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Varia Historia

Print version ISSN 0104-8775On-line version ISSN 1982-4343


MCCOOK, Stuart. Chronicle of a plague foretold crop epidemics and the environmental history of coffee in the Americas. Varia hist. [online]. 2008, vol.24, n.39, pp.87-111. ISSN 0104-8775.

Crop epidemics provide a portal into the global and transnational environmental history of commodities. The coffee rust epidemic, caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, is one of the most serious diseases to have afflicted the global coffee industry. In the nineteenth century, it devastated the coffee plantations in the Old World. It sharply curtailed arabica coffee production in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. This was one of the factors that allowed the Americas do dominate global coffee production in the twentieth century. The coffee rust epidemic was first detected in the Americas in the 1970s. The history of the rust epidemic in the Americas, and attempts to control it, shed light on two major paradigms that shaped the environmental history of coffee in the late twentieth century. The paradigm of technification, which dominated from the mid-20th century to the early 1990s; and the paradigm of sustainability, which dominated emerged in the mid-1980s and continues to the present.

Keywords : coffee; epidemics; environment.

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