Book Review – ‘Spain, China and Japan in Manila, 1571–1644: Local comparisons and global connections’ by Derek Massarella

By Derek Massarella, published October 2020


This book, a PhD thesis revised for publication, champions the currently fashionable analytical framework of ‘connected histories’. The author analyses ‘the Manila System’, which she describes as ‘characterised by multi-layered connections based on negotiations, a complex market torn between protectionism and free trade, triangular circulations and bi- or multilateral communication involving different parties of the pre-modern states Ming China, Azuchi-Momoyama and later Tokugawa Japan, and the Spanish Overseas Empire’. By doing so, she aims to show how it can serve ‘as a micro model for the macro analysis of the complex entanglements and forms of competition between the states mentioned above and between the local and the central in those states. A limitation to central and local factors may indeed be too narrow and at times it will be necessary to modify the scope, adding categories’ (p. 19). And, indeed, categories are piled on creating the impression that everything, including the kitchen sink, has been thrown into the mix in this awkward attempt to reinterpret familiar territory …

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Filed under: Indian Ocean | Pacific
Subjects include: Administration | Strategy & Diplomacy

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