The World of Sugar

David Edgerton at Literary Review:

There was a time when commodity histories were everywhere. They tended to focus on consumption and trade over very long distances. Ulbe Bosma’s The World of Sugar is much more than this sort of book. It is one of the most accomplished longue durée case studies in the history of capitalism that we have, concerned not just with trade and consumption but with production also. At every turn it subverts both critiques and celebrations of capitalism, and our understanding of much else besides. It is an extraordinary achievement.

It is, for a start, a genuinely global history. Bosma discusses all the sugar-growing places of the world, from Cuba and Java, the largest exporters of the early 20th century, to Taiwan and the Tucumán region of Argentina. He points to Eastern countries as the greatest producers and consumers of sugar up to the late 19th century. But global does not simply mean ‘exotic’. This is a history not just of cane sugar but also of beet sugar, an equally important form of traded sugar over the last hundred years.

more here.