Chocolate and empire: from the land where the cocoa grows

The relationship between Rowntree's British workers, and those on its plantations overseas, casts a fascinating light upon attitudes to empire, says Emma Robertson, who has been researching the company archives

Men sealing cases of Rowntree’s Elect Cocoa, York, Yorkshire, 1893. (Photo by Borthwick Institute/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the April 2010 issue of BBC History Magazine 

In March 1902, workers at the Rowntree confectionery company in York received their very first copy of the Cocoa Works Magazine (CWM). This in-house journal had been instigated by their Quaker employer, Joseph Rowntree, in the hope that it would “make up for the loss of personal intercourse” caused by the expansion of the firm. DS Crichton, in his Editor’s Note, referred to the magazine “as a means of making the work of the Social Department more effective”, and the Notes and Jottings feature encouraged workers to take part in company-sponsored activities at the factory such as singing classes and Sick Benefit Clubs.

Want to read more?

Become a BBC History Magazine subscriber today to unlock all premium articles in The Library

Unlock now