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How Sweet it Was
Cane Sugar from the Ancient World to the Elizabethian Period
Was there Sugar in the Middle Ages?
Sugar is one of the oldest and best documented of all of the medieval
commodities. Exactly what form, quality and price this commodity acheived
could be variable enough to create material for disagreement whenever
the product is discussed. What we do know is that it was much more widespread
than is commonly believed. A Saxon of the middle and/or lower classes, in
pre 800's England, would certainly have had only honey for a sweetner.
However, an Elizabethian ate so much refined, white sugar, that the English
were noted for their bad teeth and the sweetmeats that they consumed.
For all the many countries and times between conditions of the sugar varied
considerably. With the following information I hope to establish the cost,
quality, and availablity of sugar. Not only in the British Isles, but
on the continent as well.
Sugar In India and Persia
In 510 BC , hungry soldiers of the Emperor Darius were near the river
Indus, when they discovered some "reeds which produce honey without bees".
Evidently this early contact with the Asian sources of sugar cane made
no great impression, so it was left to be re-discovered in 327 BC by Alexander
the Great, who spread it's culture through Persia and introduced it in the
Mediterranean. This was the beginning of one of the best documented
products of the Middle Ages.
In 95 AD, in a document entitled "Periplus Maris Erythraei", (or
"Guide Book to the Red Sea"), an unknown merchant says there is "Exported
commonly....Honey of reeds which is called sakchar." This is possibly
the first mention in European history of the use of sugar cane as an article
From: "The Wonder That Was India" by A. L. Basham we learn that "In
ancient India...."(Since Nero's Time) "...sugar cane was grown, and exported
to Europe..." and "...in the time of the Caesars...The main requirements
of the West were spices, perfumes, jewels and fine textiles, but lesser luxuries,
such as sugar, rice and ghee were also exported." According to Will Durant,
who told us the Darius and Alexander the Great stories above in his
"Age of Faith", pressing and boiling cane to create sugar as such was first
done in India about 300 AD. Prior to this, the juice was used much
like honey, as a sweetner for food and drinks. About 540 AD, the Persians
had learned sugarmaking from India. We now know that there was a lot more
contact from India through the Mediterranean world than was previously
thought. An example of this is the manner in which Indian literature found
it's way to the Western countries.
In "The History and Culture of the Indian People, The Classical Age"
Vol. 3, the authors note:
"That Indian literature was highly valued in these countries..."
(meaning europe and the med) "....is known by the history of a single book
Panchatantra....translated in the 6th century into pehlevi then arabic
then from arabic to Hebrew, Latin, Spanish, Italian and various other languages
of Europe..." (Obviously there was communication and trade...for mention
of sugar being traded, see previous.) They also state in another place
that "In the seventh century...sugar canes were abundant in this country...",
meaning India. By 600 AD, again according to Durant, knowledge of how
to produce crystalized sugar was wide spread in this area. (India and Persia)
We do know that in 627 AD, the Greek Emperor Heraclius seized a treasury
of sugar in the Royal Palace at Ctesiphon. In 641 AD, the Arabs conquered
Persia, and having learned to cultivate sugar cane, spread it's culture to
Egypt, Sicily, Morrocco, and Spain, from which sources it reached Europe.
The Arab Connection
In 827 Moslems landed for the first time in Sicily. It took until
965 to secure their foothold. "Moslem rule was an improvement over that of
Byzantium. The latifondi were divided among freed serfs and smallholders,
and agriculture received the greatest impetus it had ever known. Thanks to
a Moslem custom, uncultivated land became the property of whoever first broke
it, thus encouraging cultivation at the expense of grazing. Practically
all the distinguishing features of Sicilian husbandry were introduced by
the Arabs: citrus, cotton, carob, mulberry, both the celso, or black
and the white morrella-sugar cane, hemp, date palm, the list is almost endless."
This according to "The Barrier and the Bridge-Historic Sicily" by Alfonso
Lowe, Published in 1972
By the end of the ninth century, says "A History of Sicily" by D.
Mack Smith, "In Sicily...they planted lemons and bitter oranges. They brought
the knowledge of how to cultivate sugar cane and crush it with mills...they
introduced the first cotton seeds, the first mulberries and silkworms, the
date palm, the sumac tree for tanning and dying, papyrus, pistachio nuts
"They introduced...the cotton plant and the sugar cane" and "They
were great traders; under their rule Palermo became an international market
where merchants from the Christian Italian cities were as welcome as
Muslim merchants from Africa and the East. " we are told in "The Sicilian
Vespers" by Steven Runciman.
John Julius Norwich, in "The Other Conquest", says the Saracens in
Sicily "...introduced cotton and papyrus, citrus and date-palm and enough
sugar-cane to make possible, within a very few years, a substantial
In "A History of Sicily", Finley, Smith and Duggan add that "They...brought
the knowledge of how to cultivate sugar cane and crush it with mills." This
tells us that finely powdered sugar was produced in Sicily in the 800's.
In 950 AD, Al Istakhri wrote of extensive irrigation in an area northwest
of the Persian Gulf, for sugar cane. He said it was, "Partly used as a food,
and partly made into sugar." Also, that in Asker-Mokarram, "All of
the people make their living from sugar cane." He mentions cane cultivation
as far away as the Caspian Sea, the Hindu Kush, and what is now modern
Durant, in the "Age of Faith", quotes the Chronicler of "Gesta Francorum",
written about 1097 AD, that "many Crusaders died...some found novel nourishment
by chewing the sweet reeds called Zucar." By 1099 AD, the knowledge
of how to refine sugar had been transmitted from the Holy Lands into Europe.
Although common thought may claim that there was no contact between
the trade of the Arabs and that of Europe, "The so-called Dark Ages were
lighter than we used to believe, and there was a constant interchange
of knowledge and ideas between the supposedly hostile worlds of the Cross
and the Crescent....The Chevron, or zig-zag, provides an excellent example,
for it decorates many a Sicilian door and window. It is invariably
adduced as evidence of Arabic workmanship, though we know exactly when and
where it originated:
' A second decorative motif, which appears soon afterwards ' (after
1110) , says Stoll, ' rapidly became a distinguishing charateristic of Late
English Romanesque. This was the chevron, or zig-zag, a motif whose
fecundity was such that it spread virtually everywhere...and even traveled
to Apulia and Sicily in the wake of the Normans. ' "
The "Stoll" here quoted was the author of "Architecture and Sculpture
in Early Britain", being quoted by the author of "The Barrier and the Bridge-Historic
Sicily" , Alphonso Lowe.
After Roger de Hauteville was crowned King of Sicily in 1130, he
recognized quickly that he would need Arab support to survive. Accoding to
Norwich, in "The Kingdom In The Sun 1130-1194", "There would be no
second class Sicilians. Everyone, Norman or Italian, Lombard or Greek or
Saracen, would have his part to play in the new state....A greek was appointed
Emir of Palermo...another...the navy...Control of the Exchequer was
put into the hands of the Saracens. Special Saracen brigades were established
in the army, quickly earning a reputation for loyalty and discipline
which was to last over a hundred years."
In the 1160's William II of Sicily's "greatest act of patronage
was to build the immense Benedictine Abbey of Monreale....The Abbot became
the largest landowner after the King himself....His estates included
mills and a factory for processing sugar cane....." says D. Mack Smith's
"A History of Sicily".
"Crusade or no Crusade, the Normans were too shrewd to allow racial
or religious considerations to interfere with their conquest. A hundred years
later, (Palermo fell in 1072, so this would be 1172) Christians and
Saracens were living side-by-side, amicably enough...Tolerance and adaptability
were the two Norman qualities that made the kingdom of Sicily one of the
most brilliant of it's time."
So although much is often made of the intolerant and bigoted prevention
of trade and social intercourse between Arab and Christian, Lowe's "The Barrier
and the Bridge-Historic Sicily" here seems to hold quite a differing
In the "Epistola ad Petrum" in 1194, the author describes the area
around Palermo lovingly, including, "vines, vegetables, fruit trees, sugar-canes
and date-palms". See "The Norman Kingdom of Sicily" for the English
description. The Arabs and following them, the Normans seem to have had no
trouble enjoying the sweet profits of Sugar and it's export in all forms
in the 12th century.
Sweet Victory in the Crusades
We know from Geoffrey de Vinsauf's "Itinerary of Richard I and Others,
to the Holy Land", that in 1192 AD, King Richard I takes a caravan in his
campaign in the Crusades...and that
"By this defeat the pride of the Turks was entirely cast down, and
their boldness effectually repressed; whilst the caravan, with all its riches,
became the spoil of the victors. Its guards surrendered to our soldiers
themselves, their beasts of burden, and sumpter horses; and stretching forth
their hands in supplication, they implored for mercy, on condition only that
their lives should be spared. They led the yoked horses and camels
by the halter, and offered them to our men, and they brought mules loaded
with spices of different kinds, and of great value; gold and silver;
cloaks of silk; purple and scarlet robes, and variously-ornamented apparel,
besides arms and weapons of divers forms; coats of mail, commonly called
gasiganz; costly cushions, pavilions, tents, biscuit, bread. barley,
grain, meal, and a large quantity of
and medicines; basins, bladders, chess-boards; silver dishes and
candlesticks; pepper, cinnamon,
and wax; and other valuables of choice and various kinds; an immense
sum of money, and an incalculable quantity of goods, such as had never before
(as we have said) been taken at one and the same time, in any former
War or no war, though, trade is still necessary. Even Pope Innocent
III in his "License to Venice to Trade With The Saracens" written in 1198,
recognizes that trade is paramount.
"Besides the indulgence we have promised to those going at their
own expense to the east, and besides the favor of apostolic protection granted
to those helping that country, we have renewed the decree of the Lateran
council which excommunicated those who presume to give arms, iron, or wood
to the Saracens for their galleys, and which excommunicated those who act
as helmsmen on their galleys and dhows, and which at the same time
decreed that they should be deprived of their property for their transgressions
by the secular arm and by the consuls of the cities, and that, if caught,
they become the slaves of their captors. Following the example of Pope Gregory,
our predecessor of pious memory, we have placed under sentence of excommunication
all those who in future consort with the Saracens, directly or indirectly,
or who attempt to give or send aid to them by sea, as long as the war between
them and us shall last.
But our beloved sons Andreas Donatus and Benedict Grilion, your messengers,
recently came to the apostolic see and were at pains to explain to us that
by this decree your city was suffering no small loss, for she is not
devoted to agriculture but rather to shipping and to commerce. We, therefore,
induced by the paternal affection we have for you, and commanding you under
pain of anathema not to aid the Saracens by selling or giving to them
or exchanging with them iron, flax, pitch, pointed stakes, ropes, arms, helmets,
ships, and boards, or unfinished wood, do permit for the present, until
we issue further orders, the taking of goods, other than those mentioned,
to Egypt and Babylon, whenever necessary. We hope that in consideration of
this kindness you will bear in mind the aiding of Jerusalem, taking
care not to abuse the apostolic decree, for there is no doubt that whosoever
violates his conscience in evading this order will incur the anger
(Trade with the Saracens was too important to interrupt it for war)
Our next example of Holy Land sugar is from "Assises de Jerusalem"
. "Tome H. Assises de la cour des Bourgeois", p. 173, (Paris, 1843) Old French.
It's basically a list of import/export duties.
"15. For the duties on sugar for that which is imported and exported
by land and by sea, the rule commands that one should take per hundred, 5
B. as duty.
16. For the duties per camel's load of sugar the rule commands that
one should take 4 B. as duty.
17. For the duty on sugar which is brought by beasts of burden the
rule commands that one should take 1 raboin per load as duty.
..................40. It is understood that the rule commands that
one should take on Nabeth sugar, an internal tax. "
According to the "Illustrated History of the Crusades", edited by
Jonathan Riley-Smith, a castle at Paphos on Cyprus in 1191 AD. (called Saranda
Kolones), probably built by the Hospitallers, had a sugar mill constructed
in the castle's basement. This indicates that the sugar was produced as cane
in the manor system, processed into sugar at the castle, then shipped into
Europe to be sold for cash to swell the Hospitallers coffers.
Meanwhile, Back in Sicily...
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, in the 1220's "encouraged silk
and sugar production" says "A History of Sicily" by M.I.Finley, D. Mack Smith,
and Christopher Duggan, and "The rural interests of citizens received
further protection from royal officials in 1243 over an ancient right to
cut canes in the sugar plantations for use in their vineyards and pasture
for their tamed bulls" adds Donald Matthew in "The Norman Kingdom of
Sicily". In 1231 AD, Frederick II, at Melfi, issued "Liber Augustalis", in
which, amoung other things he included laws to foster cultivation of
sugar cane. This was because some part of his revenue came from taxes levied
on processed sugar.
Elsewhere in Europe
In England in 1226 AD, Henry III had trouble finding 3 pounds of
sugar for a banquet, but by 1259 AD, the commodity was more readily available,
at a price of 16 1/2 pence per pound. (See Charts in Table 1 and 2)
One is forced to conclude that the shortage of sugar in Henry's time had
more to do with the Holiday causing a shortage than the rarity of the product.
As noted in The Book of Spices by Frederic Rosengarten, Jr., in 1264
cassia sold in London for 10 shillings a pound, while sugar at the same time
sold for 12 shillings, ginger for 18 shillings, and cumin for 2 shillings."
So sugar was about the same price as other spices, at this time, but somehow
the perception is that is was a very rare and overly expensive item to have
on hand, although the same perception does not exist for cinnamon,
cassia, ginger, or cumin!
According to A List of the Tolls at the Port of Colibre, in 1252,
Colibre, a small island off the northeast coast of Spain, and under the jurisdiction
of Rousillon in the thirteenth century, gave a list of what tolls were
to be charged for what products. Sugar is prominently mentioned. Herein is
a small portion of that list:
".......A cargo of mastic---2 solidi
A cargo of gum---2 solidi
A cargo of sugar---2 solidi
A cargo of red dye---2 solidi
A cargo of blue dye---2 solidi
A bundle of leather---2 solidi ......"
Francesco di Balducci Pegolotti, in "The Practice of Commerce", written
in Florence between 1310 AD and 1340 AD, wrote of the goods available in
the market place. These included powdered sugars of Cyprus, Alexandria,
Cairo, Kerak, and Syria. Also lump sugar, basket sugar, rock candy, rose
sugar, and violet sugar , from Cairo and Damascus. This is the first marketing
of powdered sugar (finely granulated) I have found, though the Sicilian
manufacture of it above would strongly suggest it previous to this. Much
must have been ground locally at the site of use. The list has "Dots"
next to those items which are high cost/low volume or, as they were called
"minute spices". It is significant that sugars were not so designated.
"Les Livres de comptes des freres Bonis" includes an account from
1339-1369 AD, in which it states that Bernat Brunet, a provencal merchant
of Montauban "owes for one once of Loaf sugar which Francses, his Nephew,
took on October 10, for the said Bernat was ill:" the amount of 1 shilling.
This price seems very high, since even as far away as England, 11 pence could
buy you a full pound, by then. (Maybe this is the orgin of the Sugar
Pill!), prices cannot be evaluated from a single mention, but rather should
be noted over time, with prices adjusted for coinage value changes.
In the recipe listings of "Le Menagier de Paris", 1393, sugar in
many various forms is listed 72 separate times. Honey by comparison is only
mentioned 24 times, and the price for candied orange peel, made with
honey, is precisely the same as that for sugared almonds (10 sous/lb).
So, in a quick survey of Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, sugar
was widely available in England, France, Spain, and Italy in powdered form
as well as block, in cooking as well as medicinally, and more widely
used than honey!
Spain Takes Sicily
Things were going well in Sicily. "About 1410 there had been thirty
sugar refineries in Palermo alone, and at Syracuse there was a 'gate of the
sugar workers'. Special traffic regulations had been needed for the
transport of firewood and cane. So valuable was sugar for the economy that
the law allowed compulsory purchase of land for it, and water could be taken
from whatever source; workers were also bound to the industry by law
and were free from arrest during the season when the refineries were working."
says Smith's "A History of Sicily. "
Spain, in 1416, had taken over Sicily and was determined to make
it pay. How? With sugar production and exports to Northern Europe, of course!
During the 42 years following the accession of Alfonso in 1416, "On
one occasion Alfonso personally seems to have cornered the market in sugar
exports to Flanders," Smith tells us. So even with a change in leadership
in Sicily, sugar exports only grew. Now the Northern coast cities seem
to be regular customers. English recipes demonstrate how much sugar was flowing
England, 15th century. Pears in wine and spices Original recipe from
Harleian MS 279. "Potage Dyvers" Perys en Composte. Take Wyne an Canel, a
gret dele of Whyte Sugre, an set it on the fyre, hete it hote, but
let it nowt boyle, an draw it thorwe a straynoure; than take fayre Datys,
an pyke owt the stonys, an leche hem alle thinne, an caste ther-to; thanne
take Wardonys, an pare hem and sethe hem, an leche hem alle thinne,
caste ther-to in-to the Syryppe; thanne take a lytil Sawnderys, and caste
ther-to, an sette it on the fyre; an yif thow hast charde quynce, caste
ther-to in the boyling, an loke that it stonde wyl with Sugre, an wyl
lyid wyth Canel, an caste Salt ther-to, an let it boyle; an than caste yt
on a treen vessel, lat it kele, and serue forth
If "a gret dele of Whyte Sugre" was used, it can hardly have been
THAT rare or expensive. The fourteenth century manuscript quoted below specifies
two pounds sugar! of Original recipe from "Goud Kokery":
5. Potus ypocras. Take a half lb. of canel tried; of gyngyuer tried,
a half lb.; of greynes, iii unce; of longe peper, iii unce; of clowis, ii
unce; of notemugges, ii unce ∓ a half; of carewey, ii unce;
of spikenard, a half unce; of galyngale, ii unce; of sugir, ii lb. Si deficiat
sugir, take a potel of honey.
Although the 'Si deficiat sugir, take a potel of honey' is often
adduced to indicate sugar shortage, I would point out that possible substitutions
for elements of a recipe were common, and were not neccesarily related
to the scarcity of the items mentioned. (for instance, if you don't happen
to have flour to thicken a chicken sauce, says one recipe, you can use eggs
to thicken it instead. This didn't mean that flour was less common
Other Sugar Producing Sites
In the 1400 's AD, plantations were extablished in Madeira, the Canary
Islands, and St. Thomas. This greatly boosted supply. The Hospitaller castle
of Kolossi, in latin Cyprus was built by Jocques de Milly in 1454 AD,
at the center of a sugar producing estate, and next to a sugar factory. At
Kouklia a pair of refineries had water wheels to crush the cane. Kilns for
boiling the liquid and ceramic molds to crystallize the sugar into
loaves/cones. Another factory survives at Episkopi ("Illustrated History
of the Crusades"). Sugar producation was wide-spread on Cyprus and
Sicily, and these weren't even considered the best sources of sugar.
In the "Book of the Wares and Usages of Diverse Contries", an Italian
writing in Ragusa in 1458 AD, wrote, "How to know many Wares" where he says
that "Rock Candy ought to be white, glistening, coarse, dry, and clean.
Loaf sugar ought to be white, dry, and a well compact paste, and it's powder
ought to be large and granulated." The quality of these marketed, powdered
/ granulated sugars seems to have been described as what we can buy
currently in our modern markets. "White, dry" and "clean". The perception
that all medieval sugar consisted of burnt black cones is a common
misapprehension brought on by the experience of those of us who have been
part of the Early American historical groups. Do-it-yourself pioneers in
America produced some really bad sugars in an effort to be self sufficient,
but that should not be projected to our thoughts about Medieval times where
industrial production and transport was common. Though some bought the
cheaper loaf and saved money by grinding it themselves, powdered sugar
was common, and the quality was high.
In 1470 AD, there was a "Society for the Refining of Sugars" in Bologna,
which even the wealthy thought worth attending. It was NOT just the industry
traders in luxuries, but a large portion of the wealthy had sugar growing
on their estates.
In 1493 AD, Columbus carried sugar cane from the Canaries to Santa
Domingo, and by the mid-1500's it's manufacture had spread over the greater
part of Tropical America.
As we can see, production spread quickly in the 1400's. From Cyprus
to the Canaries, Maedeira, and St. Thomas, and from Spain to the New World,
sugar was taking over.
Renaissance Apothecaries and Northern Access
From "The Guilds of Florence" by Edgecumbe Staley, we learn that
in the 15th century, "a branch of the Apothecaries' business...was that of
undertaker...the most popular refreshments at funerals were...confetti....sugared
sponge-cakes..." This was because the apothecaries were the guild which sold
sugar, as well as the guild which did burials. From "Tradesmen and Traders-The
World of the Guilds in Venice and Europe, c. 1250-c.1650", we also
hear of it: (in the 16th century) "....'In all parishes, every apothecary
sells spice, sugar, and similar retail items,' was the comment of one
assessor.....Other favored commodities were molasses and cloves. The latter
may well have been important in easing the toothache caused by too much sugar.
At least seven apothecaries were engaged in refining sugar, others
turned it into marzipan."
In "The World of the Guilds in Venice and Europe, c. 1250 - c. 1650",
we are told of "...the city's (Antwerp in the 1560's) great luxury industries:
tapestries, furniture, sugar, and spices..."
William Harrison, in his 1577 description Of Elizabethan England,
(from "Holinshed's Chronicles") complains of the current high prices....
...in times past, when the strange bottoms were suffered to come
in, we had sugar for fourpence the pound, that now at the writing of this
Treatise is well worth half-a-crown; raisins or currants for a penny
that now are holden at sixpence, and sometimes at eightpence and tenpence
the pound; nutmegs at twopence halfpenny the ounce, ginger at a penny an
ounce, prunes at halfpenny farthing, great raisins three pounds for
a penny, cinnamon at fourpence the ounce, cloves at twopence, and pepper
at twelve and sixteen pence the pound. Whereby we may see the sequel
of things not always, but very seldom, to be such as is pretended in the
beginning. The wares that they carry out of the realm are....
As we can see from the above, when sugar was half a crown for a pound,
cinnamon was fourpence the ounce. Imported goods rose and fell with various
import laws, but were eminently reasonable in price at all times. SUGAR
WAS CHEAPER THAN CINNAMON, AND CINNAMON WAS CHEAP! Also, we can see that
in relationship to other commodities, sugar has come down dramatically in
price as well. This would perhaps account for all those description
from foreign ambassadors about the English having bad teeth!
By the Elizabethian period, the best sugar was considered to be that
of Madiera, with those of Barbary (Morocco) or the Canaries a close second.
New World Sugars Feed Old World Wars
During Drake's raid on Panama,1572-73, his crew went up a river at
Magdelena called the Rio Grande and a few miles up it saw a Spaniard. When
he saw they were English he ran off , and going ashore, they discovered,
"many sorts of sweetmeats and conserves, with great store of sugar, being
provided to serve the fleet returning to Spain." according to "Sir Francis
Drake Revived" By Philip Nichols.
In 1579, the Golden Hind reached Ternate in the Moluccas (the Spice
Islands). "The Sea King-Sir Francis Drake and His Times" tells us that Drake
befriended Sultan Babu, and received "six tons of cloves" and "quantities
of pepper, ginger, rice, bannanas, and sugar cane."
Another Source, "Sir Francis Drake-The Queen's Pirate", says, "The
king promised to send provisions to the ships, and he was as good as his
word. There were rice, chickens, raw sugar, syrup, sugar cane..."
According to Drake himself, in "The World Encompassed", "we received
what was there to be had in the way of traffic, to wit, rice in pretty quantity,
hens, sugar canes, imperfect and liquid sugar..."
"...in November 1583 Mendoza" (Spanish ambassador to England) "wrote
that the adventurers" (William and Richard Hawkins) "were home with a great
booty, not only of pearls but of treasure, hides and sugar, which he
believed they had taken from Spanish ships." We have this from "The Age of
Drake" by James Alexander Williamson.
In 1585, says "Francis Drake-The Lives of a Hero" of Drake from 2-11
October, "The fleet stayed in the Ria de Vigo, pillaging a few small vessels,
including a French ship with sugar and wine from the Azores..."
Sugar for Cheap
These New World sugars put pressure on Venetian and Sicilian sugars,
whose industries were ruined by cheap slave-produced sugar in the early 1600's.
Although sugar has become cheaper in the modern world, it was never
too outrageous, as may been seen by TABLE 1. This table lists dates, locations
and prices from 985 AD - 1558 AD. On TABLE 2, you will find a chart of the
prices in England from 1259 AD - 1593 AD. Both charts are extracts
from charts in Deere's monumental work, The History of Sugar. Deere notes
that from 1401 AD - 1530 AD, sugar averaged 6.62 times the price of
honey. Thus, while it was a bit expensive for peasants, it was easily available
to Bughers and Merchant classes. And an item of no consequence to the Nobility.
India and Persia
"The Wonder That Was India" (c.) by A. L. Basham 1967, published 1968
by Taplinger Publishing Co.
"The History and Culture of the Indian People-The Classical Age Vol.
3" Edited by: R.C. Majumdar and A.D. Pusalker, Printed in India by P. H.
Raman at the associated Advertisers and Printers Limited, 505, Arthur
Rd., Tardeo, Bombay 7
"Architecture and Sculpture in Early Britain" London: Thames and Hudson,
"The Norman Kingdom of Sicily" by Donald Matthew, Cambridge University
"A History of Sicily" vol II, "Medieval Sicily 800-1713" copyright
1968 by D. Mack Smith, Published by The Viking Press
"A History of Sicily" by M.I.Finley, D. Mack Smith, and Christopher
"The Sicilian Vespers" by Steven Runciman, Cambridge University Press,
"The Other Conquest" by John Julius Norwich, Harper ∓ Row,
"The Barrier and the Bridge-Historic Sicily" copyright by Alfonso
Lowe, Published for America by W. W. Norton ∓ Co., 1972
"The Kingdom In The Sun 1130-1194" by John Julius Norwich, Harper
∓ Row, 1970
"Gesta Francorum", written about 1097 AD
"Chronicles of the Crusades", ed. H. G. Bohn, (London, 1848), p. 307
"Assises de Jerusalem." Tome H. Assises de la cour des Bourgeois,
p. 173, (Paris, 1843) Old French is quoted from Roland Falkner, "Taxes of
the Kingdom of Jeruslem", pp. 19-23, in "Statistical Documents of the
Middle Ages ", Translations and Reprints from the "Original Sources of European
History", Vol 32, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania,), 1-23
"The Illustrated History of the Crusades", Edited by: Jonathan Riley-Smith,
Oxford University Press, New York 1995
Pope Innocent III: "License to Venice to Trade With The Saracens"
taken from: J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1855),
Vol. CCXIV, p. 493, and "Geoffrey de Vinsauf's Itinerary of Richard
I and Others, to the Holy Land." and "A List of the Tolls at the Port of
Colibre" 1252, A. de Capmany, "Memorias Historicas sobre la Marina Comercio
y Artes de la Antigua Ciudad de Barcelona", (Madrid, 1779-1792), Vol.
II, p. 18; are all reprinted in Roy C. Cave ∓ Herbert H. Coulson,"A
Source Book for Medieval Economic History", (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing
Co., 1936; reprinted., New York: Biblo ∓ Tannen, 1965)
"England, 15th century. Pears in wine and spices" , original recipe
from Harleian MS 279. Potage Dyvers, taken from:
"Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books".- Austin, Thomas.
Harleian MS. 279, Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429,
Laud MS. 553, Douce MS 55, and Original recipe from "Goud Kokery" are taken
from: "Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century
(Including the Forme of Cury)". Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. New
York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press,
"Le Menagier de Paris", a 1393 instruction manual for the great man's
wife-numbers taken from the Hinson Translation. (a medieval manuscript dated
to circa 1393), edited by Jérome Pichon in 1846 for La Société
Des Bibliophiles François., translation (c) Janet Hinson.
Guilds and Trade
"Les Livres de comptes des freres Bonis" , and "The Book of the Wares
and Usages of Diverse Countries", and "The Practice of Commerce", can all
be found in "Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World", R. S. Lopez
and I. W. Raymond, Columbia University Press, New York, 1955 (A really neat
"Tradesmen and Traders-The World of the Guilds in Venice and Europe,
c. 1250-c.1650" , Mackenney, R. - London, 1987
"The Guilds of Florence" by Edgecumbe Staley, 1906
Sir Francis Drake
"Francis Drake-The Lives of a Hero" copyright 1995 by John Cummins,
St. Martin's Press
"The Sea King-Sir Francis Drake and His Times" copyright 1995 by Albert
Marrin, Simon and Schuster
"Sir Francis Drake Revived" By Philip Nichols, Preacher and reviewed
before his death by Sir Francis himself, published 1626 (as edited by Janet
and John Hampden, 1954)
"Sir Francis Drake-The Queen's Pirate" copyright 1998 by Harry Kelsy,
Yale University Press
"The Age of Drake" copyright 1965 by James Alexander Williamson, published
by The World Publishing Company
"The World Encompaffed" by Sir Francis Drake, Carefully collected
out of the notes of Master Francis Fletcher, Preacher (1628)
"The Age of Faith", Will Durant, Simon and Schuster, New York 1950
vol II, "Medieval Sicily 800-1713" copyright 1968 by D. Mack Smith, Published
by The Viking Press
"The History of Sugar" by Noel Deere, Chapman ∓ Hall, Ltd.,
"Periplus Maris Erythraei" , (or Guide Book to the Red Sea), an unknown
"Description Of Elizabethan England", 1577,William Harrison (1534-1593):
(from Holinshed's Chronicles)
s = shilling
10d = 1 s
1 ducat = 9 s 3 d
Lira de Grossi = 10 ducats
985.....................Loaf............1 1/4 d/lb
1068....................Man's Load......1 1/2 d/lb
1227....................Well refined.....152 s/cwt
1240....................Powered sugar..70 s/cwt
............................Rock Candy......30 ducats/cwt
1400....................Raw Sugar..........9 d/lbs
............................Refined Sugar...15 d/lbs
1408....................Once boiled........9/10 ducats/cwt
............................Twice boiled....14/20 ducats/cwt
........Venice (Sugar from other places sold there)
*Venice sugars were refined there only. None grown locally.
1409....Damascus Sugar..............18.87 ducats/cwt
............Damascus Candy..........33-37.7 ducats/cwt
............Tripoli Sugar........................17 ducats/cwt
............Alexandria........................22.6 ducats/cwt ......
1468............Once boiled............5-5.75 ducats/cwt
....................Twice boiled................15 ducats/cwt
....................Thrice boiled...........21-25 ducats/cwt
....Ravensburg...... **Canary sugar impacts prices
1477............Once boiled.....................35-40 s/cwt
....................Masturas (mixed)..........80 -115 s/cwt
Lisbon......***English Piracy impacts prices
1259AD to 1593AD
England-Average Price of white sugar
according to Thorold Rogers' chart in Deere.
1259- 16.5 d
1281- 9.25 d
1291- 20 d
1301- 12.5 d
1321- 14 d
1331- 11 d
1341- 14 d
1371- 21 d
1381- 17.5 d
1391- 18.5 d
1401- 24 d
1431- 24 d
1441- 24 d
1451- 14.25 d
1461- 14.83 d
1471- 8.67 d
1481- 6.5 d
1491- 4.29 d
1501- 3.18 d
1511- 6.21 d
1521- 6.75 d
1531- 7.82 d
1541- 11.02 d
1551- 13.93 d
1561- 9.4 d
1571- 17.23 d
1583- 17.10 d
1593- 19.10 d
The Below segments represent notes about sugar in
the Middle Ages acquired since the above report was written.
From: A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat 1987, Translated by
Anthea Bell 1992, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, MA we have:
"In 966 the newly created republic of Venice was already
building a warehouse from which sugar was exported to Central Europe, the
Black Sea and the Slav countries. The fate and fortune of Venice were founded
on sugar and the trade in silks and spices."
From: A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat 1987, Translated by
Anthea Bell 1992, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, MA we have:
The Arabs installed the first 'industrial' sugar refinery
on the island of Candia or Crete - its Arabic name, Qandi, meant 'crystallized
sugar' - around the year 1000....The Arabs also invented caramel.....One
of the first uses of caramel was as a depilatory for harem ladies.
From: A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat 1987, Translated by
Anthea Bell 1992, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, MA we have:
"Around the twelfth century taxes paid on sugar made their
first official appearance in the records of the South of France. The civic
archives of Narbonne tell us that in 1153 a toll on sugar was introduced,
called the lende: eight deniers per quintal if the goods arrived by sea,
14 deniers if they arrived by land. Marseilles instituted the lesde in 1228,
and the Count of Provence added sugar to his toll tariff 25 years later.
A distinction was drawn between sugar-loaves and powdered sugar.
Iran, who presumably learned it from India, brought rum to Europe for the
first time via Marco Polo.
From: A History of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat 1987, Translated by
Anthea Bell 1992, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, MA we have:
"Marco Polo, dictating his memoirs in his Genoese prison
to his editor Rusticiano of Pisa, mentioned among the many marvels of his
book a beverage calculated to displease today's ayatollahs. 'They make very
good wine of sugar, and many become drunk with it.' This was in the fourteenth
century, and is the first recorded mention of rum.
It should be remembered that alcohol and alembic are words
of Arabic origin, although the Koran forbade alcohol and all fermented drinks.
The alembic was a still, and was already known to the author of the first
part of the Roman de la Rose, Guillaume de Lorris, around 1236."
Excerpted items from: The rates of the custome house: London, 1545 -
comfettes the pounde
Honnye the barell
Honny the tonne
Suger the cheste
Suger the C. pounde
Suger candy the dz cheste point one hundreth xxxiii.L.iiii.d
........from the section detailing the rates in Spayne:
honnye the barrell
According to "The Monks of War" by Desmond Seward, 1972,
In the Jerusalem of the 1120's,
"Nobles wore turbans and shoes with upturned points, and the silks, damasks,
muslins, and cottons that were so different from the wool and furs of France.....They
ate sugar, rice, lemons, and melons...."
According to "Food and Feast in Medieval England" by P. W. Hammond,
1993, Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, Phoenix Mill, Far Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire,
"Sugar and spices played an important part in food in the Middle Ages....as
early as the reign of Henry II sugar also was being imported to serve the
purpose of sweetening.....by 1264 the price had dropped to 2s./lb....and
by 1334 it could be bought for 7d.
Prices remained very similar to this until well into the sixteenth century,
although the actual figure depended on the degree of refinement. Very large
amounts of sugar were used by the royal household before the end of the thirteenth
century (6,258 lb in 1288), and from then on increasing amounts were imported.
One ship alone, which entered Bristol from Lisbon in 1480, carried nearly
(His sources are: L.F. Salzman, English Trade in the Middle Ages(1931),
p. 417; Thorold Rogers Agriculture and Prices , Vol 1. (1866) p. 633; E.M.
Carus-Wilson(ed.), Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Later Middle Ages (1937),
"Sugar was imported from all over the Mediterranean, as were the luxuries
that an increasing demand for sweet things encouraged. These included 'sugre
candi' brought into London in 1421 from Italy, 'citonade' (candied lemon
or orange peel) and large quantities of 'succade' (fruit preserved in sugar
syrup), the latter two both brought on one of the Venetian state galleys
in 1481. Considerable amounts of treacle, as well as violet and rose sugar,
were brought in too. The sugars were more expensive than regular sugar and
were partly used as medicine. Ordinary sugar was available in varying degrees
of fineness, although most of it came in the form of 'loaves', which varied
in size from about 1 lb. to about 20 lb."
(His sources are: Salzman, English Trade in the Middle Ages(1931), p. 419;
H.S. Cobb (ed.) , Overseas Trade of London: Exchequer Customs Accounts 1480-81
(1990), pp. 46-50)
"Spanish wine was imported widely throughout the whole of the Middle Ages.
It's strength particularly was appreciated, and in the sixteenth century
it became tremendously popular. The resulting increase in imports was in
the form of what was designated 'sack' (or 'seck'), a wine unknown until
then. Sack seems to have been dry Spanish wine, given this name to differentiate
it from the sweeter wines from elsewhere, although the name was later extended
to wines from many other places-sherry sack, Madeira sack and Canary sack
(this latter was sometimes known as sweet sack) - all of which were imported.
Sack was frequently drunk with added sugar. "
(His source: Simon, Wine Trade, Vol. 2, pp. 244-52; Wilson, Food and Drink,
p. 340; Hieatt and Butler, Curye on Inglysch, pp. 142-3, 148, 149-50, 386;
C. Innes (ed.), Ledger of Andrew Halyburton (1867), p. lxxiv.)
THE CELY PAPERS
(The Cely Papers - Part I)
SELECTIONS FROM THE
CORRESPONDENCE AND MEMORANDA OF THE CELY FAMILY
MERCHANTS OF THE STAPLE
EDITED FOR THE ROYAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY
HENRY ELLIOT MALDEN, M.A.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
39 Paternoster Row, London
New York and Bombay
“The letters are full of commissions for the purchase of goods abroad, of
various kinds. Goshawks, onion seed, Gascon wine, pickled Maas salmon, fur
of 'boge' (lambskin), mink and other furs, 'chambering' (i.e., chamber hangings,
tapestry) Holland cloth, saddles, stirrups, horse-furniture generally, armour,
sugar loaves, salt fish, ginger, saffron, Louvain gloves, Calais packthread.
For the purposes of their trade they bought Arras, Bergen (Mons), Elron (in
Bretagne) and Normandy canvas for packing wool.
1531 A decree issued in Castile
under the Spanish Crown allowed good terms for loans to allow purchase of
slaves by settlers for establishment of sugar mills. (Thomas, 1999)
A book to promote cooking with sugar was available in Venice. Later
Nostradamus wrote the first French book on this topic. (Root, 1980)
1493 During Columbus’ second voyage
he apparently introduced sugar cane to Santo Domingo; a settler named Aguilón
was reported to have harvested cane juice by 1505 (Thomas, 1999). By
1516 the first processed sugar was shipped from Santo Domingo to Spain.
Soon afterward, Portugal began importing sugar from Brasil. (Sugar
cane would become a driving force for the slave trade.) Columbus
also carried seed of lemon, lime, and the sweet orange to Hispaniola.
He returned to Europe with pineapple. (Viola & Margolis, 1991)
(c) 2002 by Brandy and Courtney Powers-
All Rights Reserved-
Permission Granted for non-profit educational use with the provision that
all credits are preserved. (Go ahead and post it on your web page, or print
it for non-profit use, but if you want to print it and sell it for cash,
talk to us. We sell out cheap.)