Sugar: a Bittersweet History by Elizabeth Abbott. Library Call Number: TX560.S9A23 2009.
A comprehensive social history of the taste most craved. Abbott’s book takes the reader from the origins of cultivated sugar cane—likely in Indonesia or Polynesia—to the huge agribusiness of beet and cane production today. Supplanting honey in the sweetening of tea, sugar began as a treat for the wealthy and exploded in popularity; in a few hundred years, it went from luxury to unfortunate staple. Abbott gives the reader a look at the huge enterprises that sprang up in the Caribbean in the 1700’s, plantations that required hundreds of thousands of slaves to do the work and made a handful of Europeans rich beyond dreams and how candy and chocolate became necessities. She describes the American plantations, the sugar beet fields of the north central and western plains and how the historical commodity sugar was once as precious as petroleum today. During its rise, sugar cultivation caused the near-extinction of native Caribs, resulted in untold ecological devastation and is now responsible for problems that threaten to overwhelm world’s health care systems.