Syllabi From Various Universities

Coffee, Cacao, and Globalization

University of Guelph

Univ 1200

Prof. Stuart McCook

Winter 2005


Dept. of History




This course explores the social, cultural, and environmental shape of globalization through the study of two tropical commodities: coffee and cacao. While coffee originated in Africa and cacao in tropical Latin America, both commodities are now produced throughout the tropics, and consumed globally. We will explore the commodity chains that link producers in tropical Latin America, Africa, and Asia with consumers around the world, particularly in Europe and North America. The course will begin with the domestication of these plants, and follow their evolution from traditional goods with religious significance, to expensive luxuries available to only the wealthiest Europeans, to the inexpensive, commonplace foods they are today. The course will draw on perspectives from history, anthropology, and the environmental sciences.

This course also aims to help students develop critical skills in research and reading, such as finding, evaluating, and identifying primary and secondary sources. Students will learn how to develop their analytical voices, through short writing assignments, classroom discussion, and by completing

a short research paper.


Sophie D. Coe, Michael D. Coe, The True History of Chocolate (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003)

Mark Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World

(Darby, Pa.: Diane Publishing Company, 2002)

Other readings, available in class or on WebCT


Midterm Examination (20%). In class exam on February 18.

Short Assignments (25%). Most weeks, there will be short writing assignments, some of which will be done in class, based on that week’s themes. Others will be distributed ahead of time. These assignments will be the basis for class discussions on that day. For this reason, these assignments cannot be submitted late. The best five of these will be counted toward your final grade.

Short Research Papers and Presentation (35%) Students must submit one short (4-6 page) paper on a research topic of their choice (subject to approval by the professor) pertaining to coffee, cacao, and the global economy. Students must submit a one-paragraph project proposal and a bibliography of at least five scholarly sources (including at least three scholarly articles) on February 18. A complete, polished draft of the paper is due on March 28. I will comment on these and return them to you by April 1. Revised papers, based on my comments and  suggestions, will be due on April 8. During the last three class meetings, each student will give a 6-8 minute presentation based on their research paper.

Final Examination (20%).


Note: the reading assignments on this syllabus are tentative.

Week 1           Themes in the Social History of Tropical Commodities

Jan. 10             Introduction: The Worlds of Tropical Commodities

Jan. 12             The Botany and Domestication of Cacao

True HisTrue History of Chocolate, chapters 1, 2

Jan. 14            The BotThe Botany and Domestication of Coffee


Week 2           Coffee, Cacao, and Traditional Cultures before 1650

Jan. 17             Cacao in Aztec Daily Life

True History ofTrue History of Chocolate, chapter 3

Jan. 19             Coffee in the Islamic World

“The Vertues of“The Vertues of Coffee” [1663]

“The Nature of t“The Nature of the Drink Kauhi” [1659]

Jan. 21             Comparing Consumption, Trade, and Religion

Week 3           Tastes of Paradise: Commodification and Transculturation in Europe, 1500-1800

Jan. 24             The Birth of the Global Caffeine Culture and Caffeine Trade

Ross W. Jamie Ross W. Jamieson, “The Essence of Commodification: Caffeine Dependencies in the Early Modern World,” Journal of SociaJournal of Social History 35:2 (Winter 2001): 269-294.

Jan. 26            Cacao and Conquest

True History of True History of Chocolate, chapters 4, 5.

Thomas Gage, Thomas Gage, Travels in the New World [1648], extracts

Jan. 28             Coffee and Chocolate in the Age of Reason

True History oTrue History of Chocolate, chapter 7

The Women’s The Women’s Petition Against Coffee [1674]

Coffee-HousesCoffee-Houses Vindicated [1673]

Week 4           The Colonial Plantation Complex: Mercantilism and Slavery, 1500-1800

Jan. 31             Cacao and Colonial Development in the Spanish Empire

Robert J. Ferry Robert J. Ferry,“Encomienda, African Slavery, and Agriculture in Seventeenth-Century Caracas,” Hispanic American Hist American Historical Review 41 (1981): 609-635.

Robertson, TheRobertson, The History of America [1777], excerpts

Feb. 2              Coffee and Mercantilism in the British, French, and Dutch Empires

Readings TBA Readings TBA

Feb. 4              Comparing Plantation Complexes

Readings TBA Readings TBA

Week 5           Mass Consumption and Mass Production in the Long Nineteenth Century, 1780-1930

Feb. 7              The Business of Coffee

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapters 3, 6, 7, 9

Feb. 9              Making Chocolate for the Masses

True History ofTrue History of Chocolate, pp. 235-261

Feb. 11            Changing Cultures of Consumption in the Nineteenth Century

Uncommon Grounds, chapters 4, 8

Week 6           Coffee, Cacao, and Colonialism in the Long Nineteenth Century

Feb. 14            Peasants, Slaves, and Pioneers: The Worlds of Coffee

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapter 2

Multatuli, Max Multatuli, MaxHavelaar, excerpts

Feb. 16            New Pioneer Fronts: Cacao moves to Africa

Readings TBARReadings TBA

Feb. 18            Midterm Examination (in class), and Project Proposals Due

Feb. 21-25       Spring Break

Week 7           A Fragile Prosperity: Environments and Economies in Crisis, 1880-1930

Feb 28             Emergent Environmental Crises in the Tropical Countryside

Warren Dean, ““Warren Dean, “The Green Wave of Coffee: Beginnings of Agricultural Research in Brazil,” Hispanic American HistoAmerican Historical Review 69 (1989): 91-115.

Stuart McCook,Stuart McCook, “The Liberal Epidemics,” [typescript]

Mar. 2              Trying to Survive in a Global Marketplace: Valorization in Brazil

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapter 5

Mar. 4              The Great Depression and the End of the Liberal Era

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapters 10,11

Week 8           Mass Culture and Mass Consumption in the Developed World, 1920-1990

Mar. 7              TV, Media, and Mass Marketing

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapter 14 (selections)

Mar. 9              The Masters of Chocolate: Hershey and Mars

Film: Java Jiv FFilm: Java Jive

Mar. 11            New Centers and Patterns of Consumption                          

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapters 14, 15 (selections)

Week 9:          Bitter Grounds: Nationalism, Decolonization, and the Cold War, 1930-1980

Mar. 14            Coffee Republics and Cold War Politics in Latin America

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapters 13-16, selections

Mar. 16            Cacao and Decolonization in Africa

Danquah, “RuralDanquah, “Rural Discontent and Decolonization in Africa”

Mar. 18            No Class

Week 10         The Specialty Revolution: Cultures of Production and Consumption in the Neoliberal Era

Mar. 21            The Specialty Revolution

Uncommon Gr Uncommon Grounds, chapters 16 (selections), 17

True History of True History of Chocolate, pp. 261-268

Mar. 23            Case Study: Starbucks Coffee

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapter 18

Mar. 25            Good Friday – No class

Week 11         Surviving Neoliberalism: Production and Fair Trade in a Global Economy

Mar. 28            Neoliberal Crises Draft Papers Due

Uncommon GrUncommon Grounds, chapter 19

Robert Rice, “CRobert Rice, “Coffee Production in a Time of Crisis: Social and Environmental Considerations,” SAIS Review 23:1 (Winter-Sp23:1 (Winter-Spring 2003): 221-245

Mar. 30            The Fair Trade Movement: Origins

Oxfam, MuggedOxfam, Mugged

Apr. 1              The Fair Trade Movement in Practice

Film: Coffee wiFilm: Coffee witth a Conscience

Week 12         Presentations and Summary

Apr. 4              Presentations

Apr. 6              Presentations

Apr. 8              Presentations and Final Papers Due