This innovative book examines how, between 1640 and 1815, the Portuguese Madeira wine trade shaped the Atlantic world and American society. David Hancock painstakingly reconstructs the lives of producers, distributors, and consumers, as well as the economic and social structures created by globalizing commerce, to reveal an intricate interplay between individuals and market forces. Wine lovers and Madeira enthusiasts will enjoy Oceans of Wine, as will historians interested in food, colonial trade, and the history of the Atlantic region.
Using voluminous archives pertaining to wine, many of them previously unexamined, Hancock offers a dramatic new perspective on the economic and social development of the Atlantic world by challenging traditional interpretations that have identified states and empires as the driving force behind trade. He demonstrates convincingly just how decentralized the early modern commercial system was, as well as how self-organized, a system that emerged from the actions of market participants working across imperial lines. The networks they formed began as commercial structures and expanded into social and political systems that were conduits not only for wine but also for ideas about reform, revolution, and independence.
David Hancock is professor of history, 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.
"This is history on a grand scale, built from intensive knowledge of the day-to-day workings of planters, merchants, sailors, and drinkers across the Atlantic basin. David Hancock shows how trade systems actually operated and in the process uses the wine business to illuminate the origins of the modern global economy."—Peter C. Mancall, University of Southern California
"This is an excellent, scholarly, and timely book."—Ian K. Steele, University of Western Ontario
"David Hancock's work is exemplary both for his breadth of vision and the depth of his archival grounding; it is truly Atlantic in scope with its concentration on multi-centered activities and on the interconnectedness of Atlantic enterprises. Oceans of Wine offers a new conceptualization of the eighteenth-century economy by arguing that the Madeira trade was shaped by consumer demand, and that the fortification, packaging, and distribution of Madeira wines responded to the specific tastes of different markets. In this study he recreates the evolving networks and the countless individual choices by which commodity exchange lines knitted the Atlantic together and he draws on the perspectives of a remarkable range of disciplines in doing so."—Karen Ordahl Kupperman, author of The Jamestown Project
“Madeira is an Atlantic commodity with a difference: it moves from cheap table wine to luxury item; its distribution looks less like a hub-and-spokes model than a decentralized spider's web; it is thoroughly transimperial; it is America's wine; its consumption occurred more in the home than in public spaces. This is a richly detailed, deeply textured, and superbly researched commodity study that reorients Atlantic history.”—Philip Morgan, Johns Hopkins University
"Out of a mountain of hitherto unexplored manuscripts, David Hancock has constructed a vivid and rigorous history of one of the most important luxury commodities of the 18th century: Madeira wine. In exploring its production, trade, ubiquitous consumption, and social and cultural meanings, Hancock displays again his formidable capacity to combine precise economic analysis and trans-oceanic range."—Linda Colley, Princeton University