Melissa N. Morris, Columbia University
Richard S. Dunn Fellow
“Cultivating Colonies: Tobacco and the Upstart Empires, 1580-1660”
How did northern Europeans establish successful colonies and trade routes in the Iberian-dominated Americas in the early seventeenth century? My project shows that the English, French, and Dutch relied upon Iberian and indigenous knowledge and trade networks in a series of illicit commercial operations and failed colonies in South America and the Caribbean that were crucial to the establishment of permanent American empires. Through them, northern Europeans learned important lessons about American geography, agriculture and indigenous politics. These little-studied colonial experiments all had one thing in common: tobacco. A crop in high demand that grows nearly anywhere and requires little special equipment, tobacco was an obvious choice for new colonies.