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Material Worlds: Global Connections and Dispersals (Anne Gerritsen)

Issues for discussion

1. Are there such things as a ‘global commodities’ in the period before 1800? What are their characteristics and how do they different from today’s global commodities?

2. Which commodities were globally exchanged in the early modern period and why? What do they tell us about both the societies in which they originate and the nature of the recipient societies?

3. In what ways can material objects be said to ‘connect’ different areas of the world?

4. While Europe and Asia became increasingly connected through the exchange of commodities things, their economies diverged. Why?

5. Is the world of ‘global’ material connections before c. 1800 only (or at least primarily) about very limited areas of the globe (the Mediterranean, northwest Europe, West Africa, coastal India, Southeast Asia, southeast China etc)? Or can one speak of a more truly global movement of goods?

Key Reading

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

Maxine Berg, ‘Britain, Industry and Perceptions of China: Mathew Boulton, “Useful Knowledge” and the Macartney Embassy to China, 1792-3’, Journal of Global History, 1 (2006), pp. 269-88

Maxine Berg, ‘The Genesis of “Useful Knowledge”’, History of Science, 45:2 (2007), pp. 123-35

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

*Joel Mokyr, ‘Intellectual Origins of Modern Economic Growth’, Journal of Economic History, 65 (2005), pp. 235-85


Further Reading

Please read at least two of these for the seminar discussions

Harold Cook, Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine and Science in the Dutch Golden Age, chs 5, 7-9. Q 125.C6

Donald Quataert (ed.), Consumption Studies and the History of the Ottoman Empire, 1550-1922: An Introduction, Introduction. HS 2380.C6

John Styles, ‘Product Innovation in Early Modern London’, Past and Present, 168 (2000), pp. 124-69. On J-stor.

Jeremy Prestholt, ‘The Global Repercussions of Consumerism: East African Consumers and Industrialization, American Historical Review, 109: 3 (2004), pp. 755-82.

Peter Burke, ‘Rex et Verba: Conspicuous Consumption in the Early Modern World’, in J. Brewer and R. Porter (eds), Consumption and the World of Goods, ch. 7

Robert Finlay, ‘The Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History’, Journal of World History, 9 (1998), pp. 141-87.

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. 433-62

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, pp. 95-122

David Washbrook, ‘India in the Early Modern World Economy: Modes of Production, Reproduction and Exchange’, Journal of Global History, 2 (2007), pp. 87-112

John E. Wills, ‘European Consumption and Asian Production in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’, in Brewer and Porter (eds), Consumption and the World of Goods, ch. 6.

Sujit Sivasundaram, ‘Trading Knowledge: The East India Company’s Elephants in India and Britain’, Historical Journal, 48: 1 (2005), pp. 27-63