Sugar's Influence in the Expansion of the British Empire
Mintz is concerned by the relationship between sugar's expansion as a staple of the British diet and the concomitant expansion of the British Empire. According to Mintz, sugar's sweetness, and man's proverbial 'sweet tooth,' cannot be the only explanation for sugar's dominant role in the British diet of the time. In reviewing the history of sugar's expansion in the British diet, Mintz points to the fact it occurred hand in hand with British Empire's expansion as it acquired increasing numbers of colonies in the Sugar producing parts of the world. The colonies allowed the British to produce increasing amounts of sugar cheaplyùespecially due to the fact that slave labor accounted for the majority of the production potential (Mintz, 19-30).
The increasing production and lowering prices of sugar occurred at a time when the industrial revolution was ramping up in the British Isles. The industrial revolution at home had two main consequences for the sugar trade. On the one hand, it changed and expanded the uses for sugar. Sugar became a substance that was used to flavor and conceal the taste of meat, for preserving fruits and vegetables, as a substitute for honey, and as an accompaniment to beverages such as tea and coffee. Additionally, the rise of factories led to the decrease of farming in England. As fewer people farmed the land, there was an increase in the demand for cheap, calorically dense food (Mintz, 74-100).
Mintz believes that there is a consumption and production feedback loop. In essence, the expansion of the British Empire resulted in new types of production and new goods entering into the market in England. The increase in products led to an increase in consumption, and the increase in consumption in turn leads to an increase in production. As the Industrial revolution dawned, the plantations tha