Sugarcane cultivation began in Hawai'i with the arrival of Polynesian settlers, expanding into a commercial crop in the early 1800s. Hawai'i's sugar industry, a significant economic and political force in the last half of the nineteenth century entered the twentieth century heralding major improvements in sugarcane varieties, irrigation systems, fertilizer use, biological pest control, and the use of steam power for field and factory operations. By the 1920s the industry was probably the most technologically advanced in the world. However, Hawai'i's annexation by the United States in 1898 invalidated the Kingdom's contract labor laws, reduced the plantations' hold on labor, and resulted in successful strikes by Japanese and Filipino workers. The industry survived the low sugar prices of the Great Depression and labor shortages of World War II by mechanizing to increase labor productivity. The industry saw science-driven gains in productivity and profitability in the 1950s and 1960s, but beginning in the 1970s unprecedented economic pressures reduced the number of plantations from twenty-seven in 1970 to only four in 2000. By 2011 only one plantation remained.
This book focuses on the technological and scientific advances that allowed Hawai'i's sugar industry to become a world leader and HC&S to survive into the twenty-first century. The authors also discuss the enormous societal and environmental changes caused by the sugar industry's aggressive search for labor, land, and water resources.
Subjects: History, Sociology, Business
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