IMG_2737Christina Claxton ’16 was so excited to begin that she was working on her project even before classes started.  Initially planning to do something with the French exploration of Canada (having spent 6 weeks at McGill University over the summer doing just that), she was distracted into another project focused on our fabulous first edition of Diderot’s L’Encyclopédie.

Christina has started recording her impressions on a blog titled Philologie de L’Encyclopédie, and says, “over the course of the semester, I will work with its volumes as well as related sources to understand both its impact on the time of its publication and how it has influenced present day knowledge and thinking.”


IMG_2738Maia Madison ’15 intrigued the committee by her desire to create hand-drawn maps tracing the spread of the use if cacao throughout the colonial Spanish Empire. Here is a further description of her ideas:

“Cacao was introduced to Spain in the early-to-mid 16th century, but took several decades to become established. Upon its increase in popularity and accessibility to the general public, it also diffused to Britain and Western Europe. However, with its introduction to new regions, the composition of chocolate fell to a much lower ratio of cacao and a higher proportion of milk. Most of the original flavoring agents (such as chili peppers and achiote) were also eliminated. However, Spain was the one country that maintained native Mesoamerican traditions of cacao for a longer period of time. In the early 18th century, chocolate was “an exceedingly fashionable beverage” (Bugbee) and consumption had increased substantially as cacao became a lucrative and in-demand good. The premise of this project would be a cartographer/explorer commissioned by the Spanish government to provide an in-depth but engaging and readable collection of information about cacao to Spanish merchant companies to encourage investments in the cacao trade (which would of course be taxed), from plantation to table.

For those who wonder if she can pull this off, take a look at her “draft” sketch (her words) which I caught a look at in passing!img781  If this is a quick sketch, imagine what the finished products will look like.  Here is her plan, viz. the maps:

Two 1-1/2’ x 2-1/2’ maps (one overall of New Spain, another zoomed in detail of Central America with inset on the layout of cacao orchards) with information on primary and secondary production regions, areas where flavoring agents were cultivated, trading routes, voyages, Spanish settlements, etc.

We look forward to seeing their projects unfold, and to announcing our Spring Fellows in December!

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