Proposal preview

Social Network Analysis and Databases for New Comparative Global History Studies in China, Europe and the Americas

Global historians compare and study different socioeconomic, politic and cultural areas of Asia, Europe and America. One of their aims is to visualize the divergent paths followed by economic progress. The approach focuses itself in the analysis of the contacts, connections and differences between different territories, cultures and civilizations. This outlook has become even more important since the publication of the seminal work of Kenneth Pomeranz (2000) and the constitution of what has been called the California School, global history has challenged the Eurocentric approach that had been common in the field by incorporating the rich debate about The Great Divergence.
The problem posed by the increasing gap experienced in the economic development of the polities in western Europe and the Asian powers (mainly China) since the first Industrial Revolution has become the center of the debate. To implement this research agenda, global history privileges the analysis of big geographical units, and it goes without question that this also means that data repositories must be accumulated and processed; within contemporary global history has become increasingly important to test with empirical evidence the many theoretical frameworks that have emerged during the last decade. This also means that global historians try to account for the complex connections that were needed to globalize the world during the early Modern era, at the same time, they try to find new sources that allow to quantify economic growth during that epoch.
Looking for possible answers to these problems has led global history to further push the boundaries of interdisciplinary research. This feat has been possible, among other developments, thanks to the incorporation of new methods that take advantage of computational power in the era of digital humanities. Among the approaches that have emerged during the last decade, Social Network Analysis (SNA), has become a very important tool for the global historian, because it has been used as a sort of common ground that has the advantage to incorporate sociological, anthropological, historical and economic frameworks within the same analysis.
The use and complementary application in new databases of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), linked-multi relational databases, new forms of codification of computer language to analyze historical sources has become paramount when cross-referencing new empirical evidence that comes from sources such as the local gazetteers (中国地方志), the trade records, custom duties and probate inventories from the of Archives of Macao, First Historical Archives of Beijing to Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Archive de la Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, etc, one might find new empirical data to systematize the big ‘ocean of data’ through a multi-relational database. By going from a local to global approach, we could better observe economic changes in the Yellow River, how Huizhou traders and Shanxi bankers established their alliances, as well as the trade activities of sangleys (Chinese traders in the Philippines) connecting Fujian and Guangdong provinces with the Manila galleons.
Contemporary global history recognizes, almost as a sort of common sense, that databases have become the pillar that sustains the empirical approach. Nevertheless, the ever-increasing pace of the exchanges of information brought by the internet and other modern digital forms of communication, has left little space to a conscious reflection about the way academics have used their empirical information to accumulate information. Precisely, the proposed session will discuss the different experiences that research groups and individuals have accumulated during the last few years when posed with the challenge to build the research categories needed to conform a database that answers the problems that form part of the global history research agenda.

Organizer(s)

  • Manuel Perez Garcia Shanghai Jiao Tong University / P.I. of GECEM Project manuel.perez@eui.eu Spain
  • Sergio T. Serrano GECEM Project / Universidad Pablo de Olavide stserher@upo.es Spain

Session members

  • Patrick O'Brien, London School of Economics
  • Ruth Mostern, University of Pittsburgh
  • Joe MacDermott, University of Cambridge
  • J.B. Owens, Idaho State University
  • Vitit Kantabutra, Idaho State University
  • Debin Ma, London School of Economics
  • Lei Jin, GECEM Project / Universidad Pablo de Olavide
  • Zacarias Moutoukias, Université de Paris-Diderot
  • Antonio Ibarra, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • Manuel Perez Garcia, Shanghai Jiao Tong University / P.I. of GECEM Project
  • Sergio T. Serrano, GECEM Project / Universidad Pablo de Olavide

Discussant(s)

  • Shigeru Akita Osaka University akitashigeru@gmail.com
  • Anne McCants Massachusetts Institute of Technology amccants@mit.edu

Papers

Panel abstract

The use and complementary application in new databases of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), linked-multi-relational databases, new forms of codification of computer language to analyze historical sources has become paramount when cross-referencing new empirical evidence that comes from sources such as the local gazetteers (中国地方志), the trade records, custom duties and probate inventories from the of Archives of Macao, First Historical Archives of Beijing to Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Archive de la Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, etc, one might find new empirical data to systemize the big ‘ocean of data’ through a multi relational database. By going from a local to global approach, we could better observe economic changes in the Yellow River, how Huizhou traders and Shanxi bankers established their alliances, as well as the trade activities of sangleys (Chinese traders in the Philippines).

1st half

Ruth Mostern abstract

Ruth Mostern (University of Pittsburgh)

The Yellow River, the world’s sixth longest waterway, is closely associated with China, and it is central to China’s own political ideologies in the past and the present. It was by channeling the Yellow River and other streams that Yu the Great, China’s mythical founding emperor and the namesake for this paper, established China’s first provinces and set their tax obligations. China’s earliest agrarian civilizations emerged along the Yellow River and its tributaries. In late imperial times, when the floodplain became a site of precarity and catastrophe as a result of upstream erosion and downstream conservancy policy, the Yellow River consumed an immense quantity of China’s gross national product and became known as China’s sorrow. That, in brief, is the story of China’s Yellow River. The history of the Yellow River as an Asian and global river is less well known and it is not a significant narrative in China’s...

The Yellow River, the world’s sixth longest waterway, is closely associated with China, and it is central to China’s own political ideologies in the past and the present. It was by channeling the Yellow River and other streams that Yu the Great, China’s mythical founding emperor and the namesake for this paper, established China’s first provinces and set their tax obligations. China’s earliest agrarian civilizations emerged along the Yellow River and its tributaries. In late imperial times, when the floodplain became a site of precarity and catastrophe as a result of upstream erosion and downstream conservancy policy, the Yellow River consumed an immense quantity of China’s gross national product and became known as China’s sorrow. That, in brief, is the story of China’s Yellow River. The history of the Yellow River as an Asian and global river is less well known and it is not a significant narrative in China’s own national ideology or in global Sinology. This is primarily because most Yellow River histories focus exclusively on the lower course of the river, not the entire watershed. In fact, when the Yellow River disgorges from the northern part of the Tibetan plateau, it flows north along the Tengger desert into Mongolia and through the steppes south of the Gobi Desert before re-entering China west of the Taihang mountains. Three-quarters of its length occupies a world that has been resolutely multicultural for most of historical time, and the upper and middle course of the river has almost always been contended between China’s agrarian empire; Mongol and Tangut pastoralists, salt miners and horse breeders; Tibetan and Uighur merchants, and hundreds of small-scale societies operating in the interstices of these major powers. The objective of this paper is to resurrect four versions of the Yellow River’s world history. The first is the multicultural and geopolitical story of the upper and middle course that I have outlined above. The second is to detail the history of the search for the headwaters of the river, which was a largely Mongol, Manchu and European venture that transpired over centuries. The third version of the Yellow River in the world is a nineteenth and twentieth century story of the global circulation of techniques in civil engineering and scientific agriculture, in which the Yellow River was a site for conflict and experimentation. The fourth, and the context for all of the others, is the large-scale environmental story of winds, monsoons, and earthquake faults, the forces which shape and constrain the possibilities for human action.

Joe McDermott abstract

Joseph P. McDermott (University of Cambridge)

Between 1500 and 1800 ten major regional groups of merchants-- Fujian, Shu, Shanxi, Huizhou, Jiangxi, Dongting shan, Shandong, Ningbo, Hubei, and Guangdong—took shape out of competition for a share, and in some cases dominance, the Chinese market. This talk will describe the different commodity and regional markets that during these centuries each of these groups came to dominate, especially in long-distance trade, as well as their different ways of organizing their human and capital resources. It then will describe the relations members of these merchant groups developed among themselves through marriage, native place associations, commercial partnerships, collective philanthropy, and banking operations, as we ascertain the qualifications for admission to these groups and their development of apparently three major models of regional merchant group organization: the northern (Shanxi), the southern (Huizhou), and the maritime (Ningbo, Fujian, and Guangdong). Finally, the difficult issue of the economic relation between these merchant groups will...

Between 1500 and 1800 ten major regional groups of merchants-- Fujian, Shu, Shanxi, Huizhou, Jiangxi, Dongting shan, Shandong, Ningbo, Hubei, and Guangdong—took shape out of competition for a share, and in some cases dominance, the Chinese market. This talk will describe the different commodity and regional markets that during these centuries each of these groups came to dominate, especially in long-distance trade, as well as their different ways of organizing their human and capital resources. It then will describe the relations members of these merchant groups developed among themselves through marriage, native place associations, commercial partnerships, collective philanthropy, and banking operations, as we ascertain the qualifications for admission to these groups and their development of apparently three major models of regional merchant group organization: the northern (Shanxi), the southern (Huizhou), and the maritime (Ningbo, Fujian, and Guangdong). Finally, the difficult issue of the economic relation between these merchant groups will be addressed, as we try to determine to what extent certain regional groups which shared their models of organization may have over time shared business operations as well. Throughout this paper the emphasis will fall on the multiplicity and dynamism of these regional groups’ activities, especially as in most cases the state played a minor role.

Debin Ma abstract

Debin Ma (London School of Economics)

This paper surveys the use of historical merchant account books in China, particularly through the more than 400 volumes of Tongtaisheng merchant accounts. Chinese merchant accounts are an important source for reconstructing historical narrative and economic statistics. It is also wonderful source for conducting textual analysis and bookkeeping tradition in Chinese history. This paper draws from my collaborative work with Weipeng Yuan.

This paper surveys the use of historical merchant account books in China, particularly through the more than 400 volumes of Tongtaisheng merchant accounts. Chinese merchant accounts are an important source for reconstructing historical narrative and economic statistics. It is also wonderful source for conducting textual analysis and bookkeeping tradition in Chinese history. This paper draws from my collaborative work with Weipeng Yuan.

Lei Jin abstract

Lei Jin (GECEM Project / Universidad Pablo de Olavide)

Since three continents, Asia, America and Europe connected with the maritime trade since 16th Century, the International exchange of commerce and art influences significant on the forms of productions and consumptions in both Old World and the New. As the Chinese commodities are widely welcomed in the European markets, the European luxury products also entered China. My research will focus on the European wine consumption in China during the 1680 to 1840, which is a special period in Chinese early modern history as well as in the whole world. During the era China was ruled by the Qing government and has relative fettered attitude towards Western traders and colonizers. Currently the research on imported wine consumption in China during this period is blank so it would be a significant and meaningful topic to work on.

Since three continents, Asia, America and Europe connected with the maritime trade since 16th Century, the International exchange of commerce and art influences significant on the forms of productions and consumptions in both Old World and the New. As the Chinese commodities are widely welcomed in the European markets, the European luxury products also entered China. My research will focus on the European wine consumption in China during the 1680 to 1840, which is a special period in Chinese early modern history as well as in the whole world. During the era China was ruled by the Qing government and has relative fettered attitude towards Western traders and colonizers. Currently the research on imported wine consumption in China during this period is blank so it would be a significant and meaningful topic to work on.

2nd half

Owens Kantabutra abstract

J. B. Owens (Idaho State University) and Vitit Kantabutra (Idaho State University)

Historians of the commercial and political networks of the First Global Age, 1400-1800, never possess sufficient information to explain self-organization and emergence in the complex, nonlinear system of this period. For certain periods of time, for certain, often large geographic areas, and for many common human interactions, either no sources were ever created or those that were created have not survived. For the rest, we often use sources that are fragmentary, ambiguous, or otherwise messy. For historical comparisons of regions, such as those attempted during the “great divergence” debate over the past twenty years or more, government officials frequently kept records in response to such different fiscal, military, and social concerns and patterns of behavior that attempts to create comparable data sets, for example for the gross domestic products of eighteenth-century China and England, have generated much more atmospheric turbulence than clarity. We propose the use of agent-based modeling (ABM)...

Historians of the commercial and political networks of the First Global Age, 1400-1800, never possess sufficient information to explain self-organization and emergence in the complex, nonlinear system of this period. For certain periods of time, for certain, often large geographic areas, and for many common human interactions, either no sources were ever created or those that were created have not survived. For the rest, we often use sources that are fragmentary, ambiguous, or otherwise messy. For historical comparisons of regions, such as those attempted during the “great divergence” debate over the past twenty years or more, government officials frequently kept records in response to such different fiscal, military, and social concerns and patterns of behavior that attempts to create comparable data sets, for example for the gross domestic products of eighteenth-century China and England, have generated much more atmospheric turbulence than clarity. We propose the use of agent-based modeling (ABM) to simulate needed information. Although the existing body of research using agent-based modeling, to study human cooperation for example, has produced many studies whose ahistorical or anachronistic results render them useless for understanding the First Global Age, other results, without attempting to do so, have clarified important interactions about which historians had known little or nothing. We would use the unique Intentionally-Linked Entities (ILE) database management system to control the connections between information from surviving sources, recorded in as many languages as we can manage through multinational collaboration, and that produced through simulation and as the platform for integrating information from future historical research and new simulations. Building on this multidisciplinary, multinational project, historians will increasingly be able to enhance their understanding of a complex human system (the First Global Age), coupled with complex natural systems, in order to formulate clearer research questions and to explain better human behavior, processes of institutional change (including understanding social networks as institutions), and system dynamics.

Moutoukias abstract

Zacarias Moutoukias (Université de Paris Diderot)

Long-distance commercial transactions in early modern history have been analyzed from different perspectives in last decades. From the seminal work of Avner Greif on the role of reputation in transactions among agents operating at distance, to the recent debates Francesca Trivellato introduced on inter-cultural commerce, or the contributions of Sebouh Aslanian on Armenian mercantile communities. Nonetheless, these different approaches focus all on the agent-principal relation between merchants. Indeed, in spite of the variety of situations and contexts analyzed, this shared perimeter excludes relationships with a multitude of secondary agents - often located at great distance - who ensured access to goods and services indispensable for maritime and land circulations. This paper attempts to renew the debate about the role of institutions in great distance trade, by exploring these relationships between associated merchants and lesser entrepreneurs, combining the tools of social network analysis and institutional economy. The paper develops the idea...

Long-distance commercial transactions in early modern history have been analyzed from different perspectives in last decades. From the seminal work of Avner Greif on the role of reputation in transactions among agents operating at distance, to the recent debates Francesca Trivellato introduced on inter-cultural commerce, or the contributions of Sebouh Aslanian on Armenian mercantile communities. Nonetheless, these different approaches focus all on the agent-principal relation between merchants. Indeed, in spite of the variety of situations and contexts analyzed, this shared perimeter excludes relationships with a multitude of secondary agents - often located at great distance - who ensured access to goods and services indispensable for maritime and land circulations. This paper attempts to renew the debate about the role of institutions in great distance trade, by exploring these relationships between associated merchants and lesser entrepreneurs, combining the tools of social network analysis and institutional economy. The paper develops the idea that merchant associated and smaller agents - artisans, small suppliers, fleteros, foremen of caravans and ships, etc. - cooperated on the basis of stable and long-lasting relationships, whose transactions were integrated within the commercial enterprise. In turn, this ties between subordinate and associated entrepreneurs affected the latter’s principal-agent relationship, as well as their mechanisms of reputation and trust. The research exploits the correspondence of merchants operating in landed and maritime trade among Upper and Lower Peru, Pacific ports, Buenos Aires, Atlantic ports – in Brazil, Africa and Europe – and Indian Ocean ports. This correspondence has been collected and organized into a database that allows identifying the recurrent associations in the shape of the relationships among subordinate and associate entrepreneurs on one side and principal-agent relationships on the other side.

Manuel Perez Sergio Serrano abstract

Manuel Perez Garcia (Shanghai Jiao Tong University / P.I. of GECEM Project) and Sergio Serrano (GECEM Project / Universidad Pablo de Olavide)

Global History, as a theoretical framework, has been in constant evolution during the last few years. Nevertheless, as the discipline reaches its maturity, the need to push the boundaries of the field becomes clearer; global historians need to avoid the stagnation of the debate by implementing research agendas that incorporate archival sources coming from Asia, Europe and America. Bringing new empirical evidence to the table will allow researchers them to better understand the core questions of the framework with new data. To process and analyse the repositories that such effort will yield, it is necessary to combine paradigms coming both from the Information Technology (IT) and the social sciences (economy, sociology and geography). The paper begins by presenting a state-of-the-art regarding the implementation of several databases in the context of Global History. Understanding better the manners in which academics have used the new technologies to create data repositories, permits to...

Global History, as a theoretical framework, has been in constant evolution during the last few years. Nevertheless, as the discipline reaches its maturity, the need to push the boundaries of the field becomes clearer; global historians need to avoid the stagnation of the debate by implementing research agendas that incorporate archival sources coming from Asia, Europe and America. Bringing new empirical evidence to the table will allow researchers them to better understand the core questions of the framework with new data. To process and analyse the repositories that such effort will yield, it is necessary to combine paradigms coming both from the Information Technology (IT) and the social sciences (economy, sociology and geography). The paper begins by presenting a state-of-the-art regarding the implementation of several databases in the context of Global History. Understanding better the manners in which academics have used the new technologies to create data repositories, permits to propose new models of data integration and normalization. Precisely, the second part delves into the results of the critique previously conducted; the foundations of the GECEM Project Database are shown here to clarify the research problems that are addressed by integrating cross-references between Chinese, American and European sources and analysing them by the means of Social Network Analysis (SNA) and a Geographical Information System (GIS). Thirdly, examples derived from the database will be succinctly presented: consumption data for Marseille and fiscal information of the Philippines which is paramount to study the smuggling activities connecting with Chinese coastal areas (Macao, Canton and Fujian) undertaken by sangleys (Chinese traders in the Philippines). The paper closes with a small section that remarks the necessity to open the debate about the categories.

OBrien abstract

Patrick O’Brien (London School of Economics)

From the accession of the Qing dynasty in 1644 to the Treaty of Vienna in 1815 the Manchu conquerers of imperial China engaged in a series of wars first to consolidate their rule over Han China and later to secure their frontiers against attacks from nomadic peoples along the empires northern and western borders. Over this same period the powers of north-western Europe engaged in persistent mercantilist warfare to secure colonies, territory and gains from overseas trade. My paper aims to explore the costs and the benefits of two contrasting geopolitical strategies for the long run economic growth of Europe and China.

From the accession of the Qing dynasty in 1644 to the Treaty of Vienna in 1815 the Manchu conquerers of imperial China engaged in a series of wars first to consolidate their rule over Han China and later to secure their frontiers against attacks from nomadic peoples along the empires northern and western borders. Over this same period the powers of north-western Europe engaged in persistent mercantilist warfare to secure colonies, territory and gains from overseas trade. My paper aims to explore the costs and the benefits of two contrasting geopolitical strategies for the long run economic growth of Europe and China.