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Sugar: A Bitterweet History [Hardcover]

Elizabeth Abbot
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1 2010
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.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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'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. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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". --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and Intriguing Feb. 3 2010
Elizabeth Abbott's Sugar: A Bittersweet History is an intelligent
and intriguing look at a product which many/most of us take for granted.
Abbott traces the growth in the world's demand for sugar and the direct
role this played in the growth of the slave trade. Abbott's writing is always interesting. The history is interspersed with tiny, elegant details of real people and real lives --- some prospering but most foundering, as a result of the sugar market. It is a very compelling read and the accompanying photographs are excellent. You'll never look at your sugar bowl in the same way again.
Sugar: A Bittersweet History
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read Jan. 8 2010
By Abby
I looked up this book after learning it was nominated the Charles Taylor Prize. It is well researched and expertly written. I had no idea that there was such a hugely fascinating and emotional history in the little teaspoon of sugar I put in my coffee every morning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars far too much on slavery era Aug. 22 2012
By Brian Maitland TOP 500 REVIEWER
Having read similar books where the focus is on the history of one food commodity (True History Of Chocolate by the Coes, Banana by Dan Koeppel, Salt by Mark Kurlansky, etc.) is something I can get into in a big way. Sadly, this book on Sugar lost me when chapter after chapter went on and on about slavery. Yes, slavery played a huge role in sugar's history but the author seemed to lose her way by spending such a large chunk of the book on that. It became more a book explaining and discussing slavery and not understanding that readers get it so would she mind getting back to the focus on sugar.

It's very well researched but was in desperate need of an editor to reign her in. She lost focus for the majority of this book when it became a treatise on slavery rather than on sugar itself.
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