As most people in Atlantic-era West Africa—as in contemporary Europe and the Americas—were farmers, fields and gardens were the primary terrain where they engaged the opportunities and challenges of nascent globalization. Agricultural changes and culinary cross-currents from the Gold Coast indicate that Africans engaged the Atlantic world not with passivity but as full partners with others on continents whose histories have enjoyed longer, and greater, scholarly attention. The most important ‘seeds of change’ are not to be found in the DNA of crops and critters carried across the seas but instead in the creativity and innovation of the people who engaged the challenges and opportunities of the Atlantic World.
J. D. La Fleur, Ph.D. (2003), is Assistant Professor of History at the College of William & Mary (USA). He is the translator-editor of
Pieter van den Broecke's Journal of Voyages to Cape Verde, Guinea and Angola (Hakluyt, 2000).
Winner of the 2013 Mary W. Klinger Award for Best Book from the Society for Economic Botany.
"[La Fleur's ]human-centered as opposed to crop-centered focus makes an important contribution to our knowledge of African foodways during this crucial era and furthers historians’ efforts to retrieve the dynamic roles of Africans in Africa as actors in our histories of the Atlantic world."
Journal of Early Modern History (November, 2014)
"... this is an excellent book."
New West Indian Guide (November, 2014)
"... This is a well written and nicely produced book with broad appeal given its focus on issues that have developed in the wake of Crosby's influential
The Columbian Exchange. In addition to its value as a work of historical scholarship, it will also be appreciated by anyone interested in African ethnobotany whether in Africa or elsewhere..."
Economic Botany (June, 2013)
"... La Fleur adds to our growing attempt to better include West Africa in Atlantic Studies, and thus make it less Eurocentric, while expanding our understanding of the role of women within the Gold Coast as they determined what new items would be adapted and which ones would not."
Itinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction (April, 2013)
".. move[s] the history of staple foodstuffs to a new level, greatly extending understanding of the history of agriculture and food ..."
Rachel Laudan (Institute for Historical Studies, University of Texas at Austin),
Journal of World History, June 2017, pp. 302 - 306
List of Maps, Illustrations, and Word Lists
Preface and Acknowledgements
Notes on Linguistic Evidence and African Languages
1. Finding Food in Early Afro-Atlantic History
Africanist Historiography of Pre-Colonial Agriculture
Themes and Structures
2. Introducing the Land to Culture, 25,000 BCE to
circa 1400 CE
Early Foraging to 25,000 BCE
Specialized Foraging, 25,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE
Intensified Foraging from 10,000 BCE
Integrating Crops and Critters into Hunting, Gathering, and Foraging
Initial Farming from 500 BCE
Mature Farming, circa 1400 CE
3. Seeds of Change: Early African Experimentation in the Atlantic Era
The Agro-Historical Milieu
4. Reap What You Sow: The Profits and Perils of the New Starchy Crops
Going for Gold with Plantains
Allada Communities and Culinary Cross-Currents
Baked Bread and Biscuits
Sowing and Savoring Wealth
Insecurity and Impoverishment amid Scarcity and Violence
Suffering in Times of Plenty
5. The Porcupine’s Shame: Bearing the Burden of Cassava Culture
Problems in the Earliest Records of Introduction
Africanizing Cassava Culture
Outsiders and Renewed Innovation with Cassava
6. Finding History in Early Afro-Atlantic Foodways
Scholars, students, and interested readers of Atlantic history, African history, environmental and agricultrual hisory, and the world history of food.