Thursday, October 15, 2009

David Hancock's "Oceans of Wine"

David Hancock is a Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735–1785, The Letters of William Freeman, 1678–1685, and History of World Trade since 1450.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Trade and Taste, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Trade and Taste details part of the multi-stage process whereby wine achieved its modern form: packaging. This book, therefore, is in a very real sense a full-bodied history of wine. Yet it is more than that. It is the first history to use ground-level, trans-national/trans-imperial evidence to address the critical question about the community from which the United States emerged: what determines the shape that a market will take where and when none like it exists before? Analysis of previously unknown, extensive records – labor contracts, the customs records of European ports, the private business papers of nearly forty private American, British, Portuguese, Dutch, and French wine firms working around the Atlantic, and material objects (like cellars, bottles, decanters, corkscrews, and glasses) – sheds light on the early American marketplace with a precision and breadth that few writers have achieved. Oceans of Wine provides a portrait of the “grape-to-table” life of a single commodity, Madeira wine, the principal wine drunk in early America. It offers an absorbing rendering of the economic and social activities of wine producers, traders, and drinkers in the 175 years before the fall of Napoleon. In particular, it wrestles with how they created and experienced that market, and in particular how their social worlds emerged and evolved in tandem with and intersected economic and political ones. Finally, it tracks the emergence of a trans-imperial, inter-imperial, and increasingly global market that had not existed before. Historians have only recently begun to investigate the matter, and this book, the first such in-depth discussion, should engage those readers interested in globalization processes, both commercial and cultural. This was a world in which Britain, Portugal, their colonies, and the United States were full contributing members; this was a community in which the interactions of wine-loving individuals from all points around the ocean – not principally the workings of the western European governments, as most current accounts would have it –were the active agents of change. Luminously written, Oceans of Wine reassesses and so reemphasizes cosmopolitan connections and interactions, stressing the internationalist frame that everyday people around the Atlantic shared before and after the great Age of Democratic Revolution. Economic and social internationalism is hardly new.
Learn more about Oceans of Wine at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue