Tag Archives: transatlantic slave trade

Chocolate, Sugar, and the Effects of The Transatlantic Slave Trade

Today, if I asked a room of people to describe chocolate, they would say it is a sweet, tasty candy that you usually eat. However, if I asked people from before 200 years ago, they would call it a bitter, spicy drink. In fact for the majority of chocolate’s history, the latter definition would fit better than the former. So what lead to this transformation of the taste of chocolate? The most important factor for this evolution in chocolate has to be its introduction to colonial Europeans and sugar. Interestingly, chocolate serves as a way to observe colonizers coming into contact with a strange, new substance and how their understanding and modification transformed our understandings as well. I argue that European taste for sugar and chocolate greatly impacted the modern world through the Transatlantic slave trade. 

First, it is important to examine the early history of chocolate. Before the Europeans arrived in the New World, ancient Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Olmecs, Maya, and Aztecs used cacao seeds for many different reasons including consumption as a beverage. “Cacao was one of the most unusual substances in Mesoamerican life because it was comestible but also a wealth item and given as tribute eventually becoming a token of currency”(Sampeck and Thayn, 75). Cacao was extremely important, believed to have divine properties and would become known to Europeans as the food of the Gods. The picture shows a Mayan representation of two Mayan gods exchanging cacao which provides a look at the divinity of chocolate in ancient Mesoamerica (Puiu 2017). 

The arrival of Europeans in Mesoamerica marked an important step in the development of chocolate. In the early 1500s, Spanish conquistadors were the first Europeans to be introduced to cacao and chocolate and import it back to Europe (Fiegl 2008). They quickly noted the love the natives had for chocolate but the Spanish themselves did not initially enjoy the drink themselves.  Girolamo Benzoni, a conquistador, even described chocolate as being “ more of a drink for pigs, than a drink for humanity” (Fiegl 2008). Chocolate did not yet include sugar and European tastes were not accustomed to bitter tastes in food (Altaweel et al. 2018). This preference resulted in Europeans searching for ways to change the taste.  

Soon, Europeans found ways to make chocolate better fit their tastes by using sugar. By the 1590s, chocolate was mixed with honey or sugar to make it sweeter. It quickly became popular in Spain and spread to the rest of Europe (Fiegl 2008). With the conquest of South America and the beginning of sugarcane plantations, the production of sugar combined with chocolate revolutionized European tastes. Sugar consumption now increased in parallel with the importation of chocolate. The desire for chocolate and the need for sugar, in part because of chocolate, also pushed the demand for slavery in plantations during the 17th and 18th centuries (Altaweel et al. 2018). While native Latin Americans were enslaved, many of them had died due to European born diseases that they had no immunity to. As a result, there was an increase in demand for slave labor which resulted in the Transatlantic slave trade. The video below depicts how the slave trade worked and how it still affects the world today. It left a lasting impact that can be traced back to Europe’s taste for chocolate.

So how did the slave trade impact the world? The slave trade left a lasting impact on many parts of the world. In Africa, as stated in the video, a majority of the slaves taken were male which meant that much of the able-bodied population was gone and demographic issues arose in the future.  Also, the competition over the capturing of slaves by powerful African rulers set a dangerous precedent for the future. This competition also resulted in wars that negatively affected the political landscape of Africa to this day ( Hardy 2019).  

An image of slaves working a sugar plantation

The slave trade also played a huge role in the New World. African slaves were an integral part of the development of New World economies.  They were particularly important as the labor force for the plantation agriculture that became common in the New World doing much of the manual labor illustrated above. The economic exploitation of blacks left behind deep, social divides that are still being overcome today (Hardy 2019). As shown in the video above, Europeans justified their slavery through racist theories that blacks were biologically inferior to whites. These theories were passed down generation to generation as fact, therefore deepening the divide between blacks and other races(Hardy 2019). 

In conclusion, European tastes for chocolate and sugar had a great effect on the modern world.  It did so through the Transatlantic slave trade where slaves were taken from Africa to produce raw exports such as sugar and cacao. The repercussions of the slave trade can still be felt today because of its lasting social, political, and economic effects in Africa and the Americas. It is intriguing how so many of our lives are still deeply affected today due to the desire for commodities like chocolate and sugar. 

Works Cited

Altaweel, Mark, et al. “How Did Chocolate Become Popular?” How Did Chocolate Become Popular? – DailyHistory.org, Nov. 2018, dailyhistory.org/How_Did_Chocolate_Become_Popular%3F.

Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.

Hardy, William. “Riches & Misery: The Consequences Of The Atlantic Slave Trade.” OpenLearn, The Open University, 1 Mar. 2019, http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/riches-misery-the-consequences-the-atlantic-slave-trade.

Hazard, Anthony, director. He Atlantic Slave Trade: What Too Few Textbooks Told You. Youtube, Ted-Ed, 22 Dec. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NXC4Q_4JVg.

National Geographic Society. “The Plantation System.” National Geographic Society, 20 June 2019, http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/plantation-system/.

Puiu, Tibi. “Chocolate Files: from the Early Days to Today’s Dark Pleasure.” ZME Science, 13 Sept. 2017, www.zmescience.com/other/feature-post/chocolate-history-the-early-days-mesoamericans-culture-and-rituals/.

“Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, by Kathryn E. Sampeck and Johnathan Thayn, University of Texas Press, 2017, pp. 72–95.

The Economic Emergence of the Slave Trade and Abolition Resistance of Slavery in Cacao Growing Regions

Centuries after the 350 year long transatlantic slave trade, it is hard to imagine that such a horrific worldwide trade could emerge from one sole underlying purpose: money. As the slave trade continued over time, everything became a price tag from crops to the people, justified on malicious racial grounds fabricated by the elite. I argue that the slave trade emerged as a result of economics that enabled the expansion of the chocolate industry, which resulted in challenges to abolishing slavery in cacao growing regions. Furthermore, I argue that cacao-based slavery is still not abolished to this day. 

Economics of the Slave Trade

Europe had weapons, the Americas had crops, and what did Africa have? People. Europe wanted crops from the Americas, the Americas did not have enough people to support this, and Africa wanted the weapons (and some textiles) from Europe (UNESCO). Thus, a trade emerged. The economics of the trade started with the origin of “African Kingdoms” who”prospered from the slave trade,” but after only a few years, “meeting the European’s massive demand created intense competition” between kingdoms (Hazard). A deep-rooted moral complex soon surfaced: “capturing slaves became a motivation for war rather than it’s result” (Hazard). Kingdoms now needed more weapons from Europe to defend themselves during slave raids.  

The economic prosperity continued in the New World where the slaves were sold. As seen in the images from Flickr below, which detail how humans were priced, slaves were viewed as a price tag and treated as a mere commodity. The entire slave voyage was seen simply as a “financial venture for owners and investors,” which “proved to be greatly profitable” (UNESCO). A slave could be sold multiple times in a lifetime multiplying their economic effect. Trade workers’ ultimate job was to sell the slaves at the highest price possible, meaning they often “disguise[d] the physical bruises and wounds… in order to hide their ailments” further contributing to the unethical economic driven tragedies of the trade (UNESCO). The slave trade altered societies and economies across the continent.

The greater economic impact came not from the increase in economic prosperity of the trade at the time, but rather the long lasting impact the trade placed upon Africa, still permeating society today. As Anthony Hazard explains in his TedEd video, “not only did the continent lose tens of millions of its able-bodied population, but because most of the slaves taken were men, the long term demographic effect was even greater” (Hazard). He continues explaining by the time the Americas and Europe finally outlawed the trade, “the African kingdoms whose economies it had come to dominate collapsed” (Hazard). Because of the slave trade, the future of Africa was devastatingly rewritten forever.

Why does chocolate play such an important role in the slave trade? Chocolate comes from Cacao beans, which date back to Mesoamerican societies, as early as the Olmec Empire (Dr. Martin, Lecture). Cultivating cacao is a labor intensive process that requires a humid tropical climate. For this reason, Europeans could not and did not want to grow cacao. Thus, when the Europeans discovered chocolate from South America—as early as 1591—and demand for cacao continually increased, colonialists forced local indigenous people to supply the cacao that would be transported to Europe (C-Spot). Eventually, this practice proved difficult with not enough people to maintain the expanding cacao fields, and eventually  the slave trade emerged. This simply shows that “one of the stimuli of the… slave trade was Europe’s appetite for not only sugar but chocolate, too” (Duducu). As it was a “brutal, backbreaking job that nobody wanted to do,” it became the “standard job or slaves” (Duducu). The cacao industry now relied, grew, and thrived on the backs of slaves.

Challenges to Abolition in Cacao Growing Regions

Why did challenges to abolition arise specifically in cacao growing regions? Because chocolate had transformed into a good available to everyone, not just for the elite (Dr. Martin, Lecture). By the 18th century, sugar and chocolate was involved in almost every aspect of European life including medicine, religion, socioeconomic class, gender and sexuality, and politics (Dr. Martin, Lecture). It is no coincidence that cacao demand grew even further in the 1820s, as innovations in chocolate production began with Coenraad Johannes van Houten inventing a new process resulting in powdered chocolate that “soon led to the creation of solid chocolate” (Fiegl). This caused a “cascade of further developments” in chocolate production allowing for easier consumption with better taste (Christian). Not only did this cause cacao demand to increase, but it also came at a time when abolition movements were at their peak worldwide encouraging a heightened resistance from slaves as their labor demands increased. Had chocolate not recently transitioned into the realm of daily consumption by Europeans, then there is sufficient evidence to believe that abolition would have taken hold sooner. 

As the market for chocolate expanded, “a number calculated at ‘nearly ten percent of the volume of the whole transatlantic slave trade’ went to work on the cacao plantations in Brazil” (Moss and Badenoch, 30). During this time, Brazil was a colony of Portugal. Although Portugal was one of the forerunners of Europe to abolish slavery within, they did not abolish slavery in Brazil until 1888, nearly 20 years after Portugal abolished slavery in their African Portuguese colonies (Brown Univeristy). This shows just how important chocolate was to Portugal, resisting abolition only in Brazil for an extra two decades with the purpose of maintaining their cacao production. 

Cacao Expansion into Africa

Although slavery was abolished everywhere in the Caribbean chocolate producing colonies by the start of the 18th century, chocolate production in Africa was beginning to boom as a replacement. As formerly mentioned, when the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed, the African economy crumbled and desperately needed a replacement for revenue. The first expansion of cacao from its previously limited production region in the Americas occurred in 1822 (a few years after the end of the slave trade) when it arrived in Africa (Christian). By the end of the century, cacao production would spread across the continent exponentially as seen in the bar graph below. The cacao industry would shift from its homeland in the Americas to Africa at the turn of the century producing over 70% of the world’s cacao today (Winton). 

With 60% of revenue coming from cacao on the Ivory Coast, farmers still earn less than $2 a day (Food Empowerment Project). This forces them to turn to slave and child labor. Most children are aged 12-16 and face dehumanizing workloads and violence inflicted from the farm owners (FEP). African cacao farmers violate almost all of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Laws (FEP). The video below shows how slavery in cacao production truly has not been abolished, only transformed. The current cacao workers are still battling demoralizing working conditions, unpaid labor, minimal food, and no access to education; the only difference between the 17th century and today is that these workers are now children. 

It is impossible to put a numerical dollar value that the slave trade revenued economically due to the incalculably large number of 17 million slaves that were sold and due to the long lasting economic impediment forever placed on the African economy. But it is certain that the slave trade permanently set Africa back economically which inarguably in one of the reasons cacao farmer poverty, and as a byproduct child slave labor, has become so prevalent in present day society, even decades later. Although Africans outside of Africa fought so hard to abolish slavery, it still exists to this day within the continent as a direct result from the exportations of tens of millions those people that would fight to stop it.

Works Cited

“Brazil: Five Centuries of Change.” Brazil Five Centuries of Change, library.brown.edu/create/fivecenturiesofchange/chapters/chapter-3/slavery-and-aboliton/.

Cambridge, St John’s College. “Mr John Broomfield’s ‘Gang of Negroes.’” Flickr, Yahoo!, 30 June 2015, http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjc_cambridge/19294928711/in/photostream/.

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

Chocolate Child Slaves- CNN. CNN, 16 Jan. 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHDxy04QPqM&list=TLPQMDgwMzIwMjCEN3nmhnAbkw&index=3.

Christian, Mark. “A CONCISE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE.” Spot, http://www.c-spot.com/atlas/historical-timeline/.

Duducu, Jem. “The Bloody History of Chocolate.” The History Vault, The History Vault, 16 Nov. 2014, thehistoryvault.co.uk/the-bloody-history-of-chocolate/.

“Economics and Slave Trade.” Slavery and Remembrance, United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), slaveryandremembrance.org/articles/article/?id=A0095.

Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/.

Hazard, Anthony, director. The Atlantic Slave Trade: What Too Few Textbooks Told You – Anthony Hazard. TED, TED-Ed, 22 Dec. 2014, ed.ted.com/lessons/the-atlantic-slave-trade-what-your-textbook-never-told-you-anthony-hazard.

“A History of Cocoa – 200 Years in Charts.” Winton, 11 July 2017, http://www.winton.com/longer-view/cocoas-bittersweet-bounty.

Moss, Sarah, and Alexander Badenoch. Chocolate a Global History. Reaktion Books, 2009.

“Slavery and Abolition in the 19th Century.” Brazil Five Centuries of Change, Brown Univeristy, library.brown.edu/create/fivecenturiesofchange/chapters/chapter-3/slavery-and-aboliton/.

“Transatlantic Slave Trade: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.” Transatlantic Slave Trade | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/slave-route/transatlantic-slave-trade/.

Why Cacao Slavery Still Exists

Slavery is a horrible but inescapable remnant of history.  The “transatlantic slave trade transported between 10 million and 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to 19th century” (Lewis).  This slavery originated in the development of the new world, particularly from a high demand for raw materials in European and American markets.  Little help from industrial machines in these centuries to grow and harvest crops translated to an extreme need for human labor.

Slavery slowly ended around the world beginning in the mid to late 19th century.  In the United States, slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment in 1865.  The end of slavery caused extreme concern about having enough labor to maintain a plentiful food supply.  Fortunately, the timeline of the industrial revolution coincides with the end of slavery.  The United States and many other countries developed machines to maintain high production but minimize the amount of necessary labor.  Specifically, the development and increased use of tractors began in the late 1800s then and has only continued to increase, enabling food production to be higher today than ever before.  With these modern developments, a single farmer can plant, care for, and harvest hundreds of acres for many different types of plants almost entirely alone.

Cacao Plantation (https://thechocolatejournalist.com/tanzania-changes-rules-african-cacao/)

However, outside of the United States although official slavery has ended, indirect forms of slavery persist, primarily in Africa and regions in Central and South America.  This prevalence uniquely overlaps with the growing regions of cacao with top cacao producers being the “Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, and Ecuador” (Leissle 43).  Cacao only grows in these regions because it requires a very specific environment to grow properly.  Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe explain this in their book the True History of Chocolate, “With very few exceptions, [the cacao tree] refuses to bear fruit outside a band of 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the Equator” (Coe & Coe 24).  In these areas, cacao is grown on plantations which often consist of thousands of trees.  These trees are planted and live up to 100 years, often producing cacao pods after five years (“History of Cocoa”).  The cacao pods develop directly from the trunk of the tree.  The trees also produce cacao pods continuously throughout the year, such that a tree could have ripe cacao pods, developing cacao pods, and flowers that may eventually become cacao pods all at the same time.  All these factors combine and make the cacao plant extremely difficult to mechanize.  Considering the example of corn, nearly all the stages of corn production can be done with a tractor–planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and more.  However, cacao is grown on a tree, so a farmer can’t go through the field with a combine to collect the crop.  Nearly all the corn is mature at the same time which enables a single massive harvesting compared to cacao with varying ripeness meaning harvesters must collect cacao pods regularly.  Essentially, cacao is unique by having a production process directly at odds with mechanization, meaning a lot of labor is needed.  While cacao’s labor-intensive growing process may not be the cause of the lingering of slavery-like practices, there is a striking correlation. 

Cacao Producing Regions (https://saltsidedownchocolates.wordpress.com/tag/chocolate-growing-regions/)

Furthermore, even if a revolutionary tractor or cacao harvester was developed, the unique geographical challenges of these regions would pose a significant barrier to successful use.  These regions are often rainforests or have near rainforest-like conditions, which should not be surprising since cacao “demands year-round moisture” and “if it does not get it, it sheds its otherwise evergreen leaves in a protest” (Coe & Coe 19).  This rainfall saturates the land and creates an enemy to large equipment—mud.  Tractors and other forms of machinery are already large and heavy and subsequent loading of heavy pods or whatever crop only makes them heavier.  Driving these massive heavy machines over the saturated land causes them to sink and get stuck, significantly slowing down the production process.  As explained by Chuck Kerchner of Zorzal Cacao in class, issues with transportation and large equipment is a common problem in these areas that is often overlooked.

Map of Global Precipitation (https://www.dwd.de/EN/ourservices/gpcc/gpcc.html)

In summary, cacao production is difficult to mechanize and even if you could develop a machine that helps with the production, the geographical features pose additional challenges in creating a consistent and sustainable mechanized production process.  This creates a large demand for human labor and is likely linked with the reason forms of slavery persist today.  However, we must strive to combat human trafficking and slavery, even though there is no clear solution.   Terminating cacao production is unreasonable to many and unlikely considering the millions of consumers around the world who eat chocolate.  For this reason, we must consider and explore developing new varieties of cacao that can be grown in different areas and in a different way.  Hopefully, this will encourage mechanization and make it feasible.  GMOs, while controversial, can help those who need help most.  GMO rice known as golden rice has been fortified with vitamin A and is being used to provide better nutrition to people who would otherwise be susceptible to blindness and other ailments.  A genetically modified cacao plant may be able to help those who need it most in a different way, by ending human trafficking and the slavery faced by cacao workers today. 

Works Cited

“Chocolate Business Trip Needed.” Salt Side Down Chocolates Blog, saltsidedownchocolates.wordpress.com/tag/chocolate-growing-regions/.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames and Hudson, 2013.

“Global Precipitation Climatology Centre.” Wetter Und Klima – Deutscher Wetterdienst – Our Services – Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC), www.dwd.de/EN/ourservices/gpcc/gpcc.html.

Hazard, Anthony. “The Atlantic Slave Trade: What Too Few Textbooks Told You – Anthony Hazard.” YouTube, TedED, 22 Dec. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NXC4Q_4JVg.

 “History of Cocoa.” Growing Chocolate: History, hawaiianchocolate.com/growing_chocolate_history.html.

Leissle, Kristy.  Cocoa.  1st ed., Polity Press, 2018.

Lewis, Thomas. “Transatlantic Slave Trade.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Sept. 2018, www.britannica.com/topic/transatlantic-slave-trade.

Sharon. “TANZANIA CHANGES THE RULES FOR AFRICAN CACAO.” The Chocolate Journalist, 2 Dec. 2016, thechocolatejournalist.com/tanzania-changes-rules-african-cacao/.

Calling out Cadbury, Chocolate ain’t so Sweet: The Chocolate Industry and Slavery

Cadbury Putting up a Front

William Cadbury brought a lot of controversy and contradiction to his beliefs about the laborers in São Tomé in the early 20th century. He expressed that he wanted to reform labor conditions in Portuguese West Africa by not working with cocoa planters from there (Satre 24). However, what Cadbury said and did were two different things. Cadbury and his comrade, Joseph Burtt created what seemed like a mission to show the public that they would not do business with corrupt purchasing of cocoa beans and would explore the life of black laborers to discover the truth regarding how they were treated (Satre 74). Cadbury proved to be slow to action and did not want to participate in a boycott to maintain good relationships with the Portuguese government even when missionaries advised him that a boycott would help bring positive change to stop slavery and the abuses of laborers (Satre 78). In this work, I argue that William Cadbury carried out a facade to uncover slavery, the cacao laborers’ working conditions, and to help the Portuguese recognize that slavery existed so they would end it. I believe Cadbury intentions were to give his company a positive reputation, so the British would continue to buy Cadbury’s cacao products and disillusion the public that the company was making amends with Portugal to stop slavery in West Africa.

Cadbury knew slavery was going on but he did nothing about it. Lowell J. Satre in Chocolate on Trail claims, “The Cadbury company had good reason to be troubled about labor conditions on the island of São Tomé. Management opposed the abuse of workers, yet in 1900, the firm had purchased over 45 percent of its cocoa beans from the island” (18-19). Satre helps us understand that the intentions and goals of the Cadbury Bros company were to remain idle with issues regarding slavery and severe labor abuses. Cadbury’s goal was not to be a humanitarian but to be a profitable capitalist and to maintain close ties with the Portuguese. He felt he needed to have cacao imported from São Tomé, while he turned a blind eye on the need to fight for Africans’ civil rights and warnings from the Anti-Slavery Society that was established in 1839 (Satre 19). Satre further asserts, “Aside from the report that Burtt produced, however, the Cadbury company had in four years accomplished nothing for slaves who produced the cocoa beans” (99). Cadbury sent Burtt to the islands to gather information about the conditions of laborers but it is clear Cadbury was not too concerned about the outcome because he proceeded to give time to the Portuguese to reform and set conditions for laborers to “be paid a minimum wage, 40 percent of which would be placed in a repatriation fund. These new regulations also furnished protection against illegal labor recruitment” (Satre 23). These reforms did not take place and Cadbury failed to reinforce better working conditions (Satre 99).

Cadbury advertisements acted as a cover and disillusionment to the public that cacao products were “pure” and innocent when really the production of cacao is exploitative of African labor. The picture entitled, “Drink Cadbury’s Cocoa” below with the couple is not only a marketing tool but is also a tactic to psychologically distract consumers from the cruelty and horrors of slavery by convincing its audience that the product gives a sense of being calm and at peace when drinking the beverage ( “Cocoa Advert with Rower 1885”). Interestingly in small print at the bottom of the ad, it says, “In the whole process of manufacture, the automatic machinery employed obviates the necessity of its being once touched by human hand” (“Cadbury’s Cocoa Advert with Rower 1885”). Cadbury here attempts to persuade his buyers that the process of obtaining (before it gets to the machines that purifies it) the cacao beans is natural and workers are involved in honest and safe labor practices to manipulate people. In reality laborers endure injustices and are falsely promised they have the option to return to their country when their contract has ended, and the workers are barely fed and physically beaten very badly.

The Slave Life

The abuses that the enslaved Africans faced was unbearable. They underwent harsh psychological and physical trauma. They were separated from their families and sold by West African chiefs or traders unknowing of the European treatment towards their people they were selling (“The Transatlantic Slave Trade”). Some of the Africans decided to kill themselves before leaving their country because they heard rumors of being eaten or were worried about an unknown fate (“The Transatlantic Slave Trade”). The slaves had to be taken to the Europeans on the coast, and they traveled for miles in chains (“The Transatlantic Slave Trade”) like the image below (ZekethePhotographer, “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Artifact”). The West Africans were treated as property and commodities. Inadequate nutrition, diseases, sexual abuse, and punishment was extremely taxing to the captives, and many died as a result (“Life on Board Slave Ships”).

Better standards since the 1700’s on ships were implemented by the French and British in 1800 but still one in eighteen captives died during sea transportation, and this ill treatment continued far beyond into the twenty century to the enslaved people (“Life on Board Slave Ships”). The picture below illustrates a young enslaved woman being tortured by Europeans as a form of disciplining her for disobeying whatever heinous rules were implemented (“African Woman Slave Trade”). I argue that Cadbury did not care about the black laborers and he only cared about profits. He covered up injustices like shown below that were frequent in the life of slave; being whipped, chained, beaten, raped, not fed or clothed properly, and severely objectified in numerous ways. I believe Cadbury sent Burtt on the trip to Africa and have Burtt write a story to be published of his experiences to distract the Europeans from Cadbury supporting slave grown cacao. Cadbury helped reinforce slavery through his business and supported plantation owners by buying their cacao. Thanks to Cadbury and other chocolate manufacturers of his time, this perpetuated to racism, and Africans and African Americans experience inequality in the workforce, with housing, and more is still seen today.

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Reforms Finally but are They too Weak?

Outbreaks and riots took place in 1953 where several hundred African laborers were killed by Portuguese rulers (“History of São Tomé and Príncipe”). In the late 1950’s this changed and a small group São Toméans formed the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) (“History of São Tomé and Príncipe”). The new Portuguese regime disestablished the colonies it constructed overseas (“History of São Tomé and Príncipe”). In 1990 São Tomé became one of the first African countries to embrace democratic reform and changes to its constitution with non-violent actions (“History of São Tomé and Príncipe”).

However, child labor has had little improvement. In 2017,  São Tomé and Príncipe did little to abolish the worst forms of child labor (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”). The government tried to end it by giving resources to support centers to have children stay in school (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”). Regardless of the government efforts, São Tomé and Príncipe have child labor occurring in commercial sexual exploitation (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”) and partake in hazardous tasks in agriculture (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”). The poor resources override law enforcement agencies to enforce child labor laws (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe”). I further argue that regardless of some of these movements, labor abuses still occur today and we still get cacao from São Tomé with poor regulation of farmers working conditions.

Works Cited

Cruikshank, Isaac. “File:African Woman Slave Trade.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons, S.W Fores, 6 Dec. 2017, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:African_woman_slave_trade.jpg.

“File:Cadbury’s Cocoa Advert with Rower 1885.Jpg.” Wikimedia Commons, 15 Jan. 2008, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cadbury’s_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885.jpg.

“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Sao Tomé and Principe.” United States Department of Labor, 19 Sept. 2018, http://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/sao-tome-principe.

“History of São Tomé and Príncipe.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Feb. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_São_Tomé_and_Príncipe.

“Life on Board Slave Ships.” National Museums Liverpool, http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/slavery/middle_passage/.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trail Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio University Press, 2005.

“The Transatlantic Slave Trade.” PortCities Bristol, www.discoveringbristol.org.uk/slavery/people-involved/enslaved-people/enslaved-africans/transatlantic-slave-trade/.

ZekethePhotographer. “File:Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Artifacts.png.” Wikimedia Commons, 11 Feb. 2018, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trans-Atlantic_Slave_Trade_Artifacts.png.

Sugar + Transatlantic slave trade = Capitalism + Enormous Transformation

Warren Buffet, among the top five richest men in the world, once said: “I’ll tell you why I like the cigarette business. It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It’s addictive” (Albritton 344). Sugar, which is fairly cheap (wasn’t always the case), produces a craving, and is essentially addicting. Not only is sugar addicting, but it plays a role that “food choices and eating habits reveal distinctions of age, sex, status, culture, and even occupation” (Mintz). This post argues how sugar made a rigorous transformation on many different variables as a whole. I begin by describing an ambiguous term “meaning”, and give my feedback on how one pursues it. Then, I describe how capitalism was created, and give my feedback on the results and impacts that capitalism not only allowed, but created. Capitalism therefor rigged our food choices, and shaped our social, cultural, economic and political ordering in the sugar world, particularly in so far as leading to an obesity epidemic.

imagesocietySource: http://www.bcsbd.org.bd/bcsregistration/images/imagesociety.jpg

In imagining a meaning of life, I believe we are collecting bits of our own thoughts and experience to build a realm of our own based on our own beliefs. This realm is what I would call our ego, or consciousness. While meaning is ultimately a personal, artistic creation that is changeable, it has been defined “very broadly-encompassing many other psychological constructs, such as goals, beliefs, well-being and satisfaction and life narrative-and very deeply, referring to the core of human existence. It is also defined as a process where one increases his or her understanding in a way that allows one to regain a sense of purpose” (Park 3). Therefore, meaning can be everywhere if one’s imagination created such a realm, and unfortunately possibly be discovered in a false mortality, perceived incorrectly causing one to find significance in addiction or harmful sustenance. In this realm of consciousness, one builds a model of who they are, and thus derives what their life to be. In order for the mind to build a model, knowledge and experience must be available. But where does this knowledge come from to create meaning? It comes from our ever-changing society, foods, culture, friends, studies, and our teachers. One great change that has changed very rapidly is the impact of different meaning of sugar through its transformation from a rarity to a necessity with the invention of capitalism.

triangulartrademap                                                                                Source:http://w3.salemstate.edu/~cmauriello/Course%20Development/WorldCIVII/Images/triangulartrademap.gif

Although a few Europeans knew of the existence of cane sugar around 1100 CE, it was still a “rarity until the 1650’s, only a luxury in the 1750’s, and a necessity by 1850’s” (5-6, Mintz). In turn, sugar took on its social role as a produce that marked one’s socio-economic class, becoming valuable and cherished by anyone who could get a hold of it. The role as an indicator of social status that sugar took on between the 16th and 17th century was key to the change of sugar to sweetener, as the demand for sugar among individuals across socio-economic class boundaries greatly increased, creating a new market and an opportunity for businesses to seek out an economically viable supply of sugar, especially since sugar could not be cultivated in Europe. This source came to be overseas, part of the notorious supply chain known as the Transatlantic Slave trade. Thus, the alteration in British consumption of sugar as a spice to a sweetener was deeply rooted in the creation of chattel slavery.                                                                                                                                                    Chattel Slavery, slavery in which people are treated as the chattel (personal property) of an owner, and are bought and sold as commodities had the greatest result from sugar (Martin). “The institutionalization of slavery in the New World led directly to the slave trade due to the fact that demand for slaves outpaced the growth in supply by natural increase nearly everywhere in the Americas” (Cumo). As there was massive demand for labor, the Europeans looked to Africa. The African’s themselves sold African slaves as a commodity in return for goods such as rum, guns, textiles and other goods to exchange for slaves, and then transported them across the Atlantic to sell to plantation-owners, and then returned with sugar and coffee, also fueled the first great wave of economic globalization (The Economist). The slaves had “little relaxation, hard fare, and hard usage, to wear them out before they became useless, and unable to do service; and then to buy new ones, to fill their places” (Fraser-Reid 4). By the Africans selling their own people, they enriched their own realms and strengthened them too. This is not only where the dehumanization aimed at Africans begins, but where capitalism starts as Mintz states:          “The English people came to view sugar as essential; supplying them with it became as much a political as an economic obligation. At the same time, the owners of the immense fortunes created by the labor of millions of slaves stolen from Africa, on millions of acres of the New World stolen from the Indians – wealth in the form of commodities like sugar, molasses, and rum to be sold to Africans, Indians, colonials, and the British working class alike – has become even more solidly attached to the centers of power in English society at large. Many individuals’ merchants, planters, and entrepreneurs lost out, but the long-term economic successes of the new commodity markets at home were never in doubt after the mid-seventeenth century. What sugar meant, from this vantage point, was what all such colonial production, trade, and metropolitan consumption came to mean: the growing strength and solidity of the empire and of the classes that dictated its policies.” ( Mintz, p. 157)

Here what Mintz is really arguing here is that capitalism, the strength of empire as defined by access to wealth, and the ability to dictate policies, to govern, developed as a result of this work to supply, and to create demand for sugar. Linking the development of our current economic system with this sweet taste of sugar that we biologically evolved to desire. (Martin lecture 6)





Source : https://www.wholesomeone.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Are-You-Addicted-to-Sugar-.jpg

Focusing on an excerpt from Tasting Empire, Norton states that “Spaniards learned to like chocolate because of their continued material dependence on Indians” (Norton 677). Converging on this, the capitalist modernization model expresses a lot. As Bourdieu states that “taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed” (Norton 663). While some of the most pleasurable and enjoyable memories of a person has to do with sweets, such as on one’s birthday eating a delicious cake that mother or father made decorated with frosting and glazes, or getting a lollipop after going through getting a shot at the doctor’s office, we usually seek sweets as a reward system, or celebration. Digging into this deeper, since we were just a baby, we grow up with these classifications of sweets being used all the time for rewards, and usually classify sweets with the distinctions of a substance that is beautiful on top of advertisements being at fault for these illusions. Not only do we have a dependence on sugar, but we biologically crave it.

Being no longer unified due to capitalism, most of us don’t know what’s really going on at the supply chain of our foods, and we can only build an illusory view such as the classification one may create in the advertisement above, which we create a particularly false meaning. The ad above gives the power of the perception of how sugar can demonstrate itself through various social parameters but only extensively. The gorgeous woman is portraying her love for powdered donuts, and is displaying the power of sugar in reference to a much more highly addictive, yet dangerous substance, cocaine. This ad slightly speaks volumes to the traditions of modern western culture that invoke the greatest effect, as “adverts have perpetuated western sexist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption which have divorced foods from the conditions of production” (Robertson 10). The misguided meaning many ads portray, now aids in creating mass cultural stereotypes from building false illusions and separate us from the reality of the production of our sugar, although this ad is particularly true in sugar being addictive, many other advertisements such as ads regarding McDonald’s or other fast food chains give most of us a false message, allowing one to see the desire of the substance, and not the dangerous aftereffects when consuming sugar, and carbs at large, not in moderation. Sugar should be used in moderation, but it is not due to the capitalist society we live in today.



Sources: (http://uthmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/arab-youth-obesity-987×520.jpg)  (http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/users/f/felwell/www/Theorists/Essays/Marx%20files/Capitalism2.jpg)

Not only do we build these craving memories which is a factor that leads one to the over consumption of sugar, but it is also evolutionary as Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University states, “sugar is a deep, deep ancient craving” (Spector).  Refined sugars were absent in the diet of most people until very recently in human history as sugar was “rarity until the 1650’s, only a luxury in the 1750’s, and a necessity by 1850’s” (6, Mintz). Apart from honey, most of the foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate were no sweeter than a carrot and that “15 million years ago in a time of global cooling, a mutation occurred that increased the apelike creatures’ sensitivity to fructose so that even small amounts were stored as fat. This adaptation was a survival mechanism: Eat fructose and decrease the likelihood you will starve to death” (Spector). Thus, looking back at our ancestors, we have biologically trained ourselves to crave sweets.

While our prehistoric ancestors trained themselves to crave sweets biologically, the problem we face today is that humans have too much of the sweet stuff available to them, which is why over consumption of diets rich in sugars contributes together with other factors to drive the current obesity epidemic due to capitalism and sugar.

Depending on the sociologist, causes and solutions can be different. To begin with, Karl Marx views social issues as a issue due to economic inequality. In a capitalist society, he believes each individual acts selfishly and does what best suits him or her. A more appropriate society I would argue would be one in which people had equal access to different aspects of modern day culture (Cliggett 102). Thus, when looking at the rise in obesity, Marx would blame the issue on three major issues: power, poverty and education. When looking at a case, where the                                                                                                                 “UN’s World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture proposed a guideline widely supported by nutritionists, which recommended that added sugars should not exceed 10 percent of daily calorie intake, congress was threatened to cut off $400,000 annual funding if they did not remove the offending norm from their report” (Robert 345).                 As the UN bodies gave in, this scenario once again expresses the image above where the first two tiers “rule and fool you” as they are the ones with the power to feed poison to poor, and uneducated people. When looking at price distinctions in foods, there is a drastic difference between the cost of healthy foods and junks foods. Even if an individual can find fresh produce, cheaper usually means worse quality. Organic foods also tend to be more costly than conventional items. In the view of Marx, these price differences lead to the fact that poorer people do not have the same access to healthy food options as more affluent.                                                                                                                                                                 In reverence to modern society and obesity, different groups have access to different levels of education and different types of food options. Varying levels of education leads to different knowledge about nutrition. One status group will understand the meaning of calorie counts and fat percentages but another group will not. The less knowledgeable group will make worse decisions when determining what to eat. The lack of understanding adds to the rise rate of obesity. Status groups may also be separated by their abilities to access food choices. A less fortunate group may only have access to unhealthy foods, such as fast food, while another group has the choice of organic meals.  While the structure of the food market is rapidly changing around individuals, they will be unable to adjust their actions in order to prevent obesity.

In conclusion sugar is the driver behind two of the worst tragedies we face today, slavery and obesity, by allowing a greedy rigged system that shapes our social, cultural, economic and political ordering that some of us have little to no control over. In the video below, one can see how the government is in power with the obesity epidemic we now face, as sugar is all around us and money is a very powerful tool.


Work cited:

Cumo, Christopher. “The Transatlantic Slave Trade, 1750–1900.” World History Encyclopedia. Alfred J. Andrea. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011. Credo Reference. Web.

Cliggett, Lisa, and Richard R. Wilk. Economies and Cultures: Foundations of Economic Anthropology. Boulder: Westview, Array. Anthropology Online. Web. 12 May 2016.

Fraser-Reid, Bertram O. From Sugar to Splenda: A personal and Scientific Journey of a Carbohydrate Chemist and Expert Witness. Heidelberg: Springer, 2012. Print.

International: Breaking the chains; slavery. (2007, Feb 24). The Economist, 382, 64-73. Web.

Martin, Carla. “AAAS E-119 Lecture 5: Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. 2016. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “AAAS E-119 Lecture 6: Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. 2016. Lecture.

Mintz, S. (1985). “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History”. New York: Penguin Books. Print.

Park, Crystal L. “Religion and Meaning.” Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Eds. Raymond F. Paloutzian and Crystal L. Park. New York: The Guilford Press, 2005.

Robertson, Emma. “Chocolate, women and empire: A Social and Cultural History.” Manchester University Press, New York. 2010. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

Spector, Dina. “An Evolutionary Explanation For Why We Crave Sugar.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 2014. Web. 11 May 2016.