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Madeira, Sugar, & the Conquest of Nature in the ‘First’ Sixteenth Century, Part I: From ‘Island of Timber’ to Sugar Revolution, 1420-1506
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies. (Umeå Studies in Science, Technology, and Environments)
2009 (English)In: Review: a journal of the Fernand Braudel Center for the study of economies, historical systems, and civilizations, ISSN 0147-9032, Vol. 32, no 4, 345-390 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Madeira is a small island with a large place in the origins of the modern world. Lying 560 kilometers west of north Africa, Madeira was home to the modern world’s first cash crop boom, a sugar revolution. In the first of two successive essays in  REVIEW, I explain how the epoch-making acceleration of boom and bust on Madeira, during Braudel’s “first” sixteenth century (c. 1450-1557), marked a new crystallization of the nature-society relations pivotal to the rise of capitalism. This new crystallization represented an ensemble of new capacities to exploit and extract extra-human nature much faster, and on a much larger scale, than ever before. It was a mode of socio-ecological conquest and commodification that was possible because of early capitalism's “commodity frontier” strategy, one premised on global expansion as a constitutive moment in the formation of the modern world-system – as capitalist world-ecology no less than world-economy. From this standpoint, the very conditions of Madeira’s rapid ascent were also the conditions of its rapid decline after 1506. These stemmed from the rapid commodity-centered organization, and consequent exhaustion, of the relations governing human and extra-human nature: labor and land.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Binghamton, N.Y.: Fernand Braudel Center for the study of economies, historical systems, and civilizations , 2009. Vol. 32, no 4, 345-390 p.
Keyword [en]
Madeira, sugar, commodity frontier, European expansion, transition to capitalism, deforestation, capitalism, capitalism as world-ecology, world-systems analysis, historical geography, political ecology, political economy, historical sociology, environmental history
National Category
Economic History
Research subject
Economic History; Social and Economic Geography; Solid Mechanics; Systems Analysis; History
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43627OAI: diva2:414891
Available from: 2011-05-05 Created: 2011-05-05 Last updated: 2012-06-29Bibliographically approved

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Moore, Jason W.
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Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies
Economic History

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