The Global Exchange of Food and Drugs

Felipe Fernández‐Armesto and Benjamin Sacks

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561216
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

The Global Exchange of Food and Drugs


There are few more intriguing problems in the history of consumption than that of how cultural barriers to the transmission of foods and drugs have been traversed or broken. Environmental change is a crucial part of the background of global exchanges of food and drugs. The process we have come to know as ‘the Columbian exchange’ of the last half-millennium made it possible to transplant crops to new climates, by a mixture of adaptation and accident. Shifts of religion can also play a big part. This article discusses the global exchange of food and drugs. After briefly considering imperialism and migration, which are inescapable parts of the background of trade, it focuses on trade itself, which is probably the biggest single influence on the global exchange of commodities such as salt, sugar and spice, psychotropic beverages, and therapeutic and recreational drugs. The article concludes with a discussion on food and drugs in the era of global trade.

Keywords: food; drugs; global exchange; consumption; imperialism; migration; global trade; psychotropic beverages; salt; sugar and spice

Article.  9415 words. 

Subjects: History

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