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Description - Sweetness and Power by Sidney Wilfred Mintz

A fascinating persuasive history of how sugar has shaped the world, from European colonies to our modern diets In this eye-opening study, Sidney Mintz shows how Europeans and Americans transformed sugar from a rare foreign luxury to a commonplace necessity of modern life, and how it changed the history of capitalism and industry. He discusses the production and consumption of sugar, and reveals how closely interwoven are sugar's origins as a "slave" crop grown in Europe's tropical colonies with is use first as an extravagant luxury for the aristocracy, then as a staple of the diet of the new industrial proletariat. Finally, he considers how sugar has altered work patterns, eating habits, and our diet in modern times. "Like sugar, Mintz is persuasive, and his detailed history is a real treat." - San Francisco Chronicle

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780140092332
ISBN-10: 0140092331
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 15mm)
Pages: 304
Imprint: Penguin Books Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 27-Nov-1986
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Sweetness and Power by Sidney Wilfred Mintz

US Kirkus Review » For anthropologist Mintz (Johns Hopkins), sugar - a subject to which he was drawn during conventional Caribbean fieldwork - has been the stimulus toward a radical realignment of his anthropological horizons. Here it is the focus for several sorts of analysis. Of greatest interest to general readers will be a couple of long chapters tracing the development of modern sugar production and consumption - with special emphasis on 1) the British plantation system as a slave-based precursor of capitalist production forms and 2) the remarkable transformation of sugar from rare spice or token of wealth and power to one of the chief caloric props (in conjunction with such other "drug foods" as chocolate, coffee, and especially tea) of the British working-class diet. These sections, cogently pulling together material from important studies in the history of labor, diet, and technology as well as histories of the sugar industry itself, are good enough to make one wish that Mintz had simply essayed a general introduction to sugar through recent ages. As it is, he goes on to wrestle with more directly ethnological implications - the social meanings that this addictive source of instant calories gradually acquired in the "food rituals" of consumers from progressively lower social strata, the ongoing 20th-century rearrangement or derangement of "the structures of meals and the calendar of daily diet" by what one observer calls "gastro-anomie." Here too there is plenty of challenging insight, but also a curiously labored progression of thought with repetitive formulations of the same ideas, suggesting something unsolved in this particular attempt to bridge the gap between anthropology and social history. Interesting if only partly successful. (Kirkus Reviews)


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