The exigencies of sugar have shaped the modern world. This ‘noble condiment’, which was virtually unknown in the West before the Crusades, became by the 15th century as valuable as pearls and as sought after as musk. Over the next couple of centuries desire for the commodity dubbed the ‘white gold’ grew exponentially across all social classes; and so thousands of adventurers from the Old World ‘took ship’ for the New in order to cultivate sugar cane and become rich. Their migration precipitated another mass movement of people, this time a forced one in which millions of African slaves were transported to territories as varied as Brazil and Barbados, Cuba and Louisiana to labour in the cane fields. By the 18th century sugar was as significant to the geopolitics of the age as oil in the 20th century.
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'"Dutch Light" roots its subject in his local environment, explaining, for example, how an abundance of sand for making glass led naturally to a thriving business in optical instruments in Holland.'
Patricia Fara on the life & work of Christiaan Huygens.
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'We may not be able to shield ourselves from irrational passions such as hatred, anger, envy, mockery and pride, or from the buffetings of circumstance, but we can rise above them by obtaining insight into their nature and their causes.'