Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Global Trade and Global Economies


This seminar addresses the wide opening of the global economy following the European voyages of discovery. New maritime connections across the East Asian, Indian Ocean, Atlantic and Pacific Worlds greatly extended trade networks and brought new commodities and their cultures of consumption to very different communities. We will be considering how this trade was carried out and its impact on Europe and the parts of the world that Europeans traded with. The seminar also addresses the cultures of consumption of new goods, from spices, chocolate and tomatoes to silk, cotton and porcelain and gems in Europe, Mexico, China, India and Africa. What made these goods irresistible to their new consumers?



  • To what extent was the early modern world globalized?
  • What patterns of consumption and production drew the parts of this world together?
  • Was there a shift from a polycentric system of exchange to a ‘globalised’ one over the period 1300-1800?
  • Were Asian luxury goods irresistible, and how long did they remain so?
  • To what extent were spices the key driver of world exploration and global trade in the early modern period?



Henry Martin, Considerations upon the East Indies Trade (1701), chap. 10, The East-India Trade destroys no imployment of the People which is profitable to the Kingdom, pp. 31-7

Questions about the source:

This work of 'political economy' by Henry Martin discusses the impact of overseas trade on domestic or home economies. Look particularly for arguments about the impact of the East India Company trade on the division of labour, technological change and local employment.



Maxine Berg, ‘Luxury, the Luxury Trades, and the Roots of Industrial Growth’, in Frank Trentmann, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption (Oxford, 2012), chap. 9. (e-book)



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

de Vries, Jan ‘Long-distance Trade’, in Joel Mokyr (ed.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History (Oxford and New York, 2003), vol. 3, pp. 361-5. E-book.

Brook, Timothy, Vermeer’s Hat: the Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World (London, 2008), chap. 5, pp. 117-152.



Global Trade and Economy:

Howell, Commerce Before Capitalism in Europe 1300-1600 (2010)

de Vries, The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present (2008), chap. 1, pp. 1-39. (ebook)

de Vries, ‘Understanding Eurasian Trade in the Era of the Trading Companies’ in Maxine Berg,, Goods from the East, 1600-1800. Trading Eurasia (2015), chap. 2, pp. 7-44.(ebook)

Prasannan Parthasarathi, Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not. Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850 (2011), chap. 2, pp. 21-50 (ebook)

Prak (ed.), Early Modern Capitalism: Economic and Social Change in Europe 1400-1800 (2000) (ebook)

McCusker and K. Morgan (eds), The Early Modern Atlantic Economy (2000) (ebook)

Romaniello, 'Trade and the Global Economy' in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History, 1350-1750 (2015, ebook)

J.L. van Zanden, The Long Road to the Industrial Revolution. The European Economy in a Global Perspective, 1000-1800 (Leiden, 2009) (ebook)



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

Maxine Berg and Elizabeth Eger, ed., Luxury in the Eighteenth Century: Debates, Desires and Delectable Goods, (2003), chs. 14, 16 ,E-Book.

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

Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Riello, eds., The Global Lives of Things (London, 2016). (ebook)

Kris Lane, The Colour of Paradise: The Emerald in the Age of Gunpowder Empires (New Haven, 2010).

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.

Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (1985)

Marcy Norton, Sacred Gifts: Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Cornell, 2009).

M.N. Pearson, Spices in the Indian Ocean World (Brookfield, Vt., 1996).

Levy Peck, Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (2005)

Mark Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds. The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World (New York, 1999).

Om Prakash, ‘Spices and Spice Trade’, Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History, vol. 5, pp. 1-5, E-Book.

Giorgio Riello, Cotton: the Fabric that Made the Modern World (Cambridge, 2013).

John Styles, The Dress of the People (New Haven, 2008).

Frank Trentmann, Empire of Things: How we Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-first (Harmondsworth, 2016).

Frank Trentmann, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption (Oxford, 2012).

Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer cultures in Italy, 1400-1600 (2005), esp. Intro., chs. 1, 2, 6, 8-10



V&A Europe 1600-1815 Gallery

British Library Trading Places

The Indian Ocean History website hosted by the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center provides interesting maps with pictures of documents and objects

Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration and Cultural Exchange: a vast range of visual, manuscript and printed materials sourced from over twenty key libraries and more than a dozen companies and trade organisations around the world.

Commodity Histories: a public forum for research postings, news and information about the history of commodities