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Title: Trading in Liberty: The politics of the American China trade, c. 1784-1862
Authors: Norwood, Dael A.
Advisors: Wilentz, Robert S.
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: antebellum
early republic
political economy
United States
Subjects: American history
American studies
Asian history
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Early Americans defined themselves, and the nation, through their relations with the world. This dissertation explores a crucial aspect of these relations, examining how global commerce, and Americans' ideas about global commerce, produced theories and practices of power. It approaches this wide subject from the perspective of Americans' trade with Asia, known colloquially to contemporaries and historians alike as the "China trade," after the empire that made up its largest and most influential component. Notable for its global reach - the demands of Asian markets took Americans all over the world in search of silver specie and rare commodities - the commerce also permeated the political imagination of policymakers in the early republic. Tracing changes in the material reality and ideological import of this complex commerce through the files of mercantile firms, the archives of the American and British governments, the correspondence of scientific associations, and a wide survey of print culture, this dissertation reconstructs how Americans created, communicated, and used knowledge about Asian trade as it moved from the decks of ships to the floor of Congress, and everywhere in between. The China trade, this study reveals, served as a motive and a medium for U.S. politics. Focusing on the politics of the China trade shows us the surprisingly global range of early Americans' political vision. From the origins of the trade in the 1780s through to the onset of the Civil War, the capital, goods, and people that made up the U.S.-China trade were deeply intertwined with the struggles that defined the early American state. Conflicts over the political economy required to maintain the republic's independence, the nature of sovereignty, federalism, and states' rights, the balance between westward expansion and intensive economic development, and the status of free and unfree labor were all profoundly affected by Americans' global commerce, and their ideas about that commerce. Expanding our knowledge of politics beyond the narrow continental or Atlantic borders to which it has heretofore been confined, this dissertation offers a new model for understanding how a global perspective on political economy structured Americans' relations with other peoples - and each other.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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