SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Products such as cacao, tobacco, sugar, cochineal, emeralds, and silver were produced or extracted and, in many cases, originated in the region now called Latin America. They became global commodities under Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule during the early modern period, roughly 1500 to 1800, when they were traded to Europe and Asia. In many cases, goods that were originally limited to elites and defined as luxuries were transformed into products destined for mass consumption. African and indigenous slavery and other forms of unfree labor were crucial in the production of colonial commodities. Commodity historians approach these goods in different ways, some taking a world systems approach to discuss the development of capitalism while others focusing on physical and esthetic taste, patterns of consumption, and social relations and status. Some commodity writers focus on consumption patterns in Europe and Asia while others focus on the production and labor side of the equation. Recently, scholars have used a commodity chain approach that looks at all stages of the process of production, commodification, circulation, and consumption.