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‘The Most Delicate Rootes’: Sweet Potatoes and the Consumption of the New World, 1560-1650

What does the sweet potato tell us about sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England? We may now associate this root vegetable with Thanksgivings or modern food trends, but the sweet potato had a considerable vogue in the early modern period, one that sheds light on the international nature of English foodways and the early rise of global consumption. In this blog post, Serin Quinn argues for the inclusion of the sweet potato, and other indigenous American foods, in discussions of the trade in luxury foods in pre-modern England, and for a revision of the narrative that American foods were met with fear and suspicion upon their arrival in Europe.

Rendering the Surface: Representing Lacquerware in Early Modern European Paintings

The art of lacquer involves a glue-like material applied in layers to the surface of objects to make them visually dazzling. From the early sixteenth century, lacquerwares made in Asia were increasingly brought to Europe and highly valued for their quality. Later they were also included in European paintings. How did artists choose to represent this precious and mysterious material? In this blog post, Cheng He shows that a liquid substance like lacquer could be expressed on canvas with different emphases. It was at the same time assimilated into different genres and contexts in paintings, which conversely enriched the cultural meanings of lacquer.

Managers from the British World: A Global Approach to Sheep Farming Industry Labour Disciplines in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, 1837-1956

From the late nineteenth century onwards, enterprising men from Britain and the British Empire began arriving in Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina and Chile. Part of a wider process of Europeanisation and capitalist colonisation, these men managed an imported activity which deeply transformed this South American borderland region: the sheep farming industry. An important part of this process was the installation of labour regimes, where managers from the British world introduced new practices of disciplining the local workforce. However, as Nicolás Gómez Baeza argues in this blog post, this history of Patagonian local capitalisms was also one of British-global-imperial transfers of diverse capitalist and management knowledge and behaviours.

‘When the four corners of this cocoon collide’: A Brief Global Overview of Pan-Africanism, 1788-Present

When rapper Kendrick Lamar released his now critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015, he shocked audiences with a fusion of genres, influences, and stories not seen before. In the years since we have come to appreciate this album as a Pan-African work of art. But what does this actually mean? Is Pan-Africanism a political project, an ideological framework, a specific movement, all of these combined, or something else entirely? How do we write a history of such a movement whilst grappling with its very nature? Most importantly, why does this matter today? Jack Bowman gives an overview of the movement from its origins to the modern-day, arguing that it is an ever-changing global project, and needs to be assessed by historians as such.

Cotton, Expertise and the End of Empire in the Aden Protectorate

A cotton growing scheme in the British ruled Aden Protectorate, the Abyan Scheme was built on transfers of knowledge from across Britain’s shrinking empire that were truly global in scope. From the immense cotton fields in Sudan to the agricultural methods taught at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad, there was much more to the cotton grown at Abyan than met the eye. Equally, the Abyan Scheme was also not immune to the existential threat of Arab nationalism in the 1950s, as its cotton crops soon became embroiled in Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s criticisms of British imperialism. As William Harrop argues in this blog post, Abyan stands as an important case study of how global ideas of development, expertise and anti-colonialism interacted and became reshaped on a local scale.

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