Medieval Islamic Sugar Trade

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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How did the Middle East emerge to be a center of sugarcane cultivation, and how did vibrant medieval trades in sugar develop concurrently in the Middle East and in both Islamic and Christian Europe? These trades depended on the diffusion of sugar westward from Asia, from India in particular, a process that occurred in gradual steps; the development of sugar industries and of export trades in sugar represented only the final stage. Knowledge of the sugarcane plant in Europe and the Middle East greatly preceded the commercial production of sugarcane and cane products in those places, which occurred only many centuries after commercial sugarcane production had been established in India.