a1 Columbia University
a2 New York University
Conventionally defined, “global commodities” refer to raw materials and basic foodstuffs—sugar, bananas, cotton, coal, bauxite—that are extracted or grown in one area of the world and sold on the world market for industrial or consumer use elsewhere. Labor historians focusing on the point of extraction/production or tracking the production and circulation of specific global commodities have gained insight into the development of global capitalism, in particular relations between colonized and colonizer, developing countries and advanced industrial countries. From Sidney Mintz's Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (1986) to Mark Kurlansky's Cod: The Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (1998) scholars and general readers alike have found in studies of a single commodity a productive method for understanding social relations in the making of the modern world.