How the British Empire Made Wine's New World
WINNER OF THE ANDRÉ SIMON AWARD
University of California Press, April 5, 2022. Available now.
Paperback available April 2024. Chinese edition available May 2024.
"Fascinating and surprising. Imperial Wine traces in meticulous detail how the apparently modern fashion for New World wines is in fact the legacy of Empire."––Lizzie Collingham, author of The Hungry Empire: How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World
A fascinating deep dive into the colonial roots of the global wine industry. Imperial Wine is a bold, rigorous history of Britain’s surprising role in creating the wine industries of Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Here, historian Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre bridges the genres of global commodity history and imperial history, presenting provocative new research in an accessible narrative. This is the first book to argue that today’s global wine industry exists as a result of settler colonialism and that imperialism was central, not incidental, to viticulture in the British colonies. This book is sure to satisfy any curious reader who savors the complex stories behind this commodity chain.
André Simon Drink Book Award 2022, Andre Simon Memorial Fund
Gourmand Award (Best Wine History Book, United States) 2023, Gourmand World Cookbook Awards
MORE PRAISE FOR IMPERIAL WINE
“It's a brilliant book from start to finish. Academic rigour and discipline structures every page … Regan-Lefebvre has a gift – she knows how to curlicue dry facts just enough to make them intriguing without losing their accuracy. She’s delivered all this in what amounts to a cracking read. It is a fascinating book. A page-turner, even!” - Tamlyn Currin, JancisRobinson.Com
"a master class in historical storytelling." - The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs
"Elegantly written and with impressive far-ranging research, which quite literally spans the globe, Imperial Wine will contribute to debates about the nature of British imperialism. Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre's principal strength is how she uses the story of wine and winemaking as a window into the nature of 'settler colonialism' and the integrative forces of the British imperialism. In doing so, she shows how imperialism turned Great Britain from a country of beer drinkers into a country of beer and wine drinkers."––Stephen V. Bittner, author of Whites and Reds: A History of Wine in the Lands of Tsar and Commissar
"Like a good wine, Imperial Wine hits many notes. The narrative is brisk and lively, but it also has nuance and depth due to the attention Regan-Lefebvre gives to the roles of British imperialism and settler colonialism in the rise of the 'new world' wines of Australia and South Africa."––Dane Kennedy, author of The Imperial History Wars: Debating the British Empire
"This wide-ranging transnational history gives fascinating and often surprising insights into the connections between viticulture and Empire. It is a thought-provoking and learned page-turner."––Richard Toye, author of Churchill's Empire: The World That Made Him and the World he Made
“Historical insights and sharp commentary. A must-read for students of wine history."
—Australian Financial Review
"Imperial Wine teaches wine enthusiasts about the role of empire in shaping the wine world of the past, present, and probably the future, too. And it teaches students of imperialism that the influence of those forces continues even in something as seemingly simple as a glass of wine. Interesting. Well-written. Thought-provoking. I learned a lot."
"Really fascinating . . . . Very accessible to the average reader who has any interest at all in the history of wine. Most important, however, is I think the author has contributed an original idea or at least fully fleshed out an idea concerning the significance and utility of the 'Old World' / 'New World' structure that has for so long now played a key role in discussions of wine history and the world wine marketplace."—Fermentation newsletter
"As with any good history, Regan-Lefebvre’s book sparks more questions than it answers. . . . This is, however, not a shortcoming of the book but a strong point: like a glass of rich red wine, the topic of wine in the British Empire certainly has legs. These legs— and the ideas propounded in this book—will provide fertile ground for future discussion and scholarship in the years to come."—Gastronomica
"Regan-Lefebvre’s account shows how the modern consumer’s choice of an alcoholic beverage rested on centuries of canny merchant schemes, land grabs, and exploitation of Indigenous peoples. ... She manages to keep every thread of argument in view ... [and is] devoted to exposing the power and importance of economic structures. Regan-Lefebvre showcases triumphant twentieth-century capitalism carrying New World wines into a twenty-first century of global mass consumerism." -- Journal of Interdisciplinary History
"a compelling account of how wines from Australia and, to some extent, South Africa gradually found favor among ordinary British consumers over the course of the twentieth century. ... informed readers will appreciate its extensive coverage and writing style, in which lively and uncomplicated prose is enlivened with numerous wry asides. At the end of the day, it tells a compelling story of how wines from the former Empire came to win over British palates, and capture a major share of the global market. It is the first book that succeeds in explaining how this unfolded over the course of more than two centuries." -- Journal of Wine Economics
Other Historical Writing
Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre has written widely on wine, empire, Britain, Ireland, India, and nationalism. Here are some highlights. For a full list of her publications, see her faculty profile here.
'Should Wine History Have a Post-colonial Future? British Imperial Viticulture and Settler Colonialism,' Journal of the Canadian Historical Society / Révue de la Société historique du Canada,
Vol. 33, No. 2, January 2024.
Scholarly article. As the history of wine emerges as a field of scholarly study, scholars may wish to consider the historiographical and theoretical approaches best suited to its study, particularly in regards to recent research into the central role of colonization in the global spread of viticulture. This article gives an overview of major historiographical approaches to wine history, noting the general absence of overarching discussions of imperialism and colonialism. Then, to illustrate some of the complexities of applying these frameworks, it considers two related stories, and briefly retells them through each of three theoretical lenses. The first story is of the creation and operation of the Burgoyne Company, the major British importer of Australian and South African wine from the 1870s through the 1950s. The second story is of Burgoyne, and others, importing their wine into the Irish market. These microhistories illustrate what is potentially at stake, and what is complicated, in incorporating colonial and post-colonial frameworks into our understanding of wine history.
‘From Colonial Wine to New World: British Wine Drinking, c.1900–1990,’ Global Food History, Vol. 5, January 2019.
Scholarly article. British consumer demand has been credited with driving New World wine exports. More specifically, the growth of supermarkets post-1960 has been attributed with a simultaneous New World export boom and the “democratization” of wine across British society. This article readjusts those chronologies, revealing the long history of “colonial wines” from Australia and South Africa that were marketed toward middle- and working-class consumers. It argues that the democratization of wine was a gradual trend, partly made possible by colonial wines, and it further separates retailing methods from New World consumption.
Cosmopolitan Nationalism in the Victorian Empire: Ireland, India, and the Politics of Alfred Webb. Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Book. The first biography of Alfred Webb, Irish nationalist and president of the 1894 Indian National Congress. The biography explores how Webb viewed nationalism as a vehicle for global social justice. Drawing on archives in Britain, Ireland and India the author reveals how Irish and Indians used cosmopolitan London to create networks across the Empire.
PRAISE FOR COSMOPOLITAN NATIONALISM
'An immensely readable and valuable addition to Irish, imperial and Victorian historiography. Regan-Lefebvre's findings are fresh and unexpected. ' - Kate O'Malley, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
'A fascinating account of an important, though hitherto neglected figure in Irish political life. Scholarly and lucidly written, it spans the range of Webb's activities and influences as a humanitarian reformer, activist and man of letters, both in Ireland and internationally, and provides a thoughtful interpretation of his personality. It is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the period.'
- Carla King, St. Patrick's College, Dublin City University
'This critical biography adds to the broader understanding of the global reach of Irish nationalist thinking...' - History Ireland
'The academic community is deeply in debt to Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre for this well-researched and nuanced study.
Webb's career 'reveals the fabric of multicultural social relations in late nineteenth-century Britain, in which individuals from the periphery of the British Empire met at the imperial core and found an international context to their nationalism'. Regan-Lefebvre has produced an important contribution to the study of Victorian Irish and Imperial radicalism. ' - Eugenio F. Biagini, English Historical Review
'John Bull’s Other Vineyard: Selling Australian Wine in Nineteenth-Century Britain.’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol. 45, No. 2, March 2017.
Scholarly article. Nineteenth-century Australian wine makers saw Britain as the natural market for their wines and envisioned themselves as participants in a greater imperial economy, so Australian wine should be considered in discussions of imperial commodities and the reception of popular imperialism in advertising.