Editors Christian Buchet and Gérard Le Bouëdec introduce an encyclopedic anthology researching the role of the sea in the early modern period. The seventy-five essays collected in both French and English cover every aspect of maritime activity. With the reviewer not being French-literate, only the thirty-three most notable English contributions will be selected from.
David Hancock examines how Atlantic trading encouraged technological innovation. From the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, maritime traders [End Page 186] established a global network that unified an oceanic marketplace. Leos Müller attributes rapid early modern trading expansion to the invention of the sailing ship. By studying Scandinavian fleets, Müller argues that shipping grew without the need for technical advancement. Klaus Weber analyses the development of Central Europe through trade. Linen was initially an important export in exchange for African gold. Weber finds in this trading pattern an expansion to metal ware that led to importing sugar, indigo, cotton and coffee.
Om Prakash investigates how Indian commerce was able to adapt and flourish despite early modern colonial control. India's ability to manufacture large amounts of textiles made it an influential trader in the Indian Ocean. Anthony Reid examines how the early modern global expansion in trade relied on interacting with Southeast Asia. He also uncovers hybrid shipbuilding techniques mixing North China and Southeast Asia technologies to compete with Portuguese naval warfare.
Amélia Polónia challenges the popular notion that European seaports are simply economic hubs. She argues convincingly that these seaports were also important political, administrative redistribution centres. Filipa Ribeiro da Silva examines how African ports flourished beyond a trade in gold, ivory and slave labour. The needs of a growing merchant population and an African elite created a fascinating variety in imports and exports.
David J. Starkey's informative essay investigates early modern fisheries. Inês Amorim examines the importance of the early modern trade in salt, known as white gold. International rivalry and exploitation of global salt mines helped establish international trade routes. However, Amorim shows how stockpiling, trade embargoes, and increasing interest in sugar impacted the salt trade. David Eltis analyses how the slave trade affected sugar prices. In an interesting observation, he notes that both European buyers and African sellers viewed the slaves as outsiders to their societies. Eltis argues that on the African coast, there was no notion of a national identity.
Michael Kwass makes notable observations on the rising popularity of tobacco in early modern trading. Not only is it addictive, but tobacco was also viewed as a healthy social product. Maxine Berg investigates how the Asia–Europe trade transformed European culture. Of particular interest, tea drinking became so embedded in European aristocratic society that it lost its Chinese identity. Sheryllynne Haggerty argues for the important recognition of 'sea dogs' for Britain's commercial expansion in Atlantic trade. She claims that early modern Britain's trading and military activity in Ireland provided justification for colonial expansion.
An excellent group of contributions argues how constructing a navy transformed countries and led technological innovations. The Russian navy established Russia's global maritime trade routes. Whenever the Russian navy declined, it was always resurrected in times of need. Dock construction [End Page 187] transformed the Indian kingdom of Maratha by creating innovations in engineering. The British government turned to the Royal Navy in order to revolutionize their bureaucratic departments. Breakthroughs in ocean navigation led to the building of observatories and influenced the Scientific Revolution. Increasing use of maritime routes led to the spread of disease. Onboard practitioners were the leaders in medical breakthroughs, particularly in tropical medicine.
Jelle Van Lottum examines how the changing market in the Dutch maritime industry led to a demand for foreign workers. Daniel Baugh investigates the professionalization of the seventeenth-century English navy. These innovations in standards of conduct led to the English navy being the world leader in effectiveness and efficiency. The most exciting essay is Richard Harding's examination of...