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This study asks how human trafficking in Ming China (1368–1644) became enveloped in the emerging global economy of the sixteenth century. Utilizing theoretical insights from the model of “slaving zones,” the essay examines recorded incidents of human trafficking along China’s littoral from 1370 to 1565 and contends that its presence and persistence were intertwined with the Ming court’s economic policies and problems. Here the history of human trafficking in early-to-mid-Ming China is viewed from the perspective of a series of challenges to the country’s economic well-being but also to its power to govern according to its own laws and norms. These challenges include the Ming regime’s efforts: to eradicate piracy and smuggling through their integration into the lawful framework of tribute trade; to support provincial requests for extra revenue to promote military security; to acquire Japanese silver but deny Japan mercantile access to China; to profit from Portugal’s Southeast Asian and Japanese commercial networks. This study argues that the increasing prevalence of human trafficking along China’s coastline was the result of competing forces anxious for power and riches that fused into the thrust of sixteenth-century China’s expanding economy, as well as the adaptability of those in authority to ignore the consequences of allowing safe havens for persons bartering and selling human beings. These factors turned the status of Ming China’s littoral from a “no slaving zone” into an “imperfect no slaving zone.”
While China’s rural economy predominated during the imperial era, some of the world’s largest cities were part of the Chinese landscape. From the Song dynasty (960–1279) onward, the number of cities and towns rose, the urban population expanded, and the urban sector of the economy became a significant indication of the wealth and prosperity of the Chinese empire. Even though large cities such as Chang’an and Luoyang had existed both before and during the Tang dynasty (618–907) and featured sites of production and services, they were founded and functioned primarily as political capitals. In the Song era an extensive array of types of cities besides capitals – maritime ports, provincial transport hubs, manufacturing and commercial centers – flourished as trade and cultural metropoles. Chinese cities took on a different configuration during the Song – one may speak of a “new urban paradigm”: in contrast to the cities of the Tang era with their enclosed wards, gridiron streets, tightly controlled markets, and sharp hierarchical social structure, the Song-era city was shaped by mercantile society and managed by pragmatic bureaucrats.
This introductory chapter of volume II of the Cambridge World History of Violence, which focuses on the thousand years between 500 and 1500, or what is also known as the Middle Millennium, examines .institutions and forms of violence in the geographical area including Japan and China, Central Asia, North Africa, and Europe, with two additional chapters extending coverage into Aztec and Mayan culture. The topics of this introduction are set in four contexts in which violence occurred across this broad chronology and vast territory. They are: the formation of centralized polities through war and conquest; institution building and ideological expression by these same polities; control of extensive trade networks; and the emergence and dominance of religious ecumenes. Attention is also given to the idea of how theories of violence are relevant to the specific historical circumstances discussed in the volume’s chapters. A final section on the depiction of violence, both visual and literary, demonstrates the ubiquity of societal efforts to confront meanings of violence during this longue durée.
Violence permeated much of social life across the vast geographical space of the European, American, Asian and Islamic lands and through the broad sweep of what is often termed the Middle Millennium (roughly 500 to 1500). Focusing on four contexts in which violence occurred across this huge area, the contributors to this volume explore the formation of centralised polities through war and conquest; institution building and ideological expression by these same polities; control of extensive trade networks; and the emergence and dominance of religious ecumenes. Attention is also given to the idea of how theories of violence are relevant to the specific historical circumstances discussed in the volume's chapters. A final section on the depiction of violence, both visual and literary, demonstrates the ubiquity of societal efforts to confront meanings of violence during this longue durée.
This article focuses on recent revisionist scholarship demonstrating that China's maritime history in the period 1500 to 1630 is no longer a case of ‘missed opportunity’, a viewpoint fostered by earlier writing dominated by state-centric and land-focused models. To challenge this perspective, this study first reviews analyses demonstrating the far-reaching commercial networks between Ming China and localities in Southeast and Northeast Asia, and then considers the impact of the metaphor of Fernand Braudel's ‘Asian Mediterranean’ and his ideas about ‘world economy’ on the study of East Asian seafaring history. Secondly, this investigation reveals the dimensions of Chinese trade networks which the mid-Ming government officially sanctioned, as well as the extent to which literati from the southern provinces challenged the state's involvement in overseas commerce of trade and exchange. Finally, the article assesses how modern historians have studied late Ming maritime defense policies as security along the littoral lapsed.
This study pursues three goals: to unravel the socio-economic conditions which pushed women into prostitution and courtesanship, to analyse their position in Chinese society, and to relate what changes occurred at the end of the Ming dynasty that affected their status. According to contemporary judicial regulations, both prostitutes and courtesans were classified as “entertainers”, and therefore had the status of jianmin [mean people], which made them “outcasts” and pariahs. But there were great differences, beyond the bestowal of sexual favours, in the kind of work these women performed. That courtesans operated at the elite level of society, and that they were often indistinguishable from women born into the upper or gentry class, is indicative of this era's blurry social strata, which has prompted scholars and writers to elevate the place of the educated courtesan in Ming society.