The best books about trade

2 authors have picked their favorite books about trade and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

By Ludwig von Mises,

Why this book?

This is the most rewarding book in economics—maybe in all of social science—if you’re willing to be patient and attentive (no math, statistical equations, or even graphs, but this is not light reading). Human Actions treatment of economics is comprehensive, tackling questions from the philosophical—What, for example, is the nature of economic laws?—to the practical—What do those laws mean for, say, regulating the price of milk? A true tour de force, this book changed how I think about the world, and it might do the same for you. Just remember what I said about patience and attentiveness!

From the list:

The best books on economics and political economy

Book cover of Trading Roles: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Urban Economy in Colonial Potosí

Trading Roles: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Urban Economy in Colonial Potosí

By Jane E. Mangan,

Why this book?

Mangan’s work completely changed the way that I thought about the colonial mining industry and the complexities of Andean gender systems. Through careful case studies and historical scholarship, Mangan gives voice and texture to the lives of Andean market women, artisans, and ordinary miners who filled the streets of Potosí and its surrounding communities. Trading Roles translates global histories of credit, market capitalization, and urbanization into intimate details of family and community life, and in so doing makes it clear that gender was – and is – a central part of Andean mining history. Readers interested in the interactions of…

From the list:

The best books on mining in colonial Latin America

Book cover of The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China

The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China

By Timothy Brook,

Why this book?

In The Confusions of Pleasure Timothy Brook captures the consternation of a local official as he witnesses the cultural and economic changes wrought by the rise of private wealth in the late Ming, (c. 1600). Unable to raise adequate revenue or to adapt the conservative agrarian foundations of its legitimacy to changing times, the Ming eventually collapses from within, unable to protect itself from marauding bands led by a disgruntled former government post station worker and subsequent invasion by a foreign force. Yet, those who are able to adapt to changing times survive. The resonances for our own day are…

From the list:

The best reads for understanding geo-politics and the rise of the nation state in China from the late Ming - 20th century

Book cover of The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of t'Ang Exotics

The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of t'Ang Exotics

By Edward H. Schafer,

Why this book?

This book examines the exotics imported into China during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) and depicts their influence on Chinese life. During the three centuries of Tang came into the land the natives of almost every nation of Asia, all bringing exotic wares either as gifts or as goods to be sold. Ivory, rare woods, drugs, diamonds, magicians, dancing girls—the author covers all classes of unusual imports, their places of origin, their lore, their effect on fashion, dwellings, diet, painting, sculpture, music, and poetry.

This book is for students of Tang culture and laymen interested in the same topic.…

From the list:

The best nonfiction and fiction books on China in the Tang period

Book cover of The World in the Viking Age

The World in the Viking Age

By Søren M. Sindbæk (editor), Athena Trakadas (editor),

Why this book?

This well-written and well-illustrated book tells the story of Vikings, their ships, travels, and trade in the context of the global history of the ancient World – reaching from the Atlantic to China and from North Norway to Africa. The Vikings were far from the only great seafarers, warriors, and tradesmen of their time. They were part of far-flung networks, which also traded ideas. Contemporary travel accounts and recent archaeological investigations and finds are important components of this attractive book, written by international specialists.

From the list:

The best books on Vikings: their day-to-day life, achievements, and culture

Book cover of The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America

The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America

By Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor,

Why this book?

It has been broadly recognised in recent years that the traditional perception of early-modern Atlantic business as a male-dominated space is outmoded and inaccurate. In this superb book, Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor shows that the women who participated in commerce – from all ranks of society – were not exceptions in exclusively male-dominated markets but were ‘quintessential market participants’. Appealing strongly to my own approach to business history, Hartigan-O’Connor marries social and economic history, providing an updated view of who the commercial players were in eighteenth-century America.

From the list:

The best books on early-modern business history

Book cover of The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean

The Captive Sea: Slavery, Communication, and Commerce in Early Modern Spain and the Mediterranean

By Daniel Hershenzon,

Why this book?

Another intimate view of Mediterranean social history, The Captive Sea: brings to light the way networks of captivity and ransom operating between Hapsburg Spain, Ottoman Algiers, Morocco, and beyond helped shape the Mediterranean as an integrated region in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Hershenzon tracks the interactions of various agents involved in the ransom economy— imperial bureaucrats, clergy, merchants, diplomats, renegades.

Combining a wide-angle frame of geopolitics with the particular cases registered in letters, petitions, Inquisition reports, and other archival sources, he reconstructs some remarkable stories that illustrate the complexity of networks of interaction and circulation: stories of…

From the list:

The best books on the multi-religious Mediterranean

Book cover of The Intimacies of Four Continents

The Intimacies of Four Continents

By Lisa Lowe,

Why this book?

Lisa Lowe and I were in sustained conversation as we were composing our respective books. I read earlier drafts of hers as I was writing mine. Her analysis of settler-colonialism, the African slave trade, and trade in Asian goods and peoples in the Caribbean and Americas illustrated for me ways of thinking about the global relations and interactive impacts of the movements of people, culture, and thought. Her focus on how liberal thought shaped and is shaped by these relations helped to surface the coercive and discriminatory practices that made liberal thought possible. This “history of the present” by extension…

From the list:

The best books spotlighting race and neoliberalization

Book cover of The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan

The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan

By Adam Clulow,

Why this book?

Histories of Japan’s encounter with the West typically start from the premise that prior to its “opening” by the American Commodore Perry in 1853, Japan was a “closed” society that shunned contact with the outside world. This book, which explores the relationship between the Tokugawa shogunate and the Dutch East India Company (the VOC), presents a radically different story: one in which one of the world’s most ruthless commercial operators was forced to humble itself before the shogun. It’s an essential corrective to anyone who equates “world history” with the rise of the West.
From the list:

The best books about East Asia in the age of empire

Book cover of Mr. Smith Goes to China: Three Scots in the Making of Britain's Global Empire

Mr. Smith Goes to China: Three Scots in the Making of Britain's Global Empire

By Jessica Hanser,

Why this book?

This is a jewel of a book. It takes a strange coincidence and weaves it into a wonderful tale of world history. It explores the lives of three Scotsmen, all called George Smith but not related, who traded in Asia during the eighteenth century, a crucial time for the development of the East India Company and ties between East and West. It really opens a window into the lives of these pioneers and brings this neglected history alive. In particular, it complicates the usual story of the East India Company by showing how it was a force for stability in…

From the list:

The best books on the emergence of modern China

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