This paper examines the interaction between metropolitan manufacture and colonial demand, by investigating the development of Indian Pale Ale. In the late eighteenth century, George Hodgson developed a new beer for India in an obscure brewery on the eastern periphery of London. Hodgson's pale ale was a light beer with a refreshing bitter taste, which was to become a signifier of Anglo-Indian identity in numerous accounts of life in India .
Showcasing original research in the field, the Working papers are an initiative of the Commodities of Empire project and have their origins in papers presented at the workshops organised under its auspices since 2007. We welcome suggestions for new papers.
Indian Pale Ale: An Icon of Empire
Of stocks and barter: John Holt and the Kongo rubber trade, 1906-1910
This paper examines trade relations in northern Angola during the early colonial period through the records of Liverpool merchant John Holt. The years 1906-10 represent the last phase of the African rubber boom, in which West Central Africa played a leading role. In contrast to the infamous rubber economy of the Congo Free State, which was mostly founded on forced labor, the rubber trade in Angola was driven by African entrepreneurship. Both on the coast and in the interior, European merchants relied on commercial networks and systems of brokerage still dominated by African businessmen.
'"The black man's crop": cotton, imperialism and public-private development in Britain's African colonies, 1900-1918''
Celebrated in neoclassical accounts as the quintessential free-trade industry, Lancashire was brought to its knees—and to renewed enthusiasm for imperial investment—by the revolt of American cotton farmers against the grinding poverty of the “all-cotton system” in the early twentieth century. British, German, French, and Belgian cotton manufacturers rushed to enlist and conscript a new reserve army of agricultural labor in their colonies to keep the price of cotton down.
Beyond ‘Exotic Groceries’: Tapioca-Cassava, a Hidden Commodity of Empire
This is a study of a commodity that has been largely overlooked in Empire histories, but which was an important element in the commerce, culture and constitution of the Portuguese, Brazilian, French, Belgian, Spanish and British Empires and their possessions in Africa, Asia and the Atlantic Islands.
Routing the Commodities of the Empire through Sikkim (1817-1906)
Trading in commodities rooted and routed the British Empire, and commercial control over production and exchange of commodities facilitated political expansion globally. Landlocked Sikkim is located directly on the inland trade route between British India and Tibet and China. The paper provides a socio-historical analysis of international treaties and internal and external trade for the period 1817-1906. The administration of trade routes reveals imperial concern to circulate the commodities of the Empire through Sikkim.
Global Coffee and Decolonisation in Kenya: overproduction, quotas, and rural restructuring
Following the 1930s depression, the recovery of coffee production was lifted by wartime price supports and sustained by the primary commodities boom which entered into a cycle of decline from the mid-fifties. The ensuing period became one of deepening financial crisis for coffee producing countries. Even so, the Latin American producers continued to increase their production bringing on a glut in world markets. This unleashed intense competitive struggles amongst global producers for larger slices of a contracting market.
Obscenity, Empire and Global Networks
The expansion of the material networks in the British Empire in the second half of the nineteenth century, while facilitating the global conveyance of commodities ranging from tea to textiles and bayonets to bodies, also made possible the spread of books, magazines, and other print matter—including obscene publications. By the end of the nineteenth century the British Empire had thus come to serve as a vast network for the purveyance of obscene publications and other print matter, not simply between metropole and colonies but between colonies.
A Global Commodity within a Rising Empire: The History of Bengali Raw Silk as Connective Interplay between the Company Bahadur, the Bengali Local Economy and Society, and the Universal Italian Model, c.1750 – c.1830
It is a well established fact that from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period raw silk production gradually moved westward from China to Europe; less known is the fact that from the mid-eighteenth century raw silk technologies moved back from the West to the East. In the mid-eighteenth century, the East India Company realised that, in order to increase the sales of raw silks imported from Bengal, it had to change drastically the traditional Bengali reeling technology.
The United Kingdom and the Political Economy of the Global Oil-Producing Nuts and Seeds during the 1930s
This paper considers this subject within the broad contexts of the global depression of the 1930s, the complexities of the global vegetable oils and fats business, and the interplay of colonial, imperial and global political and economic dynamics. It examines the intersection of local and global forces in the United Kingdom, the United States, Norway, India, the Dutch East Indies and West Africa in the shaping of the global movements and transactions in the oilseeds and nuts business.
The role of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic coal route from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century: corporate strategies
This paper analyses a factor that contributed to the maritime transport dynamic in the second half of the nineteenth and the first third of the twentieth century: the supply of coal in Canary Islands ports to ships covering the Mid- and South Atlantic route. Till now, research has tended to be informed by the theory of a fully liberalised market where supplying companies were able to compete in terms of price and quality.