IAS Research Workshop: How Sugar Changed the World

17 June 2014, 5.00 PM - 17 June 2014, 5.00 PM

12.30-17.30, Drawing Room, Institute for Advanced Studies, First Floor Royal Fort House


Alex Bentley, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology
Mark Horton, Professor of Archaeology
Philip Langton, FMVS Academic Director, Physiology and Pharmacology

This workshop brings together researchers for a discussion of sugar as a food substance that literally changed the world.

Since sugar is a key substance in the history of world trade and colonisation, slavery, chronic health problems, and modern cultural norms, this is a highly interdisciplinary project, intended to bring together Bristol University’s historians, archaeologists, plant geneticists to understand sugar’s genetic origins, ancient residue specialists to detect sugar or its by-products on ancient remains, and finally nutritionists and basic scientists who are documenting the potentially calamitous way that refined sugar underlies the degenerative “diseases of affluence” such as obesity and diabetes in the developed world, which strike at a younger age among the poor than among the rich.

By understanding the cultural and biological origins of sugarcane, we hope to gain insights into how sugar became such a dominating component of modern culture and insights on how to loosen its grip.


12.30-13.00 Welcome and buffet lunch
12.50-13.00 Introduction by Dr Sanjida O'Connell on her book, Sugar, the Grass that Changed the World
Evolution and Prehistory
13.00-13.30 Mark Thomas (Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL) on the evolution of carbohydrate digestion enzymes
13.30-14.00 Mark Horton (Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Bristol) on the ancient (Indian Ocean) origins of domesticated sugarcane
14.00-14.20 Coffee
History and Archaeology
14.20-14.50 Cameron Monroe (IAS Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor /Anthropology, UC-Santa Cruz) on West African slavery and the sugar trade
14.50-15.20 Madge Dresser (History, Philosophy and Politics, University of the West of England) on Bristol and the transatlantic slave trade
15.20-15.50 Hannes Schroeder (EUROTAST, University of Copenhagen) on the EU-funded project exploring the history, archaeology and new genetics of the transatlantic slave trade
15.50-16.00 Coffee
The Current Crisis
16.00-16.30 Robert Lustig (Endocrinology, U.C. San Francisco, via telecom) on sugar biochemistry, the obesity epidemic and modern cash-crop capitalism
16.30-17.00 Anna Gilmore (Health, Bath University), Profits and Pandemics: Lessons from the Tobacco Industry
17.00-17.30 Discussion: would participants like to submit a collaborative 2-page paper to Science Policy Forum?
17.30 Finish (followed by visit to a local pub)

All welcome. The event is free, but booking is required. Please Eventbrite - IAS Research Workshop: How Sugar Changed the World or contact Edwina Thorn/Conny Lippert at ias-admin@bristol.ac.uk for enquiries.

For further information please contact Professor Alex Bentley