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Atlantic History and Spanish Consumer Goods in the 18th Century: The Assimilation of Exotic Drinks and the Fragmentation of European Identities

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Article of journalFattacciu, Irene. (European University Institute, History and Civilization Department, Florencia, Italia). Atlantic History and Spanish Consumer Goods in the 18th Century: The Assimilation of Exotic Drinks and the Fragmentation of European IdentitiesIn  Mariano, Marco; Morelli, Federica (coord.) European perspectives on a longer Atlantic World. 4-5 May 2010, University of Turin Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos, 2012 no. 12 Keywords:
History | Wealth, Food
Atlántico, chocolate, consumo, Europa, bebidas exóticas
18th century


This essay explores the importance of the cultural, social and power relationships within Europe to understand the terms of appropriation of exotic goods, as well as the role of this process in defining different identities within Europe. By focusing on stimulant beverages (chocolate, tea and coffee) and in particular on chocolate in a comparative dimension, it emerged how the Spanish court’s appropriation of chocolate was not just carried out as part of the metropolis-colony dynamic but also within the larger picture of Spain’s role as mediator between the Old and New Worlds. The promotion of sobriety in the use of a product like chocolate that characterized the 18th century, was accompanied by a process of cultural appropriation, which in some aspects was similar to that which took place with tea and coffee in France and England. For the chocolate-coffee-tea triad identity formation, the connection to their respective importing and consuming nation was an essential transition for their diffusion. But the essential premise for these products’ incredible success was the fragmentation of modes and motivation of consumption, paralleled by the emergence of competing culinary traditions (and productions) within Europe. The emergence of new consumers both reflected and fueled the diffusion of new symbolic associations, which characterized the process of appropriation both culturally and socially.

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