Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-xii

This book evolved over the course of much of my adult life thus far. As it grew up, so did I. The innumerable debts I have accumulated in research and writing seem to me like the squares of a quilt, stitched together to make a vast blanket of warm support. Without this support, I would not be the person I am. And this book would be a different book, or no book at all. ...

Contents

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pp. xiii-xiv

List of Illustrations

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pp. xv-xvi

List of Abbreviations and Short Titles

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pp. xvii-xx

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Introduction: The Global Early Americas

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pp. 1-11

The story of pearls in the early modern period could be told as a simple one: pearls mattered a lot at the start of the era and less so at its end. They were worn as jewelry in 1500; they were still worn as jewelry in 1700. But such a story would be misleading, just as the simple beauty of pearls obscures the complexity that produced them and moved them throughout global markets ...

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1. Sex, Death, and the Sea: Pearls in the Early Modern Imagination

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pp. 12-30

Pearls’ appeal in the late Middle Ages and Spain’s management of the extraordinary American pearl-fishing grounds and their products can be understood only by reconstructing long-standing, classically derived ideas about the geographic and marine origins of pearls and looking at pearls’ particular Iberian legal and cultural contexts. ...

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2. Pearls and a Political Ecology of Empire, 1498–1541

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pp. 31-77

The hum of news and excitement buzzed through the port towns of southern Spain and Portugal in the waning years of the fifteenth century as ships, sailors, and the tales and treasure they carried sailed into Iberian harbors. It was not until Columbus’s third crossing into the unfamiliar Caribbean archipelago that he encountered pearls. On this 1498 voyage, as he and his ...

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3. “Even the Black Women Wear Strands of Pearls”: Assessing the Worth of Subjects and Objects in a New Era, 1540–1600

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pp. 78-127

Cubagua’s 1541 destruction shifted but did not end pearl fishing along the Venezuelan littoral. The tsunami that brought a dramatic end to the Pearl Coast’s most lucrative years also coincided with the dawn of a new era of Spanish imperial control, one in which the reins of overseas empire began to be more tightly (if still imperfectly) held by the crown. ...

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4. Making “A Machine of Pearls” in the Seventeenth Century: Custom and Innovation in Iberian Pearl-Fishing Ventures

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pp. 128-162

By the turn to the seventeenth century, the Iberian crown ruled over an empire that was wealthy and wide ranging in its geography and subject base, but it was also fractured and fractious, facing severe economic and political crises within Iberia and throughout its far-flung domains. Soothsayers denounced the king and predicted end times; wars raged on distant and domestic frontiers; ...

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5. “Regardless of Gender, Class, Color, and Condition”: Pearls in Private Possession around the Iberian Imperial World

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pp. 163-192

Alongside accounts of the hustle and bustle of pearl production in the Caribbean, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, records of pearl trades over the course of the seventeenth century point to similarly complex approaches to the custodianship of wealth. In the first few years of the century, in the growing port of London, royal jeweler Arnold Llul was rumored to be buying ...

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6. “A Few More or Less Make No Difference”: Accounting for Pearls in Northern Europe in the Seventeenth Century

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pp. 193-241

As pearls continued to illuminate Iberian imperial approaches to maritime empire into the seventeenth century, they caught the imagination and attention of state actors and quasi-independent entrepreneurs throughout northern Europe as well. As empires moved to objectify profit and regulate the role of subjects in new ways, pearls continued to serve as a useful index ...

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Conclusion: Rescuing “That Tired Irregular Pearl from Such Lengthy Isolation”

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pp. 242-258

By the end of the seventeenth century, pearls and pearl fisheries from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean to the rivers of northern Europe were embedded in sprawling imperial enterprises and proliferating networks for the distribution of people and products along global pathways. This complexity was increasingly acknowledged to be part of pearls’ appeal. ...

Essay on Sources

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pp. 259-268

Index

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pp. 269-275

Image Plates

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