How did sugar grow from prize to pariah? Acclaimed historian James Walvin looks at the history of our collective sweet tooth, beginning with the sugar grown by enslaved people who had been uprooted and shipped vast distances to undertake the grueling labor on plantations. The combination of sugar and slavery would transform the tastes of the Western world. Prior to 1600, sugar was a costly luxury, the domain of the rich. But with the rise of the sugar colonies in the New World over the following century, sugar became cheap, ubiquitous, and an everyday necessity. Less than fifty years ago, few people suggested that sugar posed a global health problem. And yet today, sugar is regularly denounced as a dangerous addiction, on a par with tobacco. Masterfully insightful and probing, James Walvin reveals the relationship between society and sweetness over the past two centuries— and how it explains our conflicted relationship with sugar today.
James Walvin is the author of several books on slavery and modern social history. including Crossings and A Jamaican Plantation. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2008 he was awarded an OBE for services to scholarship. He lives in England.