The sugar trade: Sweet and Rich

August 16th, 2011  |  Source: The Economist

 

IT IS no exaggeration to say that the foundations of the modern globalised world were made of sugar. In the 15th century Europeans first encountered its sweet delights. Within a couple of hundred years the coming of sea power, and with it the means to create empires across the oceans, resulted in large tracts of land in South America and the Caribbean being seized. Much of it was used in the production of sugar, which was steadily evolving from being a scarce luxury to a daily necessity.

The English were late starters. Rather than compete directly with the Spanish and the Portuguese for territory on the South American mainland, they concentrated on gaining control of islands in the West Indies, first Barbados and then Jamaica and less important acquisitions, such as Antigua. Matthew Parker’s narrative account of the sugar trade and the formidable families who were behind it, in particular the Draxes, the Codringtons and William Beckford of Fonthill (pictured) and his forebears, is a tumultuous rollercoaster of a book.

Economist Book review of The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies. By Matthew Parker. Walker & Co; 446 pages; $30. Hutchinson; Buy from Amazon.com




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