A Review of Sidney Mintzs Sweetness and Power

This book was definitely an informative and very detailed history of sugar production and consumption, but, most assuredly, it would not even rate in my “top 1,000 books to read” list. Let me say first though, Mintz did an excellent job of researching the topic for this book. But, he seemed to concentrate most of his points on the British, with only vague mention of the rest of the world. Furthermore, the format he used proved to be a bit confusing throughout most of the book. Finally, this book could have, very easily, conveyed the same point in 50 pages as it did in 214.
I realize that the British way of life did have a large impact on the shaping the modern world, but what about the rest of the world? Mintz seems to concentrate most of the book on Britain, with only vague references to the rest of the world. An example being, he refers to the Portuguese and Spanish colonies that provided sugar, but what were their reasons for growing sugar? What were their patterns of consumption? His references about other countries seem, in the most part, to be in reference to the British. For instance, at one point in the book he mentions remarks made by foreigners about the blackened teeth of the British people caused by sugar. It just seems preposterous to think that no other countries in the world would be worth more than a casually reference on this subject.
Secondly, the format Mintz used leaves something to be desired. I understand the reason he split the chapters the way he did, but it is within each of the chapters he started to confuse me. On numerous occasions, he skipped around from one era to another. For example, he would be talking about something from the 16th century, then skip to the 18th century, and then back to the 17th century. I can understand that he may want to refer the reader back to something previously stated, but he did this in explaining information for the first time as well. I feel it would have been much easier to follow if he had arranged the chapters in some sort of chronological order.
Finally, for covering such a small portion of the effect of sugar on the “world” by mainly concentrating on the British aspect, it seemed to take him way too long to do it. After reading this book, one word that comes to mind is “repetitive.” Mintz was constantly restating things previously mentioned. I must have read about how the consumption and uses of sugar started with the rich and how the poor then adopted those uses as well as adapting new ones when prices declined at least six times. That is only one example, although there were numerous others.
In conclusion, although I feel Mintz made some valid points in this book, I feel he could have gone about it in a far better way. I feel the scope of this book was too small, not taking into account a large portion of the worlds contributions to the expansion of sugar production and consumption. The organization of the chapters should have been improved dramatically. And, he was a little long-winded in conveying his point. All in all, although I did learn something from this book, I found it extremely boring and hard to read. If I were to suggest a suitable use for this book, it would be to use it as a cure to insomnia.