[Sca-cooks] Sugar and slaves

Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise jenne at fiedlerfamily.net
Wed Jan 3 10:56:52 PST 2007

> jenne at practicality wrote:
> "Slavery was uncommon, but not unknown.  In 1434, the Portuguese introduced
> African slaves into Europe."

Huh? Someone else wrote that. 

>     Someone else insinuated slavery practically ended in the 12th 
> Century. I suppose we did not have emancipations of slavery until the 
> 19th century in several European countries due to the fact court systems 
> around here are a little slow. . .

No, i said it was uncommon by the 13th century, which reliable 
professional sources agree was true in England. 

>     Yes, that seems to be what google is feeding you. Google is good for 
> some things but in this area it displays such total ignorance that the 
> subject is not worthy of debate considering   manuscripts, professional 
> analogies and other reliable sources available.

Susan, I'm not sure where you are getting this. Everyone on this list 
has cited manuscripts, professional anthologies (which I think is what 
you mean) and other reliable sources to suggest that in our major period 
and place of interest, people were much more likely to have access to 
sugar and pepper than to slaves, which is the opposite of your 
contention that those who 'could not afford' slaves would not have 
access to pepper.

A simple example from manuscript sources: there is no evidence that the
well-to-do but hardly high-ranking Paston family in England kept slaves.
However, we know that they did have access to sugar, as the manuscript
Paston letters attest-- I believe it was Margaret Paston who wrote to 
her husband asking him to send her another loaf of sugar as the old one 
is used up.

Also, to utilize a quote from my notes of C.Anne Wilson's work:
    "The cost of spices fluctuated according to the supplies available, 
but in general cinnamon (often called canell), ginger and pepper were 
among the cheapest, cloves and mace were rather more expensive, while 
saffron was always very dear, retailing at fourteen or fifteen shillings 
a pound at various times in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 
Saffron was a much used spice of medieval times, at least in the homes 
of the well-to-do. But a little goes a long way, and Dame Alice de 
Bryene used only three-quarters of a pound in 1418-19, a year in which 
five pounds of pepper, two and a half of ginger, three of cinnamon, one 
and a quarter of cloves and one and a quarter of mace were expended in 
spicing the food for her household." -- C. Anne Wilson, Food and Drink 
in Britain, p.283

John Munro, who wrote a number of books on medieval supply economics, 
has in fact posted lecture notes on his work:
 "The Consumption of Spices and Their Costs in Late-Medieval and 
Early-Modern Europe: Luxuries or Necessities?" Lecture Notes. 

As you can see from his notes -- which I assure you match up with other 
economic literature-- a half pound of pepper would be the equivalent of 
a carpenter's daily wage in 1438-39 and sugar would be somewhat less. 
The result is that sugar is only 4 times as expensive as Rye Flour for 
that period in Antwerp, and Pepper very nearly the same. 

-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne at fiedlerfamily.net 
"History doesn't always repeat itself. Sometimes it screams
'Why don't you ever listen to me?' and lets fly with a club."

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list