HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Feb. 27, 2006

Brian Cowan named Top Young Historian

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Brian Cowan, a Dassel-Cokato High School graduate, was named a Top Young Historian Jan. 1 by the History News Network because of his book, “Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse.”

Cowan, the son of Bill and Bev Cowan of Dassel, wrote an account of the social history of the British coffeehouse. His mother is a special education teacher at the Dassel Cokato Middle School.

“Brian Cowan’s ‘Social Life of Coffee’ is an engagingly written, lavishly illustrated, and meticulously researched book. It provides the most comprehensive account of the rise and accommodation of coffee and coffeehouse culture that is currently available,” said Steven Pincus of Yale University.

Cowan, 36, has been an assistant professor of history since 2004, and a Canada research chair in early modern British history at McGill University. He has a Ph.d. from Princeton University in 2000. Cowan previously taught at Yale University, and University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

“As colorful as its history may be, the story of the introduction of coffee into the British Isles reveals much about the ways in which early modern economic, social and political relations were constituted,” Cowan said in his book.

“Coffee culture itself did not transform British society – this book has emphatically refused to argue for a ‘caffeine revolution’ that inaugurated a modern work ethic or a more recognizably democratic civil society – but understanding the remarkable ways in which British coffee culture did emerge helps us understand how even a pre-modern society could adopt innovative consumption habits and could invent new social institutions such as the coffeehouse,” Cowan said.

Cowan currently is working on a book on the media politics surrounding the 1710 trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell. He also is collaborating with Prof. David Boruchoff on a study of the long term history of the commonplace notion that the three greatest inventions of modern times were the compass, gun powder, and the printing press.


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