History | Spices and Drugs, 1400-1900
J300 | 8629 | Carmichael

A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class COLL intensive writing section
Above class open to undergraduates only

This intensive writing seminar will take a global perspective and
focus on the time period between 1400 and 1900. That “early modern”
time period is profoundly interesting for the issues of spices and
drugs, because globalization of both ideas about plants, animals and
minerals, and global trade, transplantation and exploitation of
resources changed the world forever. The biological world before
1500 is not recoverable. However to understand how humans before
this time period understood spices and drugs, we will read and
consider a more general history of human uses of natural substances
beyond what they consumed solely as food. Our topical focus on
spices and drugs will thus include aromatics and some introduction
to the pharmacological properties of various plants, minerals and
contaminants. The temporal focus of our general reading will include
traditional cultural and geographical patterns of spice and drug use
since antiquity. The period after 1900, however, requires a good
working knowledge of chemistry and life sciences to fully engage the
study of spices and drugs, and thus can only become a research focus
for those who have such preparation.

As an intensive writing seminar people in the class must write a
total of 30 pages of original work over the course of the semester,
and part of our class discussion must focus on the craft and issues
of writing. I will employ peer review of some of the shorter (3-4
page) papers, and ask each of you to choose a particular spice or
drug that can be your focus as you learn about some of the research
sources available in IU libraries. History Department intensive
writing seminars are a preparation for senior research seminars.
Finally, there will be weekly quizzes on the assigned readings,
basic and objective in nature, because neither research nor
discussion goes well if you are not informed and prepared.