The Drug Connection: India, China, and the Opium Wars

Sugar and Its Inseparable & Connected History with
Coffee, Tea, Opium, Pepsi
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Cultivating a ‘New’ World
Historical Perspective
• The Disciplinary Origins of World History
– “People without History” (Eric Wolf, 1982)
– Eurocentric perspectives
– Comparative cultures and area studies
• The New World History
– Transnational and transregional approaches
– Examining history on larger (global) spatial sales
The ‘New’ World History
• The ‘New’ World History cont.
– Focus upon cross-cultural exchanges and
– Comparative History
– Environmental History
• Vehicles of encounter -- trade, migration and
• Consequences of encounter -- adoption,
adaptation and resistance
Obstacles to Teaching ‘New’
World Historically
• Situating the California Framework and
Standards in the current historiography
of World History
• Textbooks and state tests
• Teacher certification and preparation
Teaching with ‘Food’ and
Commodities &‘New’ World History
• Expands the spatial scale of instruction and
makes spatial connections explicit
• Address a multiplicity of new world historical
themes: encounter, trade, migration and
cross-cultural exchange
• Engages students who eat and buy stuff!
• With proper framing – it works with state
The Travel of Sugar…A
• The spatial and temporal movement of sugar was
both cause and consequence of global developments
in trade, migration and imperial formation
• The movement and commoditization of sugar
connects and integrates hemispheres, regions and
nation states and is an important agent in early and
modern ‘globalization.’
• The history of sugar is inseparable from shifting
global patterns of demand & production of other
commodities (e.g, coffee, tea, sugar, silver and
opium) and the development & migration of coerced
and free forms of labor
Sugar…a Narrative (cont.)
• The history and movement of sugar also
informs (and is informed by) state and
imperial formation and significant human
modifications of the environment -- all
significant new world historical themes
• The history and movement of sugar is also
relevant to the teaching of world history at all
grade levels and indeed to that of American
history as well
Sweetness and Sugar
• Mammals like sweetness and sugar provides
significant calories and also energy
• Humans historically use sugar in a variety of
Physical energy and calories
Flavor enhancer for foods and beverages
Binder and preservative
Recently fuel -- methanol from sugar cane (Brazil)
Sweetness and Sugar (cont.)
• Sugar (sucrose) can be extracted from a wide
variety of plants and humans have cultivated
sugar cane, sugar beets and date palms to
produce sugar
• ‘Sweetness’ is also extracted commercially
from other plants and entities -- honey, maple
and fructose syrup (maize)
• Our focus here is upon sucrose
Environment vs. Culture?
• Consumption of sugar and sweetness is
culturally conditioned-– South Asia, Arab-Persian and Europeans are
historically the largest consumers of sugar
• Southeast Asia -- little consumption despite multiplicity of
sugar sources
• British > Italians
– Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power (1985)
• Tied sugar consumption to labor energy and productivity
with industrialization
• This does not explain high levels of consumption in
South and West Asia
The Early Predominance of
Sugar Cane
• For most of human history, sugar cane is the
most important source of cultivated and
commercially available sugar
• In tropical conditions -- sugar cane easily
proliferates once planted
– Member of the grass family and grows back when
cut allowing for multiple harvests per annum
• Sugar produces 10 times more calories per
acre than wheat
Labor Intensive Production
• Temperamental plant -- irrigation even
in tropics, requires weeding
• Laborious to harvest -- thick plant, nine
to ten feet tall
• Once cut -- sugar diminishes quickly
• Stripping, chopping and bundling
Capital Intensive Production
by Pre-Modern Standards
• Chopped cane is milled (mill)
• Juice is boiled two to three times to crystallize
and extract sugar (boiler)
• Sugar is ‘loafed’ to further gravity-extract
molasses (storage sheds)
• Molasses in the Americas was also
– High sugar content but also vitamins and minerals
– Distilled into ‘kill devil’
Coercive Labor Systems
• Sugar Plantations as early ‘factories’ of
– Cultivation and ‘manufacture’ took place
in one location (Brazil versus Barbados)
• Brutal conditions -- physical and
dangerous year-round work in a tropical
– Involuntary over free forms of labor
• Linda Shafer (1994) & ‘Southernization’
– Afro-eurasia in Classical and Postclassical
Periods (500 BCE to 1450 CE) impacted by
South(east) Asia
• Pioneering trade routes
• Spread of cultural influence, technologies and new forms
of agricultural production
• Much of Afro-eurasia was ‘southernized’ before it was
westernized (southernization informed westernization)
– The early history and spread of sugar cane was
an important component of ‘southernization.’
Early Sugar Cane Cultivation
• Sugar cane is indigenous to the islands
of Southeast Asia and first cultivated for
chewing perhaps as early as 1000 BCE
• By the Mauryan Period (c. 300-150
BCE) in South Asia -- evidence of
cultivation and crystallization for use in
Sugar Production in the
Eastern Mediterranean
• Arab conquests of Sind in early 8th century
CE brings Islamic contact with sugar
• Arab cultivation of sugar in the Eastern
Mediterranean, Sicily and Southern Spain for
elite Arab, Persian, Turkic and eventually
Russian consumers
• Slave labor mainly from Black Sea labor
markets (e.g. the word ‘slave’ in English)
• First connections between the consumption
and commodification of sugar with tea
An Early History of Tea
• After water the most consumed drink
• Camellia sinensis native to hills of Southern
• Early cultivation and use in Han period (206
B.C.E. - 220 C.E.)
– Medicinal use: stimulant properties and water
• By the 8th century -- associated with Buddhist
ritual and elite refined culture
Tea As a Trade Good
• Innovation and expansion in Chinese
tea production under the Tang and
Song (618-1279)
– Drying, powdering and bricking of tea
facilitated long distance trade
– Origins and development of porcelain tied
to tea (colors/styles to compliment hues of
The Global Spread of the
Market for Tea before 1300
• Spread with Buddhism to Japan as did tea
plants and production
• Traded along the Silk Roads and the Indian
Ocean, spreading tea drinking to Central
Asia, Russia, India and Islamic West Asia and
North Africa
• Tea’s first contact with sugar in the Islamic
World -- sweetened tea as a substitute for
The Crusades and Sugar
• The Crusades (1095-1291) were a conduit
(with Umayyad Spain) to the
‘southernization’ of Europe
– The diffusion of sugar (and its associated
technologies) was part of this process
– Elite European demand for sugar < 1500
• White sugar as a drug and toothpaste
• Sugar used with other ‘new’ Asian spices (cloves,
cinnamon etc.) to flavor savories
• Sugar sculptures and elaborate desserts
Sugar and the Italian
• From 1200-1500, Italian (and some Catalan)
merchants develop sugar plantations in
Cyprus and other islands in the
– Establish the basic construct of the European
sugar plantation system (centralized production,
slave labor and capitalization)
– Before the fall of Constantinople (1453) -- slaves
were Muslims and Slavs in the main but also SubSaharan Africans
Sugar and the Portuguese
Origins of Atlantic Slavery
• 15th century Portuguese maritime expansion
of West African coast
• Establish first Atlantic plantations (borrowing
from the Italian model) in Madeira, the
Canaries and Sao Tome > 1450
– Use of African slave labor (e.g., Sao Tome and the
Kingdom of the Kongo)
– By 1480, Madeira the #1 source of sugar
• 1492 -- Sao Tome a ‘laboratory’ for the
Atlantic Plantation Complex; the Atlantic slave
trade pre-dates Columbus
Sugar and the Atlantic
Plantation Complex
• Columbus recognized the potential of the
West Indies for sugar (1493) and the
Portuguese brought sugar & Africans to Brazil
in 1501.
• Brazilian sugar engenhos (factories)
surpassing production of Madeira by the late
16th century
• Portuguese develop the South Atlantic Slave
The Expansion of American
Sugar Cane Production
• High levels of European demand, declining
costs of slave labor, and ‘virgin soil
phenomena’ -- spread sugar cane production
in the tropical environs of the Americas
• 16th Century -- Brazil
• 17th Century -- Lesser Antilles (e.g.
• 18th Century -- Greater Antilles (e.g. Jamaica
and Hispaniola)
• Early 19th Century -- Cuba
Sugar and the Columbian
• Sugar cane was arguably the most influential
Eurasian plant to impact the American
– The environmental impact of monocultural
– The economic impact of monocultural agriculture
(inner colonial dependency)
• Disease, sugar and African slavery -- the
‘failure’ of Amerindian and Irish slavery
Sugar and the Atlantic Slave
• Why African labor?
– Disease & agricultural traditions
– Scaling and integrating with the preexisting slave trade within Africa
– Race
– Africa and the Atlantic Basin
The Atlantic Slave Trade
• The Demographics of the Atlantic Slave
Trade (1550-1830)
– Philip Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census
– 10-11 million Africans survive the passage
– 1 in 6 died in the middle passage -- declining over
– 1770s = peak decade
– Portuguese (1500s), Dutch (1600s) and British
(1700s) dominate the trade
– Supply-sided economics and the declining price of
slave labor
Sugar and Slavery
• 75% of Africans were brought to the Americas
for purposes of sugar production
– 50% to the Caribbean and 25% to Brazil
• 85% male -- and populations do not
reproduce themselves until circa 1800
• The Africanization of the Americas -- far more
Africans > Europeans prior to 1800
Hot Drinks Revolution
• Demand-sided economics -- the spread
of sugar production informed by the
expansion and social extension of
European consumption
• 17th century -- coffee (Yemen/Ethiopia)
and chocolate (cocoa) drinking with
– Coffee house culture and ‘middle class’
sugar consumption
European Tea Consumption in
the Early Modern Period
• Portuguese bring Chinese tea in the 16th
• Expansion with coffeehouse culture in the
late 17th century in NW Europe
– Coffee and increasingly tea were ‘excuses’ to
consume sugar
– Rising consumption of tea correlated with that of
• And with it the plantation system and Atlantic slavery
British Tea Craze prior to
• The greatest expansion of European tea
drinking was in Britain, tied to
Rising luxury & middle class consumerism
Fascination with chinoiserie
British leadership in plantation sugar production
British East India Company was leading importer
of Chinese tea and porcelain (followed distantly by
the Dutch EIC)
• British EIC gain trading privileges in Canton
(Guangzhou) in 1716
Silver and the Organization of
the British Tea Trade
• Organization of Chinese production w/ rising
domestic and global demand
– Innumerable peasant producers selling to
peddlers and through them merchants
– Qing state monopoly and ban on export of plants
• Chinese demand for silver raises price and
stimulates the second silver boom in the
– British positive trade balance with Spain
– 90% of British tea purchased with American silver
Tea in the late 18th Century
• British & European tea and sugar
consumption rises exponentially
– Peak of Caribbean sugar cane production and the
Atlantic slave trade
– Tea duties slashed in 1784
– Tea (and sugar) become a staple of working-class
– By 1800 tea is the largest export item from Asia to
Europe and British EIC controls 80% of the trade
From Silver to Opium
• Late 18th century decline in the value of silver
in China
– Cost of production in Americas rises
– Chinese demand falls with use of paper money
– Sophistication of Chinese economy -- Europeans
have little to offer in the absence of silver
• By 1800 the vast majority of EIC Chinese tea
is purchased with profits from the sale of
Indian opium
– Integrating EIC activities in South and East Asia
– Tying opium to sugar
Sugar and Imperial Rivalry in
the 18th Century
• By 1770 -- in the context of
mercantilism, sugar import duties were
key to the revenues of European
imperial powers
– Sugar = #1 British import
• War of the American Revolution (17751783)
– Sugar colonies loyal and protected
Abolitionism and Declining of
Profitability in the Americas
• 1780 - 1830 = declining profitability
– British West Indies: loss of cheap North American
– Soil exhaustion
– Global competition with spread of sugar cane and
sugar beet production
• Abolitionism in sugar cane regions, 18071840
– Exceptions Cuba (1862) where mechanization w/
British capital maintain profits and Brazil (1871)
where slaves used in coffee and cocoa cultivation
Imperialism and the Spread of
Sugar Cane in the 19th Century
• Virgin Soils: Spread to Guiana's, Pacific
islands (Fiji and Hawaii), Mauritius, Sri Lanka
and Southern Africa
– Tied to global migration of indentured and
contracted South and East Asian labor
• Some mechanization and steam engines but
even in 20th century -- 50% by hand tools
• Industrialization -- after 1850 cane cultivation
is separate from refining
– Large urban ‘first world’ industrial manufacture
(Domino Sugar Co, 1857) w/ transport revolutions
Sugar Beet Production
• Volume of sugar production increased from
250,000 metric tons to 4 million from 18001900 with spread of tea and also factoryproduced sweets in circa 1900(Nestles,
Hersheys, Roundtree, Wrigley etc.)
– An important contributor was the sugar beet
– German scientist Andreas Marrgraf (1747)
discovered means of extracting sucrose from the
– 1802 first sugar beet factory in Silesia
Sugar Beets cont.
• In terms of land productivity -- sugar cane is 4
times more productive, but beets have a
much longer shelf life and are nitrogen-fixers
(and grow in poor soils)
• Beets are sliced and boiled -- juice is reboiled to form crystals
• Obstacles to the spread of sugar beet
production -- high transport and fuel costs
Sugar Beet Boom, 1860-1920
• Facilitated by rail transport and coalfired boilers
• Centered in Central Europe and Russia
• Diffused with German, Ukrainian and
Russian migrations of the late 19th
century to North America as well as
Chile and Argentina
Contemporary Trends
• Sugar consumption continues to rise
(accounts for 9% of avg. human energy
intake) in per capita terms and the growth is
fastest in the developing world
1960 Western Europe and USA = 60%
Asia = 25%
Africa = 5%
By 2000 -- the ‘West’ = 30%; Asia = 45%; Africa
= 15%
• Western consumption slowing impacted by
rising fructose and artificial sweeteners
Contemporary Trends Cont.
• 1900 to 2000 -- global production from 4
million metric tons to 150 metric tons per year
– Consequence of the ‘Green Revolution’ and
complete mechanization > 1945
– Much local production with sugar produced in 110
countries and less than 25% of production is
• 30% beet and 70% cane
• Low tech industry with significant trade regulation
– Top producers -- Brazil, India, EU, China and USA
The End of Sugar?
• High-Fructose Corn Syrup
– Japanese origins in the late 1960s (cheap and liquid)
– Multi-national corporations and industrially produced
– Sugar consumption in the USA and Japan has
declined since the 1980s (and diabetes has risen)
• HFCS – quotas in Europe
• Sugar’s continued growth sustained by developing world
and soft drink consumption!
– 33% increase in the last decade
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