The cover of C. A. Bayly's new book is stunning. A handsome black man stands poised, next to the bust of a European philosopher. Blazoned across the corner of the cover is 'A Masterpiece', the judgement of Niall Ferguson, current favourite historian of the US media, on Bayly's book.
The editors of this very useful collection of essays boldly state that it is their thesis that 'early modern botany both facilitated and profited from colonisation and long distance trade and that the development of botany and Europe's commercial and territorial expansion are closely associated developments' (p. 3).
This is a short book on what turns out to be a rather bigger subject than might have been expected from the title; not because the Dutch slave trade was so important, but because Emmer uses it as an entry to a wide range of issues concerning the Atlantic slave trade in general and its historiography.
This is a stimulating and engaging study that ticks a great many (postcolonial scholars’) ‘boxes’.
Some historical and related scholarly fields appear—not always for any very obvious reason—to generate considerably more introductory, overview, and student-oriented books than do others. This has certainly seemed to be the case for both the territories that Barbara Bush seeks, with considerable success, to bring together here.
In a seminal article on Portuguese merchants published 35 years ago (1), David Grant Smith suggested (on p. 247) that emigrants from Madeira ‘constituted a sort of gentile Diaspora’, highlighting how family ties and friendships originating on this small Portuguese Atlantic island ‘endured and formed the basis for a network of commercial relationships’.
The first question which may spring to the mind of any reader of this collection is: is it necessary or useful? Given the appearance in the not too distant past of the Oxford History of the British Empire, together with its themed volumes, can another edited collection on the empire contribute anything new or revealing?
At the start of this century, Britons were polled about which century was the worst century of the last millennium. They alighted on the 14th century as the century when the four horsemen of the apocalypse rode most freely. The 14th century was the worst because the bubonic plague devastated the population of Eurasia.
Portuguese Colonial Cities in the Early Modern World provides a nuanced investigation into cities with varying degrees of connection to the Portuguese empire during the 16th through the 18th centuries.
As the title of the book suggests, Geographies of Empire covers the period roughly from the beginning of the ‘scramble for Africa’ – following the British invasion of Egypt in 1882 – to the year by which many of the territories formerly acquired by European colonial powers had been lost or given up.