PAST PRESENT

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IN PURSUIT OF LUXURY,GLOBAL HISTORY AND BRITISH,CONSUMER GOODS IN THE. EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, Their own steel and iron in such laborious hands become equal to the. gold and rubies of the Indies,David Hume Of Commerce 1752. In 1983 Captain Michael Hatcher a British born Australian. mounted a salvage operation on a ship in the South China Sea. He recovered what became known as the Nanking Cargo sixty. thousand pieces of Ming porcelain from one ship which had. sunk in the mid 1640s on the way from China to Batavia The. quantities of porcelain recovered caused a minor sensation in. the European art and antiquities markets and also opened his. torians eyes to the prodigious quantities of what they considered. to be high luxury wares which were being transported from Asia. to Europe via colonies such as Batavia three centuries ago The. impact of the Nanking Cargo on the media of today parallels. the effect in Holland and northern Europe of the seizure by the. Dutch of two Portuguese ships the Santiago and the Santa. Catarina in 1602 The Catarina alone yielded ten thousand pieces. of porcelain Great sales fetching extremely high prices extended. into 1604 and had an electrifying effect on Dutch traders. In the cargoes of the Portuguese ships were also to be found. pintadoes These curious painted and printed cottons were. initially imported as furnishing fabrics especially bed hangings. but from the 1660s they were increasingly marketed as a new. textile for fashionable clothing 1 Europe s East India Companies. The ideas for this article were Wrst set out in panel sessions at the ReconWguring. the British seminar at the Institute of Historical Research University of London. in 2000 at the Economic History conference in Glasgow in 2001 and in my inaug. ural lecture in 2001 at the University of Warwick Many thanks to Margot Finn. Rhys Jenkins Patrick O Brien John Robertson Andrew Sherratt and Megan. Vaughan for suggestions and critical reading and to Helen Clifford and Shelagh. Vainker for help with illustrations, Gang Deng Chinese Maritime Activities and Socioeconomic Development c 2100 BC. 1900 AD Westport and London 1997 115,The Past and Present Society Oxford 2004.
86 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 182, found and promoted the appeal of eastern luxury goods to. western buyers This link between East and West contributed. to the wider expansion of consumption and industry in Europe. which accompanied and followed it, It was not until the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. that an import trade in luxury goods from India and China to. Europe was to transform the European economies themselves. For while there had long been a global trade in luxury goods. the merchants and East India Companies then discovered that. European markets for these Asian luxury goods might be far. greater than those of the traditional court luxury which had. long underpinned the trade What happened was that the global. trade in particular types of manufactured consumer goods. stimulated a programme of product innovation in Europe in. attempts to imitate and to make indigenous those products. which were at that time manufactured in the advanced consumer. societies of China and India The import trade in luxury goods. from Asia was a vital step market potentials beyond court. and aristocratic circles were identiWed in a fashion demand for. the goods supplies were increased as Asian production of more. varieties and qualities was adapted to the European market. And ultimately Europeans imitated the goods developing their. own fashion and luxury consumer goods industries, Yet while Europeans imported these products and copied. them they did not import the technologies on which they were. based Asian consumption was transferred to Europe but not. Asian production systems The adaptation of European and. especially British technologies and resources to the making of. substitute Asian luxuries was to generate a whole range of dif. ferent consumer products British new consumer goods These. became perceived by the end of the eighteenth century as the. distinctive modern alternatives to former Asian and European. luxuries Eric Hobsbawm once termed foreign trade the spark. which lit the Industrial Revolution his argument much disputed. since was based on Britain s exports and re exports 2 But it was. Europe s imports from Asia and imports especially of manu. factured consumer goods which were to provide the vital turning. point Global trade did matter to European industrialization. E J Hobsbawm Industry and Empire London 1968 50 cf Ralph Davis. The Industrial Revolution and British Overseas Trade Leicester 1979 9 11 62 76. IN PURSUIT OF LUXURY 87, but not in ways that have been set out in the standard accounts. of the Industrial Revolution and of imperialism, This article argues that imports of goods from the East made.
a difference to the subsequent development of European but. especially British consumer markets and production technologies. This was not however a straightforward story of import. substitution industrialization that is of infant industries. developed behind high tariff walls to supply domestic markets. Instead Europeans responded to Asian luxuries by learning. from their imports developing knowledge of markets and. adapting processes Importing Asian luxuries demanded the. making of consumer markets both at home and abroad for. things never before needed or even desired Responding to. Asian imported luxuries had far reaching effects in transforming. both consumption and production, This article makes the case for a connection between global. luxury European consumerism and industrialization in the. eighteenth century My case will be developed in three proposi. tions corresponding to three sections of the article First global. trade mattered especially that based on fashion and luxury. spending particularly important were imports and the effects. these had in fostering new consumer cultures The Wrst section. of the article Global trade and consumption in the eighteenth. century will accordingly review the contribution of global. history to the understanding of industrialization It examines. the signiWcance now attached to consumer culture especially. global luxury in industrial development My second argument. is that this consumer culture based on global trade had a direct. impact on production and invention in Britain Asian imports. stimulated British production of consumer goods but Asian. technologies were not transferred Thus my second section. Imports imitation and production focuses on theories of. import substituting industrialization and the characteristics. of Asian manufactured goods imported to Britain My third. proposition is that the connection between Asia and Europe. needs to be extended to Africa and the New World if we are to. understand fully the global context of the making of European. and especially British consumer goods Thus the third section. Empire and British consumer goods outlines how British. producers in imitating Asian goods drew on the resources. and markets of empire Britain s indigenous resources were. 88 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 182, perceived to extend beyond her borders to include her New. World colonies from Canada to the Caribbean Imitative inven. tion adapting the use of non eastern materials made Britain s. new consumer goods indigenous not oriental,GLOBAL TRADE AND CONSUMPTION IN. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY,Global History, The part played by global trade in the history of industrial. ization has been relatively neglected by recent generations of. economic historians These found that foreign trade accounted. for less than 10 per cent of the increase in England s total prod. uct between 1700 and 1780 and turned to internal domestic. factors for explanations of economic growth 3 The broader. impact of global trade is now however due for reconsideration. from the perspective of consumer society The recent concept. of globalization has also stimulated rethinking Eric Hobsbawm. for example perceives recent developments that fall under the. concept of globalization in terms of enormous speed up wider. access abolition of distance and time and the emancipation of. manufacturing and even agricultural products from the terri. tories in which they were produced but the modern industry. of nineteenth century Britain anticipated these developments 4. This new sense of the global has not so much led historians to. demonstrate that earlier historical epochs also had a global. dimension and to measure their effects against current global. dynamics but has rather urged them to reconsider the subjects. once studied in national regional or even purely local frame. Stanley L Engerman Mercantilism and Overseas Trade 1700 1800 in. Roderick Floud and Donald McCloskey eds The Economic History of Britain since. 1700 Cambridge 1994, Karl Marx The Communist Manifesto ed E J Hobsbawm London 1998.
Introduction Refer back to Hobsbawm The Development of the World. Economy Cambridge Jl Econ iii 1979 311 17, Much of this rethinking has however concentrated on realigning the place of. empire in the development of the British economy See for example P K O Brien. Imperialism and the Rise and Decline of the British Economy 1688 1989 New. Left Rev ccxxxviii 1999 See also Kevin H O Rourke and Jeffrey G Williamson. When Did Globalisation Begin European Rev Econ Hist vi 2002 27 35. IN PURSUIT OF LUXURY 89, Our understanding of the impact of global trade has been. seen thus far through the work of world historians and theorists. of globalization Historical structuralists such as Immanuel. Wallerstein Samir Amin and more recently Giovanni Arrighi. identiWed centre periphery polarities but instead of studying. interconnections they focused on issues of domination and. ascendancy by one part of the globe the West over the other. going back to the merchant capitalism of the Wfteenth cen. tury The dependency theorists Andre Gunder Frank and Janet. Abu Lughod developed non western perspectives on core. and peripheral regions taking the analysis back to the twelfth. century but again focused on imperial domination rather than. interconnections 6, Recent global history has reopened debates on economic. transition in Europe in the eighteenth century but from the. perspective of Asia Earlier arguments for European exception. alism have been set aside in favour of conjunctural features. which in the course of the eighteenth century set in motion. a divergence in development paths between Europe and Asia. A strong case has been made by Kenneth Pomeranz for more. economic similarities than differences across Eurasia before the. later eighteenth century followed by divergence after 7 Pomeranz. argued for a basic ecological imbalance which came into play. over the course of the eighteenth century Europe s and espe. cially Britain s access to coal its development of technologies. using coal and its access to New World resources gave it the lead. over Asia that neither consumption and proto industrialization. nor labour productivity and market institutions had previously. provided A cause of divergence so singularly rooted in ecologi. cal factors has prompted an escalation of criticism focusing on. Immanuel Wallerstein Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European. World Economy New York 1974 Samir Amin The Accumulation of Capital on a. World Scale New York 1974 Andre Gunder Frank ReOrient Global Economy in. the Asian Age Berkeley 1998 Janet Abu Lughod Before European Hegemony The. World System AD 1250 1350 New York and Oxford 1989 See the discussion of. global approaches to history in A G Hopkins The History of Globalization. and the Globalization of History in A G Hopkins ed Globalization in World. History London 2002, Kenneth Pomeranz The Great Divergence China Europe and the Making of the. Modern World Economy Princeton 2000 R Bin Wong China Transformed. Historical Change and the Limits of European Experience Ithaca and London 1997. 57 R Bin Wong The Search for European Differences and Domination in the. Early Modern World A View from Asia Amer Hist Rev cvii 2002 469. 90 PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER 182, factors from agricultural productivity to land organization and.
property relations to demography and social institutions 8 This. debate on the divergence between East and West like that on. the domination of the West over the East has not addressed. global interconnections, The divergence between Europe and Asia may have had an. ecological foundation but these resource shocks were not. random events they were historical cultural and political The. reasons for the exploitation of coal and New World resources. over the eighteenth century lie in opportunities developed for. technological creativity cultures of skill and the mercantile and. colonial policies which made New World resources available. Prasannan Parthasarathi in a recent review of the debate in this. journal makes the point that the key divide between East and. West that opened up in the eighteenth century was based not. on ecology but on technology It was not simply the presence. of coal that expanded ecological possibilities but technical. developments that made possible the widespread adoption of. coal 9 Furthermore a recognized technical sophistication . century but again focused on imperial domination rather than interconnections 6 Recent global history has reopened debates on economic transition in Europe in the eighteenth century but from the perspective of Asia Earlier arguments for European exception alism have been set aside in favour of conjunctural features

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