From courtly curiosity to revolutionary refreshment: Turkish coffee and English politics in the Seventeenth Century
By Alexander Mirkovic
Master’s Thesis, University of South Florida, 2005
Abstract: Why was coffee so fashionable yet so divisive a political symbol during the latter half of the seventeenth century? Historians have offered several answers, including the suggestion that the nascent Orientalism generated its popularity. Undeniably seventeenth century England imported exotic commodities, including coffee and tea, and began to appropriate them for the English culture. Did that also imply maintaining the cultural superiority over the natives? I argue that coffee was symbolically transformed during the political and revolutionary turmoil of the seventeenth century. Coffee was first introduced in the early part of the century to the Stuart court where it was an item of sophisticated curiosity. After the Restoration, the City of London and its many newly opened coffee houses created the alternative to the courtly culture of the Stuarts transforming coffee into a political symbol, indeed a symbol of distinction in taste.