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seminar: Prof. Phil Withington (University of Sheffield) 'Where was the Coffee in Early Modern England?'

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Location: H3.03 Humanities building, University of Warwick

Refreshments are served. All are welcome!


This paper is the first step towards a larger study on the adaptation of new intoxicants by English consumers in the seventeenth century. It comes out of a long-term interest of mine in intoxicants and intoxication (scholarly rather than practical, of course) and, more immediately, the three-year research project on ‘Intoxicants and Early Modernity’ that I’ve been running with Angela McShane at the V&A and Mike Pidd at Sheffield HRI Digital. The foci of the larger study are the two ‘new’ commodities most often associated with seventeenth century England: tobacco and coffee. What I’m concerned with is the assimilation of these commodities into English diets and what this tells us about culture, politics, society and economy in the ‘long 17th century’. The working hypothesis is that the representational noise (for example, in print or on the stage) about both tobacco and coffee preceded their material supply and consumption by some distance, at least for the majority of the populace; and that the kinds of records looked at by the ‘Intoxicants’ project allows us to get a more precise sense of the uptake of these intoxicants outwith London than has previously been possible. In the case of coffee the paper argues this uptake was later and much less evident than historians have suggested. engraving

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