Sugar in the World Today: A Companion to "Sugar Changed the World" by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

In "Sugar Changed the World," songs, oral histories, maps, and more than eighty archival illustrations help trace the history of sugar and the sugar trade. In this story, I am demonstrating how tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and other social networking media "tell" sugar's global present.


  1. Aronson and Budhos have noted that "in the early 1700s, the average person in England consumed an estimated four pounds of sugar a year.  A century later he was gulping down eighteen pounds.  In one hundred years, the amount of sugar an English person used had increased by 450 percent.  And that was before sugar really took off" (p. 65 & p. 67). 

    Americans today eat approximately 140 pounds of sweetener (cane sugar, corn syrup, etc.) per year.  With obesity becoming a prominent concern, people have a lot to say about sugar.

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  3. Sugar was traditionally thought of as a spice rather than a traditional sweetener.  From ancient civilizations until the Industrial Revolution, "if people used fruit, honey, and sugar to sweeten foods, they often mixed salty or even bitter tastes with sweet ones" (Aronson & Budhos, p. 16).  Think of a salty ham with a sweet glaze.  With the the lethal combination of slavery on one side of the Atlantic and the Industrial Revolution on the other, sugar become cheap and evolved from a spice to an entire course.  Here is how people are using sugar today:
  4. Looks like people still love the the meat/sugar combination!
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  6. Despite all of the buzz concerning sugar and health issues, people are still eating their desserts.  After all, "from the moment we are born, we crave sweetness" (Aronson & Budhos, p. 35).
  7. And, of course, people are still eating sugar straight from the source. This picture highlights cane sampling by the roadside in Mauritius, where sugar is the principle agricultural product.

  8. Besides being thought of as a mere food source, sugar has also ingratiated itself into popular culture.  Aronson and Budhos describe it as being used as a medium for sculpture in early Muslim culture, and they also place a heavy emphasis on the music and dance that developed from sugar labor.  Today, we can find sugar in everything from music to slang to the URL of a Harry Potter fan site.

  9. CaitlynHearn, who doesn't love that song?!
  10. Sister, I hear you!
  11. OK, so this last example of sugar in popular culture isn't exactly the most recent.  It is, however, what people are talking about online today, showing that the past is still relevant.  In Sugar Changed the World, Aronson and Budhos also provide accessibility to the past and show how the demand for sugar has unwittingly changed our future.