Every modern convenience that makes your life easier from electricity to cars; every treat from the global marketplace that you might buy as pantry basics from South American chocolate to South East Asian rice: all are courtesy of a cascade of events picking up speed some 250 years ago.
The Industrial Revolution forever transformed our lives and expectations. It particularly gathered force with the development of the steam engine which powered ships across oceans with unprecedented speed and efficiency. This opened up new markets as more perishable cargo could at last be traded to numerous and further destinations.
Unfortunately this fresh cargo included slaves. The British – master of the seas and many adjacent continents – and other Europeans brutally abducted black Africans and transported them across the world under merciless conditions. They were forced to work until death on the sugar cane plantations of the West Indies and later the United States. The product was so profitable it was called ‘white gold’ and became the world’s largest and most lucrative industry. It enabled nice, Christian ladies to offer hospitality in the form of a dainty sweetener to accompany another exotic import, tea from China (where the British introduced and profited from opium – but that, boys and girls, is another story).