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Black Ivory Summary



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    The chosen passage from the first chapter ‘Consuming Passions’ of the book ‘Black Ivory – A History of British Slavery’, written by James Walvin in 1992, describes the increasing significance of coffee houses in Great Britain in the mid-eighteenth century and their dependency on the production and distribution of tropical goods.

    In the introduction, the author points out that London’s coffee houses have been the centre of social, economic and cultural life at that time due to their accessability for all classes of society. [1] The reader is informed about the variety of functions and pleasures of the coffee houses that served as reading rooms, post offices, places of business and smoky conviviality, but also as the ‘cross-roads of international trade and empire’ (p. 3). Walvin also states that auctions of slaves have been held there.

    The main part begins with the author’s statement that the English coffee houses have been built on the production and importation of tropical goods from the British colonies such as coffee, tea, sugar, tobacco, chocolate and rum which were consumed on a large scale. [2] He then indicates that Europeans have added sugar to the new products to reduce their ‘natural bitter taste’ (p. 4). According to James Walvin, the consumption of all these exotic goods have only been possible because of the hard work of the black slaves. 3] He emphasises his thesis by saying that there would have been ‘no national addiction to coffee and, later, to tea’ without the slaves (p. 4). Finally, Walvin concludes that the increasing demand of tea and sugar by people from all social levels have led to mass production, and therefore, to a price fall. In consequence, tea has not been regarded as luxury any longer and have become the national British drink.

    Black Ivory Summary. (2017, Jan 21). Retrieved from

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