map of earth in shape of a heart

Ethical Consumption Before Capitalism (2024)


Is it ethically permissible to sell, buy, and use luxury goods? What labor practices do we tolerate to make these goods available? This project traces the early history of these questions as European powers started to exploit the natural resources and peoples of the New World.

We want to trace how the discourse of commercial consumption and the labor needed to sustain Early Modern Markets is presented 17th century documents produced for the English Trading Companies and responding to the economic exploitation of the New World. An ever-growing supply of new luxury goods reached England through the recently-opened trade routes to the New World, the African Continent, and India. The production and trade of these new goods required innovations in the pursuit of early colonial projects: especially maintaining a sufficient labor force working to supply these goods.

The Virginia Company of London hired popular ministers to represent the New World as both a providential landscape where the undesirable and “poor” of London could be turned into productive laborers and eventual colonists. Starting 1619, the City of London agreed to supply the Virginia Company with labor, by detaining and paying for the transport of hundreds of “vagrant” children to the New World as indentured servants. At the same time, the ministers working for the Virginia Company organized schools to convert Native Americans to Christianity and to work for the colony.

The team will use Natural Language Processing and ArcGis methodologies to trace and explain this history.

Project Leads: Astrid Giugni, Jessica Hines

Project Manager: Nitin Luthra



Related People


English, Whitman College

English - Whitman College