In this innovative grassroots to global study, Kathleen Mapes explores how the sugar beet industry transformed the rural Midwest through the introduction of large factories, contract farming, and foreign migrant labor. Sweet Tyranny calls into question the traditional portrait of the rural Midwest as a classless and homogenous place untouched by industrialization and imperialism. Identifying rural areas as centers for modern American industrialism, Mapes contributes to the ongoing expansion of labor history from urban factory workers to rural migrant workers. She engages with a full range of people involved in this industry, including midwestern family farmers, industrialists, eastern European and Mexican immigrants, child laborers, rural reformers, Washington politicos, and colonial interests. _x000B__x000B_Engagingly written, this book demonstrates that capitalism was not solely a force from above but was influenced by the people below who defended their interests in an ever-expanding market of imperialist capitalism. The fact that the United States acquired its own sugar producing empire at the very moment that its domestic sugar beet industry was coming into its own, as well as the fact that the domestic sugar beet industry came to depend on immigrant workers as the basis of its field labor force, magnified the local and global ties as well as the political battles that ensued. As such, the issue of how Americans would satiate their growing demand for sweetness--whether with beet sugar grown at home or with cane sugar raised in colonies abroad--became part of a much larger debate about the path of industrial agriculture, the shape of American imperialism, and the future of immigration.
- Publication Date:
- 12 / 05 / 2009