Commodities and Migration

Commodity history and migration history are often treated as discrete and yet they are significantly intertwined. The Commodities of Empire project has from the outset sought to link the two, this having been at the heart of research conducted on Cuba by both Professor Jean Stubbs (tobacco) and Dr Jonathan Curry-Machado (sugar). Migration has long been a driving force in Cuban history, as over the centuries movements of people in and out of Cuba were closely linked to major political, economic and social upheavals, from conquest and colonisation, through trade and commodity production, to late 19th century independence from Spain, early 20th century US domination, late 20th century revolution, and – up until 1989 – close ties with the then Soviet Union.

Professor Stubbs has over the years engaged with a network of scholars working on migration linked to the commodity production of tobacco. Building on this, in 2011 she forged a new collaboration with Dr Catherine Krull, then at Queen’s University and now the University of Victoria, Canada, to broaden this in the post-89 period, looking beyond tobacco to the commodification of Cuba itself, along with its iconic products (cigars, rum, vintage cars, music, and dance), linking it to the emergence of new Cuban Diasporas in Canada and Western Europe (for the purposes of the project, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom). Funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council, the project is now in its final stages. However, Commodities of Empire aims to nurture wider research linking commodity and migration histories.