A social and cultural history
Author: Emma Robertson

Chocolate remains a mythic product, a symbol both of luxury and of a fantasy world of exoticism, yet also (for many) a workaday requirement providing energy and nutrition. This book concentrates on three key stages of chocolate production in the British empire: growing cocoa beans, manufacturing chocolate from these beans, and the marketing of chocolate products. It begins with the romantic construction of chocolate, redresses the gender imbalance of many existing Rowntree histories and values women's own interpretations of their working lives. The analysis of advertising establishes connections and tensions between the worlds of production and consumption, with an attention to gender and class, and to cultural characteristics. The book tackles imperial histories of chocolate and how British firms, including Rowntree, constructed their own romantic narratives of the 'discovery' and development of chocolate production. It focuses on Nigerian women farmers who have always been active agents in cocoa production, despite having to struggle against the often intersecting structures and ideologies of colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy. The book explores the ways in which Rowntree created and reflected particular understandings of the historic city of York and of empire, through media such as their in-house journal, 'Cocoa Works Magazine'. It provides the oral histories of women factory workers, including that of a Chinese girl, and their experiences of gendered and raced labour in chocolate manufacture.

Abstract only
Emma Robertson

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book begins with the romantic construction of chocolate, and attempts to understand the actual human endeavours, and systematic exploitation, which have made chocolate fantasies possible. It examines a different stage in the cocoa commodity chain: from the farming of cocoa beans, to the site of chocolate manufacture, to the marketing of the finished goods. The book tackles imperial histories of chocolate and how British firms, including Henry Isaac Rowntree, constructed their own romantic narratives of the 'discovery' and development of chocolate production. It is devoted to women's experiences of cocoa farming in British colonies and former colonies. The book explores the ways in which Rowntree created and reflected particular understandings of York and of empire, through media such as their in-house journal, Cocoa Works Magazine (CWM).

in Chocolate, women and empire
Gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption
Emma Robertson

In the cocoa chain model, chocolate consumption is the final stage, the definitive purpose of production. This chapter focuses on the texts and images of chocolate created by manufacturers and their advertising agents from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries. Studying adverts for different products, the chapter considers how chocolate consumption has been represented and how it has been encoded with meanings of gender, race and nation. The chapter studies the meanings of chocolate consumption created in British advertising campaigns. It focuses on the marketing of Rowntree brands developed with the exception of cocoa in the 1930s. The chapter examines depictions of Coco and Honeybunch in more detail to see how, and to what effect, they correspond to contemporary black stereotypes, and how they deviate from such images. It looks more generally at how chocolate adverts drew on ideas about 'place' to exploit nationalistic feeling.

in Chocolate, women and empire
Imperial and colonial histories
Emma Robertson

This chapter aims to put chocolate into its imperial context, and to recognise the position of British confectionery companies such as Rowntree within this context. It begins by studying the ways in which the early history of chocolate has been written in the west and the ideologies underpinning these narratives. Moving on from the academic and popular histories of chocolate, the chapter examines archival evidence and secondary literature to assess the nature of British firms' involvement in the purchasing of cocoa. The chapter explores the daily operations of the Rowntree-Fry-Cadbury buying agency in Nigeria and offers some insight into the experiences of staff employed by the British chocolate manufacturers. It turns to the ways in which cocoa farming itself has been represented. The chapter explains how has the history of cocoa production been told through assumptions about race, class, gender and sexuality.

in Chocolate, women and empire
Women’s experiences of cocoa farming
Emma Robertson

This chapter discusses the ways in which the particular circumstances of cocoa farming in Nigeria, particularly the colonial context, have had an impact on Nigerian women. It considers how they have actively carved out their own roles within the developing cash crop economy. The chapter provides a way into a transnational analysis of women at different stages in the production of cocoa: handling the raw material in Nigeria and transforming this into Rowntree-branded confectionery in Britain. It explores how an analysis of cocoa production demands recognition of the intersections between capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism, and the effects of such structures on women's lives. Before the establishment of the West African industry, women in South and Central America, and in the Caribbean, were already involved in diverse ways in the production and sale of cocoa to the western market.

in Chocolate, women and empire
Race, imperialism and the historic city
Emma Robertson

This chapter draws on company sources to explore the complex interrelatedness of 'home' and 'empire' for Rowntree and for York. It examines the role played by the firm in influencing understandings of race, empire and the city, as well as in providing a space for employees effectively to act out 'local' and 'imperial' consciousness. The chapter explains the ways in which Rowntree constructed their relationship to York and the versions of the city they represented and created. It considers how Rowntree represented the rest of the world, and their own place in the British empire. Workers were involved in making global, often imperial connections at an economic, social and cultural level through migration and missionary work, and through the performance and spectatorship of race in factory minstrel shows. The chapter illuminates how imperial identities were situated in the context of imperialism and in relation to the chocolate industry in particular.

in Chocolate, women and empire
Race and gender in the chocolate factory
Emma Robertson

This chapter focuses on the experiences of women workers on the shopfloor of the Rowntree factory in York. It now turns to Rowntree employees daily lives at the factory to reach a better understanding of how women experienced their gendered roles in chocolate manufacture. The chapter presents case studies of three non-white women who migrated to the city. The first, Nellie, was born in Liverpool to Chinese parents, and moved to York during the Second World War. Carmen was recruited directly by Rowntree in Malta, arriving in York in the early 1960s. Finally, Julie travelled to York with her family in the early 1970s as a Ugandan Asian refugee and started work at Rowntree a year later. The work of Nellie, Carmen and Julie illustrates the ways in which the Rowntree firm is implicated in imperial and postcolonial histories, and in the wider story of race relations in Britain.

in Chocolate, women and empire
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Emma Robertson

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book re-examines the history of chocolate at a local and a global level, linking together the legacies of early imperial exploitation. It also re-examines the continued global hegemony of western capitalists with the hard work of ordinary women in a British factory and on the cocoa farms of British West Africa. The book begins with the romance of the cocoa bean, food of the Gods, in which women tend to feature as either over-indulgent consumers or 'colourful' exotic workers performing the lighter side of cocoa farming. It explains women's complex relationships to the former British empire and how such relations have been structured by the chocolate industry. The book concludes by emphasising the narratives told by women working in the industry.

in Chocolate, women and empire