Sugar's Bitter Beginnings

By: Dylan Rodgers

Sugar is by far one of the most popular commodities on the planet. It has converted tons of people into tea and coffee drinkers and blessed mankind with wonderfully sweet treats. But the process of sugar's rise to greatness could leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Originally harvested from New Guinea in the 1500s by European mariners, the sweet cane-grass was carried to Brazil and the Caribbean. By the 17th century, sugar was in every household in Great Britain. In fact, by 1850, the average Brit consumed about 35 lbs. of sugar a year. It changed the worlds understanding of food and drinks, plain and simple. The sugar market took off like a rocket propelling those invested in the business to amazing wealth. These "sugar barons" find power far more addicting than the sweet crystals responsible for their success.

Matthew Parker, author of The Sugar Barons, tells the brutal story of how three British families kept a strangle hold on the sugar business. Murder, torture, rape, and far more unmentionable acts of psychopathic behavior were common place in daily sugar business without repercussions. Parker demonstrates the brutality in early sugar cultivation with details of how planters were deliberately cruel towards their slaves and commended for such ferocity.

Poetic justice, sweet as the sugar they killed for, struck the sugar barons and washed away their empire like sandcastles in high-tide. Boiling sugar cane used up all the natural wood resources on the smaller islands; competition arose in the form of the French, the Spanish, and a sugar beets; malaria and yellow fever struck a lethal blow; the heirs of the barons became drunks and sexual deviants. Their sexual behavior sterilized much their blood line through STDs, and without sons to inherit the money, all that the barons worked for withered away.

So next time you taste the wonderfully sweet flavor of sugar, keep in mind the terrible nature of its beginning. But don't let it ruin the taste, because though the story began horribly, the end of the sugar barons' chapter remains an example of sweet, sugary justice.