Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa
Narrated by Kenneth Lee
Approximately 7 hours
Book published by Ohio University Press
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.
Catherine Higgs is an associate professor of history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is the author of The Ghost of Equality: The Public Lives of D.D.T. Jabavu of South Africa, 1885–1959, and coeditor of Stepping Forward: Black Women in Africa and the Americas, both published by Ohio University Press.
“Higgs provides a fascinating exploration of the use of forced labor in Portuguese African colonies and the politics of humanitarian investigations in the early 20th century…. This well-written book deserves to be read by scholars of colonial Africa and imperialism. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”
“Catherine Higgs has combined careful academic research with the kind of skillful writing you'd expect in a good historical novel… . The book is strikingly relevant to today's headlines. It is an excellent study for academics who want to know how to research at a professional level and then write well for the public, and it will strongly appeal to general readers.”
“Catherine Higgs writes about the chocolate islands with clarity and conviction, commanding the evidence while presenting an argument about the ‘dignity of labor’ with an elegance of style. In terms of presentation, research and structure, the book is a tour de force.”
—David Birmingham, author of Portugal and Africa and Trade and Empire in the Atlantic, 1400 to 1600
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