Atlantic sugar production and European sugar consumption rose dramatically in the late eighteenth century. Despite this increase, there were two separate calls to refrain from consuming sugar in both Britain and France at the end of the eighteenth century. Demands for abstinence were directed toward women to stop household consumption of sugar. In Britain, abolitionists urged women to stop buying West Indian sugar because it was a slave good, produced on plantations where enslaved Africans were subject to cruelty and where mortality rates were high. In France, the call to forego sugar came during the early years of the Revolution of 1789, in response to rising sugar prices. The women of Paris were asked to refrain from buying sugar at high prices that were assumed to be a result of market manipulation by speculators and hoarders engaging in anti-revolutionary behavior. The increase in Parisian sugar prices was not driven primarily by profiteering, but by a global shortage caused by the slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti. Comparing these two sugar boycotts, one in Britain, the other in France, provides an opportunity outside of national historical narratives to consider how both events employed the same technique for very different aims. The call to renounce sugar in both cases used economic pressure to create political change. An exploration of these movements for abstinence will provide a better understanding of how they critiqued consumption, and translated discourses, both abolitionist and revolutionary, into practice.
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Research Article| September 01 2021
A Tale of Two Boycotts: Riot, Reform, and Sugar Consumption in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain and France
Eighteenth-Century Life (2021) 45 (3): 51–68.
Garritt Van Dyk; A Tale of Two Boycotts: Riot, Reform, and Sugar Consumption in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain and France. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 September 2021; 45 (3): 51–68. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-9272999
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