Littoral Society: The Concept and the Problems
Michael N. Pearson
Abstract: In any study of seascapes, an investigation of the littoral must be central, for it is here that land and sea meet. Is there such a thing as littoral society? Is it possible to go around the shores of an ocean, or a sea, or indeed the whole world and identify societies that have more in common with other littoral societies than they do with their inland neighbors? If so, do these societies draw more on their forelands—that is, their maritime connections—than on their hinterlands? Fishing peoples, who ostensibly are quintessential littoral peoples, exemplify the difficulties of this identification. While their men draw their livelihood from the sea, their women engage in processing and marketing on land, and the whole fishing community is dependent on land-based economic forces. Many fishing communities engage in agriculture as well as piscatorial activity. Concepts of littoral society need to be sensitive to gradations along the strand, from the more aquatic Marsh Arabs and peddlers at the floating markets in Bangkok to peasants who happen to live on the coast. Three criteria in particular need attention: location, occupation, and culture.
Audience for a Giraffe: European Expansionism and the Quest for the Exotic
Abstract: The two main waves of European expansion—those of the Renaissance and of the nineteenth century—cannot simply be explained in economic terms. The high degree of risk and uncertainty associated with overseas ventures meant that they were less than fully rational. An explanation must begin by considering how the Europeans defined the extra-European world, how they defined the exotic. This article analyzes European reactions to two giraffes—one given to Lorenzo de’ Medici of Florence in 1486 and the other to King Charles X of France in 1827. A comparison is made with the Chinese reactions to two giraffes that appeared in Beijing in the early fifteenth century.
The Science of Spices: Empiricism and Economic Botany in the Early Spanish Empire
Paula de Vos
Abstract: This article explores the Spanish crown’s efforts to study, cultivate, and transplant spices from the East Indies to the West Indies and then to Spain in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Beginning with Christopher Columbus’s first observations of New World flora, the Spanish crown sought out spices to cultivate for economic gain. Although they were ultimately unsuccessful in efforts to generate a large-scale spice trade, colonial officials and local entrepreneurs participated in a coordinated program of empirical information gathering and botanical experimentation that is itself of historical significance. For the empirical and experimental—“scientific”—methods they represented serve to challenge and enhance current understanding of several historiographical themes: the origins of economic botany and the Scientific Revolution more generally, the role of human agency in the Columbian exchange, and the dissemination of knowledge from imperial centers to colonial peripheries.
The Rise and Fall of Dutch Taiwan, 1624–1662: Cooperative Colonization and the Statist Model of European Expansion
Abstract: This study, based on Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese sources, examines the rise and fall of Dutch Taiwan in the light of a model of European expansion first sketched (separately) by historians John E. Wills Jr. and Michael N. Pearson. According to the Wills-Pearson model, Europeans were successful in colonization attempts because they received support from European states, whereas Asian states were less likely to support overseas adventurism. The case of Taiwan strongly supports the model—not just the establishment of a Dutch colony on Taiwan, but also the loss of that colony to the Chinese military leader Zheng Chenggong, who ousted the Dutch in 1662, because Zheng’s state was similar to many western European states in its dependence upon revenue from seaborne commerce and its concomitant willingness to undertake overseas expansion. The article concludes by urging scholars to learn more about non-Western colonization, suggesting several possible avenues of research.
Bruce Mazlish. Civilization and Its Contents
Reviewed by Cemil Aydin
José C. Curto and Renée Soulodre-La France, eds. Africa and the Americas: Interconnections during the Slave Trade
Reviewed by Alberto E. Nickerson
Inga Clendinnen. Dancing with Strangers: Europeans and Australians at First Contact
Reviewed by Ani Fox
Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Petersson, eds. Globalization: A Short History
Reviewed by Colin Rowan
Jeremy Black. War Since 1945
Reviewed by Jefferson P. Marquis
Index to Volume 17, pp. 465–469