"The Most Noble of All Commodities": Mineral Trade and the Earth Sciences in the Early Modern World

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Abstract Summary
Mineral commodities were an important topic of inquiry in early modern earth sciences that have largely been overshadowed by debates over the age of the earth. Besides fossils, many other minerals stimulated profound questions about the earth’s material composition and provided evidence for theories of matter formation and the distribution of valuable commodities. The trade in precious stones between Europe and Southeast Asia offers one slice through the seventeenth century’s global trade in minerals that included gunpowder, dyestuffs, and many other materials destined for a wide range of artisanal and industrial applications. This flashtalk will situate gemstones in seventeenth century natural philosophy and commercial networks across the Indian Ocean. I argue that the trade routes that linked these two domains of activity reveal an underappreciated preoccupation with precious minerals in early modern earth sciences.
Abstract ID :
HSS962
Submission Type
Chronological Classification :
17th century
Self-Designated Keywords :
trade, minerals, commodities, cross-cultural exchange, gemstones

Associated Sessions

University of Pennsylvania

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