Domestic Food Production in Guadeloupe in World War II

  • Glenroy Taitt
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


The French West Indian colony of Guadeloupe was a plantation society whose economy on the eve of World War II was dominated by export agriculture: sugar and, to a lesser extent, bananas. Butterfly-shaped Guadeloupe comprises two islands: Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre. The former, being flat apart from a hilly enclave in the south known as Grands-Fonds, was well suited to sugarcane. Because of that island’s more bustling economic climate, Guadeloupe’s commercial capital Pointe-à-Pitre was located there. Basse-Terre, on the other hand, held the colony’s administrative capital, which was also known as Basse-Terre. A mountainous chain, topped off by the Soufrière volcano, running along the north-south axis of Basse-Terre made a mockery of this island’s name of “Low Land.” Basse-Terre was therefore devoted to the secondary export crops such as bananas, coffee, vanilla, spices, and cocoa. However, two regions lay outside the orbit of these secondary crops. The east coast, especially the northeast with its rolling plains, though geographically part of Basse-Terre, was an extension of Grande-Terre, economically speaking; it belonged to the kingdom of sugar. The leeward coast because of its particularly rugged terrain had evaded the clutches of export agriculture.


Sweet Potato Sugar Industry General Council Cassava Flour Domestic Food 
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  1. 1.
    See Eric T. Jennings, Vichy in the Tropics: Pétain’s National Revolution in Madagascar, Guadeloupe and Indochina, 1940–1944 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), especially chapter 4, which offers a good discussion of the sociopolitical changes in Guadeloupe under Vichy rule.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Fitzroy André Baptiste, War, Cooperation, and Conflict: The European Possessions in the Caribbean, 1939–1945 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988) for a discussion of the international diplomacy involved.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Alexandre Buffon, “Farine de manioc et panification,” Revue agricole, n.s., 1, no. 2 (September 1944): 28–31.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    Sorin to the Governor of Martinique, January 2, 1942, SC 6193, ADG. In Martinique some factories avoided planting domestic food crops as well; see M. Horowitz, Morne-Paysan, Peasant Village in Martinique (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), 86.Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    Eugène Plumasseau, Ma part d’héritage (Pointe-à-Pitre: Imprimerie G. Alcindor, 1982), 144. This is apparently an extremely rare book, a copy of which I consulted at the Médiathèque Caraïbe Bettino Lara in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, in January 2006.Google Scholar

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© Jean Besson and Janet Momsen 2007

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  • Glenroy Taitt

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