Mapping the Early Modern Medicine Trade
This project explores the construction of a bulk, global trade in British medicines during the long eighteenth century that connected South Asia, London, and the American colonies through the consumption of a particular kind of manufactured good. The rise of this trade in medicine is part of the coming of capitalism and the legacy of the early modern scientific and financial revolutions.
At the Spatial History Project, we are working to generate an accessible platform for visualizing trends in eighteenth-century medicine exports based on a dataset derived from customs ledgers housed at The National Archives, UK. This part of the project will enable us to compare exports using variables such as time and geography, but also type of agricultural regime (such as that based on enslaved labor). The next phases of the project involve mapping the location of medicine manufacturers in London and analyzing the recipes used by the manufacturers. From a single recipe, for example, we can trace the global origins of a pharmaceutical preparation. This could include aloes from China and Borneo, mercury from Tibet, benzoin from Sumatra and Java, and gamboge from Cambodia and Thailand. In short, we’re looking at both inputs and outputs from the British medicine trade to better understand the maturation and consequences of a global commodity chain.