Sweetness and Power

Topics: Plantation, Caribbean, Europe Pages: 2 (618 words) Published: October 8, 1999
By: YP

Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History Some of the most brilliant minds have made many unorthodox suggestions. This is the case with Sidney Mintz's thesis in Sweetness and Power: The Place of Modern History. Mintz's suggestions that industrial capitalism originated in the Caribbean sugar plantations may seem to contradict the European version of world history fed to most of the Western world, but is nevertheless supported by substantial evidence. In general, Western education has conditioned students to believe that everything productive originated in Europe. Mintz begins by explaining the process of obtaining granular sugar from the liquid extracted from the sugar cane. There was very significant sense of discipline on sugar plantations. Each stage of the process required a certain amount of "expertise", just as each worker in a factory has a specific "skill". This is where Mintz's theory that plantations were a "synthesis of field and factory" is best explained; "The specialization by skill and jobs, and the division of labor by age, gender, and condition into crews, shifts and ‘gangs,' together with the stress upon punctuality and discipline, are features associated more with industry than agriculture – at least in the sixteenth century" (Mintz 47). Plantations required a "combination farmer-manufacturer". Workers on plantations worked assiduously with a definite sense of time. They worked continuous shifts, resting only form Saturday to Monday morning. Mintz goes on to explain that "as the production of sugar became significant economically, so that it could affect political and military (as well as economic) decisions, its consumption by the powerful [people] came of matter less; at the same time, the production of sugar acquired that importance precisely because the masses of English people were now steadily consuming more of it, and desiring more than they could afford" (Mintz 45). Similar to factory workers, cheap labor was...

Bibliography: Work Cited Mintz, Sidney. 1985. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking Penguin.
Word Count: 587
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