World Trade Systems, Nagasaki and Bullion

Arturo Giráldez of the School of International Studies at the University of the Pacific, Stockton, California, USA reviews a new book by JCA co-editor Geoffrey C. Gunn. World Trade Systems of the East and West. Nagasaki and the Asian Bullion Trade Networks, is published by Brill.

It was Adam Smith who “singled out the crucial importance of silver in the growth of global trade.” Gunn’s book focuses on Nagasaki a a critical centre of regional and world trade, particularly once the Europeans entered Asian waters. Giráldez observes:

The book narrates the vicissitudes of the Nagasaki trade, pays detailed attention to political institutions like the central “tributary system,” while detailing cultural aspects and religious histories. Description of artifacts, history of architecture as well as references to archaeological findings are incorporated into the narrative’s arguments and highly enrich them.

In so doing, Gunn “rejects Eurocentrism and European exceptionalism…”. The reviewer concludes:

Gunn has contributed a detailed study of Nagasaki trade during Japan’s unification and under the Tokugawa. It is an excellent contribution to global history and a required reference to understand the place of Japan in the world economy of the Modern Era.

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