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The Color of French Wine

Southern Wine Producers Respond to Competition from the Algerian Wine Industry in the Early Third Republic

Elizabeth Heath

Abstract

In the early Third Republic, southern wine producers in the Aude confronted a new competitor: Algerian wine. This article explores Audois efforts to curtail Algerian wine production in the aftermath of phylloxera, the wine crisis, and the 1907 strikes. Focusing on the actions of the Confédération générale des vignerons, this article shows how local winegrowers transformed the Algerian wine industry into a symbol of industrial, profit-driven agriculture and global integration. Cast as a civilizational struggle that pitted “French” traditions and cultural practices against the unsavory and immoral habits of colonial competitors, the fight against Algerian wine provided southern wine growers with a way to distinguish and add value to their own wines. The result was a new myth of southern viticulture that, despite hybridized vines and industrial production methods, recast the Midi as the guardian of true “French” agricultural production and a rural culture based on age-old traditions and a moral economy.

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Owen White and Elizabeth Heath

Abstract

This introduction to the dossier “Wine, Economy, and Empire” surveys the place of economic history in the field of French Empire studies over the last twenty years. Drawing upon the concept of “economic life” as defined by William Sewell, the authors argue that a renewed focus on economic activity within the French Empire offers new opportunities to interrogate commonplace ideas about chronology, imperial forms, and structures of power. The article briefly examines some of the specific avenues of inquiry opened by a conception of economic life as socially “embedded,” while highlighting recent works that exemplify the possibilities of this approach for scholars of empire.