A reasonable quantity of sugar

We often hear that sugar was expensive to purchase in Elizabethan England. But how much does expensive translate into current US dollars.  You can purchase sugar by the 5 lb bag at your local store for $3-$5. I purchase 2x loaf sugar from my Grocer of a rate of 8lbs for $25.

“In 1605 Lord Spencer buys a considerable quantity of loaf sugar at a very high price, 2s. the pound, under the name of Barbary sugar.”[1]

£1 = 20 shillings (s)

Measuring Worth [2], calculates a 16th century £1 = £199.10 in 2014 values. In US dollars £1 = $1.57, or $321.54 to £1 in the 16th century.  Sugar by these prices would be $32.154 per pound. Or roughly $160.77 per 5 pounds in today’s exchange. My loaf sugar would be $257.20 for an 8lb loaf.

As you can see, sugar was indeed an expensive ingredient in the late 16th, early 17th centuries.

[1] Arthur George Liddon Rogers, “A History of Agriculture and Prices in England: From the Year After the Oxford Parliament (1259) to the Commencement of the Continental War (1793), Volume 5”,    January 1, 1887

[2] Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, “Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1270 to Present,” MeasuringWorth, 2015. http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/relativevalue.php


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