Studying sugar may seem like an ineffective way to approach the Caribbean’s rise to a globalized economy. It is quite the contrary, sugar rose to be an extremely popular and profitable staple for the international food economy. It grew to play a major role in what we know of today as the global food market. Sugar started developing immense popularity around the 1960’s due to colonial slavery, the industrialization of a global economy, and an increase in tea consumption.
Sugar was introduced to the English as early as 1000 AD. However, it was more renowned for being used as a spice or for medicinal purposes. Sugar was considered to be a delicacy for the elite and was not thought of as anything someone of another class could consume until around the early 19th century. Mintz states, “by 1750 the poorest farm labourer’s wife took sugar in her tea” (Mintz 45).
What created this socio-economic shift in the consumption of tea? Mintz describes plantations as being very highly speculative enterprises. Across the board most sugar plantation owners would have to anticipate that their international investors would desire a large amount of raw sugar. The attitude of the plantation owners was partly due to an increased amount of optimism and partly because of the difficulty of international communications in the 17th century. This shared attitude brought a lot of farmer’s to debtor’s prison while some extremely prospered. Although overtime, the amount of farmers in debt steadily decreased due to an, “unceasing increases in demand.” The sugar began to work its way into all aspects of life due to a declining unit price that was brought about by more worker productivity in the Caribbean (Mintz 44-45).
Mintz speculates that sugar consumption increased about 2,500 percent in merely 150 years (Mintz 73). What lead to the increased worker productivity and declining unit price of sugar? In my opinion the most important aspect of the global sugar...
Cited: Dunn, Richard S. Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713. Williamsburg, VA: Omohundro Inst. of Early American History and Culture, 2000. Print.
Higman, B. W. "The Sugar Revolution." The Economic History Review 53.2 (2000): 213-36. Print.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Peguin, 1986. Print.
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