The seeds of change is a book by Hobhouse that was about six plants that transformed mankind. It provides information about world history, how it reached the modern world, how the six plants had impact on the history of human behaviours, especially sugar. The aim of this essay is to discuss the seed of change by Hobhouse. This essay will focus on the origin and the spread of sugar then move to the history and the impact the spread of sugar had in the modern world and the influence sugar had on the creation of Natal’s history.
Definition of Sugarcane and Sugar
Sugar cane is an enduring plant that flourishes well in places or areas situated next to the tropics that needs high temperatures which can be the sunlight, rich soil, and a large amount of water. Sugar is a sweet substance which comes from sugar cane after it has been refined therefore it can be regarded as an end product of sugar cane. The quinine, sugar, tea, cotton, the potato and cocoa were the plants that Hobhouse believed that they introduced change in human behaviour and brought change in the world’s history. Sugar was one of the plants that had a enormous impact in the creation of the modern world and had a significant role of introducing change in world’s history and had an impact on the creation of Natal’s history.
The Origin and the Spread of Sugar
Sugar cane was first invented in three different countries which are, Polynesia where it was first established, and it then spread to Indonesia and the New Guinea moving westerly from the Pacific Ocean. It was often used in India and China therefore as it was found that sugarcane was firstly refined at Bihar on the Ganges in India and thence presented as sugar to China. A various number of canes were used for Indian sugar therefore which was particularly called the Puri and this diverse number of canes was the reason why sugar escalated gradually to the eighteen century therefore the New World and it was by the time western Europe was starting to utilize it. The role of honey was more like sugar when sugar cane was not yet refined, and it believed that it was first established in Egypt. “Sugarcane was unknown in the New World until Columbus introduced it on his second voyage in 1493.” This had a major impact on the usage of sugar in Europe as it resulted to more consumption and more to marketing.
In 1319 was the time sugar had finally reached England then Denmark in 1374 and in 1390 it also reached Sweden and it was very expensive during this time because it was used in different products one of them is medicine, it was used making herbs, entrails and other remedy substances of the medieval periods as there was a lot of illnesses during this era.
Sugar and honey were one of the most expensive products in the middle ages but as time went by they decreased in their prices because of a large amount of cane that was being produced in the cane industries. When they both decreased in prices, this gave chances for the availability on European market of sugar grown from canes outside Mediterranean.
In Portugal canes were planted in the Azores, Madeira and Sao Tome therefore expanding the number of canes and they were the first to come up with the use of slaves from outside Europe. In Spain they planted their plants in Canary Islands therefore which are in the West coast of Africa. The islands had all the characteristics that sugar canes and other plants required for them to grow on a right scale. The sugar industries were gaining more in Spain and Portugal, they used debtors, the African slaves, and Jews who resisted being converted to Christianity as their workers. Sugarcane was spread across the world as some of the workers that were taught how to manage plants were sent across Atlantic and used in the Americas on their larger numbers.
The Impact the Spread of Sugar Had in The Modern World
Sugar had quite a lot of effect in the making of the modern world therefore if looking at how the world is today and things that occurred due to sugar, you can tell that it had an impact. Slavery and slave trade are one of the effects of the modern world as there was a number of sugarcane industries that were introduced in different regions of Europe. All the industries relied much more on slaves for them to grow a surplus and for Europeans to make a good living out of it, through trade and as a result this led to slave trade. The trade of African slaves was one of the most transportation of foreigners in world history, which took place due to the sugar industries that needed more workers.
It was better known as the trans- Atlantic Triangular trade in African slaves and the Triangular Trade basically refers to the trade between African, America, Europe, and other European Caribbean colonies. It was divided into three, they were goods which were traded from Europe to Africa in exchange for slaves, African slaves that were traded to the Caribbean and American plantations and America returned/traded raw materials like sugarcane back to Europe.
It had an effect on Africa as many people were forced to migrate from Africa to America therefore to work on sugarcane plantations and there was a enormous number of Africans that were treated unfairly therefore abused in any other way that you can think of and killed during this era. Most of the slaves underwent depression on the sugar industries and this resulted to them rating themselves as people who were not vital enough in the world and also led to a formation of classes between whites and blacks.
Sugar also decreased the population for Africans therefore by trading the people to America through forced labour therefore of which this left their homelands with no developments and had to face difficulties as a number of them were traded and the those who were let suffered from the whites colonizes. The economy was not in a good state as productive adults were taken from their homelands and this led to civil wars that provided more opportunities for trading of slaves and Europeans were also developing thoughts that they were more different to Africans and those thoughts were propelling them to be racist.
The European colonization is another effect in the making of the modern world. The colonization by Europeans was therefore encouraged by sugar as they saw that it was making a good profit and highly required or needed through out the whole world. “When they first encountered sugarcane and learnt how to make sugar and forged the link between the sugar industry and Europeans colonialism that has endured until our times.” It was originally started by Portuguese and the Spanish followed them, but they were both were leaders that introduced sugar production at Europe and then the rest followed.
This also helped the Europeans to also practice their cultures in Africa as Christianity was introduced and more people were converted, and some had to follow the Moslem. Europe gained a lot from the triangular traded as they were able to take over and rule many regions therefore as they are still the region that is ruling worldwide. They also succeeded in their capitalist system as the world nowadays is using this type of economic system.
Another effect are health risks that were caused by over consumption of sugar. When people consumed a lot of sugar that could likely have diabetes, tooth decay, malnutrition from processed sugary foods and for others to be obese.
The Influence Sugar Had on The Creation of Natal’s History
According to Freund “The history of Indian workers in and around Durban is crucial to the understanding of the history of Natal and Durban as local economy in particular.” The Indians had a larger population that was a threat for Europe and they acted as the hinders which hindered the whites to do a cheaper labour economy that will encourage skilled workers and owners.
The abolition of slaves and slave trade led to the introduction of a new system which is better known as the Indentured Labour System which refers to agreements made by employers that they will pay the employees, when they are employing them, it included quite a number of Indians migrating from India to Natal therefore to work in industries, one of them being sugarcane industries and just for them to gain profit and make a living out of it. It was not like slavery whereby slaves were forced to do a certain job that they are required to do without any agreements made and without no profit in return.
The British settlers from Mauritius are accountable for spreading sugarcane to the tropical climate of Natal in 1850s. According to Freund on a passage from India, “In Mauritius, the indenture system was introduced as early as 1834 therefore almost after the abolition of slavery while Natal began to import indentured labour from India in 1860.” The indenture labour lasted for about 3 – 5 years in and while they were payed inadequate salaries by their employers but the this was used by British to as part of a problem solving plan for rural overpopulation and poverty and they made the labourers look as if they were supported while they were not, some faced complexities with climate but were still under the cruel social system.
In 1860 the first indentured labourers landed into Natal, followed by the first stage which was in between 1860-1866 and second stage was in 1874-1911. In the first indentured labourers, they were exceeding 150,000 that were transported from India. Most of the indentured workers were not treated well therefore their working conditions were to bad as they had to face being treated cruel and there was to much loss of life for Indians.
There was time by which the Indians outnumbered the British, so they had to use race in order to win against them and so as a resulted some Indians ended up going back to India while others were suffering from free labour that was introduced after indenture labour system.
It is fair to conclude by saying this essay has discussed the seed of change by Hobhouse. It also focused on the origin and the spread of sugar then move to the history and lastly the impact the spread of sugar had in the modern world and the influence sugar had on the creation of Natal’s history. Taking into account, you can tell that sugar really had an impact in Natal’s history and Durban as a whole and therefore all the resources we have in nowadays were due to sugar especially sugarcane.
- Henry Hobhouse. The Seeds of Change: Six Plants that Transformed Mankind. New York: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005.
- Bill Freund. Insiders and Outsiders: The Indian Working Class of Durban 1910-1990. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press and London: James Currey, 1995.
- Bill Freund. “The Rise and Decline of an Indian Peasantry in Natal”, Journal of Peasant Studies 1991: 18, 2.
- Glyn James. Sugarcane, 2nd ed. Blackwell Science, 2004.
- Galloway, J. H. The Sugar Cane Industry: an Historical Geography from Its Origins to 1914. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
- Hugo R. “Sugar and Slavery In the 17th Century,” Enciclopedia De Puerto Rico, 2017, http://enciclopediapr.org/en/encyclopedia/sugar-and-slavery-in-the-17th-century.