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Posts Tagged ‘trade

“The exchangeable value of all commodities rises as the difficulties of their production increase”*…

 

vanilla

A vanilla flower is pollinated by hand

 

 

Though Madagascar now produces 80% of the world’s vanilla, the vine is native to Mexico. The Maya were the first to cultivate it in the jungles of the Yucatan peninsular. They flavoured their chocolate drink with the spice. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived early in the 16th century, they took both cacao and vanilla back to Europe. By the end of the 18th century, Mexico was exporting a million vanilla beans a year to Europe.

Vanilla was considered a luxury. Its delicate flavour is best expressed in the presence of fat, which is why the creams and custards of the elite’s pastry chefs became its natural milieu. One of its earliest appearances was in a recipe for “vanilla ice” in a cookery book published in Naples in the 1690s. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with French food when he served as the American ambassador to France in the 1780s. He transcribed many recipes including one for “ice cream”, using egg-yolk custard simmered with “a stick of vanilla”. When he became president in 1801, Jefferson served these dishes in the White House – his import eventually became a classic American desert.

But for well over a century real vanilla remained out of the reach of most Americans. Spain controlled the Mexican trade and though a number of people tried to grow vanilla elsewhere, the blooms failed to produce beans because they lacked natural pollinators. It took a young slave boy called Edmond Albius, working on a plantation in the French colony of Réunion, to discover a method for hand-pollinating vanilla flowers in the 1840s. His technique quickly spread to nearby Madagascar, where French administrators encouraged its cultivation…

How did hunger for the humble vanilla pod lead to greed, crime and riches? “Vanilla Fever.”

* David Ricardo

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As we rethink our Starbucks orders, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that John Albert Krohn dressed up in colonial garb and set out to win $1,000 by walking the U.S. border within 400 days – pushing a wheelbarrow.  “Colonial Jack,” as he called himself, had wagered ten of his neighbors in Newburyport, Mass., that he could circumnavigate the country in that time. agreeing that, if he lost, he would give them 2,000 copies of the book he planned to write about his adventure.  In the end, he made the trek in 357 days, having rested on Sundays.  It was the second of three such round-the-nation walks Krohn undertook.

He had to meet several conditions: He had to push the wheelbarrow to show he couldn’t get a ride. And he had to get cancellation stamps from 635 post offices along the way.

By the end of his journey, Krohn walked 9,024 miles and visited 1,209 cities. He went through 11 pairs of shoes, 112 pairs of socks and five wheels and three tires on the wheelbarrow. The trip cost an average of $3.25 per day.  [source]

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Colonial Jack

source

 

Written by LW

June 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The map? I will first make it.”*…

 

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Nautical map of the world by Nicolo di Caverio, 1506

 

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, European powers sent voyagers to lands farther and farther away from the continent in an expansionist period we now call the Age of Exploration. These journeys were propelled by religious fervor and fierce colonial sentiment—and an overall desire for new trade routes. They would not have been possible without the rise of modern cartography. While geographically accurate maps had existed before, the Age of Exploration saw the emergence of a sustained tradition of topographic surveying. Maps were being made specifically to guide travelers. Technology progressed quickly through the centuries, helping explorers and traders find their way to new imperial outposts—at least sometimes. On other occasions, hiccups in cartographic reasoning led their users even farther astray…

How cartography made early modern global trade possible: “First you make the maps.”

* Patrick White, Voss

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As we find our way, we might recall that it was on this date in 1578– the same day that King Henry III laid the first stone of the Pont Neuf (“New Bridge”), the oldest remaining bridge in Paris– that the Catacombs of Rome were (re-)discovered.  Underground burial sites in use mostly in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, they were decorated with both iconographic and stylistic paintings and mosaics.  After their rediscovery, it took several decades to explore and map them; indeed, new discoveries have been made as recently as the 1950s.

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Eucharistic fresco in the Catacombs [source]

 

Written by LW

May 31, 2019 at 1:01 am

“We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary”*…

 

Terms of Sale

 

In the early history of international trade, when exotic goods traveled to new regions, their native names sometimes hitchhiked along with them.

Naturally, the Germans have a term – Wanderwörter – for these extraordinary loanwords that journey around the globe, mutating subtly along the way…

See the map above in larger format, and learn more about each of the examples it illustrates at: “Mapping the Spread of Words Along Trade Routes.” [sourced from Lapham’s Quarterly]

* James Nicoll

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As we ponder the provenance of our produce, we might recall that it was on this date 1397 that Geoffrey Chaucer “told” The Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II.

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A woodcut from William Caxton‘s second edition of The Canterbury Tales, printed in 1483

source

 

Written by LW

April 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

“How does it happen that trade, which after all is nothing more than the exchange of products of various individuals and countries, rules the whole world”*…

 

Expandable version here

The map above is probably the most detailed map of Medieval Trade Routes in Europe, Asia and Africa in the 11th and 12th centuries you can find online. It includes major and minor locations, major and minor routes, sea routes, canals and roads.

martinjanmansson [see here] explains that:

Even before modern times the Afro-Eurasian world was already well connected. This map depicts the main trading arteries of the high middle ages, just after the decline of the Vikings and before the rise of the Mongols, the Hansa and well before the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope…

Explore the global markets of the Middle Ages at: “An Incredibly Detailed Map Of Medieval Trade Routes.”

See also Michael Frachetti’s fascinating Long Now Seminar talk, “Open Source Civilization and the Unexpected Origins of the Silk Road.”

* Karl Marx, The German Ideology

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As we contemplate commerce, we might spare a thought for Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire; he died on this date in 1778.  The Father of the Age of Reason, he produced works in almost every literary form: plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works– more than 2,000 books and pamphlets (and more than 20,000 letters).  A social reformer, Voltaire used satire to criticize the intolerance, religious dogma, and oligopolistic privilege of his day, perhaps nowhere more sardonically than in Candide.

 source

 

Written by LW

May 30, 2018 at 1:01 am

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