When shipping companies first experimented with transporting wine in steel containers in the 1930s they promised to revolutionize the way French Algeria sent its most important export to metropolitan France. What capitalists saw as a rational and efficient use of new technology, however, dockworkers and barrelmakers saw as a dire threat to their livelihoods in a time of intense economic hardship. This article traces the social conflict that followed the introduction of the wine tanker and the declining use of wine barrels in port cities in both Algeria and France. In doing so it illustrates the wide range of people and places that held a direct stake in economic activity arising from France’s colonization of Algeria, from the rural environments in which wine was produced all the way to distant urban spaces such as Rouen.
French and Algerian Ports and the Birth of the Wine Tanker
Owen White and Elizabeth Heath
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.
Naomi J. Andrews, Simon Jackson, Jessica Wardhaugh, Shannon Fogg, Jessica Lynne Pearson, Elizabeth Campbell, Laura Levine Frader, Joshua Cole, Elizabeth A. Foster and Owen White
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