships between humans and machines in which the mechanical processes will increasingly subsume the human presence. The top register shows a mill’s rotation, powered by animal labor, while slaves arrive with bundles of cane and drive the mules. The bottom register shows a water-operated mill with slaves feeding the canes into the grinders. In both images, the slaves are dwarfed by the huge mills, appearing as mere attachments to the threatening machinery. [End Page 76]

Figure 2. Plate II, Sugar Mill. Image courtesy of the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, University of Chicago.
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Figure 2.

Plate II, Sugar Mill. Image courtesy of the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, University of Chicago.

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After grinding, slaves carry the cane pulp to the boiling house. Plate IV shows the interior of a boiling house in three dimensions in the top register and as a floor plan in the bottom register. This building was the most important architectural structure of the sugar works because it is where the slaves boiled and cooled the cane juice until it was ready to be placed in molds for drying or used to make molasses or rum (fig. 3). As with the plantation scene in Plate I, the viewer is ambiguously placed above the work site; by positioning the viewer everywhere and nowhere, the image invites him to assume the role of an all-seeing master. Three slaves attend the boiling and cooling stations; their work appears effortless, even relaxing, and as organized as the neat row of ladles on the shelf above that were used for transferring the boilers’ contents as it progressed through its stages. Across the room, a worker stirs the nearly crystallized substance in a mold, where it will begin the drying process. The space is eerily calm and almost empty, and gives no hint of the heat, the intense concentration, and the coordination of labor required for successful processing.

The final plate (VII) shows a cutaway view of a drying oven, a dark apparition against a blank, depopulated background, the arches and the steps leading nowhere, its sections connecting and disconnecting as in an M. C. Escher lithograph where everything is both logical and impossible (fig. 4). It appears massive due to its relationship to the white space behind it, but the image gives no sense of scale, location, or function, nor does it locate the viewer. Smaller pictures of drying ovens, in Plates I and V, give no indication of scale either. For an image in a sequence so devoted to clarifying mechanical operations, this rendering is oddly secretive, closed in on itself, as if it were intended to represent the essence of machine-ness, the logical culmination of the mechanization of labor.

While the illustrations accurately describe certain aspects of sugar production, they are representations of organizational theories and principles, not of actual activity. The world of these images is one where sugar cane is neatly and mechanically transformed into an edible, marketable substance with minimum human intervention. Technology was clearly important on sugar plantations, but machines did not plant and tend the canes, cut them with machetes, or feed them into the mills. The reality was quite different; what the illustrations leave out is as revealing about their intention as what they include.

France had begun to establish colonies in the Caribbean islands in the seventeenth century, and, by the mid-eighteenth century, they had become enormously successful, especially in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). Fortunes could be made by investing in the slave trade and the plantation economy, and sugar was the most lucrative commodity. During the 1730s [End Page 78]

Figure 3. Plate IV, Boiling house and floor plan. Image courtesy of the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, University of Chicago.
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Figure 3.

Plate IV, Boiling house and floor plan. Image courtesy of the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, University of Chicago.

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Figure 4. Plate VII, Drying Oven. Image courtesy of the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, University of Chicago.
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Figure 4.

Plate VII, Drying Oven. Image courtesy of the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, University of Chicago.

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and 1740s, French sugar exports began to outpace those of the British, with the greatest growth occurring from the 1710s to the 1740s and again between 1765 and the 1790s.15

Sugar cane must be cut at the moment of ripening, and the pulp must be extracted immediately or it will rot, ferment, or dry up. Maps of sugar plantations can provide a sense of how grueling cane cutting was by showing how large the cane fields were compared to the living and work spaces. “Plan de l’habitation des Mesdames la Vicomtesse de Scépaux et Comtesse Dautichamp,” a 1782 map of a sugar plantation on Saint-Domingue, shows the extent to which cane fields dominated the plantation space16 (fig. 5). The large shaded area on the bottom left shows twenty-nine numbered areas of sugar cane; the smaller, lighter area near the bottom center of the cane field indicates the living and working area. The cane field’s expanse and relationship to the work area reveals not only the demands of cutting cane as fast as possible in sweltering heat but also the distance that had to be covered in quickly carrying the canes to the mills. Once cut by teams of slaves, the cane had to be crushed promptly to extract the liquid, and then heated to concentrate the sucrose. When boiled to exactly the right state, the concentrate had to be immediately cooled; this is called “striking.” As the substance cools, it crystallizes, leaving behind molasses, which could be distilled into rum. The partially crystallized sugar was poured into molds and sent to French port cities for refining.17 Since the ripe cane had to be quickly and continuously fed into the mills, the slaves often worked twenty-hour shifts during the annual spring processing season; it was not uncommon for slaves to lose fingers, hands, whole arms, or their lives in the unending cycle of feeding the mills. The cylinders’ rotation could not be stopped in time to save lives if workers were caught in them. Boiling and striking took great skill and careful timing, and the constant standing and lifting the heavy ladles required to transfer the pulp from one boiling pot to the next caused injury and death. All this activity would take place simultaneously, and observers commented on the deafening noise of the mills, the galloping mules, and on the intense heat of the boiling house.18

Every part of the process of sugar production depended on the precise coordination of nature, technology, and the available human labor.19 Too much or too little rain, rain at the wrong times, or sudden drops in temperature, could ruin the harvest. And life on the islands was regularly threatened by the tropical climate, by natural disasters, by disease, by violence, and by slave rebellions.20 While investors, owners, and planters stood to make enormous fortunes, especially from sugar, a successful plantation was a risky and difficult proposition. The version of the modern plantation disseminated in the Encyclopédie images radically transforms the very real dangers and [End Page 81] terrors of plantation life into a predictable, rational system of mechanized wealth creation and national security. Downplaying the human labor not only privileges the machinery of plantation production and dehumanizes the workers, but also it literally diminishes the presence of the slaves, and by extension, of the slave trade and practice of chattel slavery. In many French colonies, slaves outnumbered free people of any race. Their lives were brutal and short, and, due to the lucrative Atlantic slave trade, they were easily replaceable. Some prominent mid-eighteenth-century French thinkers questioned slavery and the slave trade, but as Madeleine Dobie points out, they did so ambivalently, and more often than not, economic concerns mixed with racism prevailed.21 The pristine scenes of plantation labor, with their diminutive slaves casually, even elegantly, performing heavy, dangerous tasks may well have dispelled any of the philosophes’ discomfort about buying and selling human beings in pursuit of economic gain.

Figure 5. Plan de l’habitation des Mesdames la Vicomtesse de Scépaux et Comtesse Dautichamp, 1782. Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
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Figure 5.

Plan de l’habitation des Mesdames la Vicomtesse de Scépaux et Comtesse Dautichamp, 1782. Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

As mentioned above, the plantation images do not function entirely independently from the articles published before 1762. They are not cross-referenced with texts that would seem to be relevant, such as “Colonie.”22 Nevertheless, there are articles besides “Sucre” and “Sucrerie” that support and validate the colonies’ importance to France’s agricultural economy, [End Page 82] although obliquely in some instances. If the viewer of the agriculture plates were to consult Diderot’s brief article, “Economie Rustique” (“Rural Economy”) (Vol. V, 1755), he would discover nothing about agricultural activities, let alone colonies; instead, he would find support for the economic, moral, and civic value of agriculture. The article sends the reader to “Agriculture” (Vol. I, 1751), also by Diderot, where he would learn about domestic agriculture in enormous detail, but still nothing about the colonies, or their role in France’s agricultural economy. Although correlations between the plates and the articles may be difficult to find by cross-referencing (except for “Sucre”), it is possible to discover texts that provide verbal analogies to the images.

Two articles that most clearly relate to the plantation images are François Véron Duverger Forbonnais’ “Colonie” (Vol. III, 1753) and Le Romain’s “Nègres, considérés comme esclaves dans les colonies de l’Amérique” (Negroes considered as slaves in the American colonies) (Vol. XI, 1765). Forbonnais’ article makes a strong case for the commercial benefits of colonialism. For Forbonnais, colonies are territories from which indigenous people must be removed so the cleared, fertile land can be cultivated for the gain of the French State, just as the American colonies were established for the “utility of the metropole.” He makes no mention of human labor, or for that matter of any humans at all, other than when referring to the swift disposal of the natives. The text produces a surreal effect of proximity between faraway places, similar to the sequencing in the agricultural illustrations, with its abrupt transitions between the colonies and mainland territories, as if ownership had the capacity to erase physical distance. Le Romain’s article “Nègres” is essentially a defense of slavery in which he explains that African slavery is necessary in the Caribbean colonies because whites cannot tolerate working in tropical climates. Africans, according to Le Romain, are libertines, vengeful thieves, and liars, although the creoles (those born in the colonies) are respectful of their elders and can become very attached to their masters. He quotes the “Code Noir,” the 1685 French code of laws concerning the status and treatment of slaves, in which slaves are designated as “meubles,” or furniture. These arguments will become standard fare in later defenses of slavery in the 1780s and 1790s during the years leading up to the first abolition of slavery in 1794.

The article “Fermier” (“Farmer”) by François Quesnay (Vol. VI, 1756) does not mention colonies or slavery, but it does recommend an agricultural scenario that sounds very much like the slave plantation system. Quesnay was an important figure at the court of Louis XV, where he was personal physician to the king’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour. He is best known for his writing on agricultural economy. The group that formed [End Page 83] around Quesnay came to be known as the physiocrats, or économistes, and included the Marquis de Condorcet and Victor de Riqueti, Marquis de Mirabeau. Physiocrats encouraged free markets and economic deregulation, and downplayed trade as a source of wealth in favor of agriculture. In its pure form, it was a philosophical system that held that agriculture, as a manifestation of natural law, was the main source of a nation’s wealth.23 In Quesnay’s formulation, the “fermier” is not a laborer; he is an investor in and owner of the land worked by the labor of others for the State’s enrichment, in the same manner as absentee plantation owners, rich investors, and wealthy planters organized free labor to produce wealth for the metropole. Quesnay’s ideal is best accomplished by the practice of “grande culture,” that is, by the creation of large farming operations belonging to wealthy landowners. He makes little mention of the peasants who work the land; it is the landed gentry who are to be commended for being entrepreneurs whose wealth and ingenuity will increase the value of the nation’s property. Quesnay expressed his views on colonial agricultural economy in a 1766 article in the Journal de l’Agriculture, in which he promoted agricultural philosophies and practices very similar to those in “Fermier.” Like Forbonnais, he used language linking the colonies and France, referring to both as “également des parties du territoire soumis `a la domination du Souverainà…”24

Neither Forbonnais nor Quesnay mentions technology or machines, although Le Romain describes certain procedures of sugar production in “Nègres” and, of course, in “Sucre.” Praise for the use of machinery in agriculture can be found in Louis de Jaucourt’s Encyclopédie article “Industrie” (Vol. XIII, 1765). None of these articles reference the other, nor would a reader looking at the plates first be sent to these texts. Together, however, they form a constellation of the philosophes’ notions of various factors involving the colonies, directly in the cases of Forbonnais and Le Romain, less so in Jaucourt, and only indirectly in the cases of Diderot and Quesnay. Combined, the articles support colonialism and slavery, glorify the public virtues of engagement with agriculture for economic gain, support the role of industry in enhancing agricultural output, metaphorically locate the colonies and the metropole on the same terrain, and promote the advantages of wealthy landowners’ investment in “grande culture.” The plantation illustrations perform much the same ideological work as these articles, even if they do so allegorically. Like the labor they purport truthfully to record, they are an efficient, simplified form of expression.

When the Conseil d’Etat du Roi revoked the Encyclopédie’s privilege in March 1759, publication was suspended, but the editors found a way to continue; the text was condemned but not the plates.25 Clearly, the authorities underestimated the illustrations as merely harmless decorations, not recognizing their potential to speak for the censored philosophes. [End Page 84]

The plantation illustrations are not unique in their subordination of workers to machines. As William Sewell notes, “…the plates of the Encyclopédie represent a scientized, individualized, utopian projection of the world of work as imagined by the philosophes…Here, some decades before the beginning of the first modern factories, workers are already portrayed as appendages to technology.”26 Even Jaucourt, in his generally approving article, “Industrie,” worried about the possibility that technology would devalue human handiwork. As several scholars have noted, as compared to other sites of labor, sugar plantations required a level of labor organization and technology that locates them on the threshold of modernity. The Encyclopédie plantation pictures, especially the sugar series, endorse many of the features of the modern capitalist, industrialized workplace. Sidney Mintz has noted the similarities between plantation operations and the regimented, closely surveilled and organized interactions of humans and technology found in the modern workplace.27 He compares the technology of sugar production to factory work as akin to modern “agro-industry.”28 More recently, Trevor Burnard and John Garrigus have argued that the success of the plantation was due to its function as a “precursor to the industrial factory in its management of labor.”29

In Landscape and Power, W. J. T. Mitchell observes that “Empires move outward in space as a way of moving forward in time; the ‘prospect’ that opens up is not just a spatial scene but a projected future of ‘development’ and exploitation.”30 In this spirit, the sugar plates might be described as forming a narrative of outward movement via colonies that augment France and advance movement as a narrative of nature’s surrender to the machine. From the first scene establishing mastery of the terrain of colonial labor and production to the final, solitary drying oven, the reader witnesses the rise of technology and the eclipse of the human in agricultural production. Gradually the slaves disappear: from their leisurely stroll across the field, through the few men feeding the mill and attending to boiling, to their effacement by the drying oven. The series leads the viewer from a harmonious view of plantation labor with virtually no technology in sight to a site of labor dominated by mechanical operations and terminating in a structure under no one’s control, an uncanny hybrid of building and machine. Unlike texts, visual language condenses and displaces; the plantation scenes act as the Encyclopédie’s dreamwork of the French colonial project.31

This visual reading of colonial production—both as its own enterprise and as an extension of domestic agriculture—reveals a progression from a pastoral state to a proto-industrialized state, ushering in a future of rational efficiency and French economic superiority built on enslaved peoples’ labor and modern-looking machinery. What is fundamentally being described [End Page 85] is a version of modern factory production staged for the scrutiny of the privileged, enlightened consumer of the Encyclopédie, who is persuaded by the eminently rational form and content of the plates to bask in visions of the colonies’ logical, rightful, and hard-won place in France’s future.

Susan H. Libby

Susan H. Libby is professor of Art History at Rollins College. She is co-editor of Blacks and Blackness in European Art of the Long Nineteenth Century (Ashgate, 2014), to which she is also a contributor. She is co-curator of The Black Figure in the European Imaginary, an exhibition held from January to May 2017 at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College. The exhibition was accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, with a foreword by David Bindman (D. Giles, 2016). Libby’s research focuses on visual and material culture related to eighteenth-century French Caribbean slavery.


1. All references to, quotations, and images from Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une Société de Gens de lettres are taken from the digital version on ARTFL: Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, etc., eds. Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert. Univ. of Chicago: ARTFL Encyclopédie Project (Spring 2016 Edition), Robert Morrissey and Glenn Roe (eds), All translations are the author’s.

2. Madeleine Dobie, Trading Places: Colonization and French Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture (Ithaca and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 2010), 110–115, 299; Jacques Proust, Marges à une Utopie: Pour une lecture critique des Planches de l’Encyclopédie (Poitiers: Univ. de Poitiers et la Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles, 1985): sections 4 and 5; Plate 23 (which reproduces one of the “Coton” images from the Encyclopédie and briefly comments); for the “labourage” illustration, John Bender and Michael Marrinan, The Culture of Diagram (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2010), 35–38.

3. Pierre H. Boulle and D. Gillian Thompson, “France Overseas,” in William Doyle, ed., Old Regime France 1648–1788 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001), 131. The treaty returned Pondicherry and other territories in India to France, the island of Gorée off the coast of Senegal, and the Caribbean islands of Guiana, Saint-Domingue, Martinique, and St. Lucia.

4. Ibid., 130.

5. Jill H. Casid, Sowing Empire: Landscape and Colonization (Minneapolis and London: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2004), 2.

6. Ibid.

7. Denis Diderot, Prospectus: Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 9.

8. Stephen Werner, Blueprint: A Study of Diderot and the ‘Encyclopédie’ Plates (Birmingham, Alabama: Summa Publications, Inc., 1993), 4.

9. Madeleine Pinault, “Les Chapitres Artistiques des Volumes de Planches de l’Encyclopédie,” in Henri Coulet, ed., Diderot: Les Beaux-Arts et la Musique, Actes du Colloque International tenu à Aix-en-Provence le 14, 15 et 16 décembre, 1984. Centre Aixois d’Etudes et d’Etudes et des Recherches sur le XVIIIe Siècle (Aix-en-Provence: Univ. de Provence, 1986): 67–99.

10. Diderot, Prospectus, 4. “But the less one has the habit of writing about the trades, the more it makes them difficult to explain in an intelligible manner. From this was born the need for pictures… One glance at the object or representation says more than a page of writing.”

11. Ibid. “It is thus that we successively formed the most complicated machine without difficulty for the mind or the eye.”

12. Le Romain explains that the master’s house must be placed above the slave quarters, so that he can easily watch activity on the plantation, and that the slave cabins should allow easy access to the daily work operations. Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Romain, “Sucrerie,” 1.

13. Jean-Baptiste Labat, Nouveau Voyage aux isles de l’Amérique, contenant l’histoire naturelle des ces pays, l’origine, les moeurs, la religion et le gouvernement des habitans anciens et modernes, vol. 3 (Paris: Chez Guillaume Cavelier, 1722), 210. Labat explains that the slaves are awoken around 5:00 AM, taken to morning prayers, and after being given some eau-de-vie, go to work in the cane fields or to other labor.

14. Brigitte Weltman-Aron, On Other Grounds: Landscape Gardening and Nationalism in Eighteenth-Century England and France (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 2001), 110.

15. Excellent English histories of the French Caribbean colonies include Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern 1492–1800 (London and New York: Verso), 277–306; Madeleine Dobie, Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture (Ithaca and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 2010); Laurent Dubois, A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787–1804 (Chapel Hill and London: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2004); Doris Garraway, The Libertine Colony: Creolization in the Early French Caribbean (Durham and London: Duke Univ. Press, 2005); and Christopher L. Miller, The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature of the Culture of the Slave Trade (Durham and London: Duke Univ. Press, 2008).

16. “Plan de l’habitation de Mesdames la Vicomtesse de Scépaux et Comtesse Dautichamp, située au quartier de Bellevue, dépendance de Port-au-Prince, isle de St Domingue, 1782.” Accessed on Bibliothèque Nationale de France, August 14, 2016.

17. Blackburn, New World Slavery, 432–33.

18. This information is synthesized from Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), 21–27, 49–50. Detailed first-hand descriptions of sugar processing are provided in Le Romain, “Sucre,” Encyclopédie, vol. 15; and Labat, Nouveau Voyage aux isles de l’Amérique, vol. 3, 104–296. Labat describes gruesome accidents to slaves while feeding the mills on 205–208.

19. Mintz, Sweetness and Sugar, 49.

20. For the dangers of plantation life, see also Vincent Brown, “A Vapor of Dread: Observations on Racial Terror and Vengeance in the Age of Revolution,” in Thomas Bender, Laurent Dubois, and Richard Rabinowitz, eds., Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn (New York and London: New-York Historical Society in association with D. Giles, Limited, 2011), 178–98.

21. Dobie, Trading Places, 204–06.

22. In the Discours Préliminaire (vol. 1, xviij), D’Alembert explains the Encyclopédie’s system of cross-referencing, called renvois, intended to indicate linkages among topics and between plates the articles. For analysis of the renvois, see Jean Starobinski, “Remarques sur l’Encyclopédie,’ Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, 75e Année, no. 3 (July–September, 1970), 284–91; and Bender and Marrinan, The Culture of Diagram, 8–9.

23. For the relevant eighteenth-century agricultural theory, see Peter M. Jones, Agricultural Enlightenment: Knowledge, Technology, and Nature, 1750–1840 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2016), 14–31; Liana Vardi, The Physiocrats and the World of the Enlightenment (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012); Robert M. Will, “Economic Thought in the Encyclopédie,” Southern Economic Journal, vol. 32, no. 2 (Oct., 1965), 191–203; and David J. Brandenburg, “Agriculture in the Encyclopédie: An Essay in French Intellectual History,” Agricultural History, vol. 24, no.2 (April, 1950), 96–108.

24. “equally parts of the territory subject to the sovereign’s dominance.” François Quesnay, “Remarques sur l’opinion de l’Auteur de L’Esprit des Lois concernant les Colonies, Liv. XXI, chap. 17,” Journal de l’Agriculture, du commerce, et des finances (April 1766), Vol. V, 1ère partie, 26.

25. Georges Huard, “Les Planches de l’Encycopédie et celles de la Description des Arts et Métiers de l’Académie des Sciences,” Revue d’histoire des sciences et de leurs applications, vol. 4, no. 3–4 (1951): 239.

26. William Sewell, “Visions of Labor: Illustrations of the Mechanical Arts before, in, and after Diderot’s Encyclopédie,” in Steven Laurence Kaplan and Cynthia J. Koepp, eds., Work in France: Representations, Meaning, Organization, and Practice, (Ithaca and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 1986), 277.

27. Mintz, Sugar and Sweetness, 51–56.

28. Ibid., 51.

29. Trevor Burnard and John Garrigus, The Plantation Machine: Atlantic Capitalism in French Saint-Domingue and British Jamaica (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 20.

30. W. J. T. Mitchell, “Imperial Landscape,” in W. J. T. Mitchell, ed., Landscape and Power, (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2002), 17.

31. Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, James Strachey, trans. and ed. (New York: Avon Books, 1965), 311–85.

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