Early American Trade with China
Trade Routes & Trading Strategies

Economics of the China Trade

Contrasting Views of Trade

Life on a Merchant Ship


Resources for Teachers
and Students (Lessons 1 -3)

Print Sources

Bowden, Elbert. Economics Through the Looking Glass. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.

A clearly written book explaining economic theories and how they have been applied in different places at different times that both students and teachers can understand. The review of mercantilism included in Lesson 1 of this curriculum unit is taken from this book.

Cobblestone. “Salem and the East Indies Trade” v. 9, no. 9. September 1988.

This issue of the Peabody Museum’s “history magazine for young people” is devoted to short articles (about 1 page each) about the early American trade with China. It does not offer a more in-depth look at any of the topics covered in this curriculum unit, but it is very easy to read and includes a few activities and games, making it appropriate for middle school students. Back issues of Cobblestone are available by writing to:

Cobblestone: The History Magazine for Young People
20 Grove Street
Peterborough, NH 03458

Hawes, Dorothy Schurman. To The Farthest Gulf: The Story of the American China Trade. Ipswich, MA: The Ipswich Press, 1990.

This small book covers all the main topics related to the American China trade. The system by which trade was carried out once ships arrived in Chinese ports is described in one chapter, while other chapters discuss the fur trade, the spice trade, the role of missionaries, and the rise and decline of the early China trade.

Three books for teachers that cover the involvement of the United States in the Pacific. Each has a slightly different focus, but they all cover the ideas presented in this unit.

  • Caruthers, J. Wade. American Pacific Ocean Trade. New York: Exposition Press, 1973.
  • Dudden, Arthur Power. The American Pacific: From the Old China Trade to the Present. New York: Oxford UP, 1992.
  • Johnson, Donald D. The United States in the Pacific: Private Interests and Public Policies, 1784-1899. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1995.

Paine, Ralph D. The Ships and Sailors of Old Salem. New York: The Outing Publishing Co., 1908.

A compilation of journals and true stories of Salem seamen, including the first American voyages to China, Japan, India, and the Philippines. Lots of primary source material, including descriptions by early American seamen of places and ports in the Pacific like Guam, Manila, Batavia (Jakarta), and Canton. This book is old and probably hard to find, but much of the more interesting source material is reprinted elsewhere - in the Cobblestone issue listed above, for example.

Watt, John R. Qianlong Meets Macartney: Collision of Two World Views. Cambridge MA: Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University, 1997.

This is a play written for Middle and High School students to allow them to dramatize the historic visit of England’s Lord Macartney to China in 1793. The visit itself was unsuccessful in achieving Britain’s aims, but the meeting is worth studying because it shows the clash of world views and assumptions about trade, national identity, and progress between China and western Europe. Additional information about the play is included in Lesson 3 of this unit. The play is available from:

Primary Source
125 Walnut St.
Watertown MA 02472
or through their website.

The play was also published in Education About Asia (EAA) and can be found on the EAA sample articles web page.


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