Abstract: Broadening Our Focus: The Beer Trade Networks of New Imperialism, c.1870-1914

Malcolm F. Purinton


The production of beer has been critical to health, consumptive patterns, and trade in many areas around the world for millennia. However, until the nineteenth century beer production and trade were constrained to regional networks and limited imperial connections. Over the second half of the nineteenth century, beer quickly became a global commodity. Not only that, one particular style of beer that had been limited to one specific region suddenly became the most widely traded and consumed beer in the world.

This paper challenges existing scholarship regarding the relationship between imperial powers and their colonies through an investigation into the role of imperial trade networks in the spread and consumption of Pilsner-style beer in British South Africa. By concentrating on a German commodity, this paper provides a reinterpretation of the relationships between the British colonies and the metropole through the inclusion of non-British actors and global trade networks.