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European perspectives on a longer Atlantic World – 4-5 May 2010, University of Turin. Marco Mariano and Federica Morelli (Coord.)
Irene Fattacciu

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

[27/06/2012]

Résumé

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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  • 1  William McNeil, Plagues and Peoples, New York: Anchor Books, 1998; Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imper (...)
  • 2  Just few examples: Fernand Braudel, Civilisation matérielle, Économie et Capitalisme XVe-XVIIIe si (...)

1Regarding the global transmission of plants, microbes and animals in the Early Modern period, not all of the products encountered (i.e., cacao, coca, tobacco, tomatoes, potatoes, coffee, tea, etc.) shared the same fate: some were destined to change the daily lives of Europeans, while others remained outside the main trade networks for a long time. Research on these phenomena is growing in importance, at both a European and global level1 (in terms of their impact on science and culture and consumption).Research conducted on the evolution of patterns of consumption in the Early Modern period over the last thirty years has revealed that, in seventeenth-century European societies, a series of forces, power relations and symbolic constructions were already shaping access to material culture. Furthermore, the curiosity aroused by Spain’s exploration and colonization of distant places increased the desire to own the variety of exotic products increasingly available in the European markets2.

  • 3  Great attention has been therefore given to the study of inventories and to the role of this categ (...)

2During recent years, although scholars had already identified the importance of the consumption of luxury products over time as a key indication of changes in patterns of consumption, one of the most significant contributions to this field has come from scholars who stressed the importance of situating debates about consumption within a transnational context, in terms of both historiography and research. This suggested new ways of understanding the multiple meanings implicit in the appropriation of the material resources that underpinned colonialism3.

  • 4  William Clarence-Smith, Cacao and Chocolate, 1765-1914, London: Routledge, 2000; Marcia Norton, Ne (...)

3Stimulant beverages (such as chocolate, tea and coffee) were among the exotic products that particularly fascinated the inhabitants of early modern Europe (in addition to today’s scholars) and today they remain one of the most tangible signs of how exotic foods have penetrated our daily lives4. In this article, I will follow the European diffusion of chocolate throughout the 18th century, taking into account a comparative dimension with other associated products and the fragmentation of chocolate’s cultural meaning within Europe. Although the Atlantic dimension of European expansion has received much attention, the focus on this and the early receptions of exotic products has posed a series of limits in our understanding of the appropriation of these products;it has also set a series of challenges for future research, in terms of a more comparative and transnational approach.

  • 5  Among the most influential text to reconstruct the last developments in the Atlantic history debat (...)
  • 6  For a resume of the European contributions to the debate see Silvia Marzagalli, « L’histoire atlan (...)
  • 7  Alison Games, « Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities », American Historica (...)

4The same definition of Atlantic space and the construction of it as an explicit category of historical analysis have been central in the historiographical debate regarding Atlantic history5. Such a debate has not received not enough attention on this side of the Atlantic, where historians have not been particularly receptive towards the contribution that this field could make, in terms of an understanding of the processes undertaken in Europe6. If attempts to write an Atlantic history able to include and connect the entire region remain elusive, an Atlantic perspective may help historians understand changes within the region that a more limited geographic framework might obscure. As asserted by Alison Games, Atlantic history needs to be approached as a slice of world history7; the subject of European expansion into the Atlantic must consider what was happening in other parts of the world (as in the Ottoman empire and in Asia), as will be seen in the case of the tea-coffee-chocolate triad.

5The present research does not represent a classic contribution to the discussion, as it is formed within the field of the history of material culture and deals with the reception of an American product in Europe. However, taking into consideration the repercussions of colonisation within the mother countries may yield a very important contribution to the understanding of important issues within the European historiographical debate. The assimilation of exotic products into our daily life and culture cannot be taken for granted, but out of this process (due to its association with a place outside Europe and therefore outside of European moral norms) arises unexpected economic, social and cultural effects.

  • 8  Steven Topik, Carlos Marichal and Zephyr Frank (eds.), From Silver to Cocaine. Latin American Comm (...)

6One problem is the underestimation of European fragmented and competing realities in determining the terms of appropriation and also the role of this process in defining different identities within Europe. Consequently, the study of Europe’s role has often been reduced to a chronological and quantitative mapping of the diffusion of exotic goods, without examining how cultural, social and power relationships within Europe itself influenced how such goods were adopted. As the editors of the interesting book From Silver to Cocaine underlined, studies conducted on products imported from Latin America often focused on the supply side(analysing systems of production), rather than on demand formation at the other side of the Atlantic. However, the last trend, emphasizing the formation of demand in function of economic, social, cultural and national variables, overturned the situation, under-evaluating the impact of productive structure in determining market and imperial policies towards the market. Beginning with the assumption that demand did not depend exclusively on prices but wasformed through a complex series of intertwining economic, social and cultural factors, the interactions, juxtapositions and plots amongst different actors and factors become the key to understanding this process. As the path of a commodity was determined by all these different variables, the definition of a global market was substituted by a notion of several segmented markets, with a product following different paths in accordance with its uses and destinations8.

  • 9  Several studies have questioned a supposed temporal and geographical uniformity in the changes of (...)

7A second challenge relates to the fact that all these methodological issues must consider the limits of the very definitions of patterns of consumption and modernity. Today, the predominance of analytical tools and categories linked largely to the Anglo-Saxon context challenges scholars, in terms of reformulating their approach and incorporating different geographical areas. Several studies conducted in various European countries have shown that it is not possible to demonstrate the existence of a common ‘European attitude towards consumption’, as consumption preferences depend largely on the social context in which they are formed9. Moreover, such studies make it difficult to sustain linear progress narratives and close correspondence between the advent of modernity and the growth and differentiation of consumption. Our research must therefore strive to recover the specific and local dimensions of the processes through which different consumer societies grew and affirmed themselves, while also attending to the global dimension of trade.

  • 10  In the case of chocolate there is a chronological vacuum between the research by Marcia Norton, fo (...)

8The case study of cacao (chocolate), which is probably one of the products most trapped in a pseudo-commercial dimension of study, could be particularly useful in shedding light on some aspects and mechanisms of the process of the diffusion and appropriation of exotic goods in Europe. Several scholars have focused on this product, but there is much left to do: research on chocolate has always been unable to contribute to the understanding of the larger issues outlined, as it is not directly connected to the Anglo-Saxon cultural context and economic networks. In addition, many aspects of its trajectory from an exotic curiosity to a widespread commodity remained obscure, especially in the case of Spain10. Here, cacao is a particularly suitable vehicle for investigating the changes in consumption patterns during the 18th century, as it is a very popular, semi-luxury good that occupies a special place in Spanish culture, in addition to the central products in the Atlantic trade. It represents an important insight in quantifying and qualifying the impact of luxury/exotic goods on patterns of consumption.

9Data regarding imports, prices and volumes of consumption show constant expansion during the 18th century. Little towns and rural areas were encompassed, meaning that expansion ceased to be an exclusively urban phenomenon and became a national symbol. Chocolate became the Spanish drink par excellence, thanks to a series of intertwining factors that promoted consumption: colonial politics, the reorganization of the Atlantic economy and scientific, medical and religious thought influenced and determined its path amongst Spanish and European cultures.

Appropriation and Assimilation: the Passage from an Exotic Curiosity to a Spanish Commodity

  • 11  Just a few examples: Sophie and Michael Coe, The True History of Chocolate, New York: Thames and H (...)

10To understand the evolution of chocolate’s social context and the motivations behind the growth of its consumption, we must first move beyond the unequivocal identity that has been painted by historians studying the adoption of exotic products in Europe. Exotic drinks’ social and cultural implications have hitherto been analyzed by assuming a well-defined identity for these products and interpreting their consumption as an interiorization of held values. Their meaning has therefore been used to define consumers, rather than the other way around. Middle-class consumption is, in turn, considered solely as a question of imitating the noble lifestyle, with coffee’s success in France or England interpreted as a rejection of the old absolutist and dissolute regime, as represented by chocolate11.

11If we assume a process of manipulation on the part of the producer, the advertiser/seller and the consumer, which influences an object’s meaning, we must in turn read its meaning as being in constant transition if we wish to study its symbolic and cultural contents. For this reason, rather than establishing chocolate’s ‘true’ identity, I am more interested in showing how this was challenged by outlining the fragmentation of the motivations and modes of its consumption. The cultural, social and power relationships within Europe itself are crucial in understanding how chocolate’s identity was shaped in Europe. 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. Spain thus rose as a civilizing agent, signaling a fundamental transition in the appropriation-diffusion of the product: the cultural promotion of the sobriety of beverages like chocolate was accompanied by a process of cultural appropriation. Chocolate was thus stripped of its exotic identity in order to acquire new symbolic associations in Europe, especially in terms of Spanish culture.

Chocolate Crosses the Atlantic: Recipes and Ingredients

  • 12  Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid, Arbitrio que el Capitan Andres de Deçá, vezino de la Ciudad de Leon (...)
  • 13  Colmenero De Ledesma, Curioso tratado de la naturaleza y calidad del chocolate, Madrid, 1631, p. 1 (...)
  • 14  For an example of the importance of chocolate drinking habits and recipes circulation, see Bianca (...)

12One of the earliest effects of this transition was the transformation of chocolate recipes and preparation. When the Spaniards arrived in the Indies, the favoured beverage amongst the governing elite of the Aztec empire was a compound of roasted, ground cacao beans mixed with red pepper (chilli), achiote and, sometimes, vanilla, whipped into a froth until almost solid and often consumed cold12. Colmenero de Ledesma (author of the most influential 17th century treaty on chocolate) recorded how its preparation amongst noble families and within the European courts changed from that used by American natives and proposed for European aristocrats his ‘recipe for the healthy’, giving advice on European substitutes for New World spices13. By comparing the preparation recommended by Ledesma to the others circulated within the same period, we can conclude that the essential ingredients were cacao, sugar, anise, cinnamon and pepper/chilli, to which other aromas could be added. Spices represented creativity for conquistadors, who modified traditional Mesoamerican chocolate by adding or substituting spices esteemed in the Old World (cinnamon, black pepper, anise, rose, sesame, etc.) in place of the native flowers or spices. These new modes of consumption and recipes reflected and served the product’s elite nature of the 17th century, when many chocolate recipes circulated in Spain and the rest of Europe through aristocratic networks, in contrast to the following century. Even the way it was produced served the way it was circulated, with a personalized, homemade process that turned the creation of new recipes into competition between different noble families14.

13While, in America, chocolate had long been sold as cacao paste in lozenge form, to which consumers could add what they pleased, in Spain the growth in consumption was accompanied by greater homologation and standardized production, with a chocolate paste that one bought with all the ingredients already included, imprimis sugar. The Spanish probably did not try to simply imitate the original taste of Amerindian chocolate, nor was there a sudden disappearance of the original ingredients. Rather, there was a slow process that interwove cultural issues and the problems posed by the social diffusion of the consumption of chocolate. Difficulty in finding the original ingredients was certainly an important factor, but this weighedlesswhile the product remained the domain of the nobility. Even chocolate’s consumption as a medicine, which saw a growth in consumers, was based less on indigenous practices and notions and more on the direct experience of its effects on sick and healthy people, which helped redefine its recipe. Demand grew even more and a Spanish industry of artisanal chocolate production developed alongside this growth. These diverse components (i.e., the slow and timid social diffusion beyond the strict confines of the nobility), the birth of a Spanish artisanal industry that was both the cause and consequence of an increase in chocolate consumption and the differentiation between practices of consumption, increasingly embedded in the medical and cultural mentality of the age, signaled the beginning of a European chocolate tradition in which Spain arose as the undisputed point of reference, as we shall see.

  • 15  Don Manuel Navas de Carrera, Dissertación Historica Phisico-Chimica, y analysis del cacao, su uso, (...)

14As chocolate consumption grew in the 18th century, chocolate ingredients were pared down to the essentials. The Spanish artisan industry for this product had grown considerably and the recipe for Spanish chocolate, now famous throughout Europe, was a basic blend of cacao, sugar and cinnamon, excluding most of the exotic spices used prior. The majority of the spices that had been added to cacao over time were dismissed by 18th century treatises, as all they did was add ‘fire to the body’. Sugar blended easily with each substance ‘and for this everyone liked chocolate’; the Indios’ addition of corn made it ‘dry, astringent and indigestible’, chilli and vanilla were considered ‘too hot’ and achiote was ‘too cold’. Almonds were used to make the chocolate thicker, to the detriment of its quality, and everyone used cinnamon15. Its high quality was determined by the technique used to prepare it (toasting, grinding and blending), an art at which Spanish chocolateros excelled.

The ‘Civilised Chocolate’ and the Addition of Sugar

  • 16  Denis Diderot and Jean d’Alembert, Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et (...)
  • 17  E. F. Lantier, « Viaje a Espana del caballero San Gervasio » in José García Mercadal (ed.),Viajes (...)

15This transformation in chocolate’s preparation signals another essential cultural transition that took place over the course of chocolate’s appropriation; i.e., its establishment as a symbol of Spanish culture as early as the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century. Chocolate took on such importance that even the entry on cacao in the Encyclopédie opens with an acknowledgment of its diffusion in Spain, stating ‘lacking chocolate in Spanish houses means to be so poor like not having bread here’16. Chocolate was mentioned less in the texts of 18th century travellers, as the product was already well known and thus attracted less attention. However, the amount of chocolate consumed in Spain never ceased to amaze foreigners and this even became an integral part of how the Spanish were represented and characterized. As soldier E. F. Lantier wrote in his travel account: ‘the main good for Spanish is to sleep in the afternoon […] have chocolate, make love and be present for processions and church ceremonies’17.

  • 18  Joseph Vicente Diaz Bravo, El Ayuno Reformado por los cinco breves de nuestro santissimo Padre Ben (...)
  • 19  Don Antonio Lavedán, Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, café, té y ch (...)

16It is certainly not my intention to suggest that contemporaries were unaware that cacao had originated in the New World. However, my focus here is the way in which cacao was manufactured into chocolate, rather than the cacao itself; in this respect, Spain was the initiator and founder of ‘European’ chocolate and its recipes. As Spain proposed itself as its ‘civilizing agent’, it follows that chocolate, rather than cacao, was Spanish. Europe owed the importation and improvement of Amerindian chocolate to the Spanish, who played a fundamental role in the diffusion of the manufacture of chocolate throughout Europe and long remained the point of reference for anyone who wrote about the product. The Spanish made the chocolate produced by the Indios more palatable to the civilized nations, after having ‘enlightened them with the gospel’18.Being ‘more industrious than the savages’, they corrected the bad taste of the beverage by adding certain drugs from the metropolis and especially sugar, by far the most important addition and ultimate symbol of the civilization that redeemed barbarity19.

  • 20  Braudel, Civilisation matérielle; Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: the Place of Sugar in Modern (...)
  • 21  Just as examples, see: Stuart Schwartz (ed.), Tropical Babylons. Sugar and the making of the atlan (...)
  • 22  See also Woodruff Smith, who neither mentions chocolate questioning the introduction of the tea an (...)
  • 23  First testimonies for the use of sugar in coffee and tea are Dufour, Traitez nouveaux; John Chambe (...)

17Despite the fact that much of the historiography20havesuggested that the diffusion of exotic drinks like chocolate, tea and coffee promoted sugar, Spanish familiarity with sugar could suggest the opposite. By the 17th century, an exclusive elite greatly valued sugar as a luxury item and a delicacy, with a great variety of ways to sweeten food and beverages; in addition, sugar already existed in the Iberian Peninsula by then21. The choice to add sugar to chocolate would have been crucial, both for the diffusion of tea and coffee and for the role Spain surely played in the addition of sugar to these beverages22. The great attention that has been paid to coffee and tea throughout the history of consumption, chocolate’s liquidation as an obscurantist product and the predominance of sources and information on the Anglo-Saxon and French contexts have overshadowed the fact that, as far as we can tell from the available information, chocolate was the first of the three beverages to be sweetened with sugar. Indeed, it is known that this practice was already widespread by the turn of the 17th century, while there is no proof that sugar was added to tea or coffee until nearly a century later23.

  • 24  Besides the already cited S. Mintz and J. Flandrin see also Woodruff D. Smith, « Complications of (...)

18We could surely argue that the Spaniards’ familiarity with sugar before the conquest of the New World and its luxury status, combined with the (albeit rare) Aztec practice of adding honey to chocolate, also influenced chocolate’s elitist identification during the 17th century. Not only was the culturally constructed and innate taste of sugar famous and appreciated, but it also represented the triumph of both European and colonial technology, which is probably why, very early on, it became an essential ingredient in European chocolate. As there is no evidence of the intentions and motivations behind the addition of sugar to coffee and tea in Europe, many historians have considered these combinations, especially those interested in the introduction of these products during the modern age24. Chocolate has often been neglected in this respect and it could represent an important missing piece of what is surely a complex puzzle.

The emergence of Competing Culinary Traditions within Europe: the Discredit of Spanish Chocolate

19Just as the emergence of the significant Spanish chocolate industry went hand-in-hand with a forceful claim regarding the quality and ‘civility’ of Spanish chocolate, the 18th century advanced emerging industrial nations began competing with their own versions of the product. By the middle of the century, the three most important European empires (France, England and Spain) were on a collision course in the Atlantic hemisphere, each determining and extending or preserving their own territories, competing tirelessly to control Atlantic trade from the Spanish war of succession until the Congress of Vienna (which decreed England as the hegemonic power). Culinary culture as a whole felt the effects of this tension between continuity and rupture, not to mention the contradiction between the taste of the European elite and the growing need to define national rivalries, in terms of differences in lifestyle and food.

  • 25  Christine Adams, A Taste for Comfort and Status: A Bourgeois Family in Eighteenth-Century France, (...)

20Chocolate was paradoxically more widespread in Europe during the first phase of its diffusion, from 1650 to the first quarter of the 18th century (when it circulated through transnational aristocratic networks), than it was after the advent of the Guipuzcoan Company in 1728. The reorganisation of its trade, although expanding at a social level, was confined mostly to Spain. By the end of the 17th century, other products like tea and coffee (especially in France and England) began following a path that, in some ways, increasingly resembled that of chocolate in Spain. The available knowledge and space are insufficient to exhaustively address the trajectories of these products in the countries where they acquired the greatest importance; i.e., France, England and Holland. However, by bringing together at least some of the literature that addressed these subjects separately, we can identify several interesting continuities and discontinuities25.

  • 26  S. D. Smith, « Accounting for Taste: British Coffee Consumption in Historical Perspective », Journ (...)

21Firstly, we find proof of the distance between representation and reality in the cases of coffee and tea, as already seen with chocolate. For example, England was noted as the bastion of coffee and liberalism and the cradle of the café, yet coffee consumption never managed to enter the daily private lives of the English like tea did, remaining confined to public sociability.26 Secondly, although we cannot analyse all related aspects here in detail, comparing chocolate to tea and coffee in relation to their respective cultural contexts highlights how a blend of factors influenced their fate. A specific set of economic, cultural and social variables determined the adoption of a commodity as a national symbol more than taste or the correspondence between objects and national character. In particular, national and colonial economic interests coincided with social habits in very different social contexts, without returning to a top-down determinism.

22Never more than in the case of these three beverages can one reason, in terms of a colonial product, with each one strongly tied to the colonial territory most important for the mother country in question. France, the great coffee consumer and the first exporter of coffee from Haiti, England, with its predominance in Eastern trade and its cult of tea and Spain, who mightily fought the black market to regain control of Venezuela’s most important resource (cacao). In all three cases, a determining factor was the addition of sugar, the motivations for which, as already mentioned, have yet to be definitively established. In addition to the possibility that it was prompted by a natural European predilection for sweets, as suggested earlier, it also could have been the result of sugar’s great popularity in the two preceding centuries, in addition to its proven success in combination with cacao.

23The overall sense that emerges from the literary corpus in question is that all three powers were animated by the same conscious intention to fuel the consumption of a certain product. For this reason, I think it is important to recognize the importance tobacco must have had in opening middle-class doors to psychoactive substances and in exposing all the possibilities offered by sumptuary consumption. The choice of which products to promote emerged naturally, based on material conditions and the possibility of controlling production and trade. This impulse, which was dictated more by policy (understood in the widest sense; i.e., including public debates shaped by the political atmosphere of the moment) and the material nature of the products than by the preferences of European markets, sometimes had unexpected economic, social and cultural effects. The erosion of rigid prescriptions on social consumption, the rise of new rituals, the opening of private spaces for hedonistic pleasures and the redefinition of public and private sociability according to the respectability and sobriety of the emerging classes affected all the products in question, despite taking place in such different contexts. In each case, the political, cultural and economic authorities had clearly become aware of the importance of private consumption and the penetration of products that moderately alter the senses.

  • 27  W. Hughes, influential botanist, strongly promoted chocolate use in the colonies and in England. W (...)
  • 28  Monsieur de (Nicolas) Blégny, Le bon usage du thé du caffé et du chocolat pour la preservation & p (...)
  • 29  Susan Terrio, Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate, Berkeley: California UP, 2000; (...)

24In terms of the chocolate-coffee-tea triad, the formation of a product’s identity, increasingly tied to its respective importing and consuming nation, was an essential transition for its diffusion. In the case of chocolate, this was an especially important step in the birth of culinary and production traditions throughout Europe, where everyone looked to Spain, rather than the New World, as their point of departure. The Spanish were the ones who manufactured civilized chocolate; theirs was the culinary tradition with which rival industries would compete to produce variants, improvements or specificities. Encouraged by the success of coffee and tea, England and France promoted chocolate consumption in their countries during the 18th century, with varying degrees of success. Though there are a number of English treatises on its quality and evidence to suggest an immediate interest in the 17th century to fuel consumption of the beverage, chocolate remained less famous in England. With no proof of any real penetration of its use, England continued to re-export all imported cacao until the end of the 18th century, when battles to dominate Atlantic trade following the American revolution fuelled the hitherto neglected cacao production in Trinidad27. In France, however, as in Vienna, chocolate had spread,with great success, through noble networks, thus helping it penetrate daily rituals from the middle of the 17th century onwards28. By the end of the century, when Dufour and de Blegny were writing their treatises on tea, coffee, and chocolate, France was already trying to compete with Spain by spreading information about these exotic products and displaying great interest in their trade possibilities. In particular, France’s privileged position vis-à-vis sugar boded well for its entry into the Spanish market as a chocolate producer29.

The Competition among Spain, France and England over Stimulant Drinks

  • 30  Louis Lemery, A Treatise of All Sorts of Foods, London, 1745, p. 365.
  • 31  Ibid.
  • 32  Valuable Secrets concerning Arts and Trades: or approved directions from the best artists for the (...)

25Competition over chocolate’s identity developed in two main ways; firstly, the original Spanish recipe that had been so successful throughout Europe gradually acquired non-Spanish rivals. French chocolate, for example, was described by M. L. Lemery as follows: Chocolate is used two ways. It is eaten as it is, or else they make a very pleasant dish of it, which is much in vogue, by dissolving it in some liquor. Common water is that which is most used, though others will have cows’ milk, into which they put the yolks of eggs. Others prefer almond milk before this and some the juice of succory and several other plants. Lastly, there are those who mix a little bezoar-stone in their chocolate, in order to make it more cordial’30. He concluded: ‘the best chocolate is made at Paris’31.In the case of the English, (even though Henry Stubbe was still referring to Colmenero de Ledesma’s recipe at the turn of the 18th century) they also began to prefer their chocolate with the addition of milk and certain spices as the century progressed. One recipe advised: ‘dissolve in a copper pan some pulverized royalslump sugar with a little orange water. When the sugar is turned into syrup, throw in the cacao, the vanilla, the cinnamon and cloves. […] To drink it, you prepare it with milk in which, when boiling-hot, you first dissolve it, then, with a box mill made on purpose (with a long handle), you mill it to froth in the pot in which it is a making and pour it afterwards in cups to drink’32.

  • 33  Emmanuel Collet (ed.), Chocolat, de la boisson élitaire au bâton populaire, XVIe-XXe siècle, Paris (...)

26Secondly, alongside these foreign reinventions of the Spanish recipe developed an increasingly assiduous identification, which would have a long tradition, between chocolate and the absolutist Spanish regime, mirroring the emergence of the capitalist power of the English. Indeed, some consider this identification to be the source of chocolate’s rejection outside Spain. In France, for example, Alfred de Musset and Gustave Flaubert associated chocolate with the idle rich and Balzac held chocolate responsible for Spain’s ruin because it propelled one towards sensuality, lasciviousness and laziness, saying: ‘Qui sait si l'abus de chocolat n'est pas entré pour quelque chose dans l'avilissement de la nation espagnole qui, au moment de la découverte du chocolat, allait recommencer l'empire romain?’33 Due to the importance of chocolate in Spain, excessive chocolate consumption was often characterized by Spanish natives in satire and social criticism, thus representing the decadence of Spanish culture and society. Just as women and priests came to embody social excess in Spain, Spanish chocolate became a symbol of abuse (in both amount and composition) throughout the rest of Europe.

27A suggestive example of this identification comes from an account included in several English texts on the history of the Inquisition. In this account, which tells the story of a girl taken away from her family by Inquisition authorities on the orders of a confessor and inquisitor of the Holy Office (who met the girl a few days earlier for a brief conversation, drinking chocolate, of course), chocolate is ubiquitous. The girl was held for several days until she finally gave in to the coaxing of the so-called priest. In this case, the road to perdition is paved with chocolate, which the young woman was served constantly. It even becomes a main character in the seduction scene:

She conveyed me through a gallery into his apartment; he was still in bed and desired me to sit down by him and ordered Mary to bring the chocolate. When she was withdrawn, he immediately declared his inclination in so ardent manner that I had neither strength or power to oppose him; [...] When Mary came with the chocolate, I was very much ashamed to be seen in bed with him, but she coming to the bedside where I was, and kneeling down, paid me homage as if I had been a Queen and served me first a cup of chocolate, desiring me to give another cup to Don San Francisco...

  • 34  « An account, of the methods by which several young ladies have been seduced, by the holy fathers (...)

28The girls in these stories soon lost the favour of their protectors and, after a few days, were transferred into a sort of house-prison with several other women, to become prostitute-prisoners of the inquisitors. At the end of the aforementioned story, the protagonist is freed by an official (French, of course), who rehabilitates her by marrying her34.

  • 35  M.D.T. Bienville, Nymphomania, or, a Dissertation Concerning the Furor Uterinus, Madrid, 1775, p, (...)
  • 36  Ibid.

29Another example of Spanish chocolate’s gradual loss of credibility, in this case concerning its composition, is provided by the English translation of the treatise by M.D.T. Bienville, Nymphomania. Explaining the causes of ‘this horrible disturbance’, Bienville states that ‘the unrestrained sexual rapaciousness’ in women who have a ‘biliary and melancholic temperament’ can be caused by the consumption of dried meats, full-bodied wines and liquors, chocolate and coffee (in its strongest form). Chocolate in particular is attributed, as it ‘will rather kindle than extinguish the flame’35. Bienville then launches into a lengthy explanation of the most ‘dangerous’ types of chocolate, stating: ‘Spanish chocolate is more compound than any other. Not only musk, ambergris and various drugs are mixed with it, but such quantities of cloves and cinnamon are thrown in, as renderly doubly inflammatory. [...] The Paris chocolate [homeland of the author] is somewhat less pernicious. [...] The English chocolate [fragment added by the translator], to which only vanilla and sugar are added, is the most plain and innocent’36.

30In conclusion, while the Spanish way of making chocolate was initially appreciated and lauded throughout Europe, Atlantic rivalries over American trade and the birth of non-Spanish chocolatier traditions caused its identity to be fragmented. Different national industries obtained the secrets of its manufacture and started preparing it in new ways, thus snubbing Spanish chocolate. One of the most successful competitors was the country closest to Spain, in terms of geography, politics and culture:  France. While the English portrayed Spain and its chocolate in a negative light, mainly for political and ideological reasons, as part of the competition over Atlantic trade, the French did so not only for reasons of cultural supremacy, but also to boost their own manufacture of this product.

Conclusion

31Assuming a process of manipulation on the part of the producer, the advertiser/seller and the consumer, which influences an object’s meaning, we must in turn read its meaning as being in constant transition if we wish to study its symbolic and cultural contents. The newness and consequent rarity of colonial products had been their distinguishing characteristic in the 17th century, while, in the course of the following century, the development of new forms of luxury and fashion and the ability of national economies to absorb this phenomenon were central to the Enlightenment debate over the nature of social progress, occupying a large part of the literature on the subject. As the century advanced, the contrast between those who wished for and those who condemned the differentiation of consumer goods was replaced by a greater rationality and appeal to moderation.

32In the case of chocolate, it was medicine that attempted to reconcile moderation, pleasure, economic interests and social order. The increasingly important medical distinction between use and abuse took centre stage and norms spread through medical practice took on a fundamentally social role by inserting themselves into the context of the luxury debate, which was also the field in which new habits of consumption were developing (both materially and intellectually). This growing popularity was also accompanied by a slow but progressive abandonment of its curative qualities. As the accent shifted to its effects on healthy people, its psychoactive qualities also took centre stage.

33The emphasis on chocolate’s stimulating effects and the similarities of its rituals to those of coffee and tea brought it closer to these products and further away from those of similar provenance (i.e. tobacco and coca). This culture’s promotion of sobriety in the use of a product like chocolate 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 from the late 17th century onwards. The different powers were probably encouraged by tobacco’s immediate success when they began promoting the consumption of certain products, especially psychoactive substances. The choice of what products to promote emerged naturally, based on material conditions and the possibility of controlling production and trade. This impulse was dictated by policy (understood in the widest sense; i.e., including public debates shaped by the political atmosphere of the moment) and the material nature of the products more than by the preferences of European markets and was sometimes destined to have unexpected economic, social and cultural effects.

34Through the study of recipes for chocolate and the changes that were introduced, especially the addition of sugar, we have seen how this product was stripped of its exotic identity in order to acquire new symbolic associations: not only in Spain, but also throughout Europe. However, the Spanish court's appropriation of chocolate was not just carried out as part of the metropolis-colony dynamic, but also as part of the larger picture of Spain’s role as mediator between the new and old worlds. Spain was the initiator, the founder of ‘European’ chocolate and its recipes. Chocolate’s timid, slow social diffusion beyond the strict confines of the nobility, the birth of a Spanish artisan industry that was both cause and consequence of an increase in chocolate consumption and the differentiation between practices of consumption, increasingly embedded in the medical and cultural mentality of the age, all signaled the beginning of a European chocolate tradition in which Spain rose as the nearly undisputed point of reference. However, their great affection for chocolate and their mastery in producing it were not the only things that associated the Spanish with this product. Chocolate also became an integral part of how Spaniards were represented and characterized, a veritable symbol of Spanish culture itself.

35With regards to the chocolate-coffee-tea triad, the formation of a product’s identity, increasingly tied to its respective importing and consuming nation, was an essential transition for its diffusion. In the case of chocolate, this was an especially important step in the birth of culinary and production traditions throughout Europe, where everyone looked to Spain, not the New World, as their point of departure. The Spanish culinary tradition was that with which rival national industries competed from the end of the 18th century onwards, in order to create variants, improvements and specificities in their chocolate production. This process of cultural and social fragmentation and appropriation (through the reinvention of recipes and discredit of Spanish ‘absolutist’ chocolate) was essential in chocolate’s penetration of European society. The emergence of new consumers both reflected and fuelled the diffusion of chocolate’s new symbolic associations, which characterized the process of appropriation, both culturally and socially. This fragmentation of modes and motivations was, therefore, an essential premise for chocolate’s success, as it exposed the points of rupture between representation and reality and prescription and transgression. Indeed, demand was shaped by the very dialectic tension that existed between rules, satire and criticism and the promotion and evolution of customs.

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Notes

1  William McNeil, Plagues and Peoples, New York: Anchor Books, 1998; Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.

2  Just few examples: Fernand Braudel, Civilisation matérielle, Économie et Capitalisme XVe-XVIIIe siècle, Paris: Armand Colin, 1979; Daniel Roche, La Culture des apparences : Une histoire du vêtement, XVII-XVIII siècle, Paris : Éd. Du Seuil, 2007; John Brewer and Roy Porter (eds), Consumption and the World of Goods, London/New York: Routledge, 1993; Colin Campbel, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism, Oxford: WritersPrintShop, 1987; Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things. Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988.

3  Great attention has been therefore given to the study of inventories and to the role of this category of products as an indicator of the level of secularization of private consumption. See Carol Shammas, The Pre-industrial Consumer in England and America, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002; Maxine Berg, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005; Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age, Berkeley: California UP, 1988; Paolo Malanima, Il lusso dei contadini. Consumi e industrie nelle campagne toscane del Sei e Settecento, Bologna: Il Mulino, 1990; Bartolomé Yun Casalilla, « Peasant material culture in Castile (1750-1900). Some proposals » in Anton J. Schuurman (ed.),Material Culture: consumption, life-style, standard of living (16th-19th), Milan: Università Bocconi, 1994, p. 125-36.

4  William Clarence-Smith, Cacao and Chocolate, 1765-1914, London: Routledge, 2000; Marcia Norton, New World of Goods: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Spanish empire, 1492-1700, Berkeley:California UP, 2000; V. G. Kiernan, Tobacco. A History, London, 1991; Brian Cowan, The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse, New Haven: Yale UP, 2005; James Walvin, Fruits of Empire: Exotic Produce and British Taste, New York: MacMillan, 1997.

5  Among the most influential text to reconstruct the last developments in the Atlantic history debate see as an example: Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concept and Contours, Harvard: Harvard UP, 2005; Wayne Bodle, « Atlantic History Is the New 'New Social History' », William and Mary Quarterly, 2007 (vol.) 64, n°1, p. 203-220; John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830, New Haven: Yale UP, 2007; Jack P. Greene and Philip D. Morgan (eds.), Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009.

6  For a resume of the European contributions to the debate see Silvia Marzagalli, « L’histoire atlantique en Europe », Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos, Coloquios, 2008, [En línea], Puesto en línea el 24 septiembre 2008. URL : http://nuevomundo.revues.org/42463. Consultado el 20 diciembre.

7  Alison Games, « Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities », American Historical Review, 2006 (vol. 111), n°3, p. 741-757.

8  Steven Topik, Carlos Marichal and Zephyr Frank (eds.), From Silver to Cocaine. Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000, London: Duke UP, 2006.

9  Several studies have questioned a supposed temporal and geographical uniformity in the changes of patterns of consumption investigating specific realities, but the isolation of national historiographies have prevented a fruitful dialogue with the “dominant narrative”. Here just few examples: Jan De Vries, Economy of Europe in an Age of Crisis, 1600-1750, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1976; Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: a New History of the Renaissance, New York: W. Norton, 1996; Renata Ago, Il gusto delle cose, Roma: Donzelli, 2006; Cissie Fairchilds, « Consumption in early modern Europe. A review article », Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1993, n°35, p. 850-858.

10  In the case of chocolate there is a chronological vacuum between the research by Marcia Norton, focused on the first receptions (1492-1700), and the book by William Clarence Smith, dealing with the diffusion of chocolate from a global point of view (19th century). In particular Spain has long occupied a marginal place in the study material culture, as the vision of eighteenth-century Spain as an “ancien régime” with a consequently rigid structure of consumption was widely accepted. Research conducted over the last decades have on the contrary traced a much more complicated, although fragmented, picture and set several directions to explore. Just a few examples: Jaume Torras and Bartolomé Yun (eds.), Consumo, condiciones de vida y comercialización. Cataluña y Castilla, siglos XVII-XIX, Valladolid: Junta de Castilla y León, 1999; Jesús Cruz, Gentlemen, Bourgeois, and Revolutionaries: Political Change and Cultural Persistence among the Spanish Dominant Groups 1750–1850, New York: Cambridge UP, 1996.

11  Just a few examples: Sophie and Michael Coe, The True History of Chocolate, New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000; Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Das Paradies, Der Geschmack und die Vernunft. Eine Geischichte der Genubmittel, Vienna, 1980; James Walvin, Fruits of Empire: Exotic Produce and British Taste, New York: MacMillan, 1997.

12  Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid, Arbitrio que el Capitan Andres de Deçá, vezino de la Ciudad de Leon…, Madrid 4 de Junio, año 1627.

13  Colmenero De Ledesma, Curioso tratado de la naturaleza y calidad del chocolate, Madrid, 1631, p. 14. See also Bartolomé Marradón, « Diálogo del uso del tabaco y del chocolate , in Phylippe S. Dufour, Traitez nouveaux e curieux du cafè, du the et du chocolate, Lyon, 1685, p. 423-445; Santiago de Valverde Turices, Un discurso del chocolate, Sevilla, 1624; Don Fernando Afán de Ribera i Enriquez, Un discurso del Chocolate, Sevilla, 1624.

14  For an example of the importance of chocolate drinking habits and recipes circulation, see Bianca Maria Lindorfer, Cosmopolitan Aristocracy and the Diffusion of Baroque Culture: Cultural Transfer from Spain to Austria in the Seventeenth Century, Unpublished thesis: EUI ,2009, p. 173.

15  Don Manuel Navas de Carrera, Dissertación Historica Phisico-Chimica, y analysis del cacao, su uso, y dosis, que para beneficio común da al publico, Zaragoza, 1751.

16  Denis Diderot and Jean d’Alembert, Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 1751-72, entry about cacao.

17  E. F. Lantier, « Viaje a Espana del caballero San Gervasio » in José García Mercadal (ed.),Viajes de extranjeros por España y Portugal, Madrid: Junta de Castilla y León, 6 vols,1999, p. 1266.

18  Joseph Vicente Diaz Bravo, El Ayuno Reformado por los cinco breves de nuestro santissimo Padre Benedicto XIV […]Y una disertacion historica, medico-chimica, phisico-moral de el chocolate, y su uso, despues de los nuevos preceptos, Pamplona, 1754, p. 312.

19  Don Antonio Lavedán, Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, café, té y chocolate, Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1796, p. 214.

20  Braudel, Civilisation matérielle; Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: the Place of Sugar in Modern History, New York: Penguin, 1985; Michel Morineau, « Colonial Beverages and the Consumption of Sugar », in Jean-Louis Flandrin (ed.), Food: A Culinary History, London: Penguin, 2000), p. 374-82.

21  Just as examples, see: Stuart Schwartz (ed.), Tropical Babylons. Sugar and the making of the atlantic world, 1450-1680, Chapel Hill: North Carolina UP, 2004; B. W. Higman, « The Sugar Revolution, in The Economic History Review », New Series, 2000, vol. 53 n.2, p. 213-236. Usually Spanish impact on sugar diffusion is underestimated, as it has been more emphasized the role of Italian texts as a bon-ton guide at the time.

22  See also Woodruff Smith, who neither mentions chocolate questioning the introduction of the tea and coffee sweetening habit. Woodruff Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability, 1600-1800, New York: Routledge, 2002, p. 120-125.

23  First testimonies for the use of sugar in coffee and tea are Dufour, Traitez nouveaux; John Chamberlain, The Manner of making tea, Chocolate and Coffee as it is used In most parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, London, 1686. See also Smith, Consumption and the Making of Respectability, p. 122.

24  Besides the already cited S. Mintz and J. Flandrin see also Woodruff D. Smith, « Complications of the Commonplace: Tea, Sugar, and Imperialism », Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 1992, vol. 23 n.2, p. 259-278.

25  Christine Adams, A Taste for Comfort and Status: A Bourgeois Family in Eighteenth-Century France, University Park: Penn State Press, 2000; Anne McCants, « Poor Consumers as Global Consumers: the Diffusion of Tea and Coffee Drinking in the Eighteenth Century », The Economic History Review, 2008, vol. 61, n. S1, p. 172-200; Smith, Consumption and the Making; Braudel, Civilisation matérielle,  p. 225-28 / 249-60.

26  S. D. Smith, « Accounting for Taste: British Coffee Consumption in Historical Perspective », Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 1996, vol. 27 n.2, p. 183-214.

27  W. Hughes, influential botanist, strongly promoted chocolate use in the colonies and in England. William Hughes, Discourse of the Cacao-Nut-Tree, and the Use of Its Fruit: With All the Ways of Making of Chocolate: The Like Never Extant Before, London, 1672, p. 146.

28  Monsieur de (Nicolas) Blégny, Le bon usage du thé du caffé et du chocolat pour la preservation & pour la guerison des maladies. Paris, 1687. The Making Of The Modern World. Web. 22 Dec. 2011; Madame D'Aulnoy, « Relación que hizo de su viaje por España la señora condesa... » (1679), in Mercadal, Viajes de extranjeros.

29  Susan Terrio, Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate, Berkeley: California UP, 2000; Robert Stein, The French Sugar Business in the 18th Century, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1988, p. 117; Louis Bergasse and Gaston Rambert (eds.), Histoire du commerce de Marseille, Paris: Plon, 1954.

30  Louis Lemery, A Treatise of All Sorts of Foods, London, 1745, p. 365.

31  Ibid.

32  Valuable Secrets concerning Arts and Trades: or approved directions from the best artists for the vaious methods of..., London, 1775.

33  Emmanuel Collet (ed.), Chocolat, de la boisson élitaire au bâton populaire, XVIe-XXe siècle, Paris: CGER, 1996, p. 90 / 223-230; Clarence-Smith, Cacao and Chocolate, p. 15.

34  « An account, of the methods by which several young ladies have been seduced, by the holy fathers of the inquisition into their seraglio's; and the manner in which they are kept, related by a clergyman of the church of England », in Rev. J. M. A. Baker, The history of the inquisition, as it subsists in the kingdoms of Spain, Portugal, &c. And in both the Indies, to this Day. Comprehending as well an entertaining Series of its Transactions, as an exact Account of its Constitution, Power, &c. under the following Heads: I. Its Rise, Progress, and Establishment. II. The extraordinary Methods taken to support it. III. The almost boundless Jurisdiction of this Court; its Officers, Laws, Customs, &c. IV. The Nature of its Proceedings against Hereticks. V. The Judgments, Penances, Executions, &c. Interspersed with various, extraordinary, and particular relations concerning the treatment of persons prosecuted in that court; as of Isaac Martin, an Englishman, who lay long in Prison at Granada, in the Reign of the late King George; and whose Account has the Sanction of a Certificate signed by both Archbishops, and by thirteen Bishops, at the Instance of Mr. Secretary Craggs: With many other genuine Cases, extracted from credible Authors, and from Original Papers. To which is added, an appendix of necessary records, and various Original Letters on the Conduct of the Inquisition, hitherto never printed. Compiled and translated by the Reverend J. Baker, M. A. Illustrated with Copper Plates, London,  M.DCC.XXXIV. [1734]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. European University Institute. 22 Dec. 2011.

35  M.D.T. Bienville, Nymphomania, or, a Dissertation Concerning the Furor Uterinus, Madrid, 1775, p, 57-58.

36  Ibid.

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Référence électronique

Irene Fattacciu, « Atlantic History and Spanish Consumer Goods in the 18th Century: The Assimilation of Exotic Drinks and the Fragmentation of European Identities », Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En ligne], Colloques, mis en ligne le 27 juin 2012, consulté le 18 novembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/nuevomundo/63480 ; DOI : 10.4000/nuevomundo.63480

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Auteur

Irene Fattacciu

History and Civilization Department, European University Institute, Florence, Italy
Irene.Fattacciu@eui.eu

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