History of sugar


History of sugar

The history of sugar reflects industrial growth. Most humans appreciate sweet tastes. This has created demand for sweeteners, which in turn has fueled increases in the production of sugar, making more sugar available at affordable prices (within the constraints of soil-fertility, land-availability and a supply of biddable labor), leading to the development of more food products containing sugar and the addition of more sugar to existing products, accompanied by a growing average intake of sugar by consumers.

Because of the need for labor-intensive processing to turn sugarcane into end-products, much of the history of the sugar industry has had associations with large-scale slavery. [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 353
]

Early use of sugarcane in India

Originally, people chewed sugarcane raw to extract its sweetness. Indians discovered how to crystallize sugar during the Gupta dynasty, around 350 AD. Adas, Michael (January 2001). "Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History". Temple University Press. ISBN 1566398320. Page 311.] Sugarcane was originally from tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations with "S. barberi" originating in India and "S. edule" and "S. officinarum" coming from New Guinea. [http://www.siu.edu/~ebl/leaflets/sugar.htm Sharpe, Peter (1998). "Sugar Cane: Past and Present". Illinois: Southern Illinois University.] ]

However, sugar remained relatively unimportant until the Indians discovered methods of turning sugarcane juice into granulated crystals which would prove easier to store and to transport. Crystallized sugar was discovered by the time of the Imperial Guptas. Adas, page 311] Indian sailors, consumers of clarified butter and sugar, spread this food through various trade routes. The process was soon transmitted to China with traveling Buddhist monks.Kieschnick, John (2003). "The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture" Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691096767.] During the reign of Harsha (r. 606–647) in North India, Indian envoys sent to Tang China brought with them people knowledgeable in sugarcane cultivation after Emperor Taizong of Tang (r. 626–649) made his interest in it known, thus China established its first sugarcane cultivation in the 7th century.Sen, Tansen. (2003). "Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600–1400". Manoa: Asian Interactions and Comparisons, a joint publication of the University of Hawaii Press and the Association for Asian Studies. ISBN 0824825934. Pages 38–40.] Chinese documents confirm at least two missions to India, initiated in 647 CE, for obtaining technology for sugar-refining.Kieschnick, John (2003). "The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture" Princeton University Press. 258. ISBN 0691096767.] Each mission returned with results on refining sugar. In South Asia, the Middle East and China, sugar became a staple of cooking and desserts.

Early refining methods involved grinding or pounding the cane in order to extract the juice, and then boiling down the juice or drying it in the sun to yield sugary solids that looked like gravel. The Sanskrit word for "sugar" ("sharkara"), also means "gravel". Similarly, the Chinese use the term "gravel sugar" (Traditional Chinese: 砂糖) for what the West knows as "table sugar".

Cane sugar outside India

During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, Arab entrepreneurs adopted the techniques of sugar production from India and then refined and transformed them into a large-scale industry. Arabs set up the first sugar mills, refineries, factories and plantations. The Arabs and Berbers diffused sugar throughout the Arab Empire and beyond across much of the Old World, including Western Europe after they conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century AD.
Ahmad Y Hassan, [http://www.history-science-technology.com/Articles/articles%2072.htm Transfer Of Islamic Technology To The West, Part III: Technology Transfer in the Chemical Industries] , "History of Science and Technology in Islam".] Ponting traces the spread of the cultivation of sugarcane from its introduction into Mesopotamia, then the Levant and the islands of the eastern Mediterranean, especially Cyprus, by the 10th century. [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 353
] He also notes that it spread along the coast of East Africa to reach Zanzibar. [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 353
]

Crusaders also brought sugar home with them to Europe after their campaigns in the Holy Land, where they encountered caravans carrying "sweet salt". Early in the 12th century, Venice acquired some villages near Tyre and set up estates to produce sugar for export to Europe, where it supplemented honey as the only other available sweetener. [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 481
] Crusade chronicler William of Tyre, writing in the late 12th century, described sugar as "very necessary for the use and health of mankind".

Ponting recounts the trials of the early European sugar-entrepreneurs:

The crucial problem with sugar production was that it was highly labour-intensive in both growing and processing. Because of the huge weight and bulk of the raw cane it was very costly to transport, especially by land, and therefore each estate had to have its own factory. There the cane had to be crushed to extract the juices, which were boiled to concentrate them, in a series of back-breaking and intensive operations lasting many hours... However, once it had been processed and concentrated the sugar had a very high value for its bulk and could be traded over long distances by ship at a considerable profit. The [European sugar] industry only began on a major scale after the loss of the Levant to a resurgent Islam and the shift of production to Cyprus under a mixture of Crusader aristocrats and Venetian merchants. The local population on Cyprus spent most of their time growing their own food and few would work on the sugar estates. The owners therefore brought in slaves from the Black Sea area (and a few from Africa) to do most of the work. The level of demand and production was low and therefore so was the trade in slaves — no more than about a thousand people a year. It was little greater when sugar production began in Sicily.

In the Atlantic islands [the Canaries, Madeira, and the Cape Verde Islands] , once the initial exploitation of the timber and raw materials was over, it rapidly became clear that sugar production would be the most profitable way of using the new territories. The problem was the heavy labour involved — the Europeans refused to work as more than supervisors. The solution was to bring in slaves from Africa. The crucial developments in this trade began in the 1440s... [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 481
]

The 1390s saw the development of a better press, which doubled the juice obtained from the cane. This permitted economic expansion of sugar plantations to Andalucia and to the Algarve.The 1420s saw sugar production extended to the Canary Islands. It started in Madeira in 1455, using advisers from Sicily and (largely) Genoese capital for the mills. The accessibility of Madeira attracted Genoese and Flemish traders keen to by-pass Venetian monopolies. "By 1480 Antwerp had some seventy ships engaged in the Madeira sugar trade, with the refining and distribution concentrated in Antwerp. by the 1490s Madeira had overtaken Cyprus as a producer of sugar." [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 482
] African slaves also worked in the sugar plantations of the Kingdom of Castile around Valencia. [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 482
]

In August 1492 Christopher Columbus stopped at Gomera in the Canary Islands, for wine and water, intending to stay only four days. He became romantically involved with the Governor of the island, Beatrice de Bobadilla, and stayed a month. When he finally sailed she gave him cuttings of sugarcane, which became the first to reach the New World.

The Portuguese took sugar to Brazil. Hans Staden, published in 1555, writes that by 1540 Santa Catalina Island had 800 sugar mills and that the north coast of Brazil, Demarara and Surinam had another 2000. Hispaniola had its first sugar harvest in 1501, while Cuba and Jamaica were using sugar mills by the 1520s [cite book
last= Benitez-Rojo
first= Antonio
authorlink= Antonio Benitez-Rojo
title= The Repeating Island
origyear= 1992
year= 1996
publisher= Duke University Press
location= London
pages= 93
] . Approximately 3000 small mills built before 1550 in the New World created an unprecedented demand for cast iron gears, levers, axles and other implements. Specialist trades in mold-making and iron-casting developed in Europe due to the expansion of sugar production. Sugar mill construction developed technological skills needed for a nascent industrial revolution in the early 17th century.Fact|date=October 2007

After 1625 the Dutch carried sugarcane from South America to the Caribbean islands — where it was grown from Barbados to the Virgin Islands. The years 1625 to 1750 saw sugar become worth its weight in gold.Fact|date=September 2007 Contemporaries often comparedFact|date=September 2007 the worth of sugar with valuable commodities including musk, pearls, and spices. Prices declined slowly as production became multi-sourced, especially through British colonial policy. Formerly an indulgence of the rich, sugar became increasingly common among the poor. Sugar production increased in mainland North American colonies, in Cuba, and in Brazil. African slaves became the dominant source of plantation workers, as they proved resistant to the diseases of malaria and yellow fever. (European indentured servants remained in shorter supply, susceptible to disease and overall forming a less economic investment. European diseases such as smallpox had reduced the numbers of local Native Americans.) But replacement of Native American with African slaves also occurred because of the high death rates on sugar plantations. The British West Indies imported almost 4 million slaves, but had only 400,000 Blacks left after slavery ended in the British Empire in 1838.

With the European colonization of the Americas, the Caribbean became the world's largest source of sugar. These islands could supply sugarcane using slave labor and produce sugar at prices vastly lower than those of cane sugar imported from the East. Thus the economies of entire islands such as Guadaloupe and Barbados became based on sugar production. By 1750 the French colony known as Saint-Domingue (subsequently the independent country of Haiti) became the largest sugar producer in the world. Jamaica too became a major producer in the 18th century. Sugar plantations fueled a demand for manpower; between 1701 and 1810 ships brought nearly one million slaves to work in Jamaica and in Barbados.

During the eighteenth century, sugar became enormously popular. Britain, for example, consumed five times as much sugar in 1770 as in 1710. [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 510
] About 1750 sugar surpassed grain as "the most valuable commodity in European trade — it made up a fifth of all European imports and in the last decades of the century four-fifths of the sugar came from the British and French colonies in the West Indies." [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 510
] The sugar market went through a series of booms. The heightened demand and production of sugar came about to a large extent due to a great change in the eating habits of many Europeans. For example, they began consuming jams, candy, tea, coffee, cocoa, processed foods, and other sweet victuals in much greater numbers. Reacting to this increasing craze, the islands took advantage of the situation and set about producing still more sugar. In fact, they produced up to ninety percent of the sugar that the western Europeans consumed. Some islands proved more successful than others when it came to producing the product. And in Barbados and the British Leeward Islands sugar provided 93% and 97% respectively of exports.

Planters later began developing ways to boost production even more. For example, they began using more manure when growing their crops. They also developed more advanced mills and began using better types of sugarcane. In the eighteenth century "the French colonies were the most successful, especially Saint-Domingue, where better irrigation, water-power and machinery, together with concentration on newer types of sugar, increased profits." [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 510
] Despite these and other improvements, the price of sugar reached soaring heights, especially during events such as the revolt against the DutchFact|date=February 2007 and the Napoleonic Wars. Sugar remained in high demand, and the islands' planters knew exactly how to take advantage of the situation.

As Europeans established sugar plantations on the larger Caribbean islands, prices fell, especially in Britain. By the eighteenth century all levels of society had become common consumers of the former luxury product. At first most sugar in Britain went into tea, but later confectionery and chocolates became extremely popular. Many Britons (especially children) also ate jams.Fact|date=September 2007 Suppliers commonly sold sugar in solid cones and consumers required a sugar nip, a pliers-like tool, to break off pieces.

Sugarcane quickly exhausts the soil in which it grows, and planters pressed larger islands with fresher soil into production in the nineteenth century as demand for sugar in Europe continued to increase: "average consumption in Britain rose from four pounds per head in 1700 to eighteen pounds in 1800, thirty-six pounds by 1850 and over one hundred pounds by the twentieth century." [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 698
] In the 19th century Cuba rose to become the richest land in the Caribbean (with sugar as its dominant crop) because it formed the only major island landmass free of mountainous terrain. Instead, nearly three-quarters of its land formed a rolling plain — ideal for planting crops. Cuba also prospered above other islands because Cubans used better methods when harvesting the sugar crops: they adopted modern milling methods such as watermills, enclosed furnaces, steam engines, and vacuum-pans. All these technologies increased productivity. Cuba also retained slavery longer than the most of the rest of the Caribbean islands. [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 698-699
]

After the Haïtian Revolution established the independent state of Haiti, sugar production in that country declined and Cuba replaced Saint-Domingue as the world's largest producer.

Long established in Brazil, sugar production spread to other parts of South America, as well as to newer European colonies in Africa and in the Pacific, where it became especially important in Fiji. Mauritius, Natal and Queensland in Australia started growing sugar. The older and newer sugar-production areas now tended to use indentured labour rather than slaves, with workers "shipped across the world ... [and] ... held in conditions of near slavery for up to ten years... In the second half of the nineteenth century over 450,000 indentured labourers went from India to the British West Indies, others went to Natal, Mauritius and Fiji (where they became a majority of the population). In Queensland workers from the Pacific islands were moved in, on Hawaii ... they came from China and Japan. The Dutch transferred large numbers of people from Java to Surinam." [cite book
last= Ponting
first= Clive
authorlink= Clive Ponting
title= World history: a new perspective
origyear= 2000
year= 2000
publisher= Chatto & Windus
location= London
isbn= 0-701-16834-X
pages= 739
]

In Colombia, the planting of sugar started very early on, and entrepreneurs imported many African slaves to cultivate the fields. The industrialization of the Colombian industry started in 1901 with the establishment of the first steam-powered sugar mill by Santiago Eder.

While no longer grown and processed by slaves, sugar from developing countries has an ongoing association with workers earning minimal wages and living in extreme poverty.Fact|date=September 2008

The rise of beet sugar

In 1747 the German chemist Andreas Marggraf identified sucrose in beetroot. This discovery remained a mere curiosity for some time, but eventually Marggraf's student Franz Achard built a sugar beet processing factory at Cunern in Silesia (in present-day Poland), under the patronage of King Frederick William III of Prussia (reigned 1797 - 1840). While never profitable, this plant operated from 1801 until it suffered destruction during the Napoleonic Wars (ca 1802 - 1815).

Napoleon, cut off from Caribbean imports by a British blockade, and at any rate not wanting to fund British merchants, banned imports of sugar in 1813. The beet-sugar industry that emerged in consequence grew, and today sugar beet provides approximately 30% of world sugar production.

In the developed countries, the sugar industry relies on machinery, with a low requirement for manpower. A large beet refinery producing around 1,500 tonnes of sugar a day needs a permanent workforce of about 150 for 24-hour production.

Mechanization

Beginning in the late 18th century, the production of sugar became increasingly mechanized. The steam engine first powered a sugar mill in Jamaica in 1768, and soon after, steam replaced direct firing as the source of process heat.

In 1813 the British chemist Edward Charles Howard invented a method of refining sugar that involved boiling the cane juice not in an open kettle, but in a closed vessel heated by steam and held under partial vacuum. At reduced pressure, water boils at a lower temperature, and this development both saved fuel and reduced the amount of sugar lost through caramelization. Further gains in fuel-efficiency came from the multiple-effect evaporator, designed by the African-American engineer Norbert Rillieux (perhaps as early as the 1820s, although the first working model dates from 1845). This system consisted of a series of vacuum pans, each held at a lower pressure than the previous one. The vapors from each pan served to heat the next, with minimal heat wasted. Today, many industries use multiple-effect evaporators for evaporating water.

The process of separating sugar from molasses also received mechanical attention: David Weston first applied the centrifuge to this task in Hawaii in 1852.

Notes


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