How did the commodity of sugar play an important role in cultural exchange and the development of world capitalism?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the Portuguese began to cultivate sugar in Brazil, the commodity was introduced into Europe, immediately becoming immensely popular for its addictive nature and ability to make food taste so much sweeter. Sugarcane was then introduced, in the 1600s, to the Caribbean, and its cultivation gave rise to a transatlantic trade that led to cultural exchange and the growth of capitalism.

In the so-called "triangle trade" that resulted from growing sugarcane, European nations captured slaves in West Africa who were brought to the New World in a brutal journey called the "Middle Passage." In the West Indies, slaves, who were used to grow sugar, were traded for sugarcane that was then transported to mainland North America and to Western Europe. In order to purchase slaves in Africa, European nations, mainly England, began developing industries to produce manufactured goods such as textiles, rum, guns, and other products. This process resulted in the development of the banking industry and the beginning of capitalism. The transatlantic trade also resulted in the exchange of products and cultures and the growth of new cultures as slaves were forcibly brought to the New World and intermarried with whites, Native Americans, and others. In the process, their traditions combined with those of the New World, giving rise to rich new cultures.