From Silver to Cocaine

Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500–2000

From Silver to Cocaine

American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 22 illustrations Published: July 2006

History > Latin American History, World History, Latin American Studies

Demonstrating that globalization is a centuries-old phenomenon, From Silver to Cocaine examines the commodity chains that have connected producers in Latin America with consumers around the world for five hundred years. In clear, accessible essays, historians from Latin America, England, and the United States trace the paths of many of Latin America’s most important exports: coffee, bananas, rubber, sugar, tobacco, silver, henequen (fiber), fertilizers, cacao, cocaine, indigo, and cochineal (insects used to make dye). Each contributor follows a specific commodity from its inception, through its development and transport, to its final destination in the hands of consumers. The essays are arranged in chronological order, according to when the production of a particular commodity became significant to Latin America’s economy. Some—such as silver, sugar, and tobacco—were actively produced and traded in the sixteenth century; others—such as bananas and rubber—only at the end of the nineteenth century; and cocaine only in the twentieth.

By focusing on changing patterns of production and consumption over time, the contributors reconstruct complex webs of relationships and economic processes, highlighting Latin America’s central and interactive place in the world economy. They show how changes in coffee consumption habits, clothing fashions, drug usage, or tire technologies in Europe, Asia, and the Americas reverberate through Latin American commodity chains in profound ways. The social and economic outcomes of the continent’s export experience have been mixed. By analyzing the dynamics of a wide range of commodities over a five-hundred-year period, From Silver to Cocaine highlights this diversity at the same time that it provides a basis for comparison and points to new ways of doing global history.

Contributors. Marcelo Bucheli, Horacio Crespo, Zephyr Frank, Paul Gootenberg, Robert Greenhill, Mary Ann Mahony, Carlos Marichal, David McCreery, Rory Miller, Aldo Musacchio, Laura Nater, Ian Read, Mario Samper, Steven Topik, Allen Wells


From Silver to Cocaine approaches world history and economy by presenting a meaningful, contemporary trajectory, giving a more complete view of the intricacies of the Latin American cultures.” — Jorge González del Pozo, Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies

From Silver to Cocaine is an innovative collection that pushes economic and world history in exciting directions. It moves us beyond purely national studies of particular export sectors, forcing us to think more globally and historically. At the same time, the collection links traditional interests in the politics of production to growing concerns about consumption. In short, From Silver to Cocaine will be of considerable interest not only to scholars of Latin America but to anyone interested in commodities, food, world history, and globalization.” — Steve Striffler, Gastronomica

“[A] very sound economic history of some of the most important Latin American commodities, one that sheds new light on the histories of the producing countries. Anyone wishing to learn about the individual commodities and the impact of this trade on Latin America history will do well to read this great collection. Just as importantly, though, it provides a sound starting point for a comparative, more global history that can explore the integration of Latin America into the world economy in a more complex manner than can be achieved through the aggregation of national economic histories.” — Alejandra Irigoin, Social History

“Readers will appreciate the novel perspective provided by the volume, and students of Latin America, both those interested in its economic history and those more inclined to social analysis, will benefit from this book that carefully blends both.” — Juliette Levy, Agricultural History

“[T]he editors and contributors have done a fantastic service to Latin American historians by showing convincingly how commodities are ‘good to think’ about Latin America and about Latin America’s interaction with the global economy. . . . The volume constitutes a uniquely useful tool with which to explore the interplay of the global history of commodities and a whole range of themes central to the history of Latin America.” — Paulo Drinot, Journal of Latin American Studies

“All in all, this is an important volume. The commodity chain approach stimulates economic historians to think beyond national boundaries and contextualizes products within a wider geographical framework. It combines production with consumption, the latter a largely overlooked theme . . . . [T]hese case studies illuminate the economic realities of Latin America and beyond in new and interesting ways.” — Erick D. Langer, Journal of Social History

“Duke University Press was wise to publish this book. Scholars wanting to broaden their understanding of transnational history will be wise to read it.” — Sterling Evans, Environmental History

“Each chapter is self-contained, but reading the book as a whole highlights the commonalities and differences among the commodity chains. In this way, the editors succeed in gathering a group of authors who can retell the histories of Latin American commodities with a fresh perspective. A broad theme of the book is a critique of dependency theory, replacing it with a more layered analysis that pays close attention to the economic, institutional, and social forces at play. This analysis, the excellent translations, and the clear writing make it a good introduction to Latin American commodity history for students and laypersons, and a valuable resource for specialists.” — Tomas Nonnenmacher, Hispanic American Historical Review

“Each essay makes important contributions to its individual field, and scholars interested in particular time periods (colonial, early national, or modern), industries (coffee, tobacco, or bananas) or nations (Bahia, Guatemala, or Columbia) will find this book tremendously useful. . . . From Silver to Cocaine is an ambitious project.” — Michelle Craif McDonald, Enterprise & Society

“From Silver to Cocaine certainly illustrates how valuable the commodity-chain approach can be to historians of Latin America, while providing a useful starting point for scholars interested in commodity chains worldwide.” — Isaac Campos, The Americas

“Historians interested in classical themes from a fresh perspective will find this volume very suggestive. It will re-open discussions about Latin America and the world economy over the longue dure´e. It also reveals to historians of the world economy the divergent patterns of local and regional growth without condemning them to a static place as ‘underdeveloped’ ‘peripheries’ of decisive and determining action occurring elsewhere.” — Jeremy Adelman, Journal of Global History

“In short, From Silver to Cocaine is a wonderful book that deals with its subject well, is fascinating to read, and is so full of insights that it will provide many avenues for subsequent research.” — Nancy Fitch, Itinerario

“Intended for an upper-level undergraduate or graduate audience, From Silver to Cocaine is both enlightening and entertaining. . . . The strength of this collection of essays lies in the fact that the story of guano is not exclusively a Latin American story. . . . Finally, the timing of this book is important. . . . If there is a silver lining for the agro-export industries of Latin America, it is that from silver in the early 1500s to cocaine in the 1990s, the region has been able to adapt and at times prosper from the changes within globalized trade.” — David C. Johnson, H-Net Reviews

“The authors of the twelve essays in this collection generate new, welcome, and useful information, or in other cases they present older research put together in innovative ways. . . . It is a welcome contribution.” — Arnold Bauer, A Contracorriente

“The twelve informative essays are well-written. . . . They provide the reader interested in economic and social history with an introduction to the important role of commodities in international history.” — Michael R. Hall, Journal of Third World Studies

“There is much merit in this book, and indeed, in a commodity-chain approach to the study of the varied primary products emanating from Latin America and the Caribbean. It is well put together by the editors, and the translations of chapters written originally in a different language are of a high standard. It is also timely, as globalization and the rise of Chinese demand are driving many Latin American countries back to concentration on commodity exports.” — Victor Bulmer-Thomas, Business History Review

“This book is an important contribution to the study of commodities, a must-read for graduate students in Latin America/Caribbean history, and a valuable resource for instructors of undergraduate survey courses.” — John Soluri, American Historical Review

“This is a stimulating, innovative, and intellectually satisfying work with applications for research and theory beyond Latin America.” — Joshua M. Rosenthal, Canadian Journal of History

“This volume presents considerable archival research and scholarly analysis regarding he role commodity circuits played in defining cultural, economic, political, and social relations in our modern world. Every essay offers something for both a specialist in the particular commodity’s field, as well as broader methodological insights for writing history attentive to transnational dynamics. It provides a rich source of information.” — Suzanna Reiss, Journal of World History

“Though not intended for introductory world history classrooms, the collection is surprisingly accessible. . . . For analyzing and historicizing the Latin American role in an increasingly globalized economy, there is much to recommend From Silver to Cocaine.” — Sharon Cohen, World History Connected

“Unlike so many edited collections that lack cohesion or seem poorly conceived, the essays in From Silver to Cocaine are remarkably well integrated and address similar questions and themes. As such, the reader is well rewarded from comparison of the differing commodity chains.” — Jermy Baskes, EH.NET

From Silver to Cocaine is an ambitious and novel application of the ‘commodity chain’ approach to the insertion of a whole continent into the world economy. It has no rivals.” — William Gervase Clarence-Smith, author of Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765–1914

From Silver to Cocaine is an important and innovative collection. It provides a corrective to the purely national studies of commodities and of export sectors, and to studies that posit influence in only one direction, focusing on the international penetration of capital and trade into Latin America. This book makes a strong statement about the direction of future research: it should be required reading for anyone interested in the economic history of Latin America, broadly conceived.” — Edward Beatty, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Steven Topik is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His books include The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present (with Kenneth Pomeranz) and Trade and Gunboats: The United States and Brazil in the Age of Empire.

Carlos Marichal is Professor in the Centro de Estudios Históricos at El Colegio de México. He is the author of A Century of Debt Crises in Latin America: From Independence to the Great Depression, 1820–1930 and numerous books in Spanish.

Zephyr Frank is Assistant Professor of Latin American History at Stanford University. He is the author of Dutra’s World: Wealth and Family in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction. Commodity Chains in Theory and in Latin American History / Steven Topik, Carlos Marichal, and Zephyr Frank 1

1. The Spanish-American Peso: Export Commodity and Global Money of the Ancient Regime, 1550–1800 / Carlos Marichal 25

2. Indigo Commodity Chains in the Spanish and British Empire, 1560–1860 / David McCreery 53

3. Mexican Cochineal and the European Demand for American Dyes, 1550–1850 / Carlos Marichal 76

4.Colonial Tobacco: Key Commodity of the Spanish Empire, 1500–1800 / Laura Nater 93

5. The Latin American Coffee Commodity Chain: Brazil and Costa Rica / Steven Topik and Mario Samper 118

6. Trade Regimes and the International Sugar Market, 1850–1980: Protectionism, Subsides, and Regulation / Horacio Crespo 147

7. The Local and the Global: Internal and External Factors in the Development of Bahia’s Cacao Sector / Mary Ann Mahony 174

8. Banana Boats and Baby Food: The Banana in U.S. History / Marcelo Bucheli and Ian Read 204

9. The Fertilizer Commodity Chains: Guano and Nitrate, 1840–1930 / Rory Miller and Robert Greenhill 228

10. Brazil in the International Rubber Trade, 1870–1930 / Zephyr Frank and Also Musacchio 271

11. Reports of Its Demise Are Not Exaggerated: The Life and Times of Yucatecan Henequen / Allen Wells 300

12. Cocaine in Chains: The Rise and Demise of Global Commodity, 1860–1950 / Paul Gootenberg 321

Conclusion: Commodity Chains and Globalization in Historical Perspective / Carlos Marichal, Steven Topik, and Zephyr Frank 352

Contributors 361

Index 365
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3766-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3753-9
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