Monday, October 10, 2005

"Cycles of Silver: Global Economic Unity through the Mid-Eighteenth Century"

This article by Dennis O. Flynn and Arturo Giraldez, from the Fall 2002 Journal of World History, pp 391-427, reprinted here in pdf by, has some interesting perspectives and a lot of information.

The authors contend that to speak in terms of "money" instead of breaking it down into the actual monetary substances - the four main ones in the 16th through 18th centuries being gold, silver, copper and cowries (shells) - gets in the way of understanding the patterns of production and trade and, in their opinion, world history.

This is not a snappy read by any stretch, but it does provide an interesting way of looking at things, plus includes some surprising information. For instance, the authors claim that at the end of the sixteenth century, more Mexican money was circulating in southern China than in Mexico. Also, the introduction of American crops fundamentally changed China's society and economy by allowing heavy population shifts into non-rice-producing areas. They also contend that the founding of Manila by the Spanish in 1571 marks the birth year of global trade.

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