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More Continuity Than Change? New Forms Of Unfree Labor In The Belgian Congo, 1908-1930

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Chapter Summary

The 19th century Dutch debates on the Cultivation System (1830–70) were framed within a freedom versus unfreedom dichotomy. The concept of free labor used by the sugar industry should be seen in the light of their positions towards the sawah-holding peasantry. The Java sugar industry also performed remarkably well within the context of the Cultivation System, though at great cost for the colonial government during the first two decades. This chapter examines how the subject of sugar production within the Cultivation System became central in the debates about the economic development of 19th century Java. It describes how the process of proletarianization was set in motion. Finally, the chapter shows that the constraints put on free labor were predicated by the fact that the sugar industry had inserted itself into sawah agriculture, where it had to work in a kind of symbiosis with the class of landowning peasants.

Keywords:colonial government; colonial java; cultivation system; free labor; java sugar industry



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