It is believed that sugar was initially used by man in Polynesia later spreading to India. In 510 B.C. Emperor Darius invaded Persia finding what he described as “the reed which gives honey without bees”. The discovery was a protected secret, but in the 7th century the secret got out due to a major expansion of the Arab people. Exported as a rich profit, sugar was considered a pleasant and new spice. When Persia was invaded by the Arab people, they learned how to make sugar and begin growing it. As they continued to rapidly expand they took sugar with them establishing it in other lands including North Africa and Spain. The British colonists began referring to sugar as White Gold, and it was soon obvious that sugar was the engine of the slave trade. Sugar slavery was a major key in the Triangle Trade in which “slaves were sent to work on New World plantations, the product of their labor was sent to a European capital to be sold and other goods were brought to Africa to purchase more slaves” (2)
In Britain, sugar was not know until the development of the Crusades against the Muslims. Since sugarcane did not grow in England, they never tasted until trading and transportation were developed enough. To cover the necessity of a sweetener, The British used honey. At the beginning, sugar was sold at approx. £50 in our days. Thus, sugar was a luxury good. When England engaged in colonialism and gain more territory in the West Indies, production and consumption raised. “By 1750 there were 120 British refining factories, producing 30,000 tonnes of sugar a year from sugar cane. Sugar was heavily taxed and by 1815 the British government had collected a total of £3 million in sugar duties.In 1874 the prime minister, William Gladstone, removed the tax and sugar could then be afforded by many more British people” (1).
Additionally, in 1747, a German chemist named Andreas Marggraf was able to extract sugar from sugar beet. The advantages of this plant were enormous! since it was able to grow in Britain. Sugar from sugarcane was the most common source of sugar until the period of the Napoleonic wars (1793-1815). At this point, ports were blocked and imports of sugar fell. Thus, the industry of beet-sugar started growing. By 1880 beet sugar was predominant in Europe. This was also due to the fact that slavery was abolished and the cost of cane sugar production rose. Since World War I, the British government has given incentives to farmers to grow sugar beet (1).
(1) “About Sugar.” Sugar Nutrition UK. Web. 22 Jan. 2012. <http://www.sugarnutrition.org.uk/history-of-sugar.aspx>.
(2) Whipps, Heather. “How Sugar Changed the World.” LiveScience.com. 2 June 2008. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.livescience.com/4949-sugar-changed-world.html>.