Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business / Edition 1

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At the turn of the twentieth century, Cadbury Bros. Ltd. was a successful, Quaker-owned chocolate manufacturer in Birmingham, England, celebrated for its model village, modern factory, and concern for employees. In 1901 the firm learned that its cocoa beans, purchased from Portuguese plantations on the island of São Tomé off West Africa, were produced by slave labor.

Chocolate on Trial: Cadbury, Slavery and the Economics of Virtue in Imperial Britain gives a lively and highly readable account of the events surrounding the libel trial in which Cadbury Bros. Ltd. sued the London Standard, following the newspaper's accusation that the firm was hypocritical in its use of slave-grown cocoa. As compelling now as at the turn of the previous century, the issues probed by Lowell J. Satre give invaluable historical background to contemporary issues of business ethics, corporate social responsibility, and globalization. The story Satre tells illuminates what a stubbornly persistent institution slavery was and shows how Cadbury, a company with a well-regarded brand name and logo, endured ethical dilemmas and challenges to its record for social responsibility. Chocolate on Trial brings to life the age-old conflict between economic interests and the value of human life.

Satre illuminates the stubborn persistence of the institution of slavery and shows how Cadbury, a company with a well-regarded brand name from the nineteenth century, faced ethical dilemmas and challenges to its record for social responsibility. Chocolate on Trial brings to life the age-old conflict between economic interests and regard for the dignity of human life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This is a well-written, marvelously researched, and utterly fascinating study of an episode in the social, political, economic, and even religious history of imperial Britain.”
— Thomas C. Kennedy, author of British Quakerism, 1860–1920: The Transformation of a Religious Community

“Lowell Satre has written a fascinating book that addresses a question perennial to modern day commercial economies where complex chains of supply are at the root of production.... Satre's work is invaluable for identifying the context of today's problems, the significance of law, and strategies for mobilization.”
Law and History Review

“Satre’s story-telling ability is maintained to the very last page.... The author handles the impressive breadth of government, business, journalistic and private primary sources and evidence in a controlled and balanced way.... Satre deftly exposes the firm in this nuanced social and political history.”
Journal of African History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821416266
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,190,089
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lowell J. Satre is professor of history emeritus at Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio. He is author of Thomas Burt, Miners' MP, 1837-1922: The Great Conciliator.

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Table of Contents

1 Henry W. Nevinson and modern slavery 1
2 The firm of Cadbury and the world of slave labor 13
3 Portugal and West Africa 33
4 Evidence amassed 53
5 Joseph Burtt's report 73
6 Careful steps and concern - or dragging feet and hypocrisy? 100
7 Defending reputations 124
8 Cadbury Bros., Ltd. v. The Standard Newspaper, Ltd. 149
9 The verdict 175
10 Humanitarians, the foreign office, and Portugal, 1910-1914 183
11 The aftermath 208
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2007

    Outstanding study of capitalism in word and deed

    This superb book studies the connection between slavery in West Africa and the British, and Quaker, firm of Cadbury, particularly in the first decade of the twentieth century. From the 15th century, the slave trade was the foundation of the Portuguese empire. Even in the early 1900s, Angola was still a slave state, with half its people enslaved. The British Empire was an ally of Portugal, so it was complicit in the slavery. Portugal¿s islands of Sao Tome and Principe, 150 miles off Africa¿s west coast, had 40,000 slaves producing cocoa beans which Cadbury had been buying since 1886. From 1901 to 1908, Cadbury got half its beans from the islands. A Foreign Office official noted, ¿The fact of the matter is that the system is neither more nor less than slavery but that we do not dare to say much as we might thus offend the Portuguese with whom we desire to stand well.¿ In the 1900s, the British Empire was trying to recruit African labour from Portuguese Africa for its gold mines in South Africa. The Foreign Office warned against the ¿danger of learning inconvenient facts which might oblige us to make representations to the Portuguese Govt. which we don¿t want to do.¿ So Britain, like Portugal, ignored the treaties obliging them to act to halt the slave trade. Prime Minister Lord Salisbury ordered, ¿Leave it alone.¿ In 1901, William Cadbury first heard rumours of slave labour on the islands. All the evidence that he later received confirmed that there was a brutal slave trade in Angola, that the labourers on the islands were forced, that the death rate was huge (often 20% a year), and that none was free ever to leave. Yet Cadbury did not boycott the products of slave labour until 1909. The company claimed that discreet diplomacy, and continued purchase of Sao Tome¿s cocoa, would improve the workers¿ position. Their position, however, did not improve: 6,000 slaves died every year, though profits certainly increased, as did the number of slaves and the amount of cocoa exported. Humanitarian pressure groups tried to get the British government to act in the labourers¿ interests. It responded with endless promises to press the Portuguese state to reform, and repeated investigations and commissions. This all proves the folly of relying on companies, pressure groups, treaties or governments to effect improvement. Angola and the islands used forced labour until they won independence from Portugal in 1975. How we have progressed since then! Such outrages are long gone. Yet in 2001, the Financial Times reported, ¿Nestle and Cadbury were accused of turning a blind eye to child slavery in the cocoa industry.¿ A 2002 study estimated that 284,000 children worked in West Africa¿s cocoa farms. Another study concluded that there were 15,000 child slaves in the Ivory Coast alone. Cadbury responded, ¿We were completely unaware of the allegations concerning cocoa growing in the Cote d¿Ivoire.¿ Plus ca change. The USA spends $8.5 billion a year on chocolate products, Britain spends £4 billion, while the children who produce the chocolate toil in poverty and slavery.

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