Christopher Columbus, the person who found the new world, introduced cane sugar to the islands of the Caribbean in the year of 1493. It seems to be hard to imagine that sugar production was such a huge industry in the 1700s and yet still unknown to most European at this point. Therefore, what’s the essential factors that drove the growth of sugar trade? In general, the main factors would be land, labor(slavery), capital, consumer demand, and the Philosophy of Trade(Mercantilism). The first reason would be the land, which is because of the founding of Caribbean.
For instance, the Caribbean map indicates the great colonization has helped the growth of sugar trade. The map tells the location of the sugar trade, and the colonies established by the Europeans. It demonstrates the competition among these European countries, and this competition has become the starting point of the sugar trade. The other strong example would be its climate.
According to the Selected Micropedia and Macropedia entries of the Encyclopedia Britannica, The Caribbean islands have the best conditions for cane sugar production. For instance, the ideal latitude range for cane sugar is 37°N to 30°S, and the two islands of Caribbean–Jamaica and Barbados, one is 18°N and the other one is 13°N, both have the latitude that fit in this range. Another good example would be the soil type. The ideal soil for cane sugar is volcanic or alluvial with sand/silt/clay mix, and these two islands have soil that is clay-silt-sand mix and clay-sand mix (which fit in the categories as well). All these factors gave the sugar trade chance to grow. The second reason would be the labor, which has benefited from the growth of slavery.
For instance, W. Clark’s work Ten Views of Antigua published by Courtesy British Library in 1823 and R. Bridgens’s work a 19th century boiling-house published by Courtesy British Library in about the year of 1820 both demonstrate an image of slaves working on the field and the boiling house, which appropriately showed how the sugar has been grown. Since there were lots of slaves involved in these paintings, we can confirm that the sugar production needs numerous of labors, and it was not an easy job. The other example of labor would be the data from David Richardson’s “The Slave Trade, Sugar, and British Economic Growth, 1748-1776” that was published in Journal of Interdisciplinary History in 1987. It indicates the difference between the price of purchasing and selling the slaves.
In the year of 1748, you only need 14 pounds to purchase a slave, and this slave can be sold at a price of 32 pounds. Even though there’s already a huge profit in between, after 20 years in 1768, you can even be purchased a slave with 16 pounds and sold him with a price of 41 pounds. The amounts of money have different growth rate, which caused this situation that everybody wanted to involve in the slave trade. Since the population of slaves has increased, there would be more labors for the sugar production, which also helped the growth of sugar trade.
The third factor that drove the sugar trade is the capital, which is the tool. John Campbell’s work Candid and Impartial Considerations on the Nature of the Sugar Trade that was published by the Comparative Importance of the British and French Islands in the West Indies in 1763 tells that the British Merchants purchased the slaves with lots of things like the woolen goods, powder, bullets, iron bars, copper bars and some other goods from other places. Because the British had the technology to produce these things that the Africans couldn’t, the British can get more and more things by exchanging these cheap capitals with more slaves. In William Belgrove’s work A Treatise Upon Husbandry of Planting that was published in 1755 points out that a sugar plantation of a 500-acres of lands requires a lot of things, including a dwelling-house, two windmills, a boiling-house, a distilling-house, a big curing-house and other capitals. In order to make the profit from sugar, these requirements were essential, and it’s definitely not easy for making a profit from sugar trade.
But on the other hand, just because the British had the technology to do these capitals, it allows the existence of the monopoly for the sugar trade. The fourth factor that drove the sugar trade would be the consumer demand. For instance, E.T. Parris’s illustration The Sugar Hogshead published in 1846 vividly demonstrates the image of people stretched out their hands, and desperately wanted the foreign goods brought back by the trade ships. Another example would be the data from Social Science History “Private Tooth Decay as Public Economic Virtue”, adapted from Ralph A. Austen and Woodruff D.
Smith, and published by Duke University Press in 1990. From the year of 1700-1770, the British population has grown from 6,122,000 to 8,500,000, and the British sugar imports have grown from 280.7 to 1,379.2 (1,000s cwt.). The annual per capita consumption even grown from 4.6 pounds to 16.2 pounds. This fact confirms that the consumer demand would grow when the population increased. And the increase of consumer demand has helped the growth of sugar trade because the merchants would bring back more favorable goods in order to earn more profits.
The fifth factor that drove the sugar trade would be the Philosophy of Trade, which is the Mercantilism. one example would be from the excerpt Life and Liberty written by Philip Roden and published by Illinois: Scott Foresman in 1987. Roden says that at the time period, the British set up a trading system (Mercantilism) that allowed the Merchants get raw materials from their colonies at low prices, and sell the finished goods made by these raw materials at high prices in England, the colonies, and other countries. And Roden also points out the result of Mercantilism was because “More money came into England than sold out”.
Since even the government was supporting people become merchants by giving these profits, the Philosophy of Trade has helped the drove of sugar trade by encouraging the involvement. The sugar trade was driven by all the five factors of land, labor, capital, consumer demand, and the Philosophy of Trade.