Read the passage and study the map from Sugar Changed the World. If you walked down Beekman Street in New York in the 1750s, you would come to a general store owned by Gerard Beekman—his family gave the street its name. The products on his shelves showed many of the ways sugar was linking the world. Beekman and merchants like him shipped flour, bread, corn, salted beef, and wood to the Caribbean. They brought back sugar, rum, molasses, limes, cocoa, and ginger. Simple enough; but this trade up and down the Atlantic coast was part of a much larger world system. Textbooks talk about the Triangle Trade: Ships set out from Europe carrying fabrics, clothes, and simple manufactured goods to Africa, where they sold their cargoes and bought people. The enslaved people were shipped across the Atlantic to the islands, where they were sold for sugar. Then the ships brought sugar to North America, to be sold or turned into rum—which the captains brought back to Europe. But that neat triangle—already more of a rectangle—is completely misleading. Beekman’s trade, for example, could cut out Europe entirely. British colonists’ ships set out directly from New York and New England carrying the food and timber that the islands needed, trading them for sugar, which the merchants brought back up the coast. Then the colonists traded their sugar for English fabrics, clothes, and simple manufactured goods, or they took their rum directly to Africa to buy slaves—to sell to the sugar islands. English, North American, French, and Dutch ships competed to supply the Caribbean plantations and buy their sugar. And even all these boats filling the waters of the Atlantic were but one part of an even larger system of world trade. Africans who sold other Africans as slaves insisted on being paid in fabrics from India. Indeed, historians have discovered that some 35 percent of the cargo typically taken from Europe to Africa originally came from India. What could the Europeans use to buy Indian cloth? The Spanish shipped silver from the mines of
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