The truck system in transatlantic perspective: Louisiana and the Netherlands ca. 1865-1920

The project is a comparative study based on primary sources, on the existence of a truck system at plantation stores on cotton and sugar plantations in Louisiana, and factory stores in different industries in the Netherlands, at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The purpose is to compare the effect of the oppressive features of the truck system on the labourers in Louisiana and the Netherlands.

There are several aspects that will receive attention, including the difference between sharecropping and wage labour on plantations in Louisiana. The methods of paying the labourers, including methods that forced the labourers to spend their wages in the plantation store will also be looked at. The research will consider the reasons for this enforcement: practical and economic reasons versus exploitation and racism. The responses of the labourers will also be examined.

Furthermore, there is a lack of research on both factory and plantation stores, especially the latter, and that is why the main focus of this project will be on the plantation stores. Hopefully, this research will contribute to the historical debate about the relationship between economic development and racism in the southern states of the United States, and, if possible, shed new light on the truck system in the Netherlands.

The main research question at the moment is: Was the truck system in Louisiana, if it was as dominant and general as assumed, an integral part of the ‘Jim Crow’ system, or was it an independent phenomenon, and did it not differ essentially from the developments in the Western world?

Project details


PhD project funded by Stichting Professor Van Winterfonds (2011-2016)
Budget: EUR 198,693

Karin Lurvink MA

Prof. Dr. C.A. Davids

Dr. S.W. Verstegen


Publications 2014

  • Lurvink, K. (2014). Strapped for cash. Non-cash payments on Louisiana cotton plantations. Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis, 11, 123-152.