Across the Atlantic: Chocolate consumption, imperial political economies and the making of a Spanish imaginary (1700-1800)
Title: Across the Atlantic: Chocolate consumption, imperial political economies and the making of a Spanish imaginary (1700-1800)
Author: FATTACCIU, Irene
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
Through a variegated corpus of sources the present study explores how production, distribution, consumption and ideological/religious/scientific constructions all interacted to promote and sustain the appropriation of chocolate in Spanish culture. On the other hand, it tests chocolate’s role in promoting both modernization, with respect to the secularization of forms of consumption and their democratization, and national economic growth. The study inserts itself in the context of a history that puts the Atlantic at the center of the globalization process, thus moving beyond traditional ideas about Europe’s cultural colonization of America; on the contrary, it starts from the assumption that considering the repercussions of colonization in the mother countries could contribute much to our understanding of important issues in the European historiographical debate. Focusing on the case study of cocoa/chocolate -a semi-luxury good closely tied to the Spanish cultural context, as well as one of the most important goods in Atlantic trade-, the thesis analyzed several issues connected to the evolution of sumptuary patterns of consumption and to the diffusion and appropriation of exotic goods in Europe. By not taking the assimilation of such exotic products into our everyday life and culture for granted, it has been emphasized the importance of the political economy of consumption, as well as how this intertwined with the competition among empires and the major changes that took place in European societies. Moreover, by focusing on interactions, juxtapositions and networks among different actors and factors, the text shows how this process (precisely because of its association with a place outside Europe, and therefore outside of European moral norms) had unexpected economic, social and cultural effects. The study offers insight into the construction of several national stereotypes and an imagination linked to the idea of Spanishness, both inside and outside Spain, by highlighting the contrast between the monolithic image of the product (and therefore of Spain) abroad contrasted the variety of meanings the product held for different consumers within Spanish society. By focusing on the luxury debate, society (with all its habits and rituals) and levels of consumption, it explores the degree of fluidity of Spanish society, as well as if the transgression implicit in the consumption of such products ended up facilitating any changes in forms of sociability and social hierarchies.
Defence date: 19 April 2011; Examining Board: Prof. Bartolomé Yun-Casalilla (European University Institute, Florence) - Supervisor ; Prof. Luca Molá (European University Institute, Florence) ; Prof. William Gervase Clarence-Smith (University of London) ; Prof. Giovanni Levi (Universitá Ca’ Foscari, Venice)
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