The Devil's Milk: A Social History of Rubber

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Overview

Capital, as Marx once wrote, comes into the world “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” He might well have been describing the long, grim history of rubber. From the early stages of primitive accumulation to the heights of the industrial revolution and beyond, rubber is one of a handful of commodities that has played a crucial role in shaping the modern world, and yet, as John Tully shows in this remarkable book, laboring people around the globe have every reason to regard it as “the devil’s milk.” All the advancements made possible by rubber—industrial machinery, telegraph technology, medical equipment, countless consumer goods—have occurred against a backdrop of seemingly endless exploitation, conquest, slavery, and war. But Tully is quick to remind us that the vast terrain of rubber production has always been a site of struggle, and that the oppressed who toil closest to “the devil’s milk” in all its forms have never accepted their immiseration without a fight.

This book, the product of exhaustive scholarship carried out in many countries and several continents, is destined to become a classic.Tully tells the story of humanity’s long encounter with rubber in a kaleidoscopic narrative that regards little as outside its rangewithout losing sight of the commodity in question. With the skill of a master historian and the elegance of a novelist, he presents what amounts to a history of the modern world told through the multiple lives of rubber.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Think of our industrial structure as a living thing, the skeleton of which is composed of metal and cement, the arterial system of which carries a life stream of oil, and the flexing muscles and sinews of which are of rubber.”
-Paul Litchfield,Former President of Goodyear

“What people did to rubber was interesting, but more interesting still was what rubber did to people.”
-Vicki Baum,Novelist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583672310
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,082,449
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. John Tully is lecturer in politics and internationalstudies at Victoria University in Melbourne Australia. He is author of four books: Cambodia Under the Tricolour: King Sisowath and the ‘Mission Civilisatrice, 1904–1927; France on the Mekong: A History of the Protectorate in Cambodia, 1863–1953; A Short History of Cambodia: From Empire to Survival; and a novel, Death Is the Cool Night.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9

Preface: Why a Book on Rubber? 13

Introduction: The Muscles and Sinews of Industrial Society 17

Part 1 From the sacred essence of life to the muscles and sinews of industrial society 26

1 Rubber in Mesoamerican Civilizations 29

2 Rubber in the Industrial Revolution 35

3 The Dark Side of the Rubber Revolution 51

Part 2 Wild rubber: a primitive "mode of extraction" 63

4 The Amazon Rubber Boom 65

5 The Lives of the Seringueiros 77

6 There is No Sin Beyond the Equator 85

7 Heart of Darkness: Rubber and Blood on the Congo 101

8 Gutta-Percha, Telegraphs, Imperialism, and Ecology 123

Part 3 Monopoly capitalism in Akron 131

9 "Rubber's Home Town" 133

10 The 1913 IWW Strike at Akron 149

11 Sisters, Brothers, Unite! The Rubber Workers' Union in Akron 159

Part 4 Plantation hevea: agribusiness and imperialism 183

12 The Triumph of Plantation Hevea 185

13 The Planters' World 203

14 The Coolie Diaspora 225

15 The Coolies' World 239

16 Coolie Revolts 259

Part 5 Synthetic rubber, war and autarky 281

17 The Long Road to Monowitz 283

18 Monowitz: "A Bulwark of Germandom" 297

19 The Only Way Out Is Up the Chimney 303

20 The Allied Struggle for Rubber in the Second World War 319

21 War Is Good for Business 331

Epilogue: Rubber in the Postwar World 345

Bibliography 363

Notes 389

Index 465

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