Article ID: CBB527946594

The value within multiform commodities: North African phosphates and global markets in the interwar period (2021)


Phosphates mined in France’s North African empire fed interwar Europe’s voracious appetite for chemical fertilizers. In critique of histories vesting commodities themselves with the agency to make the modern world, I trace not the substance but the value embedded within it. By following value, I argue that the ‘commodity’ is not a stable unit of analysis. Rather, commodities are multiform. They can acquire myriad properties when the value embedded within them changes across time and place. During the interwar period, phosphates’ character as a commodity transmuted in relation to flows of other goods, movements of labour, global financial exigencies and imperial considerations. As phosphates assumed new forms, the geographic scales over which they operated changed too. Through North African phosphates, I explore value-making processes that perpetuated capital-intensive farming, allowing for a history not of the commodity-as-substance but of the commodity-as-historical-object whose analytical boundaries and forms shifted across contexts.

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Authors & Contributors
MacLeod, Roy M.
Pimentel, Juan
McClellan, James E., III
Regourd, François
Sörlin, Sverker
Elena, Alberto
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
Social Studies of Science
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Journal of Global History
Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Univ. Chicago Press
University of Chicago Press
Yale University Press
Oxford University Press
Columbia University
University of Nebraska Press
France, colonies
Mines and mining
Commodity exchanges
Sánchez Cózar, Santiago
Villar, Emilio Huguet del
Lacapère, Georges
Arbuzov, Aleksandr Erminingel'dovich
Fanon, Frantz
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
17th century
North Africa
Latin America
New York Cotton Exchange

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