Xu Guanmian (Victor) 徐冠勉 works on the history of taste and commodities in early modern Asia. His Ph.D. project, “Exotic Goods and Chinese Taste: The Global Life of Things in Early Modern Asia, 1300-1800” (2017-2021), is generously sponsored by the Ph.D. fellowship of the Hulsewé-Wazniewski Foundation in Leiden. It aims to rethink the history of early modern globalisation from the perspective of how Asian consumption of exotic goods contributed to the making of early modern world economies. It will investigate how and why three different kinds of exotic goods (pepper, trepang and edible bird nest) came into Chinese taste in different historical periods, and how that process was entangled with the well-known historic events in early modern globalization, such as the expeditions of Zheng He into the Indian Ocean, the building of the Portuguese and Dutch empires in early modern Asia, and the expansion of Chinese network in Southeast Asia.
Supervisors: Prof. dr. Anne Gerritsen and Dr. Fan Lin
Guanmian (Victor) has two master degrees from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Leiden University. The M.Phil. thesis in Hong Kong is under the title of “Sweetness and Chaozhou: Construction of Tropical Commodity Chains on the Early Modern China Coast, 1600s-1800s”, which explores the connectivity between the rising of sweet-tooth in Jiangnan and the expansion of Chaozhou sugar networks along the China Seas. That thesis is now being revised into several articles, one of which has been accepted as a book chapter in a volume on sugar in early modern Asia.
He came to Leiden in 2015 and joined the Cosmopolis program in the Institute for History with speciality in colonial and global history. By using the Dutch VOC archives in Jakarta, his M.A. thesis in Leiden is about the emergence of sugar plantations in the early modern Dutch East Indies. It explores the unique Chinese-Javanese sugar plantation society in the Ommelanden of Batavia and proposes the origin of Asian model of plantations in comparison with the contemporary development in the Atlantic world. Its field work report won the LISF Prize 2018 from Leiden Univeristy Fund (LUF). It is currently under revision to be a book to be published in 2019 in Leiden University Press under the tentative tile: “Batavia’s Sugar Frontiers: Asian Plantations and Early Modern World, 1630-1800”.
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