by Professor James Walvin

Date: Thursday 17 February 2022

How was sugar transformed from a luxury, to a necessity, then, more recently, to a global health problem – all via the history of slavery?


Cane sugar, introduced from the East, was initially a luxury affordable only by the rich. But the African slave trade created a mass market via slave grown sugar in the Caribbean and Brazil.

Within a century, sugar was established as an essential ingredient in the food and drinks of people the world over. Today, it is accepted as a major health problem – courtesy of modern industrialised foodstuffs and fizzy drinks. How did this happen?

Professor of History Emeritus, University of York, currently Distinguished Fellow in the Culture of the Americas at the Huntington Library California. Walvin has published more than 40 books and was awarded an OBE in 2008 for his services to scholarship.

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