“Sugar philanthropy: Redpath Sugar and Civic improvement in the Dominion Metropolis of Montreal, 1854-1888

3 09 2015

My co-author Kirsten Greer will be presenting this paper at “Canada-Quebec-Caribbean: Trans-American Connections” conference at the universite de Montreal Oct 8-9.

“Sugar philanthropy: Redpath Sugar and Civic improvement in the Dominion Metropolis of Montreal, 1854-1888”

Kirsten Greer, Assistant Professor, Departments of Geography and History, Nipissing University, Ontario

Andrew Smith, Lecturer in International Business, Management School, University of Liverpool

The connection between metropolises such as London and Liverpool in the British Isles and resource-producing islands in the tropics is a major theme in the history of the British Empire. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a city in the British colony of Canada developed similar relationships with the tropics. The metropolis of Montreal experienced rapid industrialization and became Canada’s largest city.  Previously, Montreal had been a transit point for Canadian raw materials en route to consumers in Britain. Canada’s industrialization and rapidly evolving relationship with the Caribbean allowed Montreal to join the rank of the Empire’s resource importing cities. This paper investigates the connected geographies of the island of Montreal with the sugar islands of the Caribbean by focusing on the Redpath Sugar Refinery and its reliance on raw sugar from Cuba and Brazil.  With increased profits made from slave-produced sugar until the late 1880s, Redpath Sugar Refinery invested in civic improvement projects such as museums, education, and science, all of which helped to position Montreal as the metropolis of the Dominion of Canada in the late nineteenth century.  This paper gestures towards makingbroader connections between industrialization, nationalism, race, and slavery in the histories of Quebec, and Canada more generally.

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