Friday, 2 April 2021



Title: The History of Sweets
Author: Paul Chrystal
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Release Date: 31st March 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
We all know our sweets. We all remember sweets - objects of pure delight and the endless cause of squabbles, fights even, hoarding and swapping; a chance to gorge, suck, crunch and chew. But they're by no means just a nostalgic thing of days past, and it's not only children who love and devour sweets - gobstoppers, bulls eyes, liquorice, seaside rock, bubble gum and the like; grown-ups of all ages are partial to a good humbug, or a lemon sherbet or two - in the car, (annoyingly) at the cinema or while out walking - wherever and whenever, the sweet is there, the sweet delivers and the sweet rarely disappoints.

Sweets then are ubiquitous and enduring; they cross age, culture and gender boundaries and they have been around, it seems, forever. This book tells the story of sweets from their primitive beginnings to their place today as a billion pound commodity with its sophisticated, seductive packaging and sales, advertising and marketing. It explores the people's favourites, past and present; but there is also a dark side to sweets - and this book does not shy away from the deleterious effect on health as manifested in obesity, tooth decay and diabetes. It delves into sweet and lollyshops in supermarkets and markets, retro sweet shops, fudge makers, vintage sweets on line, sweet manufacturing, chocolate, the grey line between sweets and 'medicines' ancient and modern. It goes round the world sucking, licking and crunching sweets from different countries and cultures and it examines how immigrants from all nations have changed our own sweet world.

I do like reading a non-fiction book every now and again, I love learning about the history of everyday items, clothes or in this case sweets. I didn’t expect the book to go so far back in time as it did.

One interesting fact was that in ancient India pieces of sugar cane juice were boiled and when eaten called khanda, the original candy! Before sugar was available honey was used as the basis of sweets. Sweets were used as offerings in religious ceremonies. Sweets, comfits and sweetmeats were the essential finale to a perfect medieval feast.

Liquorice was originally used for its medicinal and thirst-quenching properties. It was given to Roman Legionnaires for them to consume on long marches. Still on the subject of liquorice, in 1899 a salesman dropped a tray of samples and thus Liquorice Allsorts were invented and they are still in existence and quite popular even now, many years later.

I really enjoyed reading about my local area which is quite famous as being the home of Pontefract Cakes/Pomfret Cakes, I’m a bit ashamed to say despite living in this area all my life I hadn’t heard the story of the significance of the whole different images stamped on the liquorice pennies. In fact, it’s a bit of a tourist attraction, as the museum contains information about it and there is a Liquorice Fair during a couple of weeks in July in Pontefract. I did know that Farmer Copley’s grew liquorice root, though didn’t know they are the only ones left doing so in the UK!!

It was fascinating reading about the rather controversial sweets such as candy cigarettes, which I do remember from my childhood. At the time smoking was not considered as so bad for you and not as taboo as smoking is these days. Smoking was heavily featured on TV and in Movies so naturally children emulate their parents and screen idols.

Then all the different names for what we now call “Jelly Babies” started out as “Peace Babies” were sent to troops in 1918. They were also called “Unclaimed Babies” after the “foundling babies” left on the steps of a church or hospital. I honestly didn’t even know that the different coloured jelly babies had names, such as “Baby Bonny” for the pink, raspberry flavoured one and “Bumper” for the orange coloured/flavoured one. I had already heard of and tried the “Jellyatrics” ones that were first made in 1999. As the name suggests these are not made in the shape of “babies” but made in the form of older people, hence the name. Then in 2017 a range of tropical flavoured babies were brought out, including mango

I absolutely loved reading about the history of Needlers sweet factory of Hull as my mum and some of her sisters actually worked there when they left school. So, it was a great conversation starter with her and certainly a trip down memory lane. So much so I have bought the book about Needlers Sweet Factory, sadly all the photographs in that book are of the earlier years of the factory and not covering the years my mum worked there. The History of Sweets actually mentioned the names of the different machines, such as Cyclone Pulveriser, Lightening Twister, and the Eureka being just three of them mentioned.

The book really does contain some fantastic facts and the release years of all the different sweets. It covers the rationing during World War 2 and how sweets were re-introduced by giving away freebies to encourage future sales. I loved looking at the timeline of sweets from 1866 to 1977. For instance, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk came out in 1905, Maltesers were 1936 and in 1976 Marathons were created but have since changed name to Snickers. This book is an interesting read that I could go on and on about. I loved reading and remembering old sweets from my childhood that are no longer available too, like Neapolitans, my grandparents had them every year at Christmas.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book where it was amazing any children survived with some of the ingredients put in sweets!

Summing up I found the book really interesting.

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