Coffee & Cannabis

Episode 326

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

Commodities, their circulation, and their consumption have long been favorite topics of cultural and economic historians alike. In this episode, we build on the historiography of commodities by studying further the social and political context of two particular commodities: coffee and marijuana. Our guests, Casey Lurtz and Lina Britto, have each studied these commodities in their Latin American contexts, and following a global discussion of coffee and marijuana with some focus on the Middle East, we talk to each of these scholars about their respective research projects. We examine how the arrival of coffee impacted local political economies in Mexico, and we explore how the history of marijuana as a "drug" has had political consequences for modern Latin American countries. We conclude with a roundtable discussion on the history of commodities like coffee and marijuana and what they tell us about the changing cultural context surrounding both these items today.

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios

Casey Lurtz is an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, was previously the Newcomen Fellow at the Harvard Business School, and will be joining the history department at Johns Hopkins University in the fall as an assistant professor. Her research examines globalization from the perspective of rural Latin America.
Lina Britto is assistant professor of History at Northwestern University. Her research explores the origins of the U.S.-Colombia drug connection, while her teaching focuses on modern Latin America, and processes of nation-state formation, popular culture, and violence.
Chris Gratien holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University's Department of History and is currently an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. His research focuses on the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region from the 1850s until the 1950s.

Individual Segments

Recommended Episodes
Daniel-Joseph Macarthur-Seal #293
Opium Smuggling in Interwar Turkey and Beyond
Zach Foster #060
Dealers and Smokers in the Late Ottoman and Interwar Periods
Graham Pitts #078
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Modern Arab World
Can Nacar #173
Osmanlı’da Tütün İşçileri
Nidhi Mahajan & Jeffery Dyer #318
Indian Ocean Connections


Episode No. 326
Release Date: 20 July 2017
Recording Location: Harvard University
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: from Excavated Shellac- Hermanos Hernández – Eugenia; Luna y Delgado – Sal A Tus Puertas; Nicandro Castillo con sus Huastecos – El Llorar; from - Katibim (Uskudar'a Gider iken) - Safiye Ayla
Special thanks to Kara Günes for permission to use the composition "Istanbul"
Images and bibliography courtesy of Casey Lurtz and Lina Britto


An agricultural map of Mexico from 1885 showing the diversity of production in the countryside. Antonio Garcia Cubas, "Carta Agricola,” from Atlas pintoresco e historic de los E. U. Mexicanos. Publicado por Debray Sucesores - Mexico. 1885. Source: The Newberry 
Cover image from a 1905 report on the progress made by the German-American Coffee Company. A. E. Line and German–American Coffee Co, Report on the Properties of the German-American Coffee Co. ([New York]: German-American Coffee Co., 1905).
"Drugs: The Dirty War" in Revista Alternativa No. 235, Bogota, October 18, 1979. 

Select Bibliography

Coffee and Capitalism in Latin America

Adelman, Jeremy. Frontier Development: Land, Labour, and Capital on the Wheatlands of Argentina and Canada, 1890-1914. Oxford Historical Monographs. Oxford ; New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Bergquist, Charles W. Coffee and Conflict in Colombia, 1886-1910. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 1978.

Bulmer-Thomas, V. The Economic History of Latin America since Independence. Cambridge Latin American Studies ; 77. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Cambranes, J. C. Coffee and Peasants: The Origins of the Modern Plantation Economy in Guatemala, 1853-1897. Stockholm, Sweden: Institute of Latin American Studies, 1985.

Cárdenas, Enrique, and José Antonio Ocampo, eds. La era de las exportaciones latinoamericanas: de fines del siglo XIX a principios del XX. 1. ed. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2003.

Cardoso, Fernando Henrique, and Enzo Faletto. Dependency and Development in Latin America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

Charlip, Julie A. Cultivating Coffee: The Farmers of Carazo, Nicaragua, 1880-1930. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003.

Clarence –Smith, William Gervase and Steven Topik, eds. The Global Coffee Economy in Africa, Asia and Latin America, 1500-1989. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Córdova Santamaría, Susana. Café y sociedad en Huatusco, Veracruz: formación de la cultura cafetalera (1870-1930). 1. ed. México, D.F: CONACULTA, 2005.

Cribelli, Teresa. Industrial Forests and Mechanical Marvels. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Cushman, Gregory T., 1971-. Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History. Studies in Environment and History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Dean, Warren. Rio Claro: A Brazilian Plantation System, 1820-1920. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1976.

———. “The Green Wave of Coffee: Beginnings of Tropical Agricultural Research in Brazil (1885-1900).” The Hispanic American Historical Review 69, no. 1 (February 1, 1989): 91–115.

Escobar Ohmstede, Antonio, Romana Falcón, and Raymond Buve. Pueblos, comunidades y municipios frente a los proyectos modernizadores en América Latina, Siglo XIX. San Luis Potosí, México: El Colegio de San Luis ; Amsterdam: El Colegio de San Luis, 2002.

Fenner, Justus. “Shaping the Coffee Commodity Chain: Hamburg Merchants and Consumption of Guatemalan Coffee in Germany, 1889-1929.” América Latina en la historia económica. Revista de Investigación 20, no. 3 (2013): 28–55.

Fernández Prieto, Leida. “Islands of Knowledge: Science and Agriculture in the History of Latin America and the Caribbean.” Isis 104, no. 4 (December 1, 2013): 788–97.

Font, Mauricio A. Coffee and Transformation in São Paulo, Brazil. New ed. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2010.

Fowler-Salamini, Heather. Working Women, Entrepreneurs, and the Mexican Revolution: The Coffee Culture of Córdoba, Veracruz. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013.

Gallini, Stefania. Una historia ambiental del café en Guatemala: la Costa Cuca entre 1830 y 1902. Ciudad de Guatemala: Asociación para el Avance de las Ciencias Sociales en Guatemala, 2009.

Gonzales, Michael J. “Capitalist Agriculture and Labour Contracting in Northern Peru, 1880–1905.” Journal of Latin American Studies 12, no. 2 (1980): 291–315.

Gootenberg, Paul. Imagining Development: Economic Ideas in Peru’s “Fictitious Prosperity” of Guano, 1840-1880. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1993.

Gudmundson, Lowell. “Peasant, Farmer, Proletarian: Class Formation in a Smallholder Coffee Economy, 1850-1950.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 69, no. 2 (May 1, 1989): 221–57.

Haber, Stephen H., ed. How Latin America Fell Behind: Essays on the Economic Histories of Brazil and Mexico, 1800-1914. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Unviversity Press, 1997.

Hanley, Anne G. Native Capital: Financial Institutions and Economic Development in São Paulo, Brazil, 1850-1920. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Hart, Paul. Bitter Harvest: The Social Transformation of Morelos, Mexico, and the Origins of the Zapatista Revolution, 1840-1910. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

Holloway, Thomas H. Immigrants on the Land: Coffee and Society in São Paulo, 1886-1934. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980.

Jimenez, Michael F. “Traveling Far in Grandfather’s Car: The Life Cycle of Central Colombian Coffee Estates. The Case of Viota, Cundinamarca (1900-30).” The Hispanic American Historical Review 69, no. 2 (May 1, 1989): 185–219.

Kuntz Ficker, Sandra.  Las exportaciones mexicanas durante la primera globalización 1870-1929 (Estudios Historicos). México, D.F.: El Colegio de México, 2009.

Lauria-Santiago, Aldo. An Agrarian Republic: Commercial Agriculture and the Politics of Peasant Communities in El Salvador, 1823-1914. Pitt Latin American Series. Pittsburgh, Pa: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999.

Love, Joseph L. “Of Planters, Politics, and Development.” Latin American Research Review 24, no. 3 (January 1, 1989): 127–35.

Lurtz, Casey Marina. “Insecure Labor, Insecure Debt: Building a Workforce for Coffee in the Soconusco, Chiapas.” Hispanic American Historical Review 96, no. 2 (May 1, 2016): 291–318.

McCook, Stuart George. States of Nature : Science, Agriculture, and Environment in the Spanish Caribbean, 1760-1940. 1st ed. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2002.

McCreery, David. Rural Guatemala, 1760-1940. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.

Melillo, Edward D. “The First Green Revolution: Debt Peonage and the Making of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Trade, 1840–1930.” The American Historical Review 117, no. 4 (October 1, 2012): 1028–60.

Norton, Marcy. Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 2010.

Palacios, Marco. Coffee in Colombia, 1850-1970: An Economic, Social, and Political History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Roseberry, William, Lowell Gudmundson, and Mario Samper K., eds. Coffee, Society, and Power in Latin America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Sábato, Hilda. Agrarian Capitalism and the World Market: Buenos Aires in the Pastoral Age, 1840-1890. 1st ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Santiago, Myrna I. The Ecology of Oil Environment, Labor, and the Mexican Revolution, 1900-1938. Cambridge Univ Pr, 2009.

Soluri, John. Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

Stein, Stanley J. Vassouras: A Brazilian Coffee County, 1850-1900. Studies in American Negro Life. New York: Atheneum, 1974.

Topik, Steven. “Coffee Anyone? Recent Research on Latin American Coffee Societies.” Hispanic American Historical Review 80, no. 2 (May 2000): 225–66.

Topik, Steven, and Allen Wells, eds. The Second Conquest of Latin America: Coffee, Henequen, and Oil During the Export Boom, 1850-1930. 1st ed. Austin, Tex: University of Texas Press, Institute of Latin American Studies, 1998.

Walsh, Casey. Building the Borderlands : A Transnational History of Irrigated Cotton along the Mexico-Texas Border. 1st ed. Environmental History Series ; No. 22. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008.

Williams, Robert G. States and Social Evolution: Coffee and the Rise of National Governments in Central America. Chapel Hill : Univ. of North Carolina Press, c1994.

Yarrington, Doug. A Coffee Frontier: Land, Society, and Politics in Duaca, Venezuela, 1830-1936. Pitt Latin American Series. Pittsburgh, Pa: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997.

Marijuana and the History of Drugs

Catherine J. Allen, “Coca and Cultural Identity in Andean Communities” in Madeline Barbara Léons and Harry Sanabria, eds., Coca, Cocaine and the Bolivian Reality (New York: State University of New York Press, 1997), pp.35-48.

Peter Andreas, Smuggler Nation. How Illicit Trade Made America (Oxford: oxford University Press, 2013).

Luis Astorga, “Drug Trafficking in Mexico. A First General Assessment,” Discussion Paper No. 36, UNESCO, available at:

Bruce Bagley and William O. Walker III, eds., Drug Trafficking in the Americas (Miami: University of Miami Center Press, 1994).

Steve W. Bender, Run for the Border. Vice and Virtue in U.S-Mexico Border Crossings (New York: New York University Press, 2012).

Mark Bowden, Doctor Dealer. The Rise and Fall of an All-American Boy and His Multi-million Dollar Cocaine Empire (New York: Grove Press, 1987).

Barry Chevannes, “Criminalizing Cultural Practice: The Case of Ganja in Jamaica” in Alex Klein, Marcus Day, and Anthony Harriort, Caribbean Drugs. From Criminalization to Harm Reduction (New York: Zed Books and Ian Randle Publishers, 2004).

Enrique Cirules, The Mafia in Havana. A Caribbean Mob Story (New York: Ocean Press, [2004] 2010).

David Courtwright, Forces of Habit. Drugs and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

Tony Dokoupil, The Last Pirate. A Father, His Son, and the Golden Age of Marijuana (New York: Doubleday, 2014).

Mathea Falco, “U.S. Drug Policy: Addicted to Failure” in Foreign Policy 102 (Spring, 1996): 120-133.

Carlos Antonio Flores Pérez, “Political Protection and the Origins of the Gulf Cartel” in Crime, Law and Social Change 61 (2014): 517-539.

Don Henry Ford, Jr., Contrabando. Confessions of a Drug-Smuggling Texas Cowboy (New York: Harper, 2006).

Global Commission on Drug Policy, The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS. How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic (Washington DC: GCDP, 2012)at:

Erich Goode, ed., Marijuana (New York: Atherton Press, 1970), pp. 92-102.

Jordan Goodman, Paul Lovejoy, and Andrew Sherrat, eds., Consuming Habits. Global and Historical Perspectives on How Cultures Define Drugs (Routledge, [1995] 2007).

Paul Gootenberg, “Talking About the Flow: Drugs, Borders, and the Discourse of Drug Control” in Cultural Critique 71 (Winter, 2009), pp. 13-46.

Alma Guillermoprieto, “Medellín, 1991,” and “Bogotá, 1993” in Alma Guillermoprieto, The Heart That Bleeds. Latin America Now (New York: Vintage Books, 1994).

William Jankowiak and Daniel Bradburd, eds., Drugs, Labor and Colonial Expansion (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2003).

Michael Kenney, From Pablo to Osama. Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies and Competitive Adaptation (Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007).

Herbert Klein, “Coca Production in the Bolivian Yungas in the Colonial and Early National Periods” in Deborah Pacini and Christine Franquemont, eds., Coca and Cocaine. Effects on People and Policy in Latin America (Cultural Survival Report No. 23, 1986), pp. 53-62

London School of Economics, Ending the Drug Wars. Report of the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy (London, May, 2014) at:

Peter Lupsha, “Drug Trafficking: Mexico and Colombia in Comparative Perspective” in Journal of International Affairs 35:1 (1981): 95-115.

Cynthia McClintock, “The War on Drugs. The Peruvian Case” in Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 30: 2/3 (Summer-Autumn, 1988):  127-142.

Salvador Maldonado, “Stories of Drug Trafficking in Rural Mexico. Territories, Drugs and Cartels in Michoacán” in European Review of Latin America and the Caribbean Studies 94 (April 2013): 43-66.

Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power. The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York: Penguin Books, 1985).

David Musto, The American Disease. Origins of Narcotics Control (Oxford: oxford University Press, [1973] 1999).

David Musto and Pamela Korsmeyer, The Quest for Drug Control. Politics and Federal Policy in a Period of Increasing Substance Abuse, 1963-1981 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).

Laura Nater, “Colonial Tobacco: Key Commodity of the Spanish Empire, 1500-1800” in Steven Topik, Carlos Marichal and Zephyr Frank, From Silver to Cocaine. Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000 (Durham: Duke University press, 2006), 93-117.

Organization of American States, The Drug Problem in the Americas (Washington D.C: Organization of American States, 2013) at:

Deborah Pacini and Christine Franquemont, eds., Coca and Cocaine. Effects on People and Policy in Latin America (Cultural Survival report No. 23, 1986).

Franz Rosenthal,  The Herb: Hashish Versus Medieval Muslim Society. Leiden: Brill, 1975.

Robert Sabbag, Loaded. A Misadventure on the Marijuana Trail (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2002).

Luis A. Sadler, “The Historical Dynamics of Smuggling in the U.S-Mexican Border Region, 1550-1998. Reflections on Markets, Cultures, and Bureaucracies” in John Bailey and Roy Godson, Organized Crime and Democratic Governability. Mexico and the U.S-Mexican Borderlands (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 2000), pp. 161-176.

Francisco Thoumi’s “Why the Illegal Psychoactive Drugs Industry Grew in Colombia” in Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 34:3 (1992), pp. 37-63.

Francisco Thoumi, Illegal Drugs Economy and Society in the Andes (Washington D.C, and Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, and Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).

Francisco Thoumi, Illegal Drugs, Economy, and Society in the Andes (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).

Willem van Schendel and Itty Abraham, Illicit Flows and Criminal Things. States, Borders, and the Other Side of Globalization (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005).

Alison Spedding and Hugo Cabieses, Cocalero Movements in Peru and Bolivia. Coca or Death? (Drugs and Conflict, Debate Papers No. 10, April 2004).

William O. Walker III, Drugs in the Western Hemisphere. An Odyssey or Cultures in Conflict (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1996).

William O. Walker III, ed., Drug Control Policy. Essays in Historical and Comparative Perspective (Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992).

Peter Watt and Roberto Zepeda, Drug War Mexico. Politics, Neoliberalism, and Violence in the New Narcoeconomy (New York: Zed Books, 2012).


Peter Floyd said…
Really good post

Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.