Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Sherry Johnson

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Lisandro Perez

Third Advisor's Name

N. David Cook

Fourth Advisor's Name

Darden Asbury Pyron

Date of Defense



Tobacco was of primary importance to Spain, and its impact on Cuba’s economy and society was greater than just the numbers of farms, workers, or production, demonstrated by the Spanish crown’s outlay of monies for capital assets, bureaucrats’ salaries, and payments to farmers for their crop. This study is a micro- and macro-level study of rural life in colonial Cuba and the interconnected relationships among society, agricultural production, state control, and the island’s economic development.

By placing Cuba’s tobacco farmers at the forefront of this social history, this work revisits and offers alternatives to two prevailing historiographical views of rural Cuba from 1763 (the year Havana returned to Spanish control following the Seven Years’ War) to 1817 (the final year of the 100-year royal monopoly on Cuban tobacco). Firstly, it argues against the primacy of sugar over other agricultural crops, a view that has shaped decades of scholarship, and challenges the thesis which maintains the Cuban tobacco farmer was almost exclusively poor, white, and employed free labor, rather than slaves, in the production of their crop.

This study establishes the importance of tobacco as an agricultural product, and argues that Cuban tobacco growers were a heterogeneous group, revealing the role that its cultivation may have played in helping some slaves earn their freedom.




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