The discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, are the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind. Their consequences have already been very great; but, in the short period of between two and three centuries which has elapsed since these discoveries were made, it is impossible that the whole extent of their consequences can have been seen. What benefits or what misfortunes to mankind may hereafter result from those great events, no human wisdom can foresee. By uniting, in some measure, the most distant parts of the world, by enabling them to relieve one another’s industry, their general tendency would seem to be beneficial. To the natives, however, both of the East and West Indies, all the commercial benefits which can have resulted from those events have been sunk and lost in the dreadful misfortunes which they have occasioned.
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, vol. 2 (London, 1776), p. 235-6.
The early modern period witnessed the intensification of long-distance contacts, with the opening of new maritime routes stimulating intercontinental trade between Europe, Asia, and the Atlantic. For Smith, this was a watershed moment in global history, signalling the onset of a more connected, commercial world. In this session, we will consider the impact of these changing patterns of trade on early modern economy and society, and question whether Smith was right to see this as a revolutionary moment in the history of global trade.
- How would you define globalisation?
- To what extent did changing patterns of global trade create a more interconnected or, by contrast, a more hierarchical world?
- Did the European discovery of new maritime routes mark a sharp break in the history of global commerce?
- What impact did new resources, raw materials, and consumer goods have on European economy and society?
- How did Atlantic trade differ from European trade in the Indian Ocean world?
- To what extent was the early modern European economy a world economy?
- How important was empire to early modern European trade and society?
Choose an early modern commodity and prepare a brief, informal oral presentation which describes where the commodity originated, how it was produced, how it was adapted or transformed as it became part of global trade networks during the early modern period, and what impact it had on the societies to which it was introduced.
Presentations should be a maximum of five minutes
Examples of commodities which students might like to discuss include (but are not limited to) coffee, tea, chocolate, tobacco, sugar, porcelain, calico, and fur.
The Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration & Cultural Exchange database has essays on a dozen major global commodities, written by historians, which provide overviews and identify further reading. These essays can be found in the ‘Further Resources’ section of their website (you will need to log in using your Warwick account – access is also available through the library’s website).
Other resources you might find helpful include Materialized Identities: Objects, Affects, and Effects in Early Modern Culture and oxfordreference.com– this will give you access to the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World which provides a broad overview of major commodities and identifies further reading.
- Jan de Vries, ‘The Limits of Globalization in the Early Modern World’, Economic History Review 63, no. 3 (2010): 710-733.
- Regina Grafe, Distant Tyranny: Markets, Power and Backwardness in Spain, 1650-1800 (Princeton University Press, 2011). Chapter 3: Balacao: A New Consumer Good takes on the Peninsula, pp. 52-79
Further Reading on Trade in the Indian Ocean
- N. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilisation in the Indian Ocean: An Economic History from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (Cambridge, 1985), chapter 4.
- Maxine Berg, ‘In Pursuit of Luxury: Global History and British Consumer Goods in the Eighteenth Century’, Past & Present 182 (2004): 85-142.
- Pedro Machado, Ocean of Trade: South Asian Merchants, Africa and the Indian Ocean, c. 1750-1850 (Cambridge, 2014), introduction and chapter 1.
- Jan de Vries, The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present (Cambridge, 2008)
- James D. Tracy (ed), The Rise of Merchant Empires: Long Distance Trade in the Early Modern World 1350-1750 (Cambridge, 1990)
- Scott C. Levi, The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade(Leiden, 2002) [eBook]
- Beverly Lemire and Giorgio Riello, ‘East and West: Textiles and Fashion in Early Modern Europe’, Journal of Social History 41, no. 4 (2008)
- John E. Wills Jr., ‘European Consumption and Asian Production in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’ in Consumption and the World of Goods, edited by John Brewer and Roy Porter (London, 1993).
- Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Political Economy of Commerce: Southern India 1500-1650 (Cambridge, 1990).
- Holden Furber, Rival Empires of Trade in the Orient, 1600-1800 (Minneapolis, MN, 1976).
- Prasannan Parthasarathi, Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850 (Cambridge, 2011).
- Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy (eds), How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850 (Leiden, 2009). [eBook]
- Maxine Berg, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2005). [eBook]
- Philip D. Curtin, Cross-Cultural Trade in World History (Cambridge, 1994)
- Sebouh David Aslanian, From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa (Berkeley, 2011).
Further Reading on Trade in the Iberian Atlantic
- Jeremy Baskes, Staying afloat: Risk and Uncertainty in Spanish Atlantic World Trade (Stanford, 2013)
- Peter A. Coclanis, ed., The Atlantic Economy during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Organization, Operation, Practice, and Personnel (Columbia, USC Press, 2005).
- John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic world: Britain and Spain in America, 1492–1830 (New Haven, 2006).
- Francisco Bethencourt and Diogo Curto, eds. Portuguese Oceanic Expansion, 1400–1800 (Cambridge, 2007).
- Bartolomé Yun Casalilla, Iberian World Empires and the Globalization of Europe, 1415-1668 (Palgrave, 2018).
- Bethany Aram and Bartolomé Yun Casalilla, eds., Global goods and the Spanish Empire, 1492-1824: Circulation, Resistance and diversity (Palgrave, 2014).
- Nicholas Canny, “Atlantic History and Global History,” in Jack P. Greene and Philip D. Morgan, eds, Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal (Oxford, 2009), 317–36.
- Jorge Canizares-Esguerra, Entangled-Empires, The Anglo-Iberian Atlantic, 1500-1830, (Philadelphia, 2018).
- Xabier Lamikiz, Trade and Trust in the Eighteenth Century Atlantic World: Spanish Merchants and their Overseas Networks (Rochester, NY, 2010).
- Adrian Finoucane, ‘Trade and Organization in the Colonial Caribbean,’ History Compass, 16:7 (May, 2018).
- Eliga H. Gould, “Entangled Histories, Entangled Worlds: The English-Speaking Atlantic as a Spanish Periphery,” American Historical Review 112:3 (June 2007)
- John J. McKusker and Kenneth Morgan, The Early Modern Atlantic Economy (Cambridge, 2001). Part II: The Development of Trades
- Marcy Norton, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Ithaca, NY, 2008).
- David Eltis and David Richardson, eds., Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database (New Haven, 2008).
- Pierre and Huguette Chaunu, Séville et l’Atlantique (1504–1650), 12 vols (Paris: SEVPEN, 1955–60).
Antonio Pereda, Still Life with an Ebony Chest, 1652, oil on canvas, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.