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Global Gifts

Book description

This anthology explores the role that art and material goods played in diplomatic relations and political exchanges between Asia, Africa, and Europe in the early modern world. The authors challenge the idea that there was a European primacy in the practice of gift giving through a wide panoramic review of imperial encounters between Europeans (including the Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English) and Asian empires (including Ottoman, Persian, Mughal, Sri Lankan, Chinese, and Japanese cases). They examine how those exchanges influenced the global production and circulation of art and material culture, and explore the types of gifts exchanged, the chosen materials, and the manner of their presentation. Global Gifts establishes new parameters for the study of the material and aesthetic culture of Eurasian relations before 1800, exploring the meaning of artistic objects in global diplomacy and the existence of economic and aesthetic values mutually intelligible across cultural boundaries.

Reviews

‘Combining the thriving field of material culture with the intriguing paths of new diplomatic history, this book explores in novel ways the gift-exchange processes between individuals, courts and empires in the early modern era. Global Gifts is an unusually cohesive collective endeavor that truly enriches our understanding of the diverse nexus between Europe and Asia in the period.'

Jorge Flores - European University Institute, Florence

‘This rich collection demonstrates the power of ‘things' to shape cross-cultural relations in formal diplomacy. Gifts of art and material culture were fulcrums around which negotiations were staged in early modern Eurasia. Pushing interpretive boundaries, these trans-cultural histories illuminate the thorny mechanics of gifting, the meanings of gifts and the diplomatic aims these served.'

Beverly Lemire - University of Alberta

‘Asking what made a good gift in the early modern past, Global Gifts explores the intersection of diplomatic history and material culture studies. Textured and deeply researched, this volume traces the itineraries of exotica across a tangle of cultural and geographic boundaries. Whether one is Thailand or Portugal, India, or Italy, this book will prompt new thinking about issues that were crucial in the past yet have resonance in our own time – labor and luxury, politics and trade, generosity and thwarted desire.'

Dana Leibsohn - Smith College, Massachusetts

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