I have this interesting idea for my world - note: while it is inherently science fiction, I've made a method that allows any kind of civilization, from pre-agricultural to post-singularity.

So, a simple idea for a simple fantasy empire: a kingdom with economy based on the industry of sweet things.

Imagine excess amount of three major resources:

  • sugar. Obviously, from sugar cane, beet and other "industrial-grade plants" used in real life.

  • honey. From enormous fields of bees, of course - and maybe some extraterrestrial animals. Also certain species of ants.

  • fruits. All kind you know from Earth, and extraterrestrial flora as well.

How would the industry of such a country look like, especially in pre-industrial era? Of course food industry would be by far the strongest, with gigantic confectionery chains, beverage factories and a lot of export logistics.

How would it affect civilian life, assuming a medieval European foundation of culture? I ask it in strictly economic aspects to keep on-topic; major jobs define cultural traits anyway.

Is it even probable at all that a medieval European culture can grow to a widely-known kingdom based on a resource like sugar? I mean, Romans did it with salt, but not only with salt.


2 Answers 2


If it is pre-Industrial, there will not be factories, chain stores, or logistics empires.

In a pre-Industrial economy, producing food, clothing and shelter for personal use consumes the vast majority of the workforce, and the small surpluses from rural areas are absorbed by the nearby towns. You won't be exporting food until you get industrial-scale farming, which takes you out of the pre-Industrial phase.

Land enclosure for large-scale farms was one of the leading contributors to industrialisation in Britain, because it displaced a bunch of peasants who had been grazing animals on the Commons. Those people became the required available workforce to staff factories in the towns.

The towns then needed more food, so the first rounds of productivity improvement from enclosure were absorbed locally as well. There would be quite a time lag from the start of commercial farming to the size of surplus that allows for exports.

Of course, you could take the Nicolae Ceaucescu (Romania, 1970-80s) approach, and export food anyway, and just let your citizens starve.


Sugar is a carbohydrate

Societies all over earth grew based on carbohydrates. Every culture has its staple foods, and those are all starch-based, and yield large calorie returns for minimal labor or land (whichever is more constraining). Wheat, rice, corn, cassava, and potatoes have all been the staple food of cultures around the world.

But sugar is a carbohydrate too. Why can't you use sugar as the base of your diet? I've actually been trying to figure this out for some time. Modern sugar cane plantations have a calorie yield abound the same as the major staple crops around the world. I have been doing off an on research for some months trying to figure out if you could use the sugar cane as the base for a diet. The answer is I don't have an answer yet. My running theory is that a diet with most of your calories from sugar and fat (say coconut and palm oil), but most of your volume from high fiber roughage (lots of leafy greens, brassicas, and root vegetables) should be fine. But the key would be moderating the amount in...you can't start adding extra calories with sugar and fats or you will have health problems fast.

In any case, if your kingdom has a surplus of sugary products, the most likely result is that the diet will be sugar heavy. Considering that maybe 90% of people in the Middle Ages were peasant farmers, you could say that growing food is the dominant industry; so growing sugar cane/sugar beets would be it.

  • $\begingroup$ You can't use sugar as a base for diet, because it's digested too fast, cause insulin rush and instead of powering you thorough the day gives you energy for short time - and what you don't use rapidly goes into fat. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 20, 2016 at 8:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Molot That is the purpose of the fiber. Lots of fiber may draw out the digestive process, reduce the rate of passage from the stomach to the small intestine, allowing the sugar to be absorbed in the small intestine over time. Like I said, there are barely even studies on the topic so it is mostly a theory. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Nov 20, 2016 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ And, of course, there is the problem of tooth decay. Pre-industrial almost certainly inplies lack of effective dentistry, so rotting and missing teeth by adolescence will be a standard feature of life. $\endgroup$ Nov 20, 2016 at 14:32

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