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History of World Trade Since 1450
BY John J. McCusker
Publisher: Macmillan Reference USA (November 18, 2005)
The force of the market has never, it seems, been greater; and yet trade has always been a defining factory in world history. In two alphabetically arranged volumes, the History of World Trade since 1450 takes as its starting point the year generally considered the beginning of the age of exploration. The more than 400 signed articles, ranging in length from 200 to 3,000 words and written by approximately 300 subject experts with college and university affiliations, offer postsecondary readers and researchers information about changes that both caused and were caused by exploration and expansion. Dealing with people and places as well as developments and ideas, the entries are unflinching in looking at trends that may have improved for some but were depressingly detrimental to others. The exploitation and decimation of the Native American tribes and the growth of African slavery are just two examples.
European colonization (both in the New World and in Africa), the Industrial Revolution, capitalism and the global economy, and commodities such as cotton and petroleum are all given judicious consideration. Articles are well organized, with appropriate divisions in longer entries. All have see also sections at the conclusion and appended bibliographies of selected works as well. Attractively boxed sidebars highlight areas of particular interest and add depth and detail to the coverage without disrupting the flow of the entries. Carefully selected black-and-white period reproductions, maps, and photographs enhance the coverage. Volume 1 contains a list of articles, a thematic outline listing articles under 16 headings from "Business Families" to "Shipping," a list of contributors, and selected metric conversions. Volume 2 concludes with a list of primary-source documents followed by the primary sources themselves. This section is divided into three groups: historical texts (e.g., an excerpt from Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations); speeches (Woodrow Wilson's "The Fourteen Points," for example); and agreements, treaties, and legislation (the Bretton Woods Agreement; a sample of a Native treaty). Closing the set are a glossary and a detailed index.
Although the encyclopedia is certainly extensive in coverage, the prose is, alas, consistently dry. Global History (Sharpe, 2004), edited by David W. Del Testa, though not focused strictly on trade, gives a livelier and more in-depth treatment of globalization. However, History of World Trade since 1450 does offer sound information in an easy-to- use format. As such, it is a reasonable addition for most college and university and large public libraries. Ann Welton