What we eat and drink has a history. And when it comes to some ubiquitous things like sugar and coffee, as well as plantation-based commodities, slavery lies at the heart of that history. From his first book ‘A Jamaican Plantation: The History of Worthy Park 1670-1970’ co-authored with Michael Craton in 1970 through his many books including ‘The Trader, The Owner, The Slave’, and ‘Sugar: The World Corrupted: From Slavery to Obesity’ to the one he is working on now ‘A World Transformed – slavery in its global context’, historian, professor James Walvin, has researched the impact of slavery on food, farming and society. In this interview, he discusses the role slavery has played in creating today’s food and plantation farming systems and dietary patterns.
We also discuss whether this history is sufficiently acknowledged in education today, as some in Universities work to see how to decolonise their teaching and structures, for example in Lancaster.
For an article about modern slavery in the UK food system see this article in Open Democracy