Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joshua Freeman

Committee Members

Thomas Kessner

James Oakes

Adolph Reed

Subject Categories

Law and Economics | United States History


Sugar refining, sugar trade, trade policy, technology, industrial consolidation


The Domino Effect explores the relationship between government policies, international and domestic politics, and the consolidation of the US sugar refining industry between 1789 and 1895. After the turn of the 19thcentury, contrasting sugar policies in the US, Britain, France and Prussia restructured the international market and created distinct paths for further growth. State-subsidized research and development in continental Europe produced a new source of raw material, the sugar beet, and generated new technologies that modernizedthe milling and refining processes. In the US, where trade policy trumped industrial policy, attempts to develop a fully domestic source of raw material stalled. Between 1840 and 1870, European beet technology became standardized, but government policy in the US, Britain, and Europe mediated its integration into cultivation and refining regions across the globe. As the world’s industries moved towards mass production under the same technological conditions, each major industry took on strikingly different forms, and developed distinct relationships to the market, prices, and international trade. Previous scholars have emphasized how objective market forces and new technologies incentivized corporate consolidation in capital-intensive industries like sugar refining. By examining the century-long dialectic between international politics, state policy, the market, and technology, this dissertation illustrates how politics and extra-market factors created the conditions for growth, instability, and consolidation in the US sugar industry.

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