Making the leap: commodity chains and the potential for global environmental histories of capitalism


  • Jack Bouchard Rutgers University New Brunswick



Commodity Chains, Environmental history, Atlantic history


This article is a brief response to Leonardo Marques’ essay “Commodity Chains and the Global Environmental History of the Colonial Americas.” It focuses on the practical and theoretical limitations of commodity-chain histories as away to address our political and environmental moment. It argues that commodity-chain histories must overcome the complexity of their subjects, and leap the theoretical gap between local and global scales without losing sight of nature. To do so, the article advocates for more work by environmental historians, and a focus on transformation rather than commodity flows.


ABU-LUGHOD, Janet L. Before European hegemony: the world system A.D. 1250-1350. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

ADELMAN, Jeremy. Is global history still possible, or has it had its moment? Aeon, 2 March, 2017. Available at: Accessed: 2 Dec. 2021.

ARCH, Jakobina K. Bringing whales ashore: oceans and the environment of early modern Japan. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018.

ARRIGHI, Giovanni. The long twentieth century: money, power, and the origins of our times. New and updated edition. London: Verso, 2010.

BARRETT, James H.; ORTON, David C. (ed.). Cod and Herring: the archaeology and history of medieval sea fishing. Oxford; Philadelphia: Oxbow Books Ltd., 2016.

BECKERT, Sven. Empire of cotton: a global history. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

BOLSTER, W. Jeffrey. The mortal sea: fishing the Atlantic in the age of sail. Cambridge: Belknap Press (Harvard University Press), 2014.

BOUCHARD, Jack. Towards Terra Nova: the North Atlantic fisheries and the Atlantic World, 1490-1600. 2018. 345 p. PhD Dissertation (History) – Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 2018.

BOWES, Kim. When Kuznets went to Rome: Roman economic well-being and the reframing of Roman history. Capitalism: A Journal of History and Economics, Philadelphia, v. 2, n. 1, p. 7-40, Winter, 2021

BRAUDEL, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Translated by: Siân Reynolds. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.

BRAUDEL, Fernand. Civilization and capitalism, 15th-18th century. Translated by: Siân Reynolds. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.

BREEN, Benjamin. The age of intoxication: origins of the global drug trade. 1st ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019.

BROWN, Kate. Gridded lives: why Kazakhstan and Montana are nearly the same place. The American Historical Review, Washington, v. 106, n. 1, p. 17-48, Feb. 2001.

CAMPLING, Liam; COLÁS, Alejandro. Capitalism and the Sea: the maritime factor in the making of the modern world. London; New York: Verso Books, 2021.

COOPER, Ernest R. The Dunwich Iceland ships. The Mariner’s Mirror, Greenwich, v. 25, n. 2, p. 170-177, 1, Jan. 1939.

DAVIS, Ralph. The rise of the English shipping industry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. v. 48. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

DEMUTH, Bathsheba. Floating coast: an environmental history of the Bering Strait. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.

DONAHUE, Brian. The Great Meadow: farmers and the land in colonial Concord. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

GARDINER, Julie (ed.). Before the mast: life and death aboard the Mary Rose. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2013.

HANSEN, Valerie. The year 1000: when globalization began. New York: Scribner, 2020.

HAYES, Patrick W.; MATTHEWS, J. A.; ALLAIRE, Bernard; HOLM, Poul. European naval diets in the sixteenth century: a quantitative method for comparative and nutritional analysis. Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, London, v. 52, n. 4, p. 195-212, 30 Mar. 2019.

HEANEY, Seamus. The cure at Troy: a version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes. London: Faber and Faber; Field Day, 1990.

HORDEN, Peregrine; PURCELL, Nicholas. The corrupting sea: a study of Mediterranean history. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.

INNIS, Harold A. The cod fisheries: the history of an international economy. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1940.

KERSHAW, Paul V. Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark: bringing capitalism back into the ‘new’ history of capitalism. Journal of historical sociology, Oxford, v. 33, n. 1, p. 61-73, Mar. 2020.

KURLANSKY, Mark. Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world. New York: Walker and Co., 1997.

LOEWEN, Brad; CHAPDELAINE, Claude (ed.). Contact in the 16th century: networks among fishers, foragers, and farmers. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2016.

MADDISON, Angus. The world economy: a millennial perspective. Paris: Development Centre Studies, OECD Publishing, 2001. (Development Centre studies).

MADDISON, Angus. The world economy: historical statistics. Paris: Development Centre Studies, OECD Publishing, 2003. (Development Centre studies).

MALM, Andreas. Fossil capital: the rise of steam-power and the roots of global warming. London: Verso, 2016.

MARQUES, Leonardo. Commodity chains and the global environmental history of the colonial Americas. Esboços, Florianópolis, v. 28, n. 49, p. 640-667, set./dez. 2021. MANNING, Patrick. Migration in world history. London: Routledge, 2013.

MCNEILL, John R. Something new under the sun: an environmental history of the twentieth-century world. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000.

MILLER, Ian M. Fir and empire: the transformation of forests in early modern China. 1st. ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020.

MINTZ, Sidney W. Sweetness and power: the place of sugar in modern history. New York: Viking, 1985.

MOORE, Jason W. Capitalism in the web of life: ecology and the accumulation of capital. London: Verso Press, 2015.

MOORE, Jason W. The Capitalocene, Part I: on the nature and origins of our ecological crisis. The Journal of Peasant Studies, London, v. 44, n. 3, p. 594-630, 2017.

OKIHIRO, Gary Y. Pineapple culture: a history of the tropical and temperate zones. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. (The California world history library, v. 10)

ORTON, David C.; MORRIS, James; LOCKER, Alisson; BARRETT, James H. Fish for the city: meta-analysis of archaeological cod remains and the growth of London’s northern trade. Antiquity, Cambridge, v. 88, n. 340, p. 516-530, 2015.

OTTER, Chris. Diet for a large planet: industrial Britain, food systems, and world ecology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020.

PAINE, Lincoln. The sea and civilization: a maritime history of the world. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

PÉREZ-MALLAÍNA, Pablo E. Spain’s men of the sea: daily life on the Indies fleets in the sixteenth century. Trans. by Carla R. Phillips. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

POPE, Peter E. Fish into wine: the Newfoundland plantation in the seventeenth century. UNC Press Books, 2004.

POPE, Peter E. Early migratory fishermen and Newfoundland’s seabird colonies. Journal of the North Atlantic, Steuben (ME), special volume 1: Archaeologies of the Early Modern North Atlantic, p. 57-70, 2009.

REID, Joshua L. The Sea is my Country: the maritime world of the Makahs. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

RICHARDS, John F. The unending frontier: an environmental history of the early modern world. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

SCHEIDEL, Walter. Escape from Rome: the failure of empire and the road to prosperity. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019.

SCOTT, James C. Seeing like a state: how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.

SCOTT, James C. The art of not being governed: an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

SICKING, Louis; ABREU-FERREIRA, Darlene (ed.). Beyond the catch: fisheries of the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, 900-1850. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2009. (The Northern world, v. 41).

TSING, Anna Lowenhaupt. The mushroom at the end of the world: on the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

TURGEON, Laurier. Codfish, consumption, and colonization: the creation of the French Atlantic World during the sixteenth century. In: WILLIAMS, Caroline A. (ed.). Bridging the early modern Atlantic World: people, products, and practices on the move. London: Routledge, 2009. p. 33-56.

WALLERSTEIN, Immanuel. Capitalist agriculture and the origins of the European world-economy in the sixteenth century. New York: Academic Press, 1974.

WESTAD, Odd Arne. The Cold War: a world history. New York: Basic Books, 2017.

ZALLEN, Jeremy. American Lucifers: the dark history of artificial light, 1750-1865. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019.





Debate "Colapso ambiental e histórias do capitalismo"