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China, America and the Pacific

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Choice, July 2014

[Visited Apr'14] China, America and the Pacific provides core primary source text and image material from 13 major cultural heritage institutions in North America. Covering the 18th to early 20th centuries, this database documents the socioeconomic aspects of transpacific and around-the-world commercial, scientific, and other maritime voyages. The focus is on (but not limited to) the China trade. The site's structure provides a number of options for discovering resources, including simple and advanced searching. Similarly, selecting Popular Searches produces an alphabetical list of clickable topics encompassing multiple material types. Take a Tour leads to an overview of the site's organization and access to resources by material types: Documents, Chronology, Maps, and Visual Resources. Another option, Further Resources, presents selections including Essays, Glossary, Merchant Biographies, External Links (carefully selected, often specialized free websites), and more.

The Maps link has two options: Map Gallery, a selection of historic maps showing how the world and its regions were understood at the time; and the engaging Interactive Map, depicting with animation the routes taken by 45 complete or partial voyages (1787-1863), as documented by primary source material. The voyages play out in colored trajectories coded to the major function of the voyage (exploration, commerce, fur trade, whaling, and more). Visual Resources includes Online Exhibitions, with added text; and Visual Galleries, images of two- and three-dimensional original objects. The Documents section is rich in primary source material including ship logs, diaries, correspondence, account books, other shipping and commercial company records, catalogs of trade goods, and other records of prices at a point in time. Under Chronology, the default view is horizontally presented and color-coded by topic, albeit with a somewhat different color key from that used in the Interactive Map. By selecting the Accessible Version, users lose the color coding and view the chronology in a vertical presentation. Facets allow those viewing the Chronology to limit to topical themes or countries/regions, or by trading company.

This database complements China: Culture and Society (CH, Feb'13, 50-2990). Since it focuses on the China trade, only with some effort can users tease out aspects of the complexity of historic world trade. China, America and the Pacific is visually stunning and rich in documentary resources. For libraries that can afford the one-time purchase price with modest maintenance fees, it will be a very valuable addition to comprehensive collections in history and those specializing in Asian studies, business, or maritime history.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above. 

K Cleland-Sipfle, Southern Oregon University
Choice, July 2014