Coffee, Global Exchange, and Empire

From the first European coffee shops of the seventeenth century to the ubiquity of Starbucks in airports around the globe today, coffee has played an important role in the cultural history of the West and its relationship to other parts of the world. Since coffee is a tropical product, Western coffee culture has always depended on supplies from other parts of the world, procured through international trade, colonization, and neo-imperialism. This global supply nexus also has shaped coffee’s cultural associations, from early modern Europeans’ “Orientalist” views of coffee as an exotic product of the East, to late-nineteenth-century U.S. assessments of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba–all areas incorporated into the expanding American empire in 1898–as sites of coffee cultivation. This seminar will focus on the late seventeenth to early twentieth centuries and will include discussion of primary source materials held at the Newberry Library (made available digitally).