Tempora Mutantur

Narrative and Experimental History On a brisk April morning two years ago, I followed winding medieval streets to the Edinburgh University Library, an imposing concrete slab that houses some of the rarest and oldest books in Scotland. I was there to consult a set of letters between two 17th century natural philosophers and physicians, Sir Hans Sloane and Sir […]

A Spaniard in Samarkand

On September 8, 1404, the Castilian diplomat Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo reached the Silk Road city of Samarkand. He had travelled over five thousand miles by foot, sail, horse and camel; passed through steppe, deserts, seas and mountains. Now he had reached his destination: the capital of a vast new empire created by a military genius, mass murderer […]

Origins of the Global Drug Trade

Portugal and Early Modern Globalization The slaves, merchants and mariners of the Portuguese imperial world played a key role in bringing tea to Britain, coffee to Brazil, and chili peppers to India. Indeed, early modern Portuguese were globalizers par excellence. Portuguese mariners and their African slaves can be spied shimmying up ship ropes and perched […]