- 109,00 kr
Coffee is one of the most valuable commodities in the history of the global economy and the world's most popular drug. The very word 'coffee' is one of the most widespread on the planet. Augustine Sedgewick's brilliant new history tells the hidden and surprising story of how this came to be, tracing coffee's 400-year transformation into an everyday necessity.
The story is one that few coffee drinkers know. Coffeeland centres on the volcanic highlands of El Salvador, where James Hill, born in the slums of nineteenth-century Manchester, founded one of the world's great coffee dynasties. Adapting the innovations of the industrial revolution to plantation agriculture, Hill helped to turn El Salvador into perhaps the most intensive monoculture in modern history, a place of extraordinary productivity, inequality and violence.
The book follows coffee from the Hill family plantations into the United States, through the San Francisco roasting plants into supermarkets, kitchens and work places, and finally into today's omnipresent cafés. Sedgewick reveals the unexpected consequences of the rise of coffee, which reshaped large areas of the tropics, transformed understandings of energy, and ultimately made us dependent on a drug served in a cup.
In this thought-provoking and gracefully written debut, Sedgewick, an American studies professor at City University of New York, chronicles the 20th-century transformation of El Salvador into "one of the most intensive monocultures in modern history" and the concurrent rise in Americans' thirst for coffee. According to Sedgewick, El Salvador's shift from communal subsistence farming to staple crop production was led by James Hill, an Englishman whose plantation empire was staffed by indigenous men ("mozos") who picked the beans and women ("limpiadoras") who cleaned them. Though Hill and his heirs reaped immense riches from coffee production, their employees suffered; an American observer claimed in 1931 that El Salvador's inequality compared to that of pre-Revolutionary France. Meanwhile, thanks to Hill's distribution plans and the invention of vacuum-sealed tin cans that preserved the beans' freshness, the U.S. became the world's biggest coffee market. By the second half of the 20th century, the "coffee break" had become such an important part of the working day that the Supreme Court enshrined it as an employee's right, and coffee made up 90% of El Salvador's exports. The breadth of Sedgewick's analysis of coffee's place in the world economy astonishes, as does his ability to bring historical figures to life. Coffee connoisseurs will relish this eye-opening history.