I am a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of History, studying the introduction and assimilation of foods from the Americas, the tomato in particular, into England and Italy in the early modern period. I was very fortunate to be accepted to present at the 2022 Newberry Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference, with a paper titled "‘The Most Delicate Rootes’: Sweet Potatoes and the English Consumption of the New World, 1560-1650". Due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19 at the time, the Newberry very generously offered that some panels be hosted online via Zoom, which I elected to do. Unfortunately, by the time the conference was due to take place, all panels had to move to an online format, but I’m sure many will take up the offer to instead visit the Newberry in person in June. I hope at some point in the future to be able to visit their wonderful collections in Chicago, especially considering the connection between the library and Warwick!
The panel I presented on was focussed on early modern histories and was called “More Than Human: Animals, Food, Materiality”. My co-panelists were Sarah Burt from Saint Louis University, whose paper was on unicorn tapestries, and Matt Ryan from UCL, whose paper was on intergenerational collaboration in recipe collections. My own paper was on the consumption of sweet potatoes in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England and the reception of foods from the ‘New World’ as luxury items in early modern Europe. I was writing an article on this topic at the time and presenting at the Newberry gave me a chance to put forward my ideas and receive feedback in a supportive environment before sending the piece to a journal. After our papers, we had the chance as panelists to ask each other questions and discuss the similarities between our topics, followed by questions from the audience. A number of very interesting discussions arose, from concepts relating to gender to those of health. As part of the program, we also had the opportunity to join in with talks and workshops hosted by members of Newberry team, from informal coffee talks to professional developments sessions. All in all, although my experience was not quite like those my colleagues from previous years, my time at the Newberry Conference was very rewarding and welcoming!