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Current Issue Article Abstracts

Summer 2017, Vol. 15.4

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Introduction: Distinguishing Port Cities, 1500–1800 
pp. 649 - 659 
Jessica Choppin Roney 

Introductory essay to a special issue devoted to articles based on papers presented at "Port Cities in the Early Modern World, 1500-1800," a conference hosted by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies in Philadelphia 5-7 November 2015

Situating Merchants in Late Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic Port Cities 
pp. 660 - 682 
Emma Hart 
Cathy Matson 

Merchants living in the early modern era experienced their commercial successes and failures not only as participants in great Atlantic world networks of traders and goods, but also as residents of particular local places. Scholars’ sensitive and rich portraits of port city commerce portray international traders as the decision makers who shaped longdistance trade, which in turn had a profound influence on the developing character of individual port cities. Integrating and improving across great spans of time and space, the British Atlantic merchant formed coherent networks that shared a language of credit, trust, and profitable exchange. But just as significantly, we can start to integrate the myriad daily economic choices of local city residents with those of merchants, and we can do so productively by recognizing the “cityness” of ports, a quality constituted from the constant interactions, negotiations, and perceptions of their residents within man-made and natural surroundings. This article tests how the intertwined natures of long-distance trade and local cityness affected the different commercial trajectories of three merchants in three different British Atlantic ports.


Flaunting It: How the Galleon Trade Made Manila, circa 1571–1800 
pp. 683 - 713 
Raquel A. G. Reyes 

Manila was designated by Spain as the colonial capital of the Philippine archipelago in 1571. From being a small Muslim settlement, the city was swiftly transformed by the trans-Pacific galleon trade to Acapulco. Manila emerged as one of the greatest and wealthiest entrepôts in Southeast Asia, rivaling the Dutch city of Batavia in Indonesia and dominating commerce with America and Europe in both silk and spices. Manila became a magnet to trading ships from China, Japan, Maluku, Malacca, Siam, Cambodia, and Borneo, which arrived laden with an astonishing abundance of luxurious goods. The trade flows of silver and precious Asian merchandise—the bales of Chinese silks, the porcelain, Indian textiles, spices, local wax, honey, and forest products—and the shifting and hybrid populations that supplied labor and diverse expertise lent the city its own special character and texture.

Drawing on a range of primary sources—from secular and missionary accounts to architecture and artistic works, including paintings and objects, this essay explores the much less well-studied social and cultural effects of global trade on local contexts, and considers whether Manila was any different from other early modern port cities in the Atlantic and Asian worlds. I discuss a variety of fundamental areas—sartorial fashions and bodily scents, culinary tastes, and architectural innovations—in which imported goods and their consumption affected everyday sensibilities in Manila and beyond.


“All the baubles that they needed”: “Industriousness” and Slavery in Saint-Louis and Gorée 
pp. 714 - 739 
Bronwen Everill 

Atlantic port cities were sites of commercial, consumer, and industrious revolutions in the eighteenth century. This essay argues that accounts of the Atlantic consumer and industrious revolutions need to include African port cities because they were an important market for consumer goods and services. The Senegambian cities of Saint-Louis and Gorée were port cities involved in the consumption of Atlantic and global goods, as well as in the provision of services for ships involved in trade, and especially the slave trade. They had a class of women involved in the economic transformation of the cities, who help illustrate the role of consumerism, as well as the possibilities for accumulation created by the institution of domestic urban slavery. It is useful to look at African port cities because their experiences of urban slavery can help us think critically about what is meant by the industrious household and about how women in different Atlantic contexts were able to accumulate and use invested capital in varying ways.


Politics of the Hinterland: Taxing Fowl in and beyond the Ports of Terceira Island, 1550–1600 
pp. 740 - 768 
Gabriel De Avilez Rocha 

In standard treatments of the political economy of port cities, ports are seen to play key roles as centers of mediation between hinterlands and the maritime sphere. This article lends nuance to this framework through a case study of Terceira Island in the Azores and the ways in which merchants, city officials, and Catholic confraternity members in the latter sixteenth century attempted to regulate the harvesting and commerce of birds across the rural districts and urban marketplaces of the island. By seeking to implement complex tax arrangements through lengthy negotiations, provisional accords, and outright conflict, individuals claiming the right to oversee the procurement and trade of wild and domesticated fowl engaged in a palpable politics of the hinterland. I argue that struggles over the types of birds that could be found, exchanged, and consumed throughout Terceira responded to the social, political, and ecological dynamism of the hinterlands in ways that were not always connected to developments in the ports but were sometimes nevertheless enmeshed in broader Atlantic transformations.


Timbering and Turtling: The Maritime Hinterlands of Early Modern British Caribbean Cities 
pp. 769 - 800 
Mary Draper 

In standard treatments of the political economy of port cities, ports are seen to play key roles as centers of mediation between hinterlands and the maritime sphere. This article lends nuance to this framework through a case study of Terceira Island in the Azores and the ways in which merchants, city officials, and Catholic confraternity members in the latter sixteenth century attempted to regulate the harvesting and commerce of birds across the rural districts and urban marketplaces of the island. By seeking to implement complex tax arrangements through lengthy negotiations, provisional accords, and outright conflict, individuals claiming the right to oversee the procurement and trade of wild and domesticated fowl engaged in a palpable politics of the hinterland. I argue that struggles over the types of birds that could be found, exchanged, and consumed throughout Terceira responded to the social, political, and ecological dynamism of the hinterlands in ways that were not always connected to developments in the ports but were sometimes nevertheless enmeshed in broader Atlantic transformations.


“This infant Borough”: The Corporate Political Identity of Eighteenth-Century Norfolk 
pp. 801 - 834 
Paul Musselwhite 

The rapidly growing eighteenth-century port city of Norfolk, Virginia, occupied an unusual position. It was the largest city in a colony known for its rural gentry culture and also a formally incorporated borough in an era when urban corporate independence was increasingly unusual in the British Atlantic. This essay explores Norfolk’s corporate political identity and argues that it was crucial to the city’s position in a planter-dominated society. The charter helped reconcile the city’s need for local authority over trade and urban policing with the planter elite’s suspicion of commerce by effectively quarantining the port city outside the planters’ political world. As tensions rose within the British Empire during the 1760s, however, the borough’s corporate authority became a contentious issue, as planters asserted their civic authority to regulate trade. The planter revolutionaries’ suspicion of Norfolk’s corporate status led to the showdown between the borough and the new revolutionary government and eventually to the destruction of the city in January 1776. These experiences informed the efforts of Virginia’s new state government to craft a unique subsidiary status for municipal government in the 1780s. Norfolk’s corporate status is therefore crucial to understanding the republican political economic vision of Virginia’s planter class.


Towns in Plantation Societies in Eighteenth-Century British America 
pp. 835 - 859 
Trevor Burnard

There is a long-standing historiography that the plantation system of the American South and the British West Indies was inimical to urbanization. If we focus on towns in the Lower South and the West Indies, however, rather than the Chesapeake, we see urbanization as central to plantation development. The slave trade was vital to this urbanization, forming the dynamic trade that allowed for entrepreneurial decision making. It allowed towns like Kingston, Charleston, and Bridgetown to become more than shipping points. They became places of deep linkages between different economic sectors. In addition, they had an independent, autonomous existence in which growth was endogenous and in which people found multiple opportunities for wealth creation and the pursuit of pleasure.