Global Citizens - Make an Impact!
From Slave Trade to Fair Trade - 18th Century Global Citizens
Product of Slavery
The main 'product of slavery' in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was sugar. Sugar was cultivated by slaves who, after enduring the grueling 'middle passage' on slave ships across the Atlantic, worked in appalling conditions on huge sugar plantations in the West Indies.
The Sugar Boycott
In 1791, thousands of pamphlets were printed by the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (or the 'Abolitionists') which encouraged the public to boycott sugar produced by slaves. To give up sugar was no small sacrifice at the time. Sweet cakes and biscuits were extremely popular amongst the upper classes and tea with sugar was highly fashionable. On average each family consumed five pounds (2kg) of sugar a week. Sugar was Britain’s biggest import and west coast ports such as Bristol and Liverpool thrived on the sugar cane industry. So why did the general public so willingly give it up?
18th Century Global Citizens!
The Abolitionist sugar boycott at the start of the 1800s was perhaps the first time that consumers had become 'globally aware'. They realised that products that they were using every day involved the exploiting of people elsewhere in the world. The sugar boycott is one of the earliest examples of consumers using their purchasing power to reject goods which were 'products of slavery'.
The prominent Abolitionist Thomas Clarkson estimated that around 300,000 people “of all ranks and parties. Rich and poor, Churchmen and dissenters alike” abandoned slave-produced sugar. Instead they took their tea without sugar or bought the more expensive sugar produced in India, where slave labour was not used.
Turn to the next page to find out about 21st Century Global Citizens!
To find out more about the Sugar Boycott and the Abolitionist's Campaign, see The Message Learning Journey (also created by Heritage Learning).