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 and Marina Budhos Middle School Clarion 166 pp. 11/10 978-0-618-57492-6 $20.00
RedReviewStarExploring world history through the lens of a single food staple, Aronson and Budhos begin by recounting their own family connections to the sugar industry before taking us back to its origins, at least back to when Alexander the Great "discovered" it in India. They trace how sugar grew in popularity through time and across empires; how the Age of Exploration that began with Columbus also ushered in the transatlantic slave trade to provide labor for vast sugar plantations in the New World; and how it also played a key role in the Age of Enlightenment and the revolutionary fervor that swept the globe. Taking their history full circle, the authors bring sugar into the twentieth century by providing the broader context for their previously shared personal histories. 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. An authors' note, a timeline, source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. JONATHAN HUNT
Gr 8 Up—This meticulously researched, brutally honest, compelling book offers readers a different way to look at many events over the past 200 years or so. The title says it all. From the slave trade through abolition; from revolutions (American, French, and Haitian) to the Louisiana Purchase; from the decline of honey to the rise of saccharine, these events and many more are directly traced to the cultivation and production of sugar cane around the world. With a focus on slavery, Aronson and Budhos demonstrate how this one crop, with its unique harvesting needs, helped to bring about a particularly brutal incarnation of slavery. What makes this such a captivating read is that the book has a jigsaw-puzzle feel as the authors connect seemingly disparate threads and bring readers to the larger picture by highlighting the smaller details hidden within. Primary-source materials such as photographs, interview excerpts, and maps are included throughout, making this an indispensable part of any history collection. The chapter entitled "How We Researched and Wrote This Book" will be of particular interest to teachers and librarians.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Aronson and Budhos explore the sugar industry's origins, tracing, among other elements, the crop’s growth in popularity and the transatlantic slave trade, then providing broader twentieth-century context. This is fine historical writing: an epic story on a broad canvas that never loses sight of individual moments of human drama; the volume also boasts a thoughtful marriage of words, pictures, and design. Timeline. Bib., ind.

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