Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science

by Marc Aronson, Marina Budhos


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When this award-winning husband-and-wife team discovered that they each had sugar in their family history, they were inspired to trace the globe-spanning story of the sweet substance and to seek out the voices of those who led bitter sugar lives. The trail ran like a bright band from religious ceremonies in India to Europe’s Middle Ages, then on to Columbus, who brought the first cane cuttings to the Americas. Sugar was the substance that drove the bloody slave trade and caused the loss of countless lives but it also planted the seeds of revolution that led to freedom in the American colonies, Haiti, and France. With songs, oral histories, maps, and over 80 archival illustrations, here is the story of how one product allows us to see the grand currents of world history in new ways. Time line, source notes, bibliography, index.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618574926
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 11/15/2010
Pages: 166
Sales rank: 215,556
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 1130L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Marc Aronson has won many awards and prizes for his books, including the first Sibert Award and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for Eldorado. Marina Budhos is an assistant professor of English at William Paterson University. She is the author of Ask Me No Questions, winner of the inaugural James Cook Teen Book Award. She and her husband live with their two sons in Maplewood, New Jersey.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This is fine historical writing: an epic story on a broad canvas that never loses sight of individual moments of human drama; a historical methodology infused with political, intellectual, cultural, and social strands; a complex sequence of cause and effect; an illuminating synthesis of primary and secondary sources; and a thoughtful marriage of words, picture, and design."—Horn Book, starred review  

"Covering 10,000 years of history and ranging the world, the story is made personal by the authors' own family stories, their passion for the subject and their conviction that young people are up to the challenge of complex, well-written narrative history."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review  

"As the title suggests, this stirring, highly detailed history of the sugar trade reaches across time and around the globe . . . The book's scope is ambitious, but the clear, informal prose, along with maps and archival illustrations, makes the horrific connections with dramatic immediacy."—Booklist

"This is a poignant, ultimately hopeful essay that clearly chronicles the human pursuit of sugar to satisfy our collective sweet tooth."—The Bulletin

"An impassioned, thought-provoking account that forces us to look anew at the things we take for granted."—Jennifer Brown, Shelf Awareness

"This book, at once serious and engaging, traces the complex history of sugar over vast expanses of time and space, exploring ways in which this one commodity influenced the formation of empires, the enslavement and migrations of peoples, the development of ideas about liberty, and so much more."—Deborah Warner, Curator, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC

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Sugar Changed the World 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
cassielanzas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sugar Changed the World is an illustrated picture book for older children and young adults. It chronicles the way that sugar has changed the world using historical narrative and primary source documents. It is impeccably researched and the authors discuss their research process. I enjoyed reading the book and looked at old information new ways, through the lens of sugar.¿Part One: From Magic to Spice¿ chronicles the discovery of sugar by Europeans through the Egyptians, Roman Empire, and Muslims. In the early 11th century, Europeans began flavoring foods more and using more sugar. The appetite for sugar grew and wars were fought to gain control of the supply. It describes the transition from the authors¿ Age of Honey to the Age of Sugar. This section was interesting, but was the driest section. I think it could have been shorter. I am concerned that some struggling students might stop reading during the first chapter due to dense historical information. ¿Part Two: Hell¿ describes the development and the working conditions of the slave trade for sugar. This section includes many primary source and secondary source documents to describe the lives of the slaves. Finally, this sections describes conditions in Europe that increased the demand for sugar: factories. Many factory workers began drinking tea with sugar to keep their energy up on the lines. I found this section to be very interesting. Some of the scenes described are graphic, yet, they seem appropriate for older children or young adults studying the slave trade. ¿Part Three: Freedom¿ summarizes the end of slavery. It begins with freed slaves in France. Next, it chronicles how England¿s Sugar Tax directly led to the declaration of independence and the abolitionists movement. Finally, it describes the hardships sugar workers faced even though slavery had ended.¿Part Four: Back to Our Stories: New Workers, New Sugar¿ describes in greater detail the authors¿ connections to sugar. After slavery became illegal, many Indians became indentured servants to work in the sugar fields. The work and treatment of the workers was still brutal. This is how Marina Budhos family crossed the atlantic. Next, Marc Aronson¿s connection is explained. Napoleon desired a sugar empire and decided to use beets to obtain it. One of Marc¿s ancestors developed a machine to turn beet sugar into crystals. The authors states that this ushered in the Age of Science, as science could now make sweeteners instead of whips.This book has many classroom applications. The chapter on history could be read during a unti on research. Any chapter, especially "Hell" could be used to show how primary source documents are used as evidence. Lastly, it could be used to learn about early global trade. Additionally, on the book's website, there are several high quality teaching guides.
ShaneCasebeer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
4Q 3PQuote:Sugar plantations were Hell because of the endless labor they demanded from slaves. They were Hell because of the many dangers and injuries that they causes There were Hell because the slaves who labored without end got nothing for their work -- except to live another day to work more. But none of these miseries was the true reason the plantations were so evil. The plantations were Hell because the masters and overseers were treated as gods--which turned them into devils. The English historian Lord Acton famously said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (61)
MarthaL on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A well written history book. Includes index, timeline, maps and many historical photos. A must have for jr. high and high school libraries. A good resource for history research papers.
detailmuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If, like me, you expect a book¿s title to reflect its contents, you may be frustrated that Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science is much more about slavery, indenture and freedom than about sugar. There are passages about sugar's origins and early adoption, but there's virtually no development of the Magic, Spice, and Science aspects of the subtitle, and little of sugar¿s gastronomy, nutrition, and social history.But if, also like me, you enjoy slicing a complex topic like world history in a way that gives a new perspective, you¿ll appreciate this book¿s use of the economics of sugar trading as a framing device to explore the expansion of slave trading, the growth of New World colonies and eventually the end of slavery.It's written for a YA audience (ages 12+) and illustrated with dozens of maps, drawings and photographs, all extensively captioned. Appendices include a timeline, bibliography, endnotes, index and a note to teachers about classroom use. As an adult, I came to it out of interest not obligation; still, the textbook-ish writing reminded me of books I¿d plodded through as a kid while researching term papers. I most appreciated three aspects: seeing sugar plantations as forerunners of today¿s ¿factory farms,¿ where the division of labor, standardized processes and economies of scale (at that time pre-Industrial Revolution) necessitated the importation of huge quantities of (slave) labor; exploring ¿Hell,¿ the work of plantation slaves; and integrating the effects of contemporaneous world events (e.g. national revolutions and boycotts). And in the end, the book's title does capture its thesis: how the ballooning demand for Sugar Changed the World.(Review based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher.)
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A history of sugar, and it's production which ranges throughout time and geography. It tells how slavery made mass production of sugar possible, and how it was only when slavery ended that science stepped in, creating machines to do some of the work and discovering how to get sugar from beets, as well as from cane.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book uses the topic of the growth of the sugar trade to describe slavery and the exploitation of workers around the world.There's quite a great deal about slavery on sugar plantations mostly in South America and the Caribbeans, some in Louisiana. Marc Aronson says that, harsh as slaves were treated in general, they usually did manage to survive, unlike those who worked in sugar. It was the only form of slavery in which the slaves kept dying off so more and more had to be imported. After Haiti became free, because of slave revolt, the plantation owners moved to Louisiana where slavery still existed and Napoleon had made sure it was well suited for sugar production. Louisiana became the only state in which the number of slaves births did not surpass the number of deaths. So I wonder when slaves always worried about being sold "down river" if they meant being sold into sugar rather than cotton. I wish I'd read this book before The Book of Night Women. I think it would have made the story all the more powerful.Coming round to more modern days, Aronson describes how Gandhi worked as a lawyer for Indians imported to South Africa to work sugar. These Indians were not slaves, but were mistreated almost as such, and Gandhi used the conscience he assumed most human had to focus the world on this mistreatment. Of course, Martin Luther King learned Gandhi's non violent protest methods and used them to protest the same abuses in the US.This book is written for Middle School and High School students, but I found it very informative as an adult.
laruby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is very well written and absolutely loaded with quality information about the centuries long history of sugar around the globe. The writers have really done their research and actually have personal historical ties to the sugar industry making this book very personal to them. This book includes images from many primary sources depicting the horror of slavery, politics, and inventions related to sugar's fascinating history.
klthorp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was certainly an interesting read and it is one that I would recommend to YAs, but probably closer to the age group of Tweens. It was informative and traced the history of sugar and the implication on our world. I even had to step back from time to time to ponder the facts and was pretty excited when they got me thinking in new fun ways. What I liked: It was nice to read about each author¿s family history with sugar and why he or she felt tied to the project. After reading adult non-fiction for so long it was hard to read a simple story. However this book encourages me to seek out an adult book on the subject to read so I can find out more about the subject.What I didn¿t like: The language was too stylized for my taste. Non-fiction is certainly entertaining on its own in the hands of a skilled author, but these authors tried to build suspense or turn a phrase when the facts and information could have supported the material.
KarenBall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Now that is one ambitious title! Both authors have family connections to the sugar industry, and those led them to research the history of sugar. Turns out those little white grains that sweeten my coffee come from a particularly brutal history. The beginnings of sugar cane cultivation came from New Guinea, and the Greeks helped spread it through the ancient world. When Christopher Columbus brought cane plants to Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), plantations sprang up, the industry boomed, and worldwide demand soared. Other European countries took sugar cane to Caribbean islands and Brazil, and within 100 years, the African slave populations in those places exploded. Aaronson and Budhos detail the horrifying conditions for slaves on cane plantations, and the dual responses: abolitionists advocating for freedom, and industrialists inventing safer methods and equipment for harvesting and processing sugar. The research includes plantations in Louisiana and Hawaii as well, and ends with how contact with sugar workers affected Gandhi's work for human rights in South Africa and India. There are a lot of pieces to this global puzzle, but the authors do an exceptional job putting them together for readers, showing relationships and cause and effect. Lots of primary source material and photographs -- absolutely stellar nonfiction! 7th grade and up.