Conference "Rethinking tobacco history: Commodities, empire and agency in global perspective, 1780-1960"

Country: Germany

City: Cologne

Abstr. due: 15.11.2020

Dates: 01.12.21 — 04.12.21

Area Of Sciences: History and archeology;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Prof. Jean Stubbs (School of Advanced Study, University of London), Prof. William Clarence-Smith (SOAS University of London) and Dr. Alexander van Wickeren (University of Cologne)


Tobacco was one of the most important globally traded commodities from the 17th century through to the present day, and yet it has received relatively little attention in the historiography of modern empires in comparison to other commodities, such as sugar or cotton. As a result, recent approaches to rewriting the history of European imperialism from a more global perspective have hardly been problematized with regard to the peculiarities of tobacco history. Nowadays, studies no longer understand empire as a rigid relationship between metropole and colonies, but take the dynamics of actors within an empire as seriously as the networks and global processes that crossed imperial borders, or indeed lay beyond them. The conference starts from this assumption. We ask to what extent the history of tobacco allows new insights into the tension between the imperial integration of a metropole and its colonies, and the global entanglement of places and peoples within and beyond empires. Changing regimes of consumption, knowledge, myth-making, trade, and work, are central fields of recent commodity studies, and deserve particular attention. To this end, we aim to apply insights from economic and cultural history, but also from political, social, psychological, and environmental history. While Western overseas empires have tended to attract most attention, we welcome contributions on all countries and all empires.

Conference Web-Site: