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Chelsea Davis

The CHA Journal Prize ( The best article from #1 and #2 issues)


Chelsea Davis, “All that Glitters Is Wine? Viticultural Capitalists and the Creation of Britain’s Colonial Wine Industry.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association / Revue de la Société historique du Canada 33, no. 2 (2023): 59–88. https://doi.org/10.7202/1108198ar

The article shows how the capital accumulated from a massive boom in extractive mining in both South Australia and the Cape Colony played an important role in expanding the production of wine. These “viticultural capitalists”, which included Cecil Rhodes, cultivated a space that gave them access not only more to land but also pulled them into local politics to advocate for greater say in the future development of two settler colonies. As Chelsea Davis skilfully shows, the growing power of this group of mining barons-turned-wine producers pushed out small winegrowers and expanded the system of exploitative labour practices. As this article shows, wine in South Africa and Australia, as elsewhere, played an important role in the rise of the settler colonial state.

The selection committee was impressed with the rigorous archival research that Davis employed to analyze how the emergence of British capitalist viticulturalists transformed the colonial wine industryand how Davis situated these changes in the broader colonial context and in relation to changing trends in resource cultivation. The article was innovative in its comparative approach (South Africa and Australia) and how it transcended fields (mining and agriculture) that often remain siloed. Her research into colonial capital movements shows the dramatic effect on the land itself, making a colonial landscape. The committee was also impressed with how Davis incorporated sharp analysis of racialized labour practices, as well as the rise of international expertise and industry associations.