Plants and Empires

When and Where

Friday, April 14, 2023 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
JHB 100
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


This one-day international conference explores the question of “plants and empires” from multiple vantage points: circulation and networks, labour, plant uses (medicinal, perfume, culinary). A host of spaces are considered, including botanical gardens, perfumeries, sites of contact. Plants considered include breadfruit, ylang-ylang and vanilla, amongst many others.

Panel I, 9 AM, Jackman Building, Room 100

  • Andreas Motsch, University of Toronto, “The discovery of panax quinquefolius (Canadian ginseng): botany, theology and the history of pharmacology.”
  • Prof. Bertie Mandelblatt, John Carter Brown Library, Rhode Island "Breadfruit between Two Global Empires: Slavery, Subsistence and Imperial Competition from New Guinea to Martinique."
  • Dr. Oana Baboi, University of Toronto. “Experiences with oriental plants: 16th-century Portuguese surveys of Indian materia medical.”

Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library Visit, 11 AM

Panel II, 2 PM, Jackman Building Room 100

  • Prof. Owen White, University of Delaware, "A Different Kind of Colonist: Phylloxera in Algeria."
  • Mathilde Cocoual, Centre de la Méditerranée Moderne et Contemporaine, "Colonisation et nouvelle géographie des plantes à parfum (19e-20e siècle)".
  • Prof. Eric Jennings, University of Toronto, “The French empire’s near vanilla monopoly, 1870-1960.”
  • Prof. Gillian McGillivray, Glendon College/ York University, "Empire's Orphan: Cane-sugar and Capitalism in Brazil, 1889-1959."



CEFMF, CERES, French Consulate and Embassy, Jackman Humanities Institute, Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library


170 St George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8