20 Downright Bizarre Details About the History of Chocolate that We Love to Sink Our Teeth Into
20 Downright Bizarre Details About the History of Chocolate that We Love to Sink Our Teeth Into

20 Downright Bizarre Details About the History of Chocolate that We Love to Sink Our Teeth Into

Tim Flight - December 27, 2018

20 Downright Bizarre Details About the History of Chocolate that We Love to Sink Our Teeth Into
An engraving of people captured by slave traders in Central Africa, probably England, 1866. Wikimedia Commons

1. The links between slavery and chocolate will turn your stomach

The huge demand for chocolate in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries was met by the then-thriving slave trade. The cacao tree, as we have seen, was a difficult thing to cultivate, and to make the maximum profit from such a labour-intensive product, slavery was the natural answer. At first, the local population in Central and South America were forced to work on the cacao plantations, but when disease wiped most of them out, African slaves had to be imported to undertake the back-breaking labour. The chocolate industry was thus directly responsible for the enslavement of thousands of people.

But here’s something that will turn the chocolate you’re eating to ashes in your mouth: much of today’s chocolate is still the product of slavery and child labour. Across West Africa, where about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa is grown, children and adults are forced to work the plantations for little or no money, all to cater for the world’s sweet-tooth. In 2015, Tulane University researchers revealed that a shameful 2.3 million children were working on cocoa production in the Ivory Coast and Ghana alone, 90% of whom were slaves. The chocolate industry is yet to take any significant action.

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“2013/14 Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas”, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine Tulane University, July 30, 2015.

Chrystal, Paul, and Joe Dickinson. A History of Chocolate in York. Barnsley: Remember When, 2012.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London : Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Green, Matthew. “How the decadence and depravity of London’s 18th century elite was fuelled by hot chocolate.” The Daily Telegraph, March 11, 2017.

Grivetti, Louis, ed. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.

Hourglass PJ. “Chocolate and Hysteria.” The Pharmaceutical Journal Blog.

O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Chocolate Is an Aphrodisiac.” The New York Times, July 18, 2006.

Walvin, James. Slavery in Small Things: Slavery and Modern Cultural Habits. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

Zarillo, Sonia, et al. “The Use and Domestication of Theobroma cacao During the Mid-Holocene in the Upper Amazon”. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2, no. 10 (October 2018).

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