First encountered by Europeans during Christopher Columbus's maiden voyage, tobacco slowly gained worldwide popularity. Royals such as France's Catherine de Médicis benefited from its touted medicinal uses, and England's James I decried its use in print while enjoying the profits from his Virginia colony. Later during the colonial era, both Portugal and Spain placed a royal monopoly on tobacco, raising much-needed funds for the crown. Tobacco was in such high demand that even during the Age of Revolution it continued to cross the war-torn Atlantic Ocean when virtually all other shipping ceased or was severely interrupted by blockades and hostile vessels.

However, many studies of the Spanish and Portuguese empires' agricultural products focused not on tobacco but rather on sugar. Seminal works such as Manuel Moreno Fraginals's El ingenio: El complejo económico social cubano del azúcar (1964) and Stuart B. Schwartz's Sugar...

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