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Colonialism, Improvement and the Columbian Exchange

Questions to Consider While Reading

What is the Columbian Exchange? How did it change global eating habits? List some of its consequences.

What are the connections between imperialism, natural history and the global movement of food plants in the 18th and 19th centuries?


Plese read two of the following texts.

Carney, Judith, and Richard Rosomoff, In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World (Berkeley, 2009), Introduction.

Collingham, Lizzie, The Hungry Empire: How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World (London, 2017) chapter 15
Crosby, Alfred, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westport, 1972), Chapter 1.
Earle, Rebecca, The Columbian Exchange’, The Oxford Handbook of Food History, ed. Jeffrey Pilcher (Oxford, 2012).*
Drayton, Richard, Nature’s Government. Science, Imperial Britain, and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (New Haven, 2000)--you can pick almost any chapter--say, Chapter 4, for instance . . .

Mintz, Sidney, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York, 1985), Introduction.

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To Learn More

Columbian Exchanges

Bickham, Troy, ‘Eating the Empire: Intersections of Food, Cookery and Imperialism in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, Past and Present 198 (2008).*

Cherfas, Jeremy, 'The Original Global Food System: the British Empire Outsourced its Food Supply in a Big Way', Eat this Podcast, 7 June 2021.
Carney, Judith, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Cambridge, 2001).*

Carney, Judith, and others, 'Beyond Black Rice', American Historical Review 115:1 (2010).
Crosby, Alfred, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge, 1986).
Foster, Nelson, and Linda S. Cordell, eds., Chillies to Chocolate: Food the Americas Gave the World (Tucson, 1992).
Mazumdar, Sucheta, ‘The Impact of New World Food Crops on the Diet and Economy of China and India, 1600-1900’, Food in Global History, ed. Raymond Grew (Boulder, 1999).
McCann, James, Maize and Grace: Africa’s Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500-2000 (Cambridge, 2005).*

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Colonial Science and Imperialism

Bleichmar, Daniela, Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment (Chicago, 2012).

Cronan, William, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York, 1983).
Mackay, David, In the Wake of Cook: Exploration, Science and Empire, 1780-1801 (New York, 1985).
McClellan III, James, Colonialism and Science: Saint Domingue in the Old Regime (Chicago, 2010).
Miller, David Philip, and Peter Hanns Reill, eds., Visions of Empire: Voyages, Botany, and Representations of Nature (Cambridge, 1996).
Osborne, Michael, Nature, the Exotic, and the Science of French Colonialism (Bloomington, 1994).

Raj, Kapil, Relocating Modern Science. Circulation and the Construction of Knowledge in South Asia and Europe, 1650-1900 (Houndmills, 2007).
Schiebinger, Londa and Claudia Swan, eds. Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce and Politics in the Early Modern World (Philadelphia, 2005).
Schiebinger, Londa, Plants and Empire: Colonial Bio-prospecting in the Atlantic World (Cambridge, 2009).

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