Summer Scholars: Chocolate as Medicine / A Bibliographic Memoir

Notice from 1777 advertising tea, coffee and chocolate for 550 guineas

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Chocolate in early Jamaica, and reflections on reading and writing.

The Eccles Centre’s Summer Scholars season of free in-person lunchtime talks explores the exciting and wide-ranging research into the Americas collections at the British Library by the Eccles Centre’s Fellows and Award winners. The talks take place in the Knowledge Centre and attendees are welcome to bring their lunch. Tea and coffee are available.

Chocolate, Reproduction and Colonisation in Early English Jamaica 

Kate Mulry examines English colonisers’ search for new medicines and commodities in Jamaica in the 17th century and highlights a range of exploitative claims made by English medical writers and colonial promoters about cacao. 

These writers urged Jamaica’s new English proprietors to cultivate cacao and claimed consuming chocolate both boosted women’s fertility and enabled intense physical exertion. They anticipated cacao would solve the island’s population and labour needs.

Lessons of Decal

Sophie Seita discusses Lessons of Decal, the book she is currently writing and researching at the British Library. A decal is a copy, a transfer of forms and knowledge, something that sticks and leaves a mark. Written in a series of lyrically spun experimental essays, Seita’s queer-feminist meditation on reading and learning asks how we – or Seita herself – make decals through our reading, writing, and teaching. This bibliographic memoir also considers alternative and embodied modes of learning and relating, Seita’s teachers of reading (which may be objects), poetry’s phantom limbs, lazy laboratories, a pedagogy of percolation, playlists as gifts, queer love poems, serious copying and non-dull repetition.

Kate Luce Mulry is a historian of medicine, the body, and the environment in the early modern English Atlantic world. She is an associate professor of history at California State University, Bakersfield, and is the author of An Empire Transformed: Remolding Bodies and Landscapes in the Restoration Atlantic (New York University Press, 2021).

Sophie Seita is an artist, writer, and researcher whose work explores text in its various translations into book objects, performances, videos, or other languages and embodiments. She has performed or exhibited her work at Hoxton253; [ SPACE ], La MaMa Galleria (NYC), Bold Tendencies, the Arnolfini, JNU (New Delhi), Kettle’s Yard, Parasol Unit, Flat Time House, Art Night London, Kunsthalle Darmstadt (Germany), Taller Bloc (Santiago de Chile) and elsewhere. She's the author of (most recently) The Gracious Ones (Earthbound Press, 2020), My Little Enlightenment Plays (Pamenar, 2020), and Provisional Avant-Gardes (Stanford University Press, 2019), and the translator of the German poet/essayist Uljana Wolf's Subsisters: Selected Poems (Belladonna, 2017) and Etymological Gossip (Nightboat, 2023).

Image: The sale of tea, coffee and chocolate; Shelfmark: HS.74/1987(29), British Library

This event is organised by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. The Eccles Centre exists to support and promote creative research and lifelong learning about the Americas, through the world-class collections of the British Library.


Name: Summer Scholars: Chocolate as Medicine / A Bibliographic Memoir
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546