Currents of Silver and Silk in Asia’s Stormy Seas: A Re-Mapping of the Evolution of Maritime Trade in the Western Pacific, 1673 – 1690

CGS Brown Bag Series
Sep 21, 2016
12:15 PM to 01:15 PM
463 Burrowes

Ryan Holroyd, Penn State

My presentation will seek to describe the transition between the Zheng family’s domination of East Asia’s maritime trading network before 1684, and the period of the “open ocean” for Chinese merchants that began that year.  The Zheng family’s dominant position in the trading network from the 1650s until the early 1670s was based on their control of a regular exchange of Chinese silk for Japanese and American silver.  The advent of the Sanfan Rebellion, a massive civil war within the Qing empire between 1673 and 1681, dramatically reduced the Zheng family’s access to Chinese silk and forced them to begin trading more heavily with Southeast Asia.  When the last Zheng patriarch surrendered his family’s stronghold in 1683, a new period of trade was ushered in almost immediately by the Qing court’s legalization of overseas trade.  My presentation will offer a new explanation for this dramatic moment in the history of maritime East Asia by contrasting the Zheng family’s carefully rebalanced system with the period of frantic legal trade that prompted the sudden re-emergence of China as the economic force in East Asia’s seas during the last decades of the seventeenth century.

I am a fifth-year PhD candidate in the departments of History and Asian Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.  I am currently working on a dissertation that seeks to remap the evolution of East Asia’s trading network by looking at economic, political, and technological factors affecting it.  To this end I have collected data from archives held in Taiwan, China, England, Belgium, and the United States.  Some of the data that I have found has also been used to publish articles on the early Qing governance of Taiwan and piracy in the Indian Ocean as well.

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