Cover of The Sugar Trade by Daniel Strum
The Sugar Trade
Brazil, Portugal, and the Netherlands, 1595-1630
Daniel Strum


568 pp.

Cloth ISBN: 9780804787215



This book provides a thoroughly researched and richly illustrated account of a key element of the early modern Atlantic world: the sugar trade linking Brazil, Portugal, and the Netherlands. The study seeks to illuminate the economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions of this commerce. Indeed, trade supported Brazil's rise as the world's leading producer of sugar and the first great plantation colony. Likewise, the sugar trade boosted the economy of Portugal and contributed to the upsurge of the Dutch market. The increasing availability of sugar transformed the European diet (along with some medical theories); and sweets came to play an important part in a variety of social practices. In the political arena, sugar and sugar-producing areas became strategic targets in global conflicts. Furthermore, as this trade expanded, it figured centrally in the evolution of a wide range of financial techniques, business strategies, and institutions of governance—which merchants exploited in order to make their transactions more efficient. The book provides a clear examination of these increasingly sophisticated practices, and shows how they had much in common with today's business operations.

About the author

Daniel Strum is currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University.

"Taken together the chapters weave a 'thick description' of the sugar trade that draws on social, cultural, economic, and political history. They contribute to our understanding of the formation of the Atlantic economy and the establishment of sugar as a key element of capitalist modernity. The book may be read profitably - and indeed, pleasurably - by specialists and non-specialists."

—Dale Tomich, New West Indian Guide

"The book offers a detailed, well-illustrated presentation of the types of ships, sea routes, cargo transport procedures, and shipping fees of the Brazilian-Portuguese-Dutch trade and explicates the practical strategies . . . Exhaustively researched in regard to published works, The Sugar Trade footnotes the historical literature on substantive issues that Strum ably synthesizes for nonspecialists."

—Juan A. Giusti-Cordero, Hispanic American Historical Review

"[T]he work contains considerable scholarly merit, and the illustrations are appropriate to the material and often very instructive in their own right . . . Strum's meticulous documentation of these developments, as well as the accompanying illustrations, will reward historians of capitalism more generally."

—Christopher Ebert, World Sugar History Newsletter

"Together, these comprise ten detailed chapters covering the breadth of the sugar trade during a time of explosive growth in Brazil's production. The book also boasts numerous sidebars, timelines, graphs, tables, and, most spectacularly, images . . . Printed on heavy stock, the book's 376 images are reproduced in lush full color. Every page rewards the reader with visual interest . . . The book shines in describing the routine procedures and habits devised by merchants to keep the sugar trade humming. Strum demonstrates with numerous examples how financial and contractual tools and instruments, together with money and ships, were deployed in real interactions among merchants, shipmasters, and agents . . . This story of capital is as compelling as our current century's."

—Thomas D. Rogers, American Historical Review