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Week 2. Traded commodities


1. Lecture 

Podcast by Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Riello

 2. Seminar and Key Readings 

Choose an 'traded object' from the Ashmolean or V&A collection and consider

  • what do we know about the object itself? (When, where and how was it made? Do we know anything about where it was used/displayed/consumed?)
  • Who were involved in the trade, and exchange of this material good?
  • How and where did it travel?
  • Is it possible to say anything about the meanings the object acquired as it moved through space and time? Did the object mean something different when it was manufactured from when it was consumed? what does it mean now, on display at the Ashmolean?
  • Why does any of this matter? Why is the object important? How does the study of this object fit into the wider secondary literature on global connections between 1300 and 1800?

      4. Essay Questions 
      • How important was the role of the Europeans in global trade between the 16th and 18th centuries? Consider one commodity.
      • How important were commodities in connecting different parts of the early modern world?
      • Who were the 'carriers' of material culture in the early modern world?

        Supplementary Materials 

        5. Other Readings

        6. Podcasts 

        7. External Links


        • Warwick "Global Arts Summer School": bibliographies, podcasts, museum presentations, etc.
        • Victoria and Albert Museum Images: One of the world’s largest image databases. It contains high-quality images of objects from the middle ages to the present covering most continents and in particular Europe.
        • The National Trust has over 700,000 objects from its collections online
        • Boston Museum of Fine Arts Images: 160,000 images available online.
        • Royal Ontario Museum Images: Another important collection of objects that complements the V&A collection.
        • Joconde – Image Database of the French Museums (search in French). The database includes half a million entries on objects beloging to different categories ranging from archaeology, to enthnography, history, decorative arts, etc.
        • ALMA (Art Meets Artefacts): this website (in Dutch and English) explores the relationship between material artefacts and their depicted versions in art.
        • Museum of London: From this page you can search the ‘London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre online resources’, and the extensive ‘The Ceramics and Glass Collection’, as well as other museum microsites.
        • British Library Images Online: The Picture Library of the British Library, it includes 2D objects such as prints, drawings and pictures.
        • British Museum Prints and Drawings Collections: There are approximately 50,000 drawings and over two million prints dating from the beginning of the fifteenth century up to the present day.


        All images below are from the Collections Database

        Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

        Block-printed textile fragment with band of rosettes and flowers (Front)


        Musician in a landscape (Front)



        Porcelain birdcage vase (Side)