Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration and Cultural Exchange. Adam Matthew. ISBN Contact publisher for pricing (based on Carnegie Classification and JISC); includes nominal hosting fee. payable annually. URL: http://www.amdigital.co.uk. [Visited April '13].
Designed to offer a unique way to teach world history, this visually pleasing database focuses on 15 "commodities that changed the world." For some obvious commodities, like silk, that are missing, the editors defer to coverage by other websites. Primary sources constitute most of the content. The images are of high quality and downloadable as PDF files. Under Further Resources, nearly 20 essays, signed by authoritative authors, are offered, but some lack references and further reading suggestions. Although the publisher is adding content, not much information is available on the site about additions and updates. Separate sections include Visual Resources galleries, Data and Maps, and a Chronology (which offers various browsing and filtering options). Navigation requires some orientation. The main menu directs users toward the key commodities or thematic areas such as Art and Literature, Health and Welfare, and Social Practice. One a topic is selected, the database offers descriptions, diaries, images, shipping manifests, travel logs, and more. The glossary is excellent in providing brief (sometimes too brief) entries covering many more commodities, but it lacks links to references for further reading. The site does include a section of links to external websites that are authoritative and enhance the user experience.
The search engine is thorough, but can quickly overwhelm users with results. Images load quickly, and search terms are highlighted. Users also may browse documents in several ways, e.g., by Commodity, with Filters for Document Type, Regions, Library and Theme. The narrow scope of the database makes it distinctive, compared to other websites. For those seeking information on commodities, the quality and quantity of material offered surpasses Fordham University's Internet History Sourcebooks Project <http://www.fordham.edu/Halsall/index.asp> and UC-Santa Cruz's Commodities in World History, 1450-1950 <http://cwh.ucsc.edu/commodities.html>. The editors at Adam Matthew seem to be conscious of avoiding duplication with those sites. Since the content of Global Commodities comprises mainly primary sources, some undergraduates and high school students may require further context.
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.
Reprinted with permission from CHOICE http://www.cro2.org, copyright by the American Library Association.
W. M. Fontane, McNeese State University
CHOICE, July 2013