Theoretical Background

Capitalism, Crisis, and Social Space
  • James A. Delle
Part of the Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


During the first half of the nineteenth century, coffee was a major component of Jamaica’s export economy, ranking second only to sugar in importance within the island’s plantation system. In comparison with sugar, large-scale coffee production was introduced to Jamaica relatively late; it was not until the opening decade of the nineteenth century that coffee production was attempted in earnest. Throughout much of the seventeenth, and most of the eighteenth century, the Jamaican economy was dominated by monocrop sugar production. Although some cotton, indigo, and pimento production had been attempted, these crops never amounted to much in comparison with sugar. Coffee was the first secondary crop of importance to be grown in Jamaica, and (prior to the modern Blue Mountain coffee boom) really only succeeded for a few short decades. Sugar production had so dominated the Jamaican economy that coffee production became relevant only in reaction to a series of crises within the West Indian sugar-based political economy. As the coffee industry was both extensive and short-lived, a spatial analysis of coffee plantations is particularly informative when addressing the relationships between the intentional design of space, the actual construction of space, and the negotiation of social relationships that occurred within these spaces.


Material Culture Social Space Coffee Plantation Historical Archaeology Wage Labor 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. Delle
    • 1
  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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