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Sugar A Bittersweet History by Elizabeth Abbott


Sugar A Bittersweet History by Elizabeth Abbott

Much like oil today, sugar was once the most powerful commodity on earth. It shaped world affairs, influencing the economic policies of nations, driving international trade and wreaking environmental havoc. The Western world's addiction to sugar came at a terrible human cost: the near extinction of the New World indigenous peoples gave rise to a new form of slavery, as millions of captured Africans were crammed into ships to make the dangerous voyage to Caribbean cane plantations. What began as the extraordinarily expensive luxury of nobles and the very wealthy has become a staple in the modern world. Indeed, it played its own role in creating that world, fuelling the workers of the Industrial Revolution, and giving rise to the craze for fast food. Sugar: A Bittersweet History tells the extraordinary, dramatic and thought-provoking story of this most commonplace of products from its very origins to the present day. Elizabeth Abbott examines how and in what quantities we still consume sugar; its role in the crisis of obesity and diabetes; how its cultivation continues to affect the environment; and how coerced labour continues in so many sugar-producing nations. Richly detailed, impeccably researched and thoroughly compelling, Sugar is a comprehensive social history of a substance that has revolutionised the way we eat, and poignant testimony to the suffering endured in the name of satisfying the world's sweet tooth.


'A highly readable and comprehensive study of a remarkable product... rare eloquence and passion... a must-read' - Independent. 'Fascinating' - Daily Mail. 'Reading this graphic tale of the global havoc sugar has caused and continues to cause, you might wonder why sugar is not a banned substance; it seems to have done as much harm as opium or heroin... [Abbott's] style is vivid and she's done her research, right back to her sugar plantation Antiguan ancestors. It's a good read - but it might stay your hand next time you reach for a chocolate biscuit to enjoy with your coffee' - Irish Times. 'Zestful... belongs to that recent genre of food histories which have had huge public appeal... Abbott's breezy and energetic style will doubtless find an enthusiastic readership among people keen to make sense of the world around them via the history of this remarkable commodity' - BBC History. 'The blood-drenched history of sugar is carefully mapped in Elizabeth Abbot's impressive overview, which is guaranteed to make you choke on your chocolate - Enlightening and as dismaying as a sugar crash' - Metro. 'Read it and you'll never stir sugar into your coffee or sprinkle it over your berries in quite the same mindless way. I promise' - Montreal Gazette. 'Brilliant and assiduously researched. Abbott writes about the history of sugar with a fluid, fierce narrative power and a vengeful intelligence. Her personal stake in the story - via her own recently discovered West Indian heritage - makes the book all the more compelling' - Quill & Quire. 'A richly dramatic and fascinating history of how sugar Africanized the New World' - Sun Times.'

About the Author

Elizabeth Abbott Elizabeth Abbott is Research Associate at Trinity College, University of Toronto and, from 1991 to 2004, was Dean of Women. She is the author of several books, including A History of Mistresses and A History of Celibacy .

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Book Info

Publication date

1st November 2010


Elizabeth Abbott

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Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd an imprint of Duckworth Overlook


464 pages


Social & cultural history
Food & society



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