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UNIT 15: Early Global Commodities

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READINGS

Reading 1

Candice Goucher, Charles LeGuin, and Linda Walton, "Crucibles of Change: Landscapes, Material Culture, and Social Life after 1500," in In the Balance: Themes in Global History (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998), 620, 627–46, 663.

Abstract: This essay explores the many social and cultural transformations that occurred around the world after 1500 as a result of new global connections. It looks specifically at landscapes of change in Europe, West Africa, the Americas, and Asia—especially those relating to urban settings. Urban settings are of interest here because the pace of change in such settings was frequently intense. Moreover, urban areas in this period were often shaped at least in part by the forces of the new global economy.

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Reading 2

Candice Goucher, Charles LeGuin, and Linda Walton, "Crucibles of Change: Landscapes, Material Culture, and Social Life after 1500," in In the Balance: Themes in Global History (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998), 620–27, 646–56, 662–63.

Abstract: This essay continues the theme of exploring social and cultural change after 1500, but in terms of cultural identity, trade, and material transformations. Once commodities were marketed around the world after 1500, new products and ideas could substantially alter the fabric of life in a variety of settings. Such commodities also led to increasing connections between the peoples of the world, whether these connections were recognized or not. At the same time, changes brought by the new global economy were not uniform over space and time, and affected some regions far more deeply than others.

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Reading 3

Dennis O. Flynn and Arturo Giráldez, "Cycles of Silver: Global Economic Unity through the Mid-Eighteenth Century," Journal of World History 13, no. 2 (2002): 391–427.

Abstract: Conversion of China's monetary and fiscal systems to a silver standard led to a doubling in the value of silver in China vis-à-vis the rest of the world by the early sixteenth century. Heightened profit opportunities induced an unprecedented surge in silver production in Spanish America and in Japan. Destined ultimately for China, tens of thousands of tons of silver passed through Europe via long-distance maritime and overland trade routes. Fifty tons of silver annually also reached China via the Pacific Ocean after the founding of the Spanish city of Manila in 1571. Japan exported huge quantities of silver to China until the late seventeenth century. New American crops were also introduced to Chinese agriculture via the Manila galleons, contributing to a doubling or more of Chinese population in the eighteenth century. Silver demand grew along with China's population, which in turn led to a fifty percent silver price premium in China. Largely in response to buoyant demand, more Mexican silver was produced during the eighteenth century than had been produced by all of Spanish America during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries combined. Subsequently, during the second half of the eighteenth century, a "tea and opium cycle" propelled British fortunes in Asia. Economic, environmental, and demographic histories must not be viewed as independent phenomena. It is a mistake to view societies around the world as independent of or weakly connected to global forces. All heavily populated continents have been deeply connected since the sixteenth century.

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