Origins of Sugar Cultivation
Sugar processing originated in New Guinea around 10,000 years ago. By 6,000 BC, it spread to the Indian subcontinent, where methods for producing crystalline sugar were developed.
Sugar and the Crusades
During the Crusades (11th-13th centuries), Europeans rediscovered sugar. Crusaders returning home talked of this 'new spice' which led to a surge in its popularity and trade in Europe.
Sugar as Currency
Sugar was often used as a currency or sweetener and sometimes even for medicinal purposes. Its value was sometimes equivalent to that of precious metals.
Transatlantic Slave Trade
Sugar cultivation and processing in the Caribbean and Americas were labor-intensive and gave rise to the transatlantic slave trade, which forcibly brought more than 10 million Africans to the New World.
Sugar Barons' Wealth
By the mid-17th century, sugar barons were among the wealthiest men in the new world. Their fortunes equaled that of today’s billionaires, having vast influence on trade and politics.
Industrialization of Sugar
The 19th century saw the mechanization of sugar production, making it cheaper and more accessible. Beet sugar also became popular, diversifying the industry previously dominated by cane sugar.
Modern Sugar Consumption
Today, the average person consumes about 53 pounds of sugar per year. Surprisingly, this is below the historical peak of the 18th century when some Europeans consumed up to 100 pounds annually.