TODAY! “The Kola Nut in the Atlantic World”

This evening, hosted by the University College of London (UCL) Institute of the Americas, Shantel George (University of Glasgow) will present “The Kola Nut in the Atlantic World: Colonial Violence, Consumption Cultures and Diasporic Mobilities. This free event takes place online today—March 1, 2023, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm (GMT). Book here.

Description: From the late nineteenth-century, British explorers, bioprospectors and homoeopathic chemists fervently reported the ‘discovery’ of the African kola nut, which was slated to supersede chocolate, tea and coffee, bolster imperial ambitions, and offer ‘miraculous’ health benefits. For African and African-descended peoples, however, the kola nut was not new, having cultivated, consumed, and, from at least the thirteenth century, established trading networks in the nut. 

Yet, few studies examine Africans as distributors and consumers of global commodities, failing to recognise the impact of Africans throughout the life histories of commodities. This talk will chart the complex history and wide-ranging influence of the African kola nut, focusing on Nigeria, Jamaica and Britain from 1500 to 1900. It uses this investigation as a case study to emphasise and explain the long-neglected role of Africans as distributors and consumers of global commodities and to highlight the relationship between consumption cultures and imperialism in late-nineteenth-century Britain.

Shantel George is a lecturer in history, researching the transatlantic slave trade, slavery and emancipation, with a particular focus on the British Caribbean. She received her PhD from SOAS, University of London, and is currently finishing a book manuscript, “Yoruba are on a Rock”: Liberated Africans and African Work in Grenada (under contract with Cambridge University Press). Shantel is also working on a global history of the African kola nut, which is supported by short-term fellowships from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition and the John Carter Brown Library.

For more information, see

[Image above from WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: “A botanical drawing of the kola nut tree with a view of how it rests in the pod on the bottom right.”]

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