Call for Papers: Rural History 2017 Panel - Exotic plants and products on the move

RHN 85/2016 | Call

Organisers: Christine Fertig (University of Münster) and Laurent Herment (CNRS, Paris)

11-14 September 2017, Leuven, Belgium

Deadline for submissions: 10 October 2016

Panel at the Rural History 2017 Conference:
Exotic plants and products on the move.
Transfer of plants, botanical and agricultural products and knowledge between new and old world, 17th – mid-20th centuries

The European expansion of early modern period led to diverse encounters with foreign areas of botanical and agricultural knowledge. Scientific curiosity and the search for tradable products were important incentives for the European expansion. The discovery of exotic plants and animals, the encounter with indigenous medical knowledge and the costs of other culinary diets were experiences that convulsed European spheres of knowledge of the natural world. Travelers, merchants, missionaries and other colonial officials brought exotic substances as well as newly acquired knowledge to their home countries, often in explicit order of interested parties and associations who wanted to expand their knowledge about the world and its resources. The encounter with exotic substances, foreign knowledge and differing dietary practices contributed to the formation of new knowledge and a specific culture of innovation. The formation and establishment of systematic knowledge about non-European plants and their medical, dietary, but also economic potential has barely been explored so far, although the differentiation of the European consumer culture has evolved in recent years to a growing research field.

The session aims at bringing together papers on the introduction and implementation of non-European agricultural products and the evolution of European botanical and agricultural knowledge. We invite submissions related to both the production of knowledge on previously unknown and exotic plants and the practical cultivation and uses of new crops, addressing one or more of the following questions:

  • What non-European plants have been cultivated in European regions in different times? How successful were first and subsequent attempts to grow exotic plants, which adjustment measures were necessary?
  • How and under what conditions managed farmers to achieve profits from non-European plants? What setbacks did farmers suffer, what measures helped to overcome difficulties? Did state interventions play a role in this process?
  • Which actors took active part in knowledge transfers from non-European contexts? How was this foreign expertise distributed in rural society? Was there agricultural research in Europe concerning exotic plants?
  • What kind of people or enterprises consumed these new plants which became element of the diet in Europe but also industrial plants? Were they mainly used for peasant own consumption or cultivated as cash crops for urban markets or production industries?

Those wishing to take part should submit a 300-word abstract by 10 October 2016, to Herment Laurent (laurent.herment@ehess.fr).