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Business & Economics Agribusiness

The Business of Empire

United Fruit, Race, and U.S. Expansion in Central America

by (author) Jason M. Colby

Publisher
Cornell University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2011
Category
Agribusiness, General, 20th Century, Central America
Recommended Age
18
Recommended Grade
12
  • Hardback

    ISBN
    9780801449154
    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price
    $76.95
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780801478994
    Publish Date
    Nov 2013
    List Price
    $43.95

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Description

"Jason M. Colby has researched and analyzed his topic?the business of empire?well. He exposes the intertwining of imperialism, expansion, racism, and corporate power. The Business of Empire is an insightful story about the interaction of U.S. overseas business and the U.S. and Central American governments. It will prove useful to scholars of U.S. imperialism, international business history, and U.S.–Central American relations for generations."
Journal of American History

The link between private corporations and U.S. world power has a much longer history than most people realize. Transnational firms such as the United Fruit Company represent an earlier stage of the economic and cultural globalization now taking place throughout the world. Drawing on a wide range of archival sources in the United States, Great Britain, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, Colby combines "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches to provide new insight into the role of transnational capital, labor migration, and racial nationalism in shaping U.S. expansion into Central America and the greater Caribbean. The Business of Empire places corporate power and local context at the heart of U.S. imperial history.

In the early twentieth century, U.S. influence in Central America came primarily in the form of private enterprise, above all United Fruit. Founded amid the U.S. leap into overseas empire, the company initially depended upon British West Indian laborers. When its black workforce resisted white American authority, the firm adopted a strategy of labor division by recruiting Hispanic migrants. This labor system drew the company into increased conflict with its host nations, as Central American nationalists denounced not only U.S. military interventions in the region but also American employment of black immigrants. By the 1930s, just as Washington renounced military intervention in Latin America, United Fruit pursued its own Good Neighbor Policy, which brought a reduction in its corporate colonial power and a ban on the hiring of black immigrants. The end of the company's system of labor division in turn pointed the way to the transformation of United Fruit as well as the broader U.S. empire.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Jason M. Colby is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

Editorial Reviews

Colby builds upon earlier extensive scholarship on the subject to integrate, for the first time, corporate expansion and labor migration into the story of U.S. imperialism in the region. As a result, he shows how domestic racial paradigms shaped transnational US firms, highlights connections between the U.S. government and corporate colonialism, and illustrates the pervasiveness of labor control strategies in the region.

Choice

Jason M. Colby has researched and analyzed his topic?the business of empire?well. He exposes the intertwining of imperialism, expansion, racism, and corporate power. The Business of Empire is an insightful story about the interaction of U.S. overseas business and the U.S. and Central American governments. It will prove useful to scholars of U.S. imperialism, international business history, and U.S.?Central American relations for generations.

Journal of American History

Colby's tightly focused research on race adds a new layer of understanding to the subject of U.S. domination in Central America. Concentrating on the varied environments of the Panama Canal Zone, self-defined 'white' Costa Rica, and Guatemala, with its large Mayan Indian population. Colby observes the different tactics and vocabulary employed by governments and company officials. Many actions that are seen as indicative of United States foreign policy, he argues, were, in fact, creations of the United Fruit Company.

Times Literary Supplement

Colby writes both a comparative and a transnational history. He presents a deeply researched, richly textured comparative study of the UFC in Costa Rica and Guatemala. The Business of Empire makes a worthwhile contribution to the social and cultural history of the UFC, the history of British Caribbean migrants in Central America, Central American labor history, and the inception of particular racialized forms of nationalism in Central America that, Colby convincingly argues, were logical reactions to U.S. 'corporate colonialism.'.

American Historical Review

In the United States this book will be seen as an important contribution to the 'America in the World' approach; in Central America it will be read as an influential revision of the impact of the 'Octopus' on internal processes. Without a hint of dependency theory (it used to be mandatory to refer to dependency when writing about UFCO), Colby's perspective sheds new light on the fruit company's impact on the economies, societies, politics and foreign relations of Central American countries.

Journal of Latin American Studies