W4147: A Botanical History of European Expansion, 1400-1850 | M. Morris

Undergraduate Seminar
M 12:10-2PM

This course investigates the connection between plants and European empires from roughly 1450 to 1850. The search for spices and other Asian luxury goods compelled Europeans to cross the Atlantic. Instead, they stumbled upon continents that were new to them and held great riches of their own. They found both new plants, like tobacco and potatoes, and lands suitable for growing exotic Old World crops, like sugar and coffee. To capitalize on the riches these plants promised, empires imported slaves, destroyed civilizations, altered landscapes, and transformed cultures. Plants made the global world in which we live. In this seminar, you will meet a diverse cast of characters: monarchs who financed the search for new botanicals; seafarers and merchants who helped take them all over the world; unfree and indigenous laborers who grew them; and the everyday men, women, and children who consumed them. By considering how plants and their products were grown, bought, sold, used, and circulated, this course will provide cultural, economic, and environmental histories of European empires in the early modern era.