In the late 1600s and 1700s sugar growing took firm hold in the Caribbean. France and Britain competed for domination of the Sugar Trade. By 1655, Britain was the biggest sugar trader. France passed Britain as the biggest Caribbean sugar trader in 1740 (oi). The Sugar Trade was driven by many factors. Some of which are capital, slavery and complementing industries. Money was, and still is, very important. Sugar was even called white gold by British colonists during the slave trade (oi). In Bittersweet: The Story of Sugar, Peter Macinnis states that the first curse of sugar is capital intensive, meaning a lot of money. Money was used to buy the slaves that grew the sugar that people also purchased. Land also had to be bought in for sugar plantations (Doc.7). Wealthy English families owned most of the sugar plantations themselves. Therefore, outside investors were not usually involved. Document seven shows that four of the larger sugar plantations were owned by absentee owners that were either rich or their families was rich. Another way money was important was mercantilism. The British used the mercantile system to buy raw materials, or slaves, at low prices and make the materials into finished goods and sell them at high prices. This system helped England to have more money coming in, rather than out and resulted in national wealth that led to national power (Doc. 12). Some say sugar drove the slave trade; others say slaves drove the sugar trade. In reality, the slave trade became entwined with the sugar trade (oi). Slaves were needed on the plantations; they did all of the work. Planting and cutting sugar canes were only two of the jobs they had to do. They also had to take the canes to the crushing mill and boil the cane juice (Doc. 8). As the slave population grew, more sugar was produced. Document ten states that in Barbados in seventeen twelve, there were 42,000 slaves and 6,343 tons of sugar produced. By seventeen ninety-two, there were 64,300 slaves and 9,025 tons of sugar produced. As time went on, the prices of slaves went up. The average purchase prices for adult male slaves in the British Caribbean were about eighteen pounds more than on the West African coast, according to document nine.
If not for complementing industries, the sugar trade might not have been so successful. Sugar was used as a sweetener in drinks such as tea and coffee. Hot tea became the most important nonalcoholic beverage in Britain (Doc. 4). If tea was not created, there would have been less of a demand for sugar. Sugar is not the only exotic import that came with complementing industries. Slaves were bought along with many different goods. Powder, bullets, iron and copper bars, and some East India goods are only a few of the goods trade with slaves (Doc. 11).
With this in mind, the sugar trade was the end of one era, and the beginning of another. The way everyone lived their day to day life was changed. Africans became slaves, Europeans became addicted to sugar, chocolate, and tea, and the natives of the Caribbean were losing their land to Europeans for sugar plantations (oi). Capital, slavery and complementing industries were a few of the factors that drove the slave trade.