Journal of World History, vol. 20, no. 2 (2009)


Islam at the Center: Technological Complexes and the Roots of Modernity
Edmund Burke III, 165

For prehistorians, the concept of the “Neolithic toolkit” provides a means of evaluating the technological capacities of world societies on a cross-cultural basis. This article seeks to refine the toolkit idea by distinguishing a series of the technological complexes that, while originating in different regional contexts, became standardized over the centuries in the lands of Islam in the era before 1500 C.E. and subsequently diffused to the rest of the world. The article focuses on three case studies—the water management toolkit, the writing and information management toolkit, and the mathematics and cosmology toolkit—in an effort to explore the reasons for the apparent centrality of Islamicate societies in the assembling of these technological complexes.

Plants and Progress: Rethinking the Islamic Agricultural Revolution
Michael Decker, 187

Since it was first proposed in the 1970s, the concept of an Islamic agricultural revolution, in which new plants and techniques spread rapidly from east to west and transformed agriculture in the Mediterranean basin, has gained widespread acceptance. Based on an investigation of a sample of plants, the present article argues that changes in farming attributed to the era of classical Islam were far more complex and distended than previously acknowledged. This casts doubt on the validity of the theory of a medieval “green revolution” and calls for a reexamination of its fundamental tenets.

The End of a Silver Era: The Consequences of the Breakdown of the Spanish Peso Standard in China and the United States, 1780s–1850s
Alejandra Irigoin, 207

The breakdown of the monopoly of coinage in Spanish America by the 1820s meant the cessation of the silver standard that had fueled the expansion of global trade in the early modern period. This article analyzes the resulting economic effects in China and the United States. The analysis connects monetary developments in Spanish America with demand-side explanations within China and the increasingly dominant role of North Americans as intermediaries of the world’s silver trade after the 1780s. The article challenges established notions that silver outflow from opium imports or silver shortages from falling South American output were the main causes of economic troubles in nineteenth-century China. Through a comparison with the workings of North American institutions in managing domestic monetary effects, the article highlights the puzzling lack of any monopolistic monetary authority in imperial China.

The “Pursuits of the Civilized Man”: Race and the Meaning of Civilization in the United States and Australia, 1790s–1850s
Gregory D. Smithers, 245

This article undertakes a comparative analysis of settler colonial definitions of civilization in the expanding frontiers of the United States’ “New South” and in southeastern Australia between the 1790s and the 1850s. The article notes that the United States is often omitted from comparisons of nineteenth-century settler societies, an omission that elides the social, cultural, and political similarities that the United States’ republican form of settler civilization shared with settler colonial societies such as New South Wales in Australia. Specifically, the article assesses the important role that ideals of gender, sexual behavior, and racial formation had on evolving understandings of settler civilization in relation to the Cherokee in the United States and among Aboriginal tribes such as the Awabakal and Wiradjur in Australia. The evidence suggests that while white Americans and Australians shared a similar understanding of the gendered ideals required for the highest form of settler colonial civilization to develop on colonial frontiers, these ideals were malleable enough to help travel writers, settlers, and missionaries identify very different racial “problems” that need reforming if settler civilization was to flourish. Woven through this analysis are the responses of Cherokee Indians and Australian Aborigines to settler civilization—responses that reflect both the hegemony of settler colonial power and its contested nature in different settler colonial contexts.


Nayan Chanda. Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization
reviewed by Ewa K. Bacon, 273

Peter N. Stearns. Childhood in World History
reviewed by Tanya S. Maus, 276

Barbara Watson Andaya. The Flaming Womb: Repositioning Women in Early Modern Southeast Asia
reviewed by Barbara N. Ramusack, 279

Paul Spickard. Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity
reviewed by K. Scott Wong, 282

Elliott R. Barkan, Hasia Diner, and Alan M. Kraut, eds. From Arrival to Incorporation: Migrants to the U.S. in a Global Era
Bruce S. Elliott, David A. Gerber, and Suzanne M. Sinke, eds. Letters across Borders: The Epistolary Practices of International Migrants
reviewed by Gary M. McDonogh, 284

Ussama Makdisi. Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East
reviewed by Erik Eliav Freas, 289

Sarah Stockwell, ed. The British Empire: Themes and Perspectives
reviewed by Katherine Foxhall, 293

George Steinmetz. The Devil’s Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa
reviewed by Daniel Walther, 296

Josephine Fowler. Japanese and Chinese Immigrant Activists: Organizing in American and International Communist Movements, 1919–1933
reviewed by Bryan D. Palmer, 299

Jeffrey Lesser. A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy, 1960–1980
reviewed by Kristine Dennehy, 302

Walter L. Adamson. Embattled Avant-Gardes: Modernism’s Resistance to Commodity Culture in Europe
reviewed by Minsoo Kang, 304

William J. Hausman, Peter Hertner, and Mira Wilkins. Global Electrification: Multinational Enterprise and International Finance in the History of Light and Power, 1878–2007
reviewed by Andre Millard, 306