The War for Sugar

As I have said before, in their effort to avoid the Islamic blockade of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Europeans were trying to find alternative routes to Asia. Vasco Da Gama reached India around Africa (1497), and Christopher Columbus reached the New World (America) in an attempt to find an alternative route to Asia (1492). See “The Islamic Iron Curtain of the 7th Century”.

When the Europeans found America, initially they were not very happy, because it was not Asia, neither it had the products they were looking for i.e. spices, silk etc. However the Europeans found other ways to profit from the New World. I was saying about the Spaniards, who took over what today is Mexico and Peru, and exchanged the gold and silver of Mexico and Peru for Asian goods at the Philippines. See “The Islamic World in 1500 C.E. and the Shift to the Atlantic”.

The Spaniards (yellow) managed to grab a large part of the New World, and together with the Portuguese (khaki) were controlling South (Latin) America. See the following map. The English (pink) and the French (green) were strong in North America. The Dutch were also controlling small parts of North and South America.

Map 1

Map American Colonies.JPG

The Portuguese controlled what is today Brazil, and managed to convert Brazil to the largest producer of sugar. At least 18 months of warm weather and a lot of water is required to produce sugar. Therefore the northern countries are not adequate, because they are not warm, and the southern countries are not adequate because they lack rainfalls. You need tropical climates to produce sugar.

Map Tropical Zone

Map Tropical Climate.JPG

You can understand why Latin America, Africa, India and South East Asia were so important, and why everybody were killing each other for controlling these regions. And of course it is not only sugar production that needs tropical climate. The Portuguese almost monopolized the trade of sugar for the period 1570-1670. At the time sugar was a luxury. After 1800 sugar gradually became a necessity. Even today Brazil and India are the largest producers of sugar. See Bloomberg.

Image 1 Largest Producers of Sugar (2011)

Largest Producers of Sugar.JPG

The Portuguese dominance over the trade of sugar were not well accepted by the other counties. The Dutch started cultivating sugar at the Caribbean Islands, and also started fighting the Dutch in Brazil, India and Africa. For the Dutch-Portuguese War of 1601-1661 see “Dutch-Portuguese Wars”

The war between the Dutch and the Portuguese was a war for trade, but to a large extent it was also a war for sugar.

Map Caribbean Islands

Map Caribbean Islands.JPG

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