chapter  8
18 Pages

Chocolate and the Atlantic Economy

Circuits of Trade and Knowledge
WithChristopher Magra

Chocolate manufacturing was a big business in colonial America. By the American Revolution, there were hundreds of mills and manufacturers refining Caribbean cocoa beans into chocolate powder in North America for consumers to eat and drink. This chapter sheds new light on the extent to which Caribbean plantation agriculture and slavery facilitated manufacturing in North America. Unlike later textile mills, chocolate mills boomed during the 1760s in the wake of the Seven Years’ War. Chocolate manufacturing, unlike textile manufacturing, occurred up and down America’s eastern seaboard, with chocolate mills as far south as Georgia. The circulation of knowledge of overseas market conditions promoted this manufacturing boom in addition to state-sponsored violence. Evidence from letters between ship captains and colonial mill owners shows that colonial entrepreneurs increased food production by creating transatlantic information networks that enabled them to buy cheap and sell dear. Mariners transmitted knowledge of overseas market conditions, and this knowledge was key for purchasing cocoa beans and selling chocolates thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Knowledge was power.