Sweetness and Power

The basis for the African slave trade in the New World was not cotton, as many people assume, but sugar. This and other tidbits of knowledge about one of the West’s most treasured addictions are what make this book worth reading. It’s always good to get behind the appearances of basic consumer products, and Mintz digs deep into history to do just that. Tracing the developments of sugar production and consumption in the British empire, Mintz shows how sugar manifested and changed networks of power. What meanings did sugar have to different people, and how did those meanings change? What was the relation between colony and imperial metropolis; between slaves, plantation owners, traders, Parliament, and consumers? How did the rapid introduction of sugar into the European kitchen change people’s diets? This kind of investigation is indispensible; it makes you look anew at things normally taken for granted. [New York: Penguin]

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