“Extremely wide-ranging and well researched . . . In a tradition of protest literature rooted more in William Blake than in Marx.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker The epic story of how coffee connected and divided the modern world Coffee is an indispensable part of daily life for billions of people around the world. But few coffee drinkers know this story. It centers on the volcanic highlands of El Salvador, where James Hill, born in the slums of Manchester, England, founded one of the world’s great coffee dynasties at the turn of the twentieth century. Adapting the innovations of the Industrial Revolution to plantation agriculture, Hill helped turn El Salvador into perhaps the most intensive monoculture in modern history—a place of extraordinary productivity, inequality, and violence. In the process, both El Salvador and the United States earned the nickname “Coffeeland,” but for starkly different reasons, and with consequences that reach into the present.
Provoking a reconsideration of what it means to be connected to faraway people and places, Coffeeland tells the hidden and surprising story of one of the most valuable commodities in the history of global capitalism.