Sugar Trade

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

sugar trade, which arose from the increasing demand for sugar that began in the early sixteenth century and has continued unabated ever since, parallels the political, economic, and cultural ascendance of European and Euro-American nation-states on the global stage since 1500. It is perfectly accurate to associate the growing global importance of sugar with the “rise of the West,” as the astronomical success of the transatlantic European trade in semi-refined cane sugar produced by slave labor in the Caribbean and Brazil that began in the sixteenth century provided the economic motor for the expansion of European empires in the early modern era and, as some have argued, for the Industrial Revolution that followed. Moreover, a direct link exists between the entrenchment of cane sugar in culinary habits across social and economic divides of Western Europe in the eighteenth century and the modern culture of sweetness.