Images of the sugar refinery in the French Antilles from the 17th centurye in the XIXe century

Images of the sugar refinery in the French Antilles from the 17th century<sup>e</sup> in the XIX<sup>e</sup> century

Home ›Studies› Images of the sugar refinery in the French Antilles from the 17th centurye in the XIXe century

  • Agriculture, sugar refining and sugar refining

  • Candy.

    LECLERC Sébastien (1637 - 1714)

  • A sugar factory in Guadeloupe, old system

To close

Title: Agriculture, sugar refining and sugar refining

Author :

Creation date : 1762 -

Dimensions: Height 55 cm - Width 32.5 cm

Storage location: Architecture and heritage multimedia library website

Contact copyright: Ministry of Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / RMN-GP image

Picture reference: 15-652447 / ENCYCLOPEDIA; TOME01

Agriculture, sugar refining and sugar refining

© Ministry of Culture - Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / RMN-GP image

© BnF, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / BnF image

To close

Title: A sugar factory in Guadeloupe, old system

Author :

Technique and other indications: Lithograph after the drawing by Evremond de Bérard

Storage location: Victor Schoelcher Museum website

Contact copyright: Victor Schoelcher Departmental Museum

A sugar factory in Guadeloupe, old system

© Departmental Museum Victor Schoelcher

Publication date: January 2018

Historical context

The origins of French colonial housing

Since the beginnings of French colonization in America and the Indian Ocean in the 17th centurye century, the term dwelling was used to designate a permanent place of residence coupled with a farm. The copperplate engraving presented here and entitled "Sucrerie", is the 9e plate from the work of Father Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre General history of the Antislands inhabited by the French published in 1667. The article "Sucrerie" in theEncyclopedia presented here was written by Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Romain, a French engineer living in Martinique, in 1765.

Finally, painted or engraved representations of dwellings multiplied mainly in the 19th century, no longer for the sake of description but rather to satisfy a romantic vision of life on the islands. The mention "old system" indicates that the engraving was made and published much later, probably in the 1880s, at a time when industrialized cane sugar production was done by steam.

Image Analysis

The organization of the sugar factory in the 17th centurye century

A botanist by training, Father du Tertre wanted to feature in the foreground of this plate a few plant species usually found in the environment of sugar refineries, the different components of which occupy the rest of the image. A legend at the bottom of the engraving identifies the different elements represented.

This is not a reconstruction intended to illustrate the description made by the author. The scales are thus distorted in order to allow all the elements to appear together on the same view.

The recognizable elements are the master's house (top right of the image), the animal mill used to crush the sugar canes to extract the juice (to the left of the master's house), the candy in it- even with its boilers (in the center of the image), a still (named vinegar factory in the legend and located below the sugar factory), the "negro huts" (bottom right of the image), and finally the sugar cane fields (left of the image).

The image is populated by black slaves at work framed by a stick-wielding white foreman who directs operations.

The typical 18th century dwellinge century

The plates that accompany the description of the article "Candy" of theEncyclopedia bring together artist's views and detailed technical drawings. The upper part of this board is occupied by an imaginary view illustrating the ideal configuration of a dwelling described in the article. The master's house (top right of the image) is located high up, dominating all the facilities. The Negro huts (bottom right of the image) are below, organized around rectilinear axes, the famous "Negro-huts streets". The buildings dedicated to sugar production (on the left of the image) include the water mill (another alternative or complementary means of the animal mill for crushing the canes) connected to the sugar factory housing the boilers. Above, are represented the purge and the oven, buildings dedicated to the refining and drying of sugar. The central part is occupied by the savannah (part of the uncultivated dwelling) in the foreground and by the cane fields in the rear. The image is populated but it seems difficult to distinguish the slaves at work. In the foreground, a black slave even seems to be fishing in a stream!

A house in Guadeloupe in the 19th centurye century

We find in this engraving of the XIXe century the various characteristic elements of what appears to be a modest-sized sugar house. The order of the different buildings is reminiscent of that of the board of theEncyclopedia discussed above. Note that the mill used to crush the canes is here a windmill which, during the XIXe century, was often an effective addition to the still functioning animal mill. The buildings below the mill include the sugar refinery on the left, the purge room and the oven on the right. The hearths of each of these units equipped with a chimney are fed by bagasse (dried residues of crushed cane), a considerable amount of which is visible in the foreground.

Interpretation

From a schematic view to a romantic view of the dwelling

Obviously, the author of the first plate did not accompany Father Du Tertre on his travels. Thus the master's house is represented with very large dimensions and appears to be built in stone. However, in the early days of colonization, the investments of the inhabitants were modest and the houses were summarily built with perishable materials found on the spot.

Likewise, the sugar refinery is only represented by a crew [3] placed under a shelter. This minimalist representation of the home gives the reader a simplified view of its overall functioning but also suggests significant prosperity for owners.

Artist's impression of the plate from l'Encyclopedia is intended to provide the overall framework of a house-sugar refinery, each component of which is then described precisely. The spirit of the Enlightenment that animates the publication of the'Encyclopedia perhaps explains why there is no precise representation of the forced and heavily supervised labor of black slaves. However, in his article, the author does not fail to point out his prejudices towards blacks whom he describes as an "extremely vicious, very cunning and lazy-naturally kind of men." We are far from the humanist spirit of the Enlightenment here ...

It is difficult to say from which precise dwelling Evremond de Bérard drew inspiration for his drawing. The elements which constitute it were very probably borrowed from different places. We also know this tendency of Bérard, a painter accustomed to collaborating on travel journals, to adapt to reality in order to better illustrate the purpose of an article. The imposing size of the master's house, the airy location of the workers' huts (these were free workers at the time and no longer slaves), the bucolic landscape in which the rustic-looking installations are bathed, everything fits together to give a romantic vision of island life. This apparent prosperity contrasts with the economic difficulties encountered at that time by most small dwellings. The abolition of slavery, the switch to steam and the consolidation of sugar production in central factories caused the closure of many small units.

  • colonial history
  • agricultural work
  • slavery
  • West Indies
  • overseas
  • missionaries

Bibliography

General history of the Antislands inhabited by the French, Jean-Baptiste du Tertre, 1667

New Voyage to the French Isles of America, Jean-Baptiste Labat, 1722

TheEncyclopedia or Reasoned Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Crafts, edited from 1751 to 1772 under the direction of Diderot and D’Alembert.

History of the sugar industry in Guadeloupe (19th-20th centuries), "The crisis of the slave system, 1835-1847", Volume 1, Christian Schnakenbourg, 1980.

Notes

[1] Jean-Baptiste Labat (1663-1738), Dominican missionary and landowner, both botanist, explorer and still engineer, wrote in 1722 the New Voyage to the French Isles of America.

[2] TheEncyclopedia or Reasoned Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Crafts was edited from 1751 to 1772 under the direction of Diderot and D’Alembert.

[3] We call "crew" all the boilers (here four) intended to heat the cane juice until it crystallizes.

To cite this article

Matthieu DUSSAUGE, "Images of the sugar refinery in the French Antilles from the 17th centurye in the XIXe century "


Video: Lets become French!