this semester, for the second year in a row, i'm working as a teaching assistant for orlando patterson's course on caribbean societies at harvard. (last year i gave the reggae lecture.) the class is full of revelations--unbelievable statistics, wild anecdotes, and insightful perspectives on historical and contemporary problems--so this is the first of many things i will likely share from the class.
from jan rogozinski's a brief history of the caribbean:
"Sugar consumption in Great Britiain continuously increased for several centuries, in one of the most dramatic changes in eating habits known to human history. In 1700, on average, Britons used a mere four pounds of sugar each year to sweeten their drinks and food. By 1750, per capita consumption had doubled, and it doubled again by 1800, reaching 18 pounds a year. Consumption doubled yet again in the 1840s, after the British government removed import taxes on sugar. The British passion for sweets peaked in the early 1960s. During those years, each Briton, on average, devoured more than 110 pounds of sugar each year--amounting to almost a third of a pound every day of the year." (p. 110)
damn! i guess that partly explains the teeth thing, though i'm not sure why, given the british intake of sweets, it's we americans who are experiencing an obesity epidemic. then again, it appears to be something of a global problem.