The Age of Trade: The Manila Galleons and the Dawn of the Global Economy—a definitive treatment of the galleon line that sustained the commercial exchanges between China and the Spanish American colonies for almost 250 years—restores the missing link. . . .The Manila galleons serve as a powerful lens to understand the period and the region. While The Age of Trade acts as a summary of early historic relations between East Asia and the West, explaining China’s central role in global trade as well as the particular role of the Philippines, it also connects monetary history, climate change and the environment to reveal that the effects of this initial foray into globalization and world trade when first took place bear striking resemblance to those today. . . .On a larger scale, The Age of Trade reveals that the effects of world trade had already then begun to resemble much those today if not indeed foretell them. The benefits of a connected world seem immediately apparent. However, this first global trade led to major dislocations and displacements, exploitation and sunk many into dependence; it also caused environmental degradation, effects that then, as now, are not always transparent. The Manila Galleon may seem a world away from our own, but the reality is that it is strikingly close.
Arturo Giraldez is professor of modern languages and literature at the University of the Pacific.