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January 15: Sugar: A Bittersweet History

Elizabeth Abbott
Research Associate in the Arts
Trinity College, University of Toronto

Thursday, January 15, 4:00 p.m.
Sterling Memorial Library Lecture Hall, 128 Wall Street
Free and open to the public

Elizabeth Abbott, author of Sugar: A Bittersweet History (Penguin, 2008 and just shortlisted for the 2009 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction), will discuss how sugar and its seductive sweetness and energy changed the face of the New World during the early decades of colonization, uprooting millions of Africans to produce it and creating the world’s most brutal version of slavery, later exported to the American Colonies. At the same time, European and later North American dependence on sugar grew steadily as it ceased to be a culinary extravagance and was deemed a necessity by European leaders from Napoleon to Hitler. Sugarcane production is now known to be an environmental catastrophe that has caused greater loss of biodiversity on the planet than any other single crop. Today’s sugar industry lobby is also a powerful political force that strongly influences consumer behavior and food guides like the World Health Organization’s Food Guide.

Elizabeth Abbott is a writer and historian with a doctorate from McGill University. She is Research Associate in the Arts at Trinity College, University of Toronto and was the College’s Dean of Women from 1991 to 2004. She is the author of several books, including A History of Celibacy, which have been translated into sixteen languages.