28 June, 2022
Project of the Month: Intoxicating Spaces
By Alison MacDermott
Posted: 5 January, 2022
HERA is pleased to present the next Project of the Month: Intoxicating Spaces: The Impact of New Intoxicants on Urban Spaces in Europe, 1600–1850.
Intoxicating Spaces is investigating the impact of exotic and ‘new’ intoxicants – cocoa, coffee, opium, sugar, tea, and tobacco – on four European metropoles (Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, and Stockholm) between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.
- Professor Phil Withington (University of Sheffield, PL)
- Professor A. (Toine) Pieters (Utrecht University, PI)
- Professor Dr Dagmar Freist (Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, PI)
- Professor Leos Müller (Stockholm University, PI)
- Joanna Norman (The Victoria and Albert Museum)
- Michael Huisjer (Scheepvaartmuseum)
- Sanne Houby Nielsen (Nordiska Musee)
Describe your project development to date
The project has had an enjoyable and productive two and a half years. We have published or are soon to publish journal articles on the relationship between intoxicants and the plague in all four cities; on tobacco, coffee and opium in Amsterdam and Stockholm; and on coffeehouses and tea gardens in Hamburg and London. In terms of Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement we have worked closely with over 80 pupils and teachers from seven local schools (culminating with a virtual conference in January 2021); organised two policy events, four public workshops, an international academic conference, and 15 online seminars; created a soon-to-be-launched online exhibition, conceived as a ‘virtual scrapbook’, which showcases over 1,000 digital exhibits from archives, libraries, and museums; delivered over thirty public and academic talks; and commissioned 31 blogs, 7 by guest authors. We have embarked on four bespoke mapping projects with MA students at our respective universities, including an innovative exploration and visualisation of new intoxicants in the diaries of the seventeenth-century scientist Robert Hooke, and linked up with a number of other HERA projects to develop future initiatives.
How did the pandemic impact on the project and how has the project adapted?
COVID-19 has inevitably had a major impact on the project, although we have turned negatives into positives wherever possible. While much of our work in archives and libraries was either completed or rescheduled in response to the various national lockdowns, we had to tweak our programme of knowledge exchange and public engagement, with positive results. We successfully pivoted events and activities to online formats using the platforms Zoom and Crowdcast, allowing us to reach larger and more diverse audiences than would have been possible with in-person events: highlights include our popular virtual seminar series ‘What’s Your Poison?’ (attended by over 500 auditors), our summer 2021 conference on the global and comparative dimensions of intoxicating spaces (attended by 150 delegates), and our concluding schools conference ‘Fancies from the Folly’, beamed from a virtual early modern coffeehouse and hosted by a team member in character as an eighteenth-century waiter (80+ attendees). The pandemic also opened up exciting new avenues of intellectual inquiry: a major output of the project, unanticipated in the original proposal, will be a comparative article on new intoxicants and the plague in our four case study cities.
Interesting collaborations / partnerships
We have enjoyed productive collaborations with (inter alia) eight local schools; the Poppi Museum in Amsterdam, the V&A Museum in London, the Wellcome Collection in London, the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven, and the Nordic Museum in Stockholm; and the Mainline Foundation for drug harm reduction in Amsterdam.
- de Koning, ‘Conflict and the Coffeehouse: Three Stories from Eighteenth-Century Amsterdam’, Intoxicating Spaces project blog (June 2020)
- Bailey, ‘Putting Maguey on the Map: The Cultural Geography of the Pulque Trade in Early Colonial Mexico’, Intoxicating Spaces conference ‘Intoxicating Spaces: Global and Comparative Perspectives’ (July 2021).
- Tullett, ‘Tobacco and the War of the Senses’, Intoxicating Spaces seminar series ‘What’s Your Poison?’ (March 2021).
- Bridge, ‘Coffee House Patrons of Old Preferred Stronger Stuff’, and leading article, ‘Grounds for Debate’, The Times (June 2020).
- ‘Intoxicating Spaces: Global and Comparative Perspectives’, Intoxicating Spaces conference (July 2021); includes links to 31 filmed talks.
- Brown, ‘Tea Gardens and New Intoxicants in Early Modern London’, Institute of Historical Research Food History Seminar (November 2021).
- Withington, ‘Introducing Intoxicating Spaces’, Intoxicating Spaces vlog (September 2019).
- Kakao, Kaffee, Tabak: Rauschmittel Früher. A digital exhibition created by school pupils from Cäcilienschule and Altes Gymnasium in Oldenburg.
- Brown, C. Plunkett, & A. Yates, ‘Hooked: Robert Hooke’s World of Intoxicants’, Intoxicating Spaces website (October 2019)
- Knutsson & H. Hodacs, ‘When Coffee Was Banned: Strategies of Labour and Leisure Among Stockholm’s Poor Women, 1794–1796 and 1799–1802’, Scandinavian Economic History Review (2021).
- Snelders, ‘Normalisation and Ambivalence: Tobacco in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic’, Cultural and Social History (2021).
- James & P. Withington, ‘Introduction to Intoxicants and Early Modern European Globalization’, The Historical Journal (2021): 1–11. Project special issue.
14 June, 2022
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