Medieval gardens, £9.99
Diameter: 100.000 mm
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Blue glass sugar bowl
About AD 1800-30
'Sugar, one reflects back to childhood when a drink made simply with sugar and water was a substitute for unaffordable soft drinks - a cruel irony given that sugar was one of the impetuses that led to the enslavement of my ancestors. The inscription implies the notion of fair trade. I suspect the slogan was rather a cynical marketing ploy as opposed to a moral stance against slavery - commerce reigning supreme as the conscience of the abolitionist movement was coerced into supporting the consumption of sugar from an "alternative" source.' Marcus McKenzie, of African-Caribbean origin
The bowl is inscribed in gilt with the words EAST INDIA SUGAR/not made by /SLAVES. It has an accompanying contemporary wooden box with a hinged lid and three compartments. The sugar bowl sits in the centre and the others were once lined with lead and held black and green (unfermented) tea. It has been attributed to a Bristol glasshouse.
The campaign for the abolition of slavery began at the end of the eighteenth century and was supported by prominent figures such as Josiah Wedgwood. In 1791 William Fox urged a boycott of sugar from West Indian slave plantations. By 1808 Thomas Clarkson, the anti-slavery campaigner, was able to assert that 250,000 people had 'left off Sugar and Rum'.
Alternative sources of sugar were found not just in the emerging European sugar beet industry but in cane sugar from Mauritius.