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Global Economic and Material History (Giorgio Riello)

For discussion

  1. Are there such things as a ‘global commodities’ in the period before 1800? And if so, in what ways are they different from today’s global commodities?
  2. Which commodities were globally exchanged in the early modern period? And what issues do they raise? [consider one or more commodity]
  3. How did material objects connect different areas of the world?
  4. While Europe and Asia became increasingly connected through the exchange of things, their economies diverged. Why?


Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Riello, ‘Global Material Cultures: Things in History’ (Unpublished paper, June 2008). [copies will be distributed], or

Craig Clunas, ‘Modernity Global and Local: Consumption and the Rise of the West’, American Historical Review, 104/5 (1999), pp. 1497-1511. (even better if you read both)

Maxine Berg, ‘In Pursuit of Luxury: Global Origins of British Consumer Goods’, Past and Present, 182 (2004), pp. 85-142

Prasannan Parthasarathi, ‘Review Article: The Great Divergence’, Past and Present, 176 (2002), pp. 275-293.

Further Readings

Please read at least two of these readings

Donald Quataert (ed.), Consumption Studies and the History of the Ottoman Empire, 1550-1922: An Introduction (Albany, 2000), introduction.

John Styles, ‘Product Innovation in Early Modern London’, Past and Present, 168 (2000), pp. 124-169.

Jeremy Prestholt, ‘The Global Repercussions of Consumerism: East African Consumers and Industrialization’,  American Historical Review, 109/3 (2004), pp. 755-782.

 Peter Burke, ‘Rex et Verba: Conspicuous Consumption in the Early Modern World’, in J. Brewer and R. Porter, Consumption and the World of Goods (London and NewYork, 1993), ch. 7 [HS 2200.C6]

Robert Finlay, ‘The Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History’, Journal of World History, 9 (1998), pp. 141-187

Anne E. McCants, ‘Exotic Goods, Popular Consumption, and the Standard of Living: Thinking about Globalization in the Early Modern World’, Journal of World History, 28/4 (2007), pp. 433-462.

C.Dean and D. Leibsohn, 'Hybridity and its Discontents: Considering VisualCulture in Colonial Spanish America', Colonial Latin American Review, (2003), pp. 5-35.

Beverly Lemire and Giorgio Riello, ‘East and West: Textiles and Fashion in Eurasia in the Early Modern Period’ , Journal of Social History, 41/4 (2008), pp. 887-916.

Robert Batchelor, ‘On the Movement of Porcelains: Rethinking the Birth of Consumer Society as Interactions of Exchange Networks 1600-1750’, in Frank Trentmann and John Brewer, eds., Consuming cultures, Global Perspectives (Oxford, 2006), pp. 95-122 [HS 2000.C6]

John E. Wills, ‘European Consumption and Asian Production in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’, in Brewer and Porter, Consumption and the World of Goods, ch. 6 [HS 2200.C6]