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Raising Cane in the ’Glades

The Global Sugar Trade and the Transformation of Florida

Over the last century, the Everglades underwent a metaphorical and ecological transition from impenetrable swamp to endangered wetland.  At the heart of this transformation lies the Florida sugar industry, which by the 1990s was at the center of the political storm over the multi-billion dollar ecological “restoration” of the Everglades.  Raising Cane in the ’Glades is the first study to situate the environmental transformation of the Everglades within the economic and historical geography of global sugar production and trade.

Using, among other sources, interviews, government and corporate documents, and recently declassified U.S. State Department memoranda, Gail M. Hollander demonstrates that the development of Florida’s sugar region was the outcome of pitched battles reaching the highest political offices in the U.S. and in countries around the world, especially Cuba—which emerges in her narrative as a model, a competitor, and the regional “other” to Florida’s “self.”  Spanning the period from the age of empire to the era of globalization, the book shows how the “sugar question”—a label nineteenth-century economists coined for intense international debates on sugar production and trade—emerges repeatedly in new guises. Hollander uses the sugar question as a thread to stitch together past and present, local and global, in explaining Everglades transformation.

336 pages | 25 halftones, 6 line drawings, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Biological Sciences: Ecology

Earth Sciences: Environment

Economics and Business: Economics--Agriculture and Natural Resources

Geography: Environmental Geography


Raising Cane in theGlades is a sweeping tale of agrarian South Florida from the colonial era to the age of ethanol. It provides a relentless, sobering look at the partnership of ‘sweetness and power’: how the Sugar Barons cajoled, conspired, and conquered their way to supremacy in the region and how they forced the total makeover of the one of the greatest wetland systems on earth, from which the wild Everglades will likely never recover. Surely, this will be the definitive history of sugar and the Everglades for a long time to come.”

Richard Walker, author of The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of California Agribusiness

“A penetrating ecological account of the growth of Florida’s sugar industry, Raising Cane in the ‘Glades demonstrates eloquently how geography, economics and politics are historically interwoven. Gail Hollander’s analysis takes account of the regional and national pressures that conditioned, but could not suppress, local economic boosterism, and of those international factors that would repeatedly condition local outcomes. This is historical and economic geography of very high quality. At the same time, it offers a disillusioning vision of the way nature can be totally ignored in the scramble for profit. If anyone had doubts before about the profoundly politicized nature of sugar, through the centuries and to this day, this book should surely dispel them.”

Sidney Mintz, author of Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History

Raising Cane in the ’Glades beautifully realizes the promise of a truly political ecology.  Tracing the transformation of the Everglades from wetlands to an agro-industrial empire built on sugar, and maybe even back to wetlands again, Hollander shows how political struggles over subsidies, labor practices, and the environment come together to shape a landscape and its meanings. In compelling detail (and with compelling writing), Hollander traces out the local, regional, and national struggles, together with the global politics of the sugar trade, that have made the Everglades what they are, and what they might be. This is a book to keep on learning from.”

Don Mitchell, Distinguished Professor of Geography, Syracuse University

“Hollander’s exploration of the political ecology and cultural economy of Florida’s Everglades is an important and timely study. Unwilling to settle for a more ‘traditional’ analysis that would highlight just one aspect of this complex story (economy, or politics, or ecology, or culture), Hollander artfully balances these differing approaches to create a far more complex, but ultimately far more pointed, analysis of this highly disputed piece of human geography.  Essential reading for those interested in the contested politics of global agricultural systems, regionalism, race and class as they were played out in the shaping and reshaping of the Florida Everglades.”

Mona Domosh, Dartmouth College

Raising Cane in the ’Glades is a worthy successor to Sidney Mintz’s classic account of the rise of sugar as a global commodity in Sweetness and Power. Gail Hollander brings the sugar story home to the Florida Everglades where the story of ‘Big Sugar’ bears all the hallmarks of a sort of frontier capitalism. Hollander’s compelling narrative and deep historical excavation reveals brilliantly how the sugar question and the astounding conversion of the Florida Everglades from a swamp wasteland to an endangered wetland are inextricably intertwined. In our addiction to sweetness lies, as Hollander reveals in her magisterial retelling of the history of the Florida sugar bowl, the hidden, and not-so-hidden, histories of American empire, the cold war, the long arm of agrarian capital and the dark side of government regulation. A tour de force.”

Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley

Raising Cane in the ’Glades is a deeply historical work that situates the rise and wane of the Florida sugar industry within a complex interplay of protectionism, Cold War geopolitics, changing environmental sensibilities, real estate speculation, and good old fashioned political scheming. Uniquely, it brings together political ecology’s core focus on the discursive and material construction of place-based natural resource environments with agro-food studies’ preoccupation with the shifting regulatory terrain that shape the flows of global commodities. Fans of Mintz’s Sweetness and Power are bound to enjoy this less known story of the dynamic forces that satisfy the collective sweet tooth.”

Julie Guthman, University of California at Santa Cruz

"In conveying so well the impact of change on this industry, Hollander aptly demonstrtes how economics, geography, and political forces have historically been woven into the fabric of Florida sugar."

H. Roger Grant | Business History Review

"A meticulous and lucid history of the sugarcane industry in the Florida Everglades. This is a regional study, but one framed in national and international contexts, which will make it of interest to a wide range of historians interested in questions of agriculture, commodities, and the environment. . . . Hollander’s argument is a complete and compelling story of how a global commodity transformed a local environment."

Stuart McCook | History of Biology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

1     From Everglades to Sugar Bowl and Back Again
2     The Sugar Question in Frontier Florida
3     Securing Sugar, Draining the ’Glades
4     Wish Fulfillment for Florida Growers: Managed Market, Disciplined Labor, Engineered Landscape
5     The Cold War Heats up the Nation’s Sugar Bowl
6     A Restructured Industry
7     Questioning Sugar in the Everglades

Appendix A: Biographical Sketches of Key Figures in the Transformation of the Florida Everglades
Appendix B: Key Legislation, Trade Agreements, and Policies in the Transformation of the Florida Everglades
Appendix C: Chronology of Principle U.S. Government Wartime Sugar Controls, 1939-1947


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