The History of Chocolate
  I: Administrative Information   II: Course Details   III: Topical Outline(s)  Printable Version

Land Acknowledgement

Sheridan College resides on land that has been, and still is, the traditional territory of several Indigenous nations, including the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. We recognize this territory is covered by the Dish with One Spoon treaty and the Two Row Wampum treaty, which emphasize the importance of joint stewardship, peace, and respectful relationships.

As an institution of higher learning Sheridan embraces the critical role that education must play in facilitating real transformational change. We continue our collective efforts to recognize Canada's colonial history and to take steps to meaningful Truth and Reconciliation.

Section I: Administrative Information
  Total hours: 42.0
Credit Value: 3.0
Credit Value Notes: n/a
Effective: Winter 2017
Prerequisites: N/A
Corequisites: N/A
Equivalents: N/A
Pre/Co/Equiv Notes: n/a

Program(s): General Education
Program Coordinator(s): Alia Somani
Course Leader or Contact: Christian Knudsen
Version: 20170109_00
Status: Approved (APPR)

Section I Notes: This is a web-based course taught fully online, using Brightspace by D2L Learning Management System. To take this course, students will need reliable access to the Internet. They should have a basic level of comfort using computers as well as self-discipline to work online.

Section II: Course Details

Detailed Description
The History of Chocolate

Program Context

General Education Program Coordinator(s): Alia Somani
This course is part of the General Education curriculum which is designed to contribute to the development of the students, consciousness of the diversity, complexity and richness of the human experience; their ability to establish meaning through this consciousness; and as a result, their ability to contribute thoughtfully, creatively, and positively to the society in which they live and work. General Education courses strengthen students generic skills such as critical analysis, problem solving, and communication, in the context of an exploration of topics with broad-based personal and/or societal importance.

Course Critical Performance and Learning Outcomes

  Critical Performance:
By the end of this course, students will have demonstrated the ability to identify the relevance of the social, cultural and economic history of chocolate to the modern world.
Learning Outcomes:

To achieve the critical performance, students will have demonstrated the ability to:

  1. Explain the social, cultural and political forces that have shaped the history of chocolate from its Mesoamerican origins to its place as a global product of the industrialized age.
  2. Identify the relevance of the history of chocolate to our understanding of cross-cultural contacts, global economies and the lasting legacy of colonization.
  3. Survey current research methodology and historiography in food, cultural and economic history, particularly with respect to chocolate.
  4. Assess the impact of globalization to world history beginning with colonialism and the slave trade to modern westernization and integrated economies.
  5. Analyse primary and secondary historical sources relevant to the study of the cultural history of chocolate.

Evaluation Plan
Students demonstrate their learning in the following ways:

 Evaluation Plan: ONLINE
 Analyses (3 @ 10%)30.0%
 Quizzes (6 @ 5%)30.0%
 Term Research Project Part 1: Proposal10.0%
 Term Research Project: Part 2: Final Project30.0%

Evaluation Notes and Academic Missed Work Procedure:
TEST AND ASSIGNMENT PROTOCOL To encourage behaviours that will help students to be successful in the workplace and to ensure that students receive credit for their individual work, the following rules apply to every course offered within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. 1. Students are responsible for staying abreast of test dates and times, as well as due dates and any special instructions for submitting assignments and projects as supplied to the class by the professor. 2. Students must write all tests at the specified times. Missed tests, in-class activities, assignments and presentations are awarded a mark of zero. If an extension or make-up opportunity is approved by the professor as outlined below, the mark of zero may be revised by subsequent performance. The penalty for late submission of written assignments is a loss of 10% per day for up to five business days (excluding weekends and statutory holidays), after which, a grade of zero is assigned. Business days include any day that the college is open for business, whether the student has scheduled classes that day or not. 3. Students, who miss a test or in-class activity or assignment or fail to submit an assignment on time due to exceptional circumstances, are required to notify their professor in advance of the class whenever possible. A make-up test may be supplied for students who provide an acceptable explanation of their absence and/or acceptable documentation explaining their absence (e.g., a medical certificate). All make-up tests are to be written at a time and place specified by the professor upon the student's return. Alternately, students may be given an opportunity to earn the associated marks by having a subsequent test count for the additional marks. Exceptional circumstances may result in a modification of due dates for assignments. 4. Unless otherwise specified, assignments and projects must be submitted at the beginning of class. 5. Students must complete every assignment as an individual effort unless, the professor specifies otherwise. 6. Since there may be instances of grade appeal or questions regarding the timely completion of assignments and/or extent of individual effort, etc., students are strongly advised to keep, and make available to their professor, if requested, a copy of all assignments and working notes until the course grade has been finalized. 7. There will be no resubmission of work unless this has been previously agreed to or suggested by the professor. 8. Students must submit all assignments in courses with practical lab and field components in order to pass the course.

Provincial Context
The course meets the following Ministry of Colleges and Universities requirements:


Essential Employability Skills
Essential Employability Skills emphasized in the course:

  • Communication Skills - Communicate clearly, concisely and correctly in the written, spoken, visual form that fulfills the purpose and meets the needs of the audience.
  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Skills - Use a variety of thinking skills to anticipate and solve problems.
  • Information Management Skills - Analyze, evaluate, and apply relevant information from a variety of sources.
  • Personal Skills - Manage the use of time and other resources to complete projects.

General Education
This General Education course relates to the following themes as specified by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

  • Social and Cultural Understanding

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition
PLAR Contact (if course is PLAR-eligible) - Office of the Registrar
Students may apply to receive credit by demonstrating achievement of the course learning outcomes through previous relevant work/life experience, service, self-study and training on the job. This course is eligible for challenge through the following method(s):

  • Challenge Exam
    Notes:  Both a challenge exam and an interview are required.
  • Interview
    Notes:  Both a challenge exam and an interview are required.

Section III: Topical Outline
Some details of this outline may change as a result of circumstances such as weather cancellations, College and student activities, and class timetabling.
Instruction Mode: Online
Professor: Multiple Professors
OptionalOtherCoe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Applicable student group(s): Cross College Courses
Course Details:

Module 1: Orientation and Introduction to the History of Chocolate


Unit 1: Chocolate and Historical Study

Reading: Coe and Coe, Introduction.



- Course orientation

- Introduction to the study of history

- Primary and secondary sources

- Understanding food and cultural history


Unit 2: Introduction to Chocolate and the Cacao Plant

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 1.



- The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao)

- Different definitions of “chocolate”

- Properties of chocolate and cacao

- Chocolate cultivation and biology


Quiz # 1 (5%)



Module 2: Chocolate in Pre-Contact Mesoamerica


Unit 3: The Mesoamerican Origins of Chocolate

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 2.



- Sources for early history of chocolate

- Mesoamerican agricultural revolution

- The etymology of cacao

- Maya civilization and sacred chocolate rituals


Analysis #1 (10%)


Unit 4: Chocolate and the Aztec Empire

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 3.



- Origins of Aztec Empire

- Importance of Chocolate and Octli

- Aztec elite culture and chocolate drinking

- Pre-Columbian use of cacao as currency


Quiz # 2 (5%)



Module 3: Chocolate and Cross-Cultural Exchange


Unit 5: Crossing the Atlantic: Chocolate and “First Contact”

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 4.



- European exploration and “first contact”

- European cultural context of food and drink

- Concept of cross-cultural exchange

- New Spain and the slow adoption of chocolate


Analysis #2 (10%)


Unit 6: The European Transformation and adaptation of Chocolate

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 5.



- Documentary sources for chocolate in Early Modern Europe

- Spread of Chocolate through Europe and early chocolate traders

- Chocolate and European royal courts

- Chocolate in European medicinal writings


Quiz #3 (5%)

Term Research Project Proposal (10%)



Module 4: Chocolate Colonialism and Revolution


Unit 7: Colonialism and Chocolate

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 6.



- European colonialism and triangular trade

- Colonial empire of Spain

- Economics of slavery and chocolate cultivation

- Exploitation of native workers



Unit 8: Reason and Revolution: Chocolate in the Eighteenth Century

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 7.



- Chocolate and the intellectual culture of the European Enlightenment

- French philosophes and Chocolate

- Chocolate, coffee and social revolution


Quiz #4 (5%)



Module 5: Chocolate in the Industrial Age


Unit 9: Chocolate and the Industrial Revolution

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 8.



- Industrial revolution and chocolate production

- Chocolate and social class

- Chocolate and capitalism

- Democratization of chocolate


Analysis #3 (10%)


Unit 10: Mass Society and Chocolate Culture in the Twentieth Century

Reading: “The Second Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Mass Society” excerpt from Findley, Carter and John Rothney, Twentieth Century World  (7th ed.) – Link provided on Slate.



- Growth of Mass society

- Chocolate advertising and consumer culture

- Corporate chocolate and candy production

- Chocolate and westernization


Quiz #5 (5%)



Module 6: Modern Chocolate


Unit 11: The Ethics of Chocolate and Globalization

Reading: Coe and Coe, chapter 9.


The Dark Side of Chocolate documentary – Link provided on Slate

CNN – Cocao-nomics – Link provided on Slate

CNN – Can the Chocolate Industry change its ways? – Link provided on Slate



- Globalization and chocolate

- Economics of cacao farming

- Ethical chocolate

- Global supply and demand


Unit 12: The Future of Chocolate

Reading and Podcast: “The Chocolate Curse” NPR’s Planet Money – Link provided on Slate.



- CCN51 and future development in chocolate production

- Global warming and cacao farming

- Challenge of increasing demand

- Course recap


Quiz #6 (5%)

Final Draft of Research Project (30%)

Sheridan Policies

It is recommended that students read the following policies in relation to course outlines:

  • Academic Integrity
  • Copyright
  • Intellectual Property
  • Respectful Behaviour
  • Accessible Learning
All Sheridan policies can be viewed on the Sheridan policy website.

Appropriate use of generative Artificial Intelligence tools: In alignment with Sheridan's Academic Integrity Policy, students should consult with their professors and/or refer to evaluation instructions regarding the appropriate use, or prohibition, of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools for coursework. Turnitin AI detection software may be used by faculty members to screen assignment submissions or exams for unauthorized use of artificial intelligence.

Course Outline Changes: The information contained in this Course Outline including but not limited to faculty and program information and course description is subject to change without notice. Nothing in this Course Outline should be viewed as a representation, offer and/or warranty. Students are responsible for reading the Important Notice and Disclaimer which applies to Programs and Courses.

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