Maria do Mar Gago



Maria do Mar Gago is a historian of science and technology interested in the global history of crops, notably coffee. She was trained as a biologist but from early on realised that she could not make sense of the contemporary practice of science without studying its history.

From 2020 to 2022 she was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She is currently working on a book based on her doctoral dissertation, ‘Robusta Empire: Coffee, Scientists and the Making of Colonial Angola (1898-1961).’ In this work, she brings together the history of science and technology, environmental history, and imperial history to produce a nuanced narrative of Robusta coffee and Portuguese colonialism in Angola.

Gago’s current project further explores the ways coffee and scientists shaped the social and political order, but this time from a transnational perspective beyond the Portuguese case. By taking coffee collections as forms of geopower, the project discusses the role of scientists in weaving international, national and colonial agendas, and also the ways coffee plants themselves shaped those agendas. Her previous interests include the relationship between science and the authoritarian regime of António Salazar.

Research fields

  • History

Selected publications

  • Gago, Maria, “Moving Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Colonial Angola to the Breakfast Tables of Main Street America, 1940–1961,” in Knowledge Flows in a Global Age. A Transnational Approach, edited by John Krige, 231-252. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022. [link]
  • Gago, Maria do Mar, “Logística e agronomia: imperialismo português, hegemonia norte-americana e a coprodução do café angolano (1945-1956),” in A produção do mundo. Problemas logísticos e sítios críticos, organised by Andrea Pavoni and Franco Tomassoni, 299-317. Lisbon: Livros Outro Modo, 2022. [link]
  • Gago, Maria do Mar, “How green was Portuguese colonialism? Agronomists and coffee in interwar Angola,” in Changing Societies: Legacies and Challenges, vol.III. The diverse worlds of sustainability, edited by Ana Delicado, Nuno Domingos and Luís de Sousa, 229-246. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais, 2018. [link]🔓
  • Gago, Maria do Mar. “Things of Darkness: Genetics, Melanins and the Regime of Salazar (1936–1952),” Centaurus 57 (2015): 1-27. [link]

Main projects

  • Individual project “Making Coffee Global: World Collections, African Forests and Geopower (1933-1961)” — Hosted by the IHC and funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (2020.03783.CEECIND). 2021-2027
  • Robusta empire : coffee, scientists and the making of colonial Angola (1898-1961)” — Individual PhD project hosted by the University of Lisbon, supervised by Tiago Saraiva (ICS — University of Lisbon) and Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Cambridge), and funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology.
  • Researcher in the team of the exhibition “Darwin’s Evolution”  —  Coordinated by José Feijó and funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Foundation for Science and Technology. 2009



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