From Long-Distance Trade to the Global Lives of Things: Writing the History of Early Modern Trade and Material Culture

in Journal of Early Modern History
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Until quite recently, the field of early modern history largely focused on Europe. The overarching narrative of the early modern world began with the European “discoveries,” proceeded to European expansion overseas, and ended with an exploration of the factors that led to the “triumph of Europe.” When the Journal of Early Modern History was established in 1997, the centrality of Europe in the emergence of early modern forms of capitalism continued to be a widely held assumption. Much has changed in the last twenty years, including the recognition of the significance of consumption in different parts of the early modern world, the spatial turn, the emergence of global history, and the shift from the study of trade to the commodities themselves.

From Long-Distance Trade to the Global Lives of Things: Writing the History of Early Modern Trade and Material Culture

in Journal of Early Modern History




Herman Van der Wee“Structural Changes in European Long-Distance Trade, and Particularly in the Reexport Trade from South to North, 1350-1750,” in The Rise of Merchant Empires14-33; Niels Steensgaard “The Growth and Composition of the Long-Distance Trade of England and the Dutch Republic before 1750” in The Rise of Merchant Empires 102-52; The importance of comparative methodologies is also spelled out in the short editorial that accompanies the first part of the first volume of the jemh. See James D. Tracy “From the Editors” Journal of Early Modern History 1 (January 1997): 1.


Gungwu Wang“Merchants without Empire: The Hokkien Sojourning Communities,” in The Rise of Merchant Empires400-422; Irfan Habib “Merchant Communities in Precolonial India” in The Rise of Merchant Empires 371-99.


Tracy“From the Editors” 1.


See for example Randolph Starn“The Early Modern Muddle,” Journal of Early Modern History 6 (2002): 296-307; The colonial roots of European modernity are discussed in Jorge Cañizares Esguerra “Spanish America in Eighteenth-Century European Travel Compilations: A New ‘Art of Reading’ and the Transition To Modernity” Journal of Early Modern History 2 (1998): 329-49; The following review discusses the issue briefly for the Ottoman empire: James E. Baldwin “Tezcan Baki. The Second Ottoman Empire: Political and Social Transformation in the Early Modern World [Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization] (Cambridge 2010)” Journal of Early Modern History 16 (2012): 451-53.


Eric S. Casino and Myongsup Shin“South China Sea or ‘Asian Mediterranean Sea’: Re-Conceptualizing a Common Regional Maritime Zone,” International Area Studies Review 2 (1999): 43-64; Angela Schottenhammer ed. The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture Commerce and Human Migration East Asian Economic and Socio-Cultural Studies. East Asian Maritime History 6 (Wiesbaden 2008); François Gipouloux The Asian Mediterranean: Port Cities and Trading Networks in China Japan and Southeast Asia 13th-21st Century (Cheltenham 2011).


Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell“The Mediterranean and ‘the New Thalassology’,” The American Historical Review 111 (6 January 2006): 722-40; M. P. M. Vink “Indian Ocean Studies and the ‘New Thalassology’” Journal of Global History 2 (2007): 41-62.


Chen Tzoref-Ashkenazi“German Auxiliary Troops in the British and Dutch East India Companies,” in Transnational Soldiers: Foreign Military Enlistment in the Modern Eraed. Nir Arielli and Bruce Collins (New York 2013) 34; See also the much earlier book by Roelof van Gelder Het Oost-Indisch avontuur: Duitsers in dienst van de voc (1600-1800) (Nijmegen 1997).


JacobsMerchant in Asia157.






Craig Clunas“Modernity Global and Local: Consumption and the Rise of the West,” The American Historical Review 104 (1999): 1497-1511.


Maxine Berg“In Pursuit of Luxury: Global History and British Consumer Goods in the Eighteenth Century,” Past & Present 182 (2004): 85-142; Maxine Berg ed. Goods from the East 1600-1800: Trading Eurasia Europe’s Asian Centuries (Basingstoke 2015).


Xiaodong Xu“Europe-China-Europe: The Transmission of the Craft of Painted Enamel in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in Goods from the East 1600-1800: Trading Eurasiaed. Maxine Berg (Basingstoke 2015) 92-106. See also the forthcoming Warwick University Ph.D. by Tang Hui.


Clunas“Modernity Global and Local” 1500. Clunas points to the piece by Lorna Weatherill as an example of the former while T.H. Breen holds the latter view.


Arjun Appadurai“Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspectiveed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge 1986) 3-63.


Mariana De Campos Françozo“Beyond the Kunstkammer: Brazilian Featherwork and the Northern European Court Festivals,” in The Global Lives of Things105-27.


Leah R. Clark“Transient Possessions: Circulation, Replication, and Transmission of Gems and Jewels in Quattrocento Italy,” Journal of Early Modern History 15 (2011): 185-221.


Christina Brauner“Connecting Things: Trading Companies and Diplomatic Gift-Giving on the Gold and Slave Coasts in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Journal of Early Modern History 20 (2016): 408-28.


Cynthia Viallé“ ‘To Capture Their Favor’: On Gift-Giving by the VOC,” in Mediating Netherlandish Art and Material Culture in Asiaed. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann and Michael North (Amsterdam 2014) 292.


Nancy Um“Order in the “Arbitrary”: The Distribution, Content, and Temporal Cycles of English Merchant Tribute in Eighteenth-Century Yemen,” Journal of Early Modern History 18 (2014): 229 and 252-3.


Lihong Liu“Ethnography and Empire through an Envoy’s Eye: The Manchu Official Akedun’s (1685-1756) Diplomatic Journeys to Chosǒn Korea,” Journal of Early Modern History 20 (2016): 111-39.


Matthew P. Romaniello“True Rhubarb? Trading Eurasian Botanical and Medical Knowledge in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of Global History 11 (2016): 3-23; Matthee The Pursuit of Pleasure; Bertie R. Mandelblatt “ ‘Beans from Rochel and Manioc from Prince’s Island’: West Africa French Atlantic Commodity Circuits and the Provisioning of the French Middle Passage” History of European Ideas 34 (2008): 411-423; James McCann Maize and Grace: Africa’s Encounter with a New World Crop 1500-2000 (Cambridge ma 2005); John F. Richards “Early Modern India and World History” Journal of World History 8 (1997): 197-209.

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