Steven C. Topik

Picture of Steven C. Topik
Distinguished Professor, History
School of Humanities
PH.D., University of Texas, 1978
Phone: History Department: (949) 824-6521
Fax: (949) 824-2865
University of California, Irvine
252 Murray Krieger Hall
Mail Code: 3275
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
History of Latin America, especially Brazil, World history through the study of commodities, especially coffee.
Research Abstract
My interests have evolved over the last decade but maintain a consistent trajectory. I am increasingly practicing world history by integrating the insights and methods of political economy and international relations with social and cultural history to understand the interaction of the global and local. But it is a world history that attempts to avoid eurocentrism, economism, and mechanical structuralism. As a historian of Brazil, my work recenters Brazilian participation in the world economy. Rather than servants or victims of outside forces and ideas, Brazilians have demonstrated impressive innovation and sovereignty in helping to shape the world. They affected the world not only through the export of trade goods but also through cultural, ideological, technological, and demographic invention. My research has also focused on United States’ participation in the world economy especially in the age of empire.

The evolution of my concerns is best explained through the works I have published and edited. The first, "The Political Economy of the Brazilian State, 1889-1930"(University of Texas Press) concentrated on the nature of the Brazilian state and public policies in banking, transportation, export commodities and industrialization; it was translated into Portuguese in 1989.

The second monograph, "Trade and Gunboats, the United States and Brazil in the Age of Empire" (Stanford University Press) applied comparative international political economy to the study of the inter-relationship of the Unites States and Brazil in the first years of U.S. outward expansion and the beginning of Brazil’s Republic, 1889-1894. Choice Magazine named it an “Outstanding Academic Book” for 1996 because of its focus on the commercial and military projects within both countries and how they intersected. This perspective explored the extent and nature of United States imperialism and Brazilian “dependency”. It was translated into Portuguese in a revised edition for a Brazilian public in 2009.

The next volume, "The Second Conquest of Latin America, Coffee, Henequen and Oil during the Export Boom, 1850-1930" (University of Texas Press) was written with Allen Wells; Jonathan Brown and Mira Wilkins contributed chapters. It focused on pan-Latin American analyses of specific commodities rather than national economies. I contributed the chapter on coffee as well as co-authoring the introduction and conclusion.

The next year was published a volume that grew out of a decade-long collaboration on a column for the business magazine, "World Trade" with my fellow UCI faculty member, Ken Pomeranz. "The World that Trade Created" (M.E. Sharpe) is a collection of short pieces in world history demonstrating how long-standing globalism has been and that cultural, political, and social and ecological concerns have always had great impacts on the economic. The essential insight is that markets are social and cultural creations. The book has been translated into Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. A second English edition with about 30 percent different articles, was published in 2006 and a revised third edition in 2013.

This led to a more global study, "The Global Coffee Economy in Asia, Africa and Latin America, 1500-1989" (Cambridge University Press) which originated in a conference at St. Antony's College, Oxford, organized by William Clarence-Smith of SOAS and me. It includes essays covering five centuries of coffee production in eleven countries on five continents written by scholars from nine countries. I wrote an overview of coffee’s history and co-authored the introduction and conclusion.

Feeling that analyses of global markets should take into consideration consumption, Carlos Marichal, Zephyr Frank and I organized conferences at Stanford and in Buenos Aires on Latin America’s participation in the world economy through studies of twelve commodity chains. "From Silver to Cocaine, Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000" (Duke University Press) was the result. I co-authored the introduction and a chapter on coffee.

With Allen Wells, I co-authored a long chapter in a Harvard Press world history, "A World Connecting" (edited by Emily Rosenberg) which was published by Harvard Press as a stand alone volume in 2014 as "Global Markets Transformed 1870-1945". It is a global study of commodities and export economies in the 1870-1945 period.

At roughly the same time I co-edited with Mario Samper a volume on the effects of neo-liberal policies on Latin American coffee economies after 1989 as "Crisis y transformaciones del mundo del café. Dinámicas locales y estrategia nacionales en un periodo de adversidade e incertidumbre." Bogotá, Colombia: Editoral Javariana, 2012.

My current project is a world history of coffee since 1500 under contract with Princeton University Press. It compares not only the social, political, ecological and economic consequences of coffee growing on four continents, but also study the interaction of production and consumption. The book explores the contrasting cultural meanings of coffee production and consumption for issues such as state and empire building, race, gender and sociability construction, national and imperial identity, religious and military organization.
Global Markets Transformed, 1870-1945.With Allen Wells. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.
Crisis y transformaciones del mundo del café. Dinámicas locales y estrategia nacionales en un periodo de adversidade e incertidumbre. Co-edited with Mario Samper. Bogotá, Colombia: Editoral Javariana, 2012.
The World That Trade Created: Culture, Society and the World Economy,1400 to the Present Co-authored with Kenneth Pomeranz .. Armonk , New York : M.E. Sharpe, 1999. Translated into Korean, 2003, Translated into Chinese,2008, Translated into Japanese, in press. Revised English Second Edition 2006, Third Edition 2013.
From Silver to Cocaine: Latin American Commodity Chains and World History. Co-edited with Carlos Marichal and Zephyr Frank. Durham N.C.:Duke University Press, 2006. Spanish translation, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica in press.
The Global Coffee Economy in Africa , Asia , and Latin America . NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003 Co-edited with William Clarence-Smith .. Electronic version by London : Taylor and Francis , 2004.
The Second Conquest: Coffee, Henequen and Oil During the Latin American Export Boom. co-authored with Allen Wells, University of Texas Press, 1998.
Trade and Gunboats: The United States and Brazil in the Age of Empire (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996) Brazilian version in Portuguese: Comércio e canhoneiras. Brasil e Estados Unidos na Era dos Impérios (1889-1897) published Sao Paulo, Brazil: Companhias das Letras, 2009.
The Political Economy of the Brazilian State, 1889-1930 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987).
A Presença do Estado na Economia Política do Brasil,1889-1930.
Portuguese translation. Rio: Distribuidora Record,1989.
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