History

Commodities of the China Trade: Bechè de Mer, Shark Fins and Gold
18 December 2013

Below I have shared one of my personal highlights from China, America and the Pacific, which has just been released. This new multi-library collection provides an extensive range of archival material connected to the trading and cultural relationships that emerged between China, America and the Pacific region between the 18th and early 20th centuries. During the eighteenth century American merchants sought to establish trade with China. Their...

'My Leg Has Got to Come Off': Amputations at Sea
18 December 2013

During the many Pacific voyages documented in China, America and the Pacific, a regular feature was death and injury onboard the ship. Crew members shattered their skulls from falls, and had limbs mutilated by breeching whales. Many of these men faced immediate death, however a minority faced a punishment that was arguably far worse, as this extract from The Life of Tristram Coff[y]n shows: In 1800 … in the capture of a large sperm whale, Captain...

Silence is Golden...
18 December 2013

Whilst visiting the big smoke last weekend I witnessed one of cinema’s greatest triumphs – Abel Gance’s thrilling six hour silent epic, Napoleon. Now, I have to admit, I was slightly sceptical. Six hours of silent cinema does not sound like the best use of a frosty Saturday in November, but the 1927 film opened my eyes to the vibrancy and passion of early cinema. Napoleon (played by Albert Dieudonné) tells the story of the first 27 years of...

Pox in the Pacific: Syphilis and the Hawaiian Islands
18 December 2013

Upon Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778 the population of the Hawaiian Islands was estimated at around 500,000. By 1848, however, this number had fallen to less than 90,000. Explanations for this exponential decline vary quite considerably, with many historians citing war, famine, and disease as potential factors. Yet contemporary narratives largely focus on one primary cause; the arrival of syphilis. In his study of the Islands in 1853, G W Bates...

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