Embedding Agricultural Commodities : Using historical evidence, 1840s–1940s book cover
1st Edition

Embedding Agricultural Commodities
Using historical evidence, 1840s–1940s

ISBN 9781472461865
Published June 28, 2016 by Routledge
204 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Over the past 500 years westerners have turned into avid consumers of colonial products and various production systems in the Americas, Africa and Asia have adapted to serve the new markets that opened up in the wake of the "European encounter". The effects of these transformations for the long-term development of these societies are fiercely contested. How can we use historical source material to pinpoint this social change? This volume presents six different examples from countries in which commodities were embedded in existing production systems - tobacco, coffee, sugar and indigo in Indonesia, India and Cuba - to shed light on this key process in human history. To demonstrate the effectiveness of using different types of source material, each contributor presents a micro-study based on a different type of historical source: a diary, a petition, a "mail report", a review, a scientific study and a survey. As a result, the volume offers insights into how historians use their source material to construct narratives about the past and offers introductions to trajectories of agricultural commodity production, as well as much new information about the social struggles surrounding them.

Table of Contents

Embedding Agricultural Commodities:

Using Historical Evidence, 1840s-1940s

Table of Contents

List of Figures


1. Embedding Agricultural Commodities – An Introduction

Willem van Schendel

2. Staying Embedded: The Rocky Existence of an Indigo Maker in Bengal

Willem van Schendel

3. Multatuli, the Liberal Colonialists and their Attacks on the Patrimonial Embedding of Commodity Production in Java

Ulbe Bosma

4. Smallholdings versus European Plantations: The Beginnings of Coffee in Nineteenth-Century Mysore (India)

Bhaswati Bhattacharya

5. ‘Keeping Land and Labour under Control?’ Reporting on Tobacco-Shed Burnings in Besoeki (Java)

Ratna Saptari

6. Embedding Cigarette Tobacco in Colonial Bihar (India): A Multi-Dimensional Task

Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff

7. Cuba, Sugarcane and the Reluctant Embedding of Scientific Method: Agete’s La Caña de Azúcar en Cuba

Jonathan Curry-Machado

8. Globalization’s Agricultural Roots: Some Final Considerations

Marcel van der Linden


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Willem van Schendel has served as Professor of Modern Asian History at the University of Amsterdam and as head of the South Asia Department, International Institute of Social History. Among his recent books are The Camera as Witness: A Social History of Mizoram, Northeast India (with Joy Pachuau); A History of Bangladesh and Global Blue: Indigo and Espionage in Colonial Bengal. Recent co-edited volumes are Labour Migration and Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia: Critical Perspectives and The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics.