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East Meets West: Trade and Useful Knowledge between Asia and Europe, 1500-1800 (HI964 - Withdrawn)

This module has now been permanently withdrawn and is no longer taught in the Warwick History Department.

Context of Module
Module Aims
Intended Learning Outcomes
Outline Syllabus
Illustrative Bibliography
Context of Module

This module may be taken by students on the MA in History, the MA in Modern History, the MA in Global History, the MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies, or any taught Master's student outside the History Department.


Module Aims

This module will examine the early history of tribute, trade and collecting between Asia and Europe. It will connect the emergence of a long-distance commodities trade to the transfer of science and technology or ‘useful knowledge’ between the two continents. It will introduce students to historiographical debates over the role of trade, East India Companies and technology in the economic divergence between Europe and Asia. It will draw on East India Company correspondence, travellers’ and missionaries’ accounts, shipping records and museum collections as historical sources. It will extend students’ knowledge of the theoretical and historiographical value of comparative and global history. The module will place the period from the European Voyages of Discovery to the Age of Imperialism in the wider context of Global History.


Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, the student should be able to:

  • Analyse key historiographical approaches to the history of international economic and social developments
  • Assess the value of travel accounts, shipping records, and other primary documents, as well as museum collections for writing Global History
  • Appreciate the impact of Asia’s encounter with Europe on the experience of trade and useful knowledge in the early modern Global economy
  • Critically analyse the dynamic relationship between Asia and Europe as developed through trade and the experience of ‘useful knowledge’.
  • Analyse and apply the use of simple descriptive statistics. Develop the analysis of objects and collections as sources for historical discussion.


Outline Syllabus

Seminar 1: Module Outline and Introduction

Seminar 2: ‘Archaic Globalization’: Cargoes, Curiosities and Collecting

Seminar 3: Encounters: Voyages of Discovery to East India Companies

Seminar 4: Trading Commodities: Cotton and Porcelain; Guns and Clocks

Seminar 5: Useful Knowledge and the Industrial Enlightenment

Seminar 6: Science and Technology in China and the Mughal Empire

Seminar 7: Transferring Knowledge and Scientific Travellers: Cottons, Dyes, Porcelain and Clocks

Seminar 8: Science, Trade and Empire: the Macartney Expedition

Seminar 9: Natural History and Empire: Collectors and Projectors


Illustrative Bibliography

K.N.Chaudhuri, Trade and civilization in the Indian Ocean: an economic history from the rise of Islam to 1750 (1985)

S. Chaudhury and M. Morineau, eds., Merchants, Companies and trade: Europe and Asia in the early modern era (1999)

James D. Tracy, The rise of merchant empires: long-distance trade in the early modern world 1350-1750 (1990)

Dennis Flynn, ‘Cycles of silver: global economic unity through the mid-eighteenth century’, Journal of world history, 13.2 (2002)

Maxine Berg, ‘In Pursuit of Luxury: global origins of British consumer goods’, Past and Present, 182, Feb. 2004

Ken Pomeranz, The great divergence: China, Europe and the making of the modern world economy (2000)

P.J.Marshall, The making and unmaking of empire (2004)

D. Jenkins, The Cambridge history of Western textiles (2003)

R. Finlay, ‘The pilgrim art: the culture of porcelain in world history’, Journal of world history, 9 (1993)

J. Mokyr, The Gifts of Athena: historical origins of the knowledge economy (2002)

M Berg et al, ‘Special Issue on Reflections on Useful knowledge’, History of science, forthcoming 2007

H. Floris Cohen, The scientific revolution: an historical inquiry (1994)

Michael Adas, Machines as the measure of men: science, technology and ideologies of western dominance (1989)

J. Needham, ed., Science and civilisation in China. Vol. 7, part II General Conclusions (2004); vol. 5, part XII, ‘Ceramic technology’ (2004)

F. Bray, Technology and society in Ming China (2000)

C. Cipolla, Clocks and culture, 1300-1700 (1967)

J. Waley-Cohen, ‘China and western technology in the late eighteenth century’, American Historical Review, 98 (1993)

T.Huff, The rise of early modern science: Islam, China and the West (2003)

J.L.Hevia, Cherishing men from afar: Qing guest ritual and the Macartney Embassy of 1793 (1995)

S.Schaffer, ‘Instruments as cargo in the China trade’, History of Science, 44, 2006

M. Berg, ‘Britain, industry and perceptions of china: Matthew Boulton, ‘useful knowledge’ and the Macartney Embassy to China 1792-94’, Journal of Global History (2006)

R.Drayton, Nature’s government: Science, imperial Britain and the improvement of the world (2000)



1 assessed essay of 5,000 words: the course is taught in weekly 2-hour seminars.