tv Invention of Rum CSPAN August 3, 2019 9:40pm-10:01pm EDT
organ smith talks about the invention of rum. interview at the organization of american historians annual meeting in philadelphia. here atn smith, you are the annual meeting talking about rum. why? >> i'm working on a book project that examines the production of rum in the 17th century world. at the heart of the project is an attempt to ask how rum was centuries as different groups of people from the americas, europe, and africa converged and combined his experiences. >> why rum? >> what is interesting about rum
is it is ubiquitous. it is something, we look at the example of mount vernon, everybody is drinking rum. it is served on washington's table. martha washington says rum may always be had. and alsoorted locally from the caribbean. it is having an internal economy bringing in workers who get their wages in rum. enslaved people receive rum for anything from childbirth to getting a cow out of a meyer. it is one of these moments where you can see how different groups of people we don't always think around an item part of everyday life. >> where and when is it invented? k it isgue in the boo
invented in barbados in the early to mid-17th century when europeans from england and scotland and native people from south america and africans aboutd in barbados within 18 months of each other. it is a moment when people want alcohol. all of those individuals were used to alcohol. they are far removed from where they had lived previously. certain alcohols don't travel well. and so there are people interested in making alcohol, with some experience. there are new products they experiment with, fermenting to turn sugar into alcohol. some of the equipment is necessary to make rum arrived on the island. experimentation,
drawing in different groups of people and in a couple of decades, there are a number of beverages from bananas and plums, which becomes rum. i argue it is invented in barbados and reinvented as a commodity but also the knowledge to make that commodity travels to other parts of the caribbean and north america, england and scotland. what are they using? >> when the native people are brought, they bring sugarcane. ingredients,asic the waste product of sugar. that is the base ingredient. >> how is it made? >> you would take whatever waste product you had, we are talking about sugarcane that might have
been damaged, eaten by rats, or the molasses that is taken out of the sugar as it is turned into granular sugar. they are taking all of these waste products together and mixing them together with water, yeast, allowing the fermentation process to take place as the sugar becomes alcohol and then they are put in a close topper where you can check most of the alcohol to create a more concentrated beverage. >> who is drinking it? >> everybody. it is consumed on plantations. early on producers are the consumers. that is important because it suggests when we figure out why rum gained the quality it does, whoever is making it is also thinking about what they want to do and what properties they
want. it is being traded locally. smaller plantations may not have a distillery. it is traded to africa. alcohol is the most -- second-most traded item. it becomes a part of the european trade with the native people. just about everybody, including people who are children today would have been drinking rum in large quantities. >> is it lucrative? >> the thing that might differentiate rum from beer or wine or brandy and whiskey is that it is value-added. you are able to harness the waste product of sugar production and turn it into run. of sugarsed the value production. it is lucrative. itond just making money,
s in north industrial america to centralize production. >> when you look at documents from that time, how much are people paying for or trading for to get rum and in what quantities? >> it depends. individuals might go to a backcountry tavern and by a small quantity of rum for consumption. >> how much would that cost? >> cents. pennies. littleyou could get a bit of rum for very little money. where asn an era people are trying to invent rum is, they experiment with aging, different qualities and types of product. on, rum from the
caribbean was more valuable from rum in america. >> describe the evolution of who is making it and where does it go from there? >> in the larger book project i document how rum merges from the margins of society in barbados cultivation is in hand. native people, enslaved africans start experimenting with alcohol production. on it is not a commodity yet. individuals toor experiment with making it. it becomes lucrative. plantation owners and enslavers start to corral the process. eventually requiring enslaved individuals to carry out the
fieldwork. becomes over time the work becomes concentrated in the hands of enslaved individuals. credit given to inventors is given to enslavers rather than the actual bodies and minds. >> where does it get exported and why? >> anywhere a british ship is going, rum is going with it. , and also the knowledge of how to produce, is between the caribbean, north america, and britain. iner on you also see rum south asia and australia. always on these ships.
sometimes as a trade item. >> what impact does this industry have on the colonies? the largests one of industries in north american cities. there are about 140 distilleries throughout the british colonies. georgia, to new hampshire, even canada. this is a type of production, a larger scale of production that resemblesvery that plantation slavery from the caribbean. to places like boston, new york, philadelphia. >> what do you mean by that? >> the way the distilleries work in the northern cities, they orld have as many as eight
10 enslaved people working in them. they were supervised by a distillery. that is different than other industries as far as shipbuilding or making iron where the workers tended to work alongside each other. it is one of the larger uses of industrial slavery in the north. >> what impact does it have on slavery? hashe production of rum several influences. it is one of the most frequently traded items in the slave trade. it shows the connection between thisn and rhode island and trade in human beings. movement of anhe enslaved body. i document in the book cases
are moved fromls plantations in barbados to valued.here they are i tell the story of a man and seven 230 who is removed from barbados and carried around in boston and advertised as an , orrt in rum production making the barrels. reminder ofwerful how slavery was not just taking a physical body. also the mind. it tells us something about the intellectual slavery where individuals are producing knowledge. they are producing expertise that adds value. person worth more
because of his expertise? >> yes. there are other complications that make it harder but in general i have looked at the sorts of plantation records to understand how they value skilled workers. i find that enslaved distillers or those who made the barrels to carry rum were often valued higher than other enslaved people. >> when did you develop your interest in the history of rum? >> even as an undergraduate student when i was falling in love with history i thought alcohol was a way to think about how a variety of people interact. it was so ubiquitous in society.
initially i was interested in how it was consumed. vernon, theyunt have a distillery. i made different types of alcohol and it was hard work. sometimes it did not go as planned. suggested there was information and expertise individuals must have had we took for granted. it caused me to rethink the part of the alcohol process, the production and what that might tell us about the history of the atlantic world and how we think about expertise. >> you were making rum the way people were doing it? whiskey, i had a chance to make rum as well.
not always exactly how it was done. the physical process raised questions that dovetailed with what i was learning about industry and work. not turnou say it did out, did you taste bad rum? >> i remember we did not know how to mix the fermented batches. we came in one morning and the floor was covered in foam. we had some time to reflect as we were cleaning up the phone because it was not really written in distillation guides. would have known from their own experience. aboutt should people know learning history by doing history? , it can add to our
understanding of certain tocesses and what it means create alcohol or any commodity. that can be valuable. we have to be mindful when we use that technique we are never going to replicate the broader milieu of the 18th century. it will never be the same. i can't speak to certain experiences. i can learn something momentarily working with the same persons. >> jordan smith, thank you. >> you are watching american history tv. we bring you 48 hours of unique programming
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