Andrea Stuart

Trading Places

Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture

By

Hurst & Co 274pp £20 order from our bookshop

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. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,