My interests have evolved over the last decade but maintain a consistent trajectory. I am increasingly practicing world history by integrating the insights and methods of political economy and international relations with social and cultural history to understand the interaction of the global and local. But it is a world history that attempts to avoid eurocentrism, economism, and mechanical structuralism. As a historian of Brazil, my work recenters Brazilian participation in the world economy. Rather than servants or victims of outside forces and ideas, Brazilians have demonstrated impressive innovation and sovereignty in helping to shape the world. They affected the world not only through the export of trade goods but also through cultural, ideological, technological, and demographic invention. My research has also focused on United States’ participation in the world economy especially in the age of empire.
The evolution of my concerns is best explained through the works I have published and edited. The first, The Political Economy of the Brazilian State, (University of Texas Press) concentrated on the nature of the Brazilian state and public policies in banking, transportation, export commodities and industrialization, was translated into Portuguese in 1989.
The second monograph, Trade and Gunboats, the United States and Brazil in the Age of Empire (Stanford University Press) applied comparative international political economy to the study of the inter-relationship of the Unites States and Brazil in the first years of U.S. outward expansion and the beginning of Brazil’s Republic, 1889-1894. Choice Magazine named it an “Outstanding Academic Book” for 1996 because of its focus on the commercial and military projects within both countries and how they intersected. This perspective explored the extent and nature of United States imperialism and Brazilian “dependency”. It is currently being translated into Portuguese in a revised edition for a Brazilian public.
The next volume, The Second Conquest of Latin America, Coffee, Henequen and Oil during the Export Boom, 1850-1930 (University of Texas Press) was written with Allen Wells; Jonathan Brown and Mira Wilkins contributed chapters. It focused on pan-Latin American analyses of specific commodities rather than national economies. I contributed the chapter on coffee as well as co-authoring the introduction and conclusion.
The next year was published a volume that grew out of a decade-long collaboration on a column for the business magazine, World Trade with my fellow UCI faculty member, Ken Pomeranz. The World that Trade Created (M.E. Sharpe) is a reader in world history demonstrating how long-standing globalism has been and that cultural, political, and social and ecological concerns have always had great impacts on the economic. The essential insight is that markets are social and cultural creations. The book was translated into Korean. A second English edition with about 30 percent different articles, was published in 2006.
This led to a more global study The Global Coffee Economy in Asia, Africa and Latin America, 1500-1989 (Cambridge University Press) which originated in a conference at St. Antony's College, Oxford, September 10-12, 1998 organized by William Clarence-Smith of SOAS and me. It includes essays covering five centuries of coffee production in eleven countries on five continents written by scholars from nine countries. I wrote an overview of coffee’s history and co-authored the introduction and conclusion.
Feeling that analyses of global markets should take into consideration consumption, Carlos Marichal, Zephyr Frank and I organized conferences at Stanford and in Buenos Aires on Latin America’s participation in the world economy through studies of twelve commodity chains. From Silver to Cocaine, Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000 (Duke University Press) was the result. I co-authored the introduction and a chapter on coffee.
My current project is a world history of coffee since 1500. The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded me a fellowship for 2007-08 to complete the manuscript. It will compare not only the social, political, ecological and economic consequences of coffee growing on four continents, but also study the interaction of production and consumption. The book will explore the contrasting cultural meanings of coffee production and consumption for issues such as state and empire building, gender and sociability construction, national and imperial identity, religious and military organization.
I am also working, with Allen Wells, on a world history of export economies in the 1870-1930 period for a Harvard University world history volume and finishing a biography of my father, Kurt Topik who has lived in very interesting times and places.
I love teaching, from a freshman seminar on “Baseball as America” to the lower division course on the historiography of Latin America, to a senior seminar on the world of coffee and a graduate seminar on the world of commodities. I have directed nine Ph.D. dissertations, four of which have been published as books. Being together at UCI with so many colleagues with interests in Latin American and world history has been a blessing.
» From Silver to Cocaine: Latin American Commodity Chains and World History. Co-edited with Carlos Marichal and Zephyr Frank. Durham N.C.:Duke University Press, 2006
» The World That Trade Created: Culture, Society and the World Economy,1400 to the Present Co-authored with Kenneth Pomeranz .. Armonk , New York : M.E. Sharpe, 1999. Translated into Korean, 2003. Revised English Second Edition 2006.
» The Global Coffee Economy in Africa , Asia , and Latin America . NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003 Co-edited with William Clarence-Smith .. Electronic version by London : Taylor and Francis , 2004.
» The Second Conquest of Latin America , Coffee,Henequen and Oil during the Export Boom, 1850-1930. Co-authored with Allen Wells . Austin : University of Texas Press, 1998.
» Trade and Gunboats: United States and Brazil in the Age of Empire . Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1996. Portuguese translation 2008.
» The Political Economy of the Brazilian State, 1889-1930 , Austin , Texas : University of Texas Press,1987. Translated into Portuguese 1989.
Ph.D. Dissertations Supervised
» Dorothy Kerig, “Yankee Enclave: The Colorado River Land Company and Mexican Agrarian Reform in Baja California 1903-1944”, UCI PhD, 1988. Published as “El Valle de Mexicali y la Colorado River Land Company” (Mexico: Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, 2001)
» Corinne A. Pernet, “Mobilizing Women in the Popular Front Era. Feminism, Class and Politics in the Movimiento Pro-Emancipacion de la Mujer Chilena (MEMCh), 1935-1950.” UCI PhD, 1996. Published as Movilizacion femenina en la epoca lel frente popular. (Chile: s.n., 1997).
» Julio E. Moreno. “Marketing in Mexico, Sears, Roebuck Company, J. Walter Thompson and the Culture of North American Commerce in Mexico During the 1940’s.” UCI PhD, 1998. Published as Yankee Don’t Go. Mexican Nationalism, American Business Culture and the Shaping of Modern Mexico. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 2003).
» Richard Weiner. “Demons and Deities: Market Metaphons in Porfirian Mexico.” UCI PhD, 1999. Published as: Race, Nation and Markets: Economic Culture in Porfirian Mexico. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004).
» Robert Duncan. “For the Good of the Country: State and Nation Building During Maximilian’s Mexican Empire, 1864-1867.” UCI PhD, 2001.
» Nicole Marie Sanders. “Gender, Welfare and the “Mexican Miracle’: The Politics of Modernization in Postrevolutionary Mexico, 1937-1958” UCI PhD, 2001.
» Dennis Kortheuer. “The Compagnie du Boléo The Making of a Town and company in the Porfirian Frontier 1885-1900.” UCI PhD 2001.
» Wiebke Ipsen, “Delicate Citizenship: Gender and Nation-building in Brazil, 1865-1891.” UCI PhD 2005.
» Paulo Simoes, “Bringing About Another Kingdom: United States Religious and Political Ideology in Brazil’s Transition from Empire to Republic.” In progress.
» Giovanni Hortura, "Bullets, Drugs, and Rock and Roll: Columbian Punk Rock, Heavy Metal Culture in a Time of Revolt and Terrorism, 1979-1994." In progress.