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The Hatters' Blues: A Microglobal History of New World Dyes in Early Modern Spain

Dr Adrianna Catena is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (2017-2020), at the University of Warwick. Her postdoctoral project examines the impact of New World dyes – cochineal, indigo, logwood, and other, lesser known colourants – on the Spanish, and broader European dyeing sectors.

Project Description

The appearance of New World dyes excited strong and varied reactions in the Old – even the global enthusiasm for cochineal was countered by a measure of resistance. The Hatter’s Blues examines the early trajectory of indigo, logwood, cochineal, and other American colourants in Spain and beyond, seeking out episodes of innovation, resistance, and conflict arising from their introduction and diffusion over the course of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Examined through a micro-historical lens, these episodes can convey the complexities of the reception and integration of new raw materials into production processes. Taking a closer look at the transition from traditional (often local), to new, exotic dyes – and the tensions preceding these changes – can reveal much about the transfer of artisanal knowledge and practices, attitudes towards novelty and innovation within a sector of the textile industry that, despite its centrality to production, remains understudied.


23 November 2018: One-day workshop Ordinary Blues and Uniformed Reds: Colours and Clothes in Circulation, c.1650-1914. University of Warwick, Institute of Advanced Study. Co-organised with Prof. Miki Sugiura, Hosei University.

Featured Talks

4 April 2019: ‘The Empire’s New Blue: Indigo and the Dyer’s Craft in Early Modern Castile and Peru.’ Seminar: History and Scale: Early Modern Global Microhistories, with Prof. Anne Gerritsen (Warwick), University of Manchester. Organisers: Dr John Morgan and Dr Georg Christ.

1 March 2019: ‘‘Now anyone can Dye”: Competing Indigo Supply Chains and the Spanish Woollen Sector, 1550-1600,’ Workshop: Supply Chains in Early Modern Europe, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. Organisers: Dr Paul Warde (Cambridge) and Dr Judy Stephenson (UCL).

18 January 2019: 'Redeeming Logwood: The Uncertain Rise of a New World Dye, c.1560-1660,' Seminar Series: Economic and Social History of the Early Modern World 1500-1800, Institute of Historical Research, SOAS

23 November 2018: ‘Where Franciscans Wore Blue: Clothing the Poor in Colonial Latin America,’ Ordinary Blues and Uniformed Reds: Colour and Clothes in Circulation, c.1650-1914. University of Warwick, Institute of Advanced Study.

2 August 2018: ‘Trials, Tests, and Technologies: Indigo Manufacture in Colonial Yucatan’. Labor, Technology, and Institutions in Global Commodity Chains: 16th-19th Centuries. Panel convenor: Ghulam Nadri. World Economic History Congress, Boston, USA.

30 July 2018: 'Burned at the Rialto: New World Blues and the European Dyeing Sector’. The Colours of Early Globalization: American Dyes and the International Economy, 16th-19th Centuries. Panel convenor: Carlos Marichal. World Economic History Congress, Boston, USA.

19 May 2018: ‘New World Blues, Old World Dyers: Episodes of Conflict.’ A Different Point of View: Scales, Spaces and Contexts in Histories of the Local and the Global, University of Warwick.

15 November 2017: ‘New Materials, Old Conflicts: The Craft of Dyeing in 16th Century Spain’. Early Modern World Seminar Series, Faculty of History, University of Oxford.



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