Proposal preview

Crops, Food, and Environmental Transformations Across Time and Space

The ‘waves of globalization’ that form the theme of this iteration of the World Economic History Congress have to date largely been explored in terms of patterns of economic change across time and space. The patterns of increasing and decreasing intensification of human movement have led to the organization of time into distinct periods, and the geographical patterns of expansion to the mapping of space in distinct geo-political units. Certain dichotomies or assumed differences have emerged from this imposition of order: between premodern and modern; between the West and the rest; between global and local; and between centre and periphery. This session focuses on the movement of crops, and the environmental transformations that occurred as part of that movement. Environmental transformation is understood here in a broad sense, including not only the natural environment, but also agricultural practices, diet and culinary cultures, and perceptions of taste and flavor. It asks to what extent the stories we tell about waves of globalization change if we centralize not the human story, but the stories of plants, animals, food and crops. Our proposed session will focus on several specific crops, and aim to tell new stories of agricultural, social and environmental transformations on a global scale. These new stories seek extend the usual historical scales and periods, thereby challenging the myth of distinction between premodern and modern; they seek to extend the spatial reach to challenge both the centrality of Western Europe in narratives of change as well as the presupposed distinction between ‘the West’ and the ‘peripheral Rest’; and they seek to integrate local stories of environmental change into larger patterns of global transformation.


  • Anne Gerritsen, University of Warwick,,

Session members

  • Rebecca Earle, University of Warwick,
  • Barbara Hahn, Texas Tech University,
  • John Bosco Lourdusamy, Indian Institute of Technology Madras,
  • Tiago Saraiva, Drexel University,
  • Francesca Bray, University of Edinburgh,
  • Ines Prodoehl, German Historical Institute,
  • Jonas Albrecht, Johannes Kepler University, Linz,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Dagmar Schaefer, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science,