Today is National Coffee Day—the perfect opportunity to say “thank you” to the foamy friend that renders us functional in our day-to-day lives. But this drink has a complex and conflict-filled history, and modern coffee production is a world of its own. Check out some of our scholarship on the brewed beverage.
In From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive, Paige West tracks coffee as it moves from producers in Papua New Guinea to consumers around the world. This vivid ethnography illuminates the social lives of the people who produce, process, distribute, market, and consume coffee.
Julia Landweber examines coffee’s adoption into French culture and diet in “This Marvelous Bean,” published in French Historical Studies (volume 38, issue 2). She explores how coffee, initially mistrusted by the French for its bitterness, health risks, and associations with the Ottoman Empire, became a beloved beverage and attracted a burgeoning culture of consumers interested in exotic novelties.
Historians trace the paths of many of Latin America’s most important exports—coffee, bananas, rubber, sugar, and more—in From Silver to Cocaine. Each contributor follows a specific commodity from its inception, through its development and transport, to its final destination in the hands of consumers.
Charles W. Bergquist’s influential 1986 book Coffee and Conflict in Colombia, 1886-1910, had several important consequences for the study of Latin American history and the study of Colombia. Bergquist’s analysis of this transitional period left a mark on all subsequent studies in Latin American affairs. His examination of the growth of the coffee industry and the Thousand Days’ War is a major contribution to the field.
In “That a Poor Man Be Industrious,” a chapter of Identity and Struggle at the Margins of the Nation-State, Aldo Lauria-Santiago examines the experience of a late-1800s ladino peasant community in El Salvador with land tenure, coffee production, and regional politics. The community’s experience with the pressures and opportunities of an expanding coffee economy provides insight into El Salvador’s ladino peasantry.
Nancy Um’s “Foreign Doctors at the Imam’s Court,” published in Genre (volume 49, issue 2), sheds light on an overlooked phenomenon: early modern medical diplomacy to Qasimi Yemen during the “Coffee Era,” in which foreign merchants flocked to the southern Arabian Peninsula with the interest of procuring coffee, a commodity that was then still difficult to purchase elsewhere.
In “Territories of Desire,” published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (volume 12, issue 2), Aymon Kreil contrasts the intimacy of coffee shops in Egypt, as locales where men gather to chat about sex, with the intimacy of conversations within the family. Although research often focuses on family as the realm of intimacy, Kreil argues the importance of considering alternate contexts.