Over the past 500 years westerners have turned into avid consumers of colonial products and various production systems in the Americas, Africa and Asia have adapted to serve the new markets that opened up in the wake of the "European encounter". The effects of these transformations for the long-term development of these societies are fiercely contested. How can we use historical source material to pinpoint this social change? This volume presents six different examples from countries in which commodities were embedded in existing production systems - tobacco, coffee, sugar and indigo in Indonesia, India and Cuba - to shed light on this key process in human history. To demonstrate the effectiveness of using different types of source material, each contributor presents a micro-study based on a different type of historical source: a diary, a petition, a "mail report", a review, a scientific study and a survey. As a result, the volume offers insights into how historians use their source material to construct narratives about the past and offers introductions to trajectories of agricultural commodity production, as well as much new information about the social struggles surrounding them.

chapter 1|10 pages

Embedding agriculturalcommodities

An introduction
ByWillem van Schendel

chapter 2|19 pages

Staying embedded

The rocky existence of an indigo maker in Bengal
ByWillem van Schendel

chapter 4|23 pages

Smallholdings versus Europeanplantations

The beginnings of coffee in nineteenth-century Mysore (India)
ByBhaswati Bhattacharya

chapter 5|21 pages

‘Keeping land and labour undercontrol?’

Reporting on tobacco-shed burnings in Besoeki (Java)
ByRatna Saptari

chapter 6|20 pages

Embedding cigarette tobacco incolonial Bihar (India)

A multi-dimensional task
ByKathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff

chapter 7|27 pages

Cuba, sugarcane and the reluctantembedding of scientific method

Agete's La Caña de Azúcar en Cuba
ByJonathan Curry-Machado

chapter 8|44 pages

Globalization's agriculturalroots

Some final considerations
ByMarcel van der Linden