In 1875 the Botanical Garden of Buitenzorg introduced two coca plants on the island of Java, which was then part of the Netherlands East Indies. Within a thirty-year period, starting in 1892, Java succeeded in becoming the world's leading exporter of coca leaves, surpassing the traditional coca producers in Peru and Bolivia. How and why did this occur? We argue that the story of the transformation of Javanese coca into "Java coca" as part of a "branding" process is closely linked to the rise of the ethical pharmaceutical industry in Europe and a laboratory revolution in botany, chemistry, and pharmacy. The story is also one of transnational circulation of experts, expertise, and the coca plants and leaves that traveled among South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Furthermore, this case study illustrates the nineteenth-century transition from colonial botany and "green imperialism" to what we conceptualize as "colonial agro-industrialism."


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 90-116
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.