What is it about?

In 1663, an English Embassy lead by the Earl of Carlisle traveled to Muscovite Russia. Failing to make any significant breakthroughs in Anglo-Russian relations, a member of the Earl’s Embassy observed that the Russians “will in time leave off that rustick and barbarous humor, which is so natural to them, and learn by degrees to live with more civility… And were they under a gentler Government, and had a free Trade with every body, no doubt but this Nation would in short time be taken with our civility and decent way of living.” The English expectation that trade would inspire the adoption of English customs and create consumers of their goods was predicated on a fundamental misapprehension regarding the relative weights of trade and cultural prohibitions against foreign customs. When tobacco was introduced into Muscovy in the seventeenth century, most Muscovite authorities, including the Russian Orthodox Church and the tsar, condemned the use of tobacco. Furthermore, Muscovy’s ongoing reforms created a mercantilistic economic system depending on the strict regulation of all foreign trade for Moscow’s benefit.

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Why is it important?

The tobacco trade serves as an example of the failure of English economic ideology, resulting in Muscovy remaining outside of an English sphere of influence as well as demonstrating the strength of Muscovite religious and political resistance to Western culture. In other words, because the presumed influence of the exporting power has failed to alter the importer in any meaningful way, the tobacco trade reveals the limited significance of early-modern globalization.


This was my first article on tobacco. It has since been followed by a few more, and my perspective on the Anglo-Russian relationship and the history of tobacco in Russia has changed.

Matthew P Romaniello
Weber State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Through the Filter of Tobacco: The Limits of Global Trade in the Early Modern World, Comparative Studies in Society and History, October 2007, Cambridge University Press,
DOI: 10.1017/s0010417507000801.
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