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American Crops, Farming Transformations and Implications Of The Development Of Their Trade In Europe and America 16th-21st centuries

International Symposium of the l’Obradoiro de Historia Moderna – GDRI-AAA
Organized by: G.I.H.M. of the University of Santiago de Compostela
Santiago, 11-13 October 2017

Pegerto Saavedra :

Isidro Dubert :

The arrival of American crops in Europe at different times of the Ancien Regime triggered significant transformations in farming and food production. At the same time, these transformations had important demographic, economic, social or environmental consequences where the mentioned crops were accepted by people. Although the study of its dissemination has a long tradition, with several studies having become classics, it cannot be said that this topic has lost its newsworthiness and relevance. An example of this is what happened at the recent International Congress Oldand New Worlds. The Global Challenges of Rural History(Lisbon, 27-30 January 2016). Neither can it be said that the topic is definitively closed and, therefore, that further investigations are not necessary. On the contrary, renewed research is needed, from an integrated perspective, comparative approach and in the long term.

On this basis, during the different scheduled sessions, we intend to discuss the two main problems related to the arrival of American crops

1. The impact of American crops on the different farming and food systems of Europe.

a) Papers presented in this section may address everything concerning the dissemination of American plants in the existing farming technological facilities and the changes caused in them, which very often affected their different components, in other words, all of their parts (i.e. the relationship between agriculture and livestock; cultivated and uncultivated land; viticulture and cereal production, etc.). Likewise, these issues shall be analysed in the long term in order to see the possible changes that took place in the quality and productivity of plants, either in their use (a clear example are those plants intended for human consumption in the most varied forms, forage, etc.) or in their cultivation techniques or agricultural knowledge.

b) Special attention will be also paid to the different farming and social contexts in which new crops where disseminated, such as the prior existence of a polyculture and a tradition of continuous incorporation of plants (i.e. the case of Flanders vs. regions with monoculture of cereals and fallow); the predominance of small-scale or large-scale farming; the influence of the different types of land tenure, which might restrict the initiative of farmers (with long-term assignments by proportional or fixed income, either in kind or cash); the interesting case of sharecropping, especially in Central and Northern Italy…; or the unequal influence of new plants in the revenues of large landowners or landlords.

c) Likewise, attention will be paid to the role played by new crops in human and animal feeding in the long term. This meant not to lose sight of unequal resistances depending on farming resources (which were closely linked to and conditioned previous food systems), social situation and periods; changes in the preparation of food; the gradual incorporation of new plants into diets (peppers, tomatoes, fruits; consumed but not cultivated products: tobacco, cocoa..); or the impact of new crops on living standards, mortality and life expectancy and in general, on demographic behaviour.

2. The implications of the arrival of new American crops in trade, industry and consumption.

A wide range of topics could be studied under this section given that the arrival of new crops in Europe promoted the development of new markets for those products and thus, the creation of new economic sectors, either in the commercial world or the local industry, whose future activities depended on new consumption standards that both sectors were able to boost in the society of the time.

In this regard, it would also be worthwhile to pay attention to the effects that the development of American import had on industry and commerce and the subsequent changes they introduced in the society and economy of Europe and America. Likewise, it would be interesting to analyse the way in which these American products came to be grown locally and accepted by certain European areas as their own products, how they were exported to third countries and what their particular importance was in the economic and social life of that area (i.e. corn exports of Galician and Irish traders during 1840s and 1850s and the role they played at several levels in the Galician society and economy of the time).

In the same vein, it would be worthwhile to consider what happened in those American territories that, from the beginning of the 16th century, became places that systematically exported local products to Europe. This was a trade that began in the framework of a colonial exploitation and domination system but that, as the 18th and 19th centuries went by, led to the formation of social groups related to export trade and local industries: their keys, features, markets, behaviour in the medium and long term, etc. will be an area of particular interest.

In short, the creation and functioning of this trade, the markets that it generated, the changes produced in the medium and long term, the industry born or derived from that trade, the consequences for consumption, the changes, trends and economic and social implications, will be outlined in the works presented in this section.

The deadline for submission of proposals (a title and an abstract of 400 words) will be April 1, 2017.


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