Monday, January 23, 2006


another marker of how coffee set the stage for modernity

"coffee was only one commodity, albeit an increasingly important one, in the cornucopia of goods that american merchants traded, but it is a lens through which to see the development of north america, not as a neighbor of the caribbean, but as a fully integrated member of a transnational atlantic world.

'the discovery of coffee,' wrote theodore bourban, a french philosopher and medical doctor in 1820, 'has enlarged the realm of illusion and given more promise to hope.'

in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, these illusions and hopes drew north america and the different empires of the west indies together in the creation and promotion of a coffee culture that persists to this day."

this has to be one of the most fascinating pieces on the history of coffee i've seen in a long, long time.

devoted readers are well aware how coffee has served as the stage for many structures that define the modern world. how coffee houses became stock exchanges, insurance companies, fledgling corporations, informal banks -- institutions that begat modern captialism.

how coffee house broadsheets became daily newspapers, which invented the idea of freedom of the press.

how coffee houses served as the first political stages for middle-class merchants to organize for their interests at a time when politics belonged almost exclusively to the nobility, and how modern political parties developed from that.

still, the long history of coffee as a commodity has seen its day. the concept, while crucial to global trade even now, must end, with a complete market reform.

as scaa chief ted lingle has so persuasively argued, coffee absolutely should not be a commodity, just as wine is not.

posted by fortune | 7:56 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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