Proposal preview

The First Global Age: Asian Perspectives, 1500-1800

The three centuries of what has variously been termed the ‘early modern period’, the ‘age of exploration’ or the ‘first global age’ have been the focus of a great many studies over the past several decades. The tendency has been to study the age from the European perspective, so that the focus is on how the Portuguese, followed by the North European countries, found their way across the oceans to Asia, and then affirmed their technological and maritime superiority to assert their sovereignty over first the seas, and then the land. The Asian trading world was seen as a self-contained one into which Europeans entered in the sixteenth century, initially as fairly marginal players. Asia was seen as frozen and immutable, a canvas into which Europeans brought in the ideas of mobility and change and transformed it forever.
However, it is also necessary to look at the same Age from a more Asian perspective, something that has only just begun. Frank (1992) pointed to the technological, demographic and economic superiority of Asia, and India and China in particular at the beginning of this period, and as is well known, the challenges and acceptance of the world systems theory has also led to a great deal of research on the world system and its various dimensions.
How the Europeans reacted to Asia and the networks of Asia has been fairly extensively researched, but other than Conti’s oft-quoted remark about the ‘Franks’ being considered to see with only one eye, little attention has been paid to the Asian side. Did the Asian merchants actually lay the groundwork for the establishment of colonialism, as some have argued, or did they see their avenues closing in the course of the 18th century? What were the different reactions in different parts of the continent? How, in fact, did the continent itself acquire an identity equating it with the ‘east’, which was then further divided into ‘middle’ and ‘far’ east, but ‘south’ and ‘central’ Asia? Asian borders were porous, and networks of family and business overlapped and crossed many frontiers. What were the boundaries of that world in the first global age, and how did they become fixed, or defined differently? In other words, what changes happened in that space over the time defined as the ‘first global age’, and how did they affect identity, economy and society? These are some of the questions that we propose to raise through this panel.
The focus of this panel is to examine different aspects of the first age of globalization through and on Asia. Papers will cover the following main themes:
Networks of connections – Africa and Europe, Africa and India, India and East Asia, Asia and Europe
Peoples – Traders, Kings, Companies (Hadrami, Karimi, Armenian, Chulia, Malabari, Gujarati, Javanese, Japanese, Chinese, Malay)
Places – the three overlapping arches of the Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific worlds – Africa, India, China, Japan; the hinterlands and the hinterland politics in all these, and the response/s to the beginnings of world commerce and globalisation.
Ports – Asian dominated and European controlled; differences in urban demography and layout.
Shipping – Asian, African, European.
Technology and technology transfers.

Organizer(s)

  • Radhika Seshan Department of History, Pune University seshan.radhika@gmail.com India
  • Ruby Maloni University of Mumbai rmaloni53@gmail.com India

Session members

  • Ishrat Alam, Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University
  • Ryuto Shimada, University of Tokyo
  • Sayako Kanda, Keio University, Tokyo
  • SeongHo Jun, The Academy of Korean Studies
  • Sundar Vadlamudi, American University of Sharjah
  • Michihiro Ogawa, Kanazawa University
  • Ana S Ribeiro, CIDEHUS - Évora University
  • Neelambari Jagtap, Shivaji University Kolhapur
  • Ilicia Jo Sprey, Ivy Tech Community College Indiana
  • Salvatore Ciriacono, University of Padova

Discussant(s)

  • Kenneth R Hall Ball State University khall2@bsu.edu
  • Amelia Polonia FLUP, University of Porto amelia.polonia@gmail.com

Papers

Panel abstract

The First Global Age: Asian Perspectives, 1500-1800 The three centuries of what has variously been termed the ‘early modern period’, the ‘age of exploration’ or the ‘first global age’ have been the focus of a great many studies over the past several decades. The Asian trading world was seen as a self-contained one into which Europeans entered in the sixteenth century, initially as fairly marginal players. Asia was seen as frozen and immutable, a canvas into which Europeans brought in the ideas of mobility and change and transformed it forever. However, it is also necessary to look at the same Age from a more Asian perspective. Following others like Abu-Leghod, Frank had pointed to the technological, demographic and economic superiority of Asia, and India and China in particular. The focus of this panel is to examine different aspects of the First Age of Globalization through and on Asia.

1st half

Resistance to the Portuguese: malabar in the 16th century

Ruby Maloni

In the 15th century the maritime region of Malabar on the south west coast of India was one of the hospitable trading havens in the Indian Ocean. Geographically it was a robust and self-contained coastal unit with access to a productive pepper growing hinterland. The Portuguese Estado da India and subsequently the Dutch and English East India Companies, did not radically transform the trading structure of Malabar in terms of its orientation or its operational features. Consequences of the pass system, and of coercive mechanisms affecting price, supply, and distribution of pepper affected levels of trading activity. Portuguese demands of control and monopoly were contrary to accepted practices of the Indian Ocean. Faced with a profound rearrangement of commercial relations in the Malabar, opposition was inevitable, especially from maritime groups and communities such as the Kunjali Marakkars and the Ali Rajas of Cannanore.

In the 15th century the maritime region of Malabar on the south west coast of India was one of the hospitable trading havens in the Indian Ocean. Geographically it was a robust and self-contained coastal unit with access to a productive pepper growing hinterland. The Portuguese Estado da India and subsequently the Dutch and English East India Companies, did not radically transform the trading structure of Malabar in terms of its orientation or its operational features. Consequences of the pass system, and of coercive mechanisms affecting price, supply, and distribution of pepper affected levels of trading activity. Portuguese demands of control and monopoly were contrary to accepted practices of the Indian Ocean. Faced with a profound rearrangement of commercial relations in the Malabar, opposition was inevitable, especially from maritime groups and communities such as the Kunjali Marakkars and the Ali Rajas of Cannanore.

From Thrace to Bengal: Greek Merchants in Early Colonial Bengal

Sayako Kanda

This paper explores the commercial activities of Greek merchants in Bengal in the late 18th century when the English East India Company (hereafter the Company) began to gain political control over the region. It particularly examins their participation in the trade in chunam (powdered slaked lime) and later salt. The Greek merchants, who mainly came from Thrace in the Ottoman Empire, first settled in Calcutta, and moved to Dhaka to explore potential commercial resouces in Eastern Bengal. Their close personal networks with Hastings and Khasi rajas made their chunam business lucrative even though there were constant conflicts with the Company’s official stationed in Sylhet, who also tried to control the trade and trade routes. Once Hastings was replaced by Cornwallis they were forced to withdraw from this lucrative trade. Simultaneously, they began to shift their fortunes to invest in a new venture—salt, which was under the Company’s monopoly.

This paper explores the commercial activities of Greek merchants in Bengal in the late 18th century when the English East India Company (hereafter the Company) began to gain political control over the region. It particularly examins their participation in the trade in chunam (powdered slaked lime) and later salt. The Greek merchants, who mainly came from Thrace in the Ottoman Empire, first settled in Calcutta, and moved to Dhaka to explore potential commercial resouces in Eastern Bengal. Their close personal networks with Hastings and Khasi rajas made their chunam business lucrative even though there were constant conflicts with the Company’s official stationed in Sylhet, who also tried to control the trade and trade routes. Once Hastings was replaced by Cornwallis they were forced to withdraw from this lucrative trade. Simultaneously, they began to shift their fortunes to invest in a new venture—salt, which was under the Company’s monopoly.

A tale of two acquisitions: Nagore, Penang, and the maritime trade of Tamil Muslim merchants, ca. 1780

Sundar Vadlamudi

In 1778, the English East India Company (EIC) acquired the port of Nagore in South India from the Raja of Tanjore as a reward for providing military support to the ruler. A few years later in 1786, Francis Light established an English settlement at Penang, an island at the northern end of the Straits of Melaka. These two acquisitions were part of a larger phase of expansion of the EIC, both in India and the Indian Ocean littoral. According to existing scholarship, Indian maritime merchants fell into decline by 1800 due to the growing EIC empire in India. This paper examines the trade of Tamil Muslim maritime merchants in the late eighteenth century. In particular, it studies the response of Tamil Muslim merchants within the context of existing scholarship on Indian maritime merchants and argues that the Tamil Muslim merchants continued their maritime trade and even expanded into the newly...

In 1778, the English East India Company (EIC) acquired the port of Nagore in South India from the Raja of Tanjore as a reward for providing military support to the ruler. A few years later in 1786, Francis Light established an English settlement at Penang, an island at the northern end of the Straits of Melaka. These two acquisitions were part of a larger phase of expansion of the EIC, both in India and the Indian Ocean littoral. According to existing scholarship, Indian maritime merchants fell into decline by 1800 due to the growing EIC empire in India. This paper examines the trade of Tamil Muslim maritime merchants in the late eighteenth century. In particular, it studies the response of Tamil Muslim merchants within the context of existing scholarship on Indian maritime merchants and argues that the Tamil Muslim merchants continued their maritime trade and even expanded into the newly established EIC settlements.

The Activities of European Merchants under the India Monetary System in Western India with Special Reference to Bombay and Pune in the Late Eighteenth Century

Michihiro Ogawa

Bombay, which became the headquarters of the English East India Company in Western India in 1687, began its economic growth as a major trading port of Arabian Sea in the mid eighteenth century In 1759 the first ambassador of the English East India Company was sent to Pune or the capital city of the Maratha Confederacy which ruled Western India, and three successors stayed in Pune to keep economic and political tie-up with the Maratha Confederacy. However, this does not mean Western India was incorporated in the European economic system in this period. Rather, European merchants faced the Indian economic system, especially the monetary system transactions were often carried out in the bill of exchanges called hundi, which were accepted in most parts of the Indian subcontinent. This paper considers how the Indian monetary system operated and how the activities of European merchants were incorporated into this system in the...

Bombay, which became the headquarters of the English East India Company in Western India in 1687, began its economic growth as a major trading port of Arabian Sea in the mid eighteenth century In 1759 the first ambassador of the English East India Company was sent to Pune or the capital city of the Maratha Confederacy which ruled Western India, and three successors stayed in Pune to keep economic and political tie-up with the Maratha Confederacy. However, this does not mean Western India was incorporated in the European economic system in this period. Rather, European merchants faced the Indian economic system, especially the monetary system transactions were often carried out in the bill of exchanges called hundi, which were accepted in most parts of the Indian subcontinent. This paper considers how the Indian monetary system operated and how the activities of European merchants were incorporated into this system in the late eighteenth century.

European traders inside and the central Asia (15th-19th century)

Salvatore Ciriacono

The principal aim of the contribution is looking at the presence of the European and especially of the Italian merchants inside the Asian markets along the different directions that the Asian trade was shaped during the 17th and 18th century. A period during which the Italians were slowly disappearing in front of other merchants, better organized and protected by the Trade Companies. It is true that Tuscany and Genoa tried to establish similar organization but certainly these regional states didn’t have the same success of Companies as the VOC, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the English,the French and also the Sweden and the Danes. At the centre of this research there is a comparison between the fortune of the ancient Silk Road and the New Maritime Road that by the most recent historiography is considered have been much more profitable than the ancient Silk Road and the central axis of the...

The principal aim of the contribution is looking at the presence of the European and especially of the Italian merchants inside the Asian markets along the different directions that the Asian trade was shaped during the 17th and 18th century. A period during which the Italians were slowly disappearing in front of other merchants, better organized and protected by the Trade Companies. It is true that Tuscany and Genoa tried to establish similar organization but certainly these regional states didn’t have the same success of Companies as the VOC, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the English,the French and also the Sweden and the Danes. At the centre of this research there is a comparison between the fortune of the ancient Silk Road and the New Maritime Road that by the most recent historiography is considered have been much more profitable than the ancient Silk Road and the central axis of the rapports between the East Asia and the West.

The First Global Age: Korean Perspectives, 1400-1600 Rethinking of Cartalism and Metallism based on Korean Classics

Jun Seong Ho

From eleventh to thirteenth centuries, East Asia was a leader in the medieval commercial revolution. The Capital cities Kaesŏng in Koryǒ(918-1392) left behind a great cultural legacy as a world trade centres. The field of Korean accounting history has argued that one of the legacies was the appearance of a Double-Entry Bookkeeping system. Copper coin had lasted as a monetary form in the East Asia particularly Korea throughout the last millennium (918-1910). Unlike elsewhere, monetary authority to mint coin always kept the neutral position from the reigning political power. The Code for Paper Currency is related to Cartalism and the Code for Copper Currency is concerned with Metallism. CPC and CCC are mutually combined. The Code provides the basis for the early modern Korean monetary system and shares the Western view derived from Greek thought that money originated from Aristotle's deduction and Plato's imagination of money.

From eleventh to thirteenth centuries, East Asia was a leader in the medieval commercial revolution. The Capital cities Kaesŏng in Koryǒ(918-1392) left behind a great cultural legacy as a world trade centres. The field of Korean accounting history has argued that one of the legacies was the appearance of a Double-Entry Bookkeeping system. Copper coin had lasted as a monetary form in the East Asia particularly Korea throughout the last millennium (918-1910). Unlike elsewhere, monetary authority to mint coin always kept the neutral position from the reigning political power. The Code for Paper Currency is related to Cartalism and the Code for Copper Currency is concerned with Metallism. CPC and CCC are mutually combined. The Code provides the basis for the early modern Korean monetary system and shares the Western view derived from Greek thought that money originated from Aristotle's deduction and Plato's imagination of money.

2nd half

Shifting regional understanding of the exercise of local agency and diasporic communities contributions tomaritime trading patterns in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: A comparative study ofThai Ayutthaya and Nguyen-governed Hoi An

Ilicia Sprey

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Thai Ayutthaya and Nguyen-governed Hoi An were two of the most significant regional, interregional, and international ports-of-trade in Southeast Asia. They attracted transient, semi-permanent, and permanent multicultural populations who both kept the ports supplied with valued and high-demand commodities, as well as participating in the sale and purchasing of goods as intermediaries on the expansive trade routes from China and Japan to Indonesia, South Asia, and Europe, and meeting the needs of local populations. The present study, built upon new documentary evidence from both Asian and European sources and recent archaeological excavations, serves as the first significant comparative study of these ports-of-trade as they functioned within the larger and expanding maritime trading world. Inclusive of how Asian historians have and are approaching the concept of a “global age”, this study focuses on the coastal-hinterland internal networks and external supply-chains that allowed the ports to...

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Thai Ayutthaya and Nguyen-governed Hoi An were two of the most significant regional, interregional, and international ports-of-trade in Southeast Asia. They attracted transient, semi-permanent, and permanent multicultural populations who both kept the ports supplied with valued and high-demand commodities, as well as participating in the sale and purchasing of goods as intermediaries on the expansive trade routes from China and Japan to Indonesia, South Asia, and Europe, and meeting the needs of local populations. The present study, built upon new documentary evidence from both Asian and European sources and recent archaeological excavations, serves as the first significant comparative study of these ports-of-trade as they functioned within the larger and expanding maritime trading world. Inclusive of how Asian historians have and are approaching the concept of a “global age”, this study focuses on the coastal-hinterland internal networks and external supply-chains that allowed the ports to be flexible

Asia Europe Trade: Red Sea versus Cape of Good Hope, Seventeenth Century

Ishrat Alam

Ever since Adam Smith observed that, “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” (An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776, vol-2, p-139), this statement has been, by and large, accepted by subsequent historians as a matter of faith. No serious effort has been made to check the validity of the generic statement. There is no gainsaying that these discoveries played very critical role in establishing a faster and safer transportation of commodities among three continents, namely, Asia, Europe and America (or New World) but did it cause complete shift in the old channel of trade: India-Persia-Europe? In the present paper, our concern is confined to the changes witnessed in Euro Asian trade focussing primarily on Persia.

Ever since Adam Smith observed that, “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” (An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776, vol-2, p-139), this statement has been, by and large, accepted by subsequent historians as a matter of faith. No serious effort has been made to check the validity of the generic statement. There is no gainsaying that these discoveries played very critical role in establishing a faster and safer transportation of commodities among three continents, namely, Asia, Europe and America (or New World) but did it cause complete shift in the old channel of trade: India-Persia-Europe? In the present paper, our concern is confined to the changes witnessed in Euro Asian trade focussing primarily on Persia.

Global Copper Trade in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century

Ryuto Shimada

This paper examines the global circulation of copper in the early modern period. A special focus is on new copper producing countries in the eighteenth century. In the mid-seventeenth century Japan began to export large volumes of copper to the world. It was exported by Chinese junk traders to mainland China and by the Dutch East India Company to India and Europe. Despite the fact that Japanese copper was imported into Europe, Swedish copper was the most important in the European market in terms of volume in the seventeenth century. However, this picture changed in the eighteenth century. In reflection to growing demand in the world market of copper, two countries, i.e. China and Britain, were successful to develop new copper mines on large scales. In this way, this paper aims to provide a global changing map on copper production and trade as well as a comparative survey of new...

This paper examines the global circulation of copper in the early modern period. A special focus is on new copper producing countries in the eighteenth century. In the mid-seventeenth century Japan began to export large volumes of copper to the world. It was exported by Chinese junk traders to mainland China and by the Dutch East India Company to India and Europe. Despite the fact that Japanese copper was imported into Europe, Swedish copper was the most important in the European market in terms of volume in the seventeenth century. However, this picture changed in the eighteenth century. In reflection to growing demand in the world market of copper, two countries, i.e. China and Britain, were successful to develop new copper mines on large scales. In this way, this paper aims to provide a global changing map on copper production and trade as well as a comparative survey of new copper production of China and Britain

Depending from the other. The dependency of the Portuguese trade system in the Asian Seas from Industan’s businessmen (1580-1640).

Ana Ribeiro

The reign of the Philippine dynasty was a time of serious problems in the Portuguese Estado da Índia. Some historians explain the Dutch attack to Portuguese positions in the Indian Ocean as a direct cause of the Eighty Years War and the rivalry between the Habsburgs and the Low Countries. More recent perspectives, not only of the Portuguese historians, but even Dutch and Asian historians have stressed that the European competition for the domain of the seas in the East had much more to do with economic interests to provide exclusively Asian commodities within the European continent. This paper aims to offer a first contribution to understand if the response to such economic problems by Portuguese public authorities and private agents of trade in the East counted with the cooperation of local businessmen in the Portuguese State of the India.

The reign of the Philippine dynasty was a time of serious problems in the Portuguese Estado da Índia. Some historians explain the Dutch attack to Portuguese positions in the Indian Ocean as a direct cause of the Eighty Years War and the rivalry between the Habsburgs and the Low Countries. More recent perspectives, not only of the Portuguese historians, but even Dutch and Asian historians have stressed that the European competition for the domain of the seas in the East had much more to do with economic interests to provide exclusively Asian commodities within the European continent. This paper aims to offer a first contribution to understand if the response to such economic problems by Portuguese public authorities and private agents of trade in the East counted with the cooperation of local businessmen in the Portuguese State of the India.

Ports in the First Global Age: A case Study of Chaul from 16th Century to 18th century

Neelambari Jagtap

In the initial period of the Portuguese entry into the Konkan coast of India, the Portuguese did not make any structural changes or any social intrusions. From second half of the sixteenth century to the 1730 i.e. till the Marathas occupied Chaul it was dominated by the Portuguese. However, Chaul was not a complete Portuguese port town. by the beginning of the 17th century, Chaul had started giving up its qualities of a typical medieval urban town, now with an European factory, and a producing old town, i.e., Upper Chaul as a silk production center. Chaul was taken over by the Marathas in 1739, and remained with them till 1818. This paper uses field work data studied through mapping the archaeological evidences that describe the spatial expansion of Upper Chaul and Lower Chaul (Revdanda), unfolding the nature of functioning between Chaul and its neighborhood .

In the initial period of the Portuguese entry into the Konkan coast of India, the Portuguese did not make any structural changes or any social intrusions. From second half of the sixteenth century to the 1730 i.e. till the Marathas occupied Chaul it was dominated by the Portuguese. However, Chaul was not a complete Portuguese port town. by the beginning of the 17th century, Chaul had started giving up its qualities of a typical medieval urban town, now with an European factory, and a producing old town, i.e., Upper Chaul as a silk production center. Chaul was taken over by the Marathas in 1739, and remained with them till 1818. This paper uses field work data studied through mapping the archaeological evidences that describe the spatial expansion of Upper Chaul and Lower Chaul (Revdanda), unfolding the nature of functioning between Chaul and its neighborhood .

History, Historiography, and the Trade of the Indian Ocean in the 17th century

Radhika Seshan

Starting with Andre Gunder Frank’s Re-Orient, much research on the idea of the ‘First Global Age’, or the ‘Asian Age’ has been published. In the Indian context, questioning of the notion of European predominance in the Indian Ocean started earlier, with the works of Ashin Das Gupta, S. Arasaratnam, and M N Pearson, in particular. This paper examines the historiography of the ‘First Asian Age’, before going on to point newer areas, through which we can perhaps take the Asian perspectives further forward. Therefore, in addition to trade, it also looks at processes of urbanization, and the idea put forward by Michael Pearson, of littoral societies.

Starting with Andre Gunder Frank’s Re-Orient, much research on the idea of the ‘First Global Age’, or the ‘Asian Age’ has been published. In the Indian context, questioning of the notion of European predominance in the Indian Ocean started earlier, with the works of Ashin Das Gupta, S. Arasaratnam, and M N Pearson, in particular. This paper examines the historiography of the ‘First Asian Age’, before going on to point newer areas, through which we can perhaps take the Asian perspectives further forward. Therefore, in addition to trade, it also looks at processes of urbanization, and the idea put forward by Michael Pearson, of littoral societies.