Crossing Conventional Borders: Introducing the Legacy of Hemp into the Atlantic World

Bradley J. Borougerdi


By the mid-eighteenth century, a transatlantic dialog on the importance of hemp as a strategic commodity developed in the British Empire. This article addresses questions pertaining to the role hemp played in the social, cultural, and political lives of people across the Atlantic by introducing a series of treatises, which appeared on both sides of the ocean that urged farmers to become hemp cultivators. Due to the fear of relying too heavily on Russia for their much needed supply of good quality hemp for naval stores, the British developed a dialogue concerning the importance of increasing hemp cultivation within the empire that travelled across the Atlantic and later influenced Americans’ perception of the crop after the Revolutionary war. Moreover, both the British and the Americans looked to France for new methods of cultivation, making the circulation of ideas a truly transatlantic phenomenon. Although a comprehensive understanding of the political, economic, and cultural history of hemp in many parts of the Atlantic world will require more extensive research on a much broader scale, the questions posed in this article illustrate the contribution that such a wide-ranging study will have to transatlantic history.

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