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Cambridge University Press
Expected online publication date:
August 2024
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Book description

Plebeian Consumers is both a global and local study. It tells the story of how peasants, day workers, formerly enslaved people, and small landholders became the largest consumers of foreign commodities in nineteenth-century Colombia, and dynamic participants of an increasingly interconnected world. By studying how plebeian consumers altered global processes from below, Ana María Otero-Cleves challenges ongoing stereotypes about Latin America's peripheral role in the world economy through the nineteenth century, and its undisputed dependency on the Global North. By exploring Colombians' everyday practices of consumption, Otero-Cleves also invites historians to pay close attention to the intimate relationship between the political world and the economic world in nineteenth-century Latin America. She also sheds light on new methodologies and approaches for studying the material world of men and women who left little record of their own experiences.


‘Imaginative and thoroughly researched, Plebian Consumers shows how foreign goods ranging from cotton cloth to machetes to patent medicines were imbued with meaning by nineteenth-century Colombians and, in turn, how their tastes shaped overseas business practices. This book is required reading for anyone interested in global consumption.’

Eduardo Elena - University of Miami

‘Plebeian Consumers is an insightful and compelling study of consumer culture in nineteenth century Colombia. In considering a broad spectrum of consumer demands, Otero-Cleves offers a nuanced view of not only consumer practices but also the complex, multidirectional global relationships they entailed.’

Jeremy Prestholdt - University of California, San Diego

‘Plebeian Consumers tells a lively story of how Colombians, both elite and popular, creatively engaged with global commodities. Otero-Cleves’ book provides an immensely valuable contribution to debates on global consumption, the history of capitalism, and relations of economic power.’

James E. Sanders - author of The Vanguard of the Atlantic World: Creating Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in Nineteenth-Century Latin America

‘In elegant and compelling prose, Otero-Cleves flips the script on Latin American political economy to demonstrate how plebian consumption of foreign goods was vital to republican citizenship and shaped the contours of global capitalism.’

Heidi Tinsman - author of Buying into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States

‘Original, sophisticated and well-researched, this book makes an important contribution to transatlantic and global history as well as to the interplay between consumption and citizenship.’

Frank Trentmann - author of Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First


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