Past Events & Activities

Primary Sources


Lesson Plans

Links and Resources

Meet our partners
Staff/Management Plan
Contact Us!





Return to this topic's index page

Visit other sections
in this topic:

Content Session Material
Primary Sources


Salem in the World, the World in Salem: Salem in the Early Republic and the East Indies Resources and Links

Theme: Salem as Place: Local History in a National Context
Topic: Salem in the World, The World in Salem: Salem in the Early Republic and the East Indies Trade
Date: July 14, 2004

Annotated Bibliography | Websites and Web Resources | Related Archives and Collections | Other

Compiled and annotated by Dane Morrison, Ph.D. Professor,
Department of History, Salem State College ( and SALEM in History staff

Annotated Bibliography

Materials selected and syllabus created by Dane Morrison, Ph.D. Professor, Department of History, Salem State College ( and SALEM in History staff

Appleby, Joyce. Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of  Americans. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Excellent overview of the development and shape of life in the Early Republic—especially in the North and East, by way of a look at the lives of those who came of age between 1790 and 1830. Based on autobiographies of hundreds of members of this generation, most of them unknowns. Explores not only  the opportunities and liberalism of the era but also the challenges and struggles, although arguing that liberal ideology, optimism, and worldliness were dominant among the book’s subjects.  Appleby highlights the importance of commerce to/in the young nation (at least among the social/economic strata to which her subjects belong) and cites it as the source for the optimism that pervaded.

Bean, Susan S.  Yankee India: American Commercial and Cultural Encounters with India in the Age of Sail, 1784–1860.  Salem, MA: Peabody Essex Museum, 2001.

Interspersing commentary based on her vast knowledge of American contact with India with selections from the journals of Salem captains and supercargoes (business agents), Bean gives us a unique study on an important aspect of the China Trade.  Lavishly illustrated with images dawn from the collections of Salem’s Peabody Essex museum, the book pulls from five journals that provide early Americans’ views on  virtually aspect of Indian life, from marriage, to religion, to trade.  Included are selections from the journals of  Dudley Leavitt Pickman, the Derby (1803) and William Augustus Rogers, the Tartar, 1817.

Cobblestone (September 1988). “ Salem and the East Indies” issue

Downs, Jacques M.  The Golden Ghetto: The American Commercial Community at Canton and the Shaping of American China Policy, 1784-1844.  Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 1997.

Downs provides the most incisive scholarship we have on the Old China Trade.  His focus on the expatriate community of Canton is rich in detail, making the reader feel a part of this world.  He treats, as well, the First Opium War, Treaty of Wangha, a consequence for subsequent Sino-American relations.

Elkins, Stanley and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism: The Early

American Republic, 1788-1800. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

A solid, definitive, and accessible interpretive overview of the key issues and figures of the first twelve tenuous and tumultuous years of the Early Republic by two well-respected scholars.

Essex Institute Historical Collections

An unparalleled resource of primary source materials and interpretation, covering life in Essex County. Available at the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Forbes, Robert Bennet. Letters from China: The Canton-Boston Correspondence of  Robert Bennet Forbes, 1838–1840.  Compiled and edited by Phyllis Forbes Kerr.  Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum, 1996.

Although Forbes, was a Boston, rather than Salem trader, Letters from China is an accessible collection of one merchants observations on the opportunities and obstacles that faced a China trader.  The book offers a male perspective, making it an interesting choice to pair with Harriet Low’s journal.

Gilje, Paul. A. “The Early Republic: An Introduction.” OAH Magazine of History (Winter 2000): 3-6.

Recent, brief overview of the topic and state of the field at the turn of the 21st century.

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

This is a charming, brief survey of the Old China Trade. Hawes sets the trade in context of European contact with the East, then focuses on Salem, providing some nice anecdotes on the ways in which the China Trade influenced everyday life in Salem.

Low, Harriet.  Lights and Shadows of a Macao Life: The Journal of Harriet Low, Travelling Spinster.  2 vols.   Nan P. Hodges and Arthur W. Hummel, eds.  Woodinville, WA: The History Bank, 2002.

Although Miss Low would hardly have considered herself a spinster, Hodges and Hummel provide an excellent primary source, Harriet Low’s nine-volume journal of her years in Macao, the original of which is housed in the Phillips Library of Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum. Low gives the reader a wonderful—and wonderfully poignant--sense of the experience of a twenty-something Salem ingénue at the height of the China Trade.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921.

         A classic on the topic.

Phillips, James Duncan.  Salem and the Indies: the Story of the Great    Commercial Era of the City.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1947.

Phillips has written extensively on Salem, and was a frequent contributor to the Essex Institute Historical Collections.  Although his research was extensive and rich, as a historian his interpretations were often idiosyncratic, reflecting the anti-New Deal conservatism of his times.

Sharp, James Roger. American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

Explores, in depth, the development of political divisions and parties (which he calls ‘proto-parties’) in the years between the end of the Revolutionary War and Jefferson’s election in 1801, arguing that these divisions served as a key test for the young nation. Offers a great deal of information and insight about both Federalists and Republicans, as well as the key figures and debates that created and fueled the parties that bore their names.

Stewart, Doug. “Salem Sets Sail” Smithsonian Magazine. June 2004, 92-99.

This article overviews Salem's entry into the China Trade with a focus on the collections at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Tamarin, Alfred, and Shirley Glubok.  Voyaging to Cathay: Americans in   the China Trade.  New York: Viking Press, 1976.

This is simply the best overview of American involvement in what historians call the Old China Trade, from inception to decline.  Salem, of course, figures prominently in the tale. In a text rich with illustrations, Tamarin and Glubok touch on a variety of topics, from the early trials with trading ginseng, to the effort to tap the Northwest Coast fur trade, to the influence of the East on American material culture.

Trow, Charles E. The Old Shipmasters of Salem.  New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905.

An interesting collection of vignettes from maritime Salem, this text must be used with care. Trow quotes extensively, but often inaccurately from primary sources.  Interesting reading, the book provides a nice sampling of anecdotes.

Vickers, Daniel.  Farmers and Fishermen:  Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850.  Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

This book is an excellent study of the economics of early Essex County, including Salem

|return to top of page|

Websites and Web Resources

Selections and annotations by SALEM in History staff

|return to top of page|

Related Archives and Collections

-none listed at this time

|return to top of page|


-none listed at this time



|return to top of page|