Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Two commodities—sugar and slaves—were significant to the growth of transatlantic commerce, and the production of sugar is directly tied to the enslavement and exploitation of Arawaks, Africans, and African Americans whose labor helped the Atlantic economy to burgeon. From the sugar plantations of the Caribbean to those of the American South, enslaved peoples worked the sugarcane fields and plantations and were essential to the Triangle trade. See plantations, sugar and sugar trade. Across the ocean, for a long while, Pacific Islanders were the source of cheap labor in the sugarcane fields of Australia. Whether in the East or the West, the campaign for sugar functioned to enhance the lives of some while degrading the lives of many others. Due to sugar’s status as a luxury item, it sold for high prices, making investment in its production and trade profitable, especially for European merchants. For the enslaved in the United States and the Caribbean, sugar production was especially arduous work, with seasonal rotations and long hours for those who worked in labor gangs. The paltry rations given sugarcane workers further reduced their life expectancy. See slavery.