Cowrie Shells and Cowrie Money: A Global History, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Cowrie Shells and Cowrie Money

A Global History, 1st Edition

By Bin Yang


292 pages

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Hardback: 9781138593213
pub: 2018-11-16
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Originating in the sea, especially in the waters surrounding the low-lying islands of the Maldives, Cypraea moneta (sometimes confused with Cypraea annulus) was transported to various parts of Afro-Eurasia in the prehistoric era, and in many cases, it was gradually transformed into a form of money in various societies for a long span of time. Yang provides a global examination of cowrie money within and beyond Afro-Eurasia from the archaeological period to the early twentieth century.

By focusing on cowrie money in Indian, Chinese, Southeast Asian and West African societies and shell money in Pacific and North American societies, Yang synthsises and illustrates the economic and cultural connections, networks and interactions over a longue durée and in a cross-regional context. Analysing locally varied experiences of cowrie money from a global perspective, Yang argued that cowrie money was the first global money that shaped Afro-Eurasian societies both individually and collectively. He proposes a paradigm of the cowrie money world that engages local, regional, transregional and global themes.

Table of Contents



Chapter One: Global Phenomenon, Local Varieties

Chapter Two: The Maldives: Procurement and Export

Chapter Three: India: In the Beginning

Chapter Four: Southeast Asia: Intra-Asian Interactions

Chapter Five: Yunnan: An Indian Influence in the Southeast Asian-Chinese World

Chapter Six: Why Not in Early China?

Chapter Seven: Cowrie Money in West Africa: Connecting the Worlds, Old and New

Chapter Eight: The Pacific Islands and North America: Out of the Bengali System

Chapter Nine: More Than Just Money

Chapter Ten: The Cowrie Money World



About the Author

Bin Yang is Associate Professor of History at the University of Macau. His research interests include Chinese history, frontier and ethnic studies, Sino-Southeast Asian-Indian triangular interactions, world history, and history of science, technology and medicine. His dissertation "Between Winds and Clouds: The Making of Yunnan (Second Century BCE – Twentieth Century CE)" won the 2004 Gutenberg-e Prize of the American Historical Association, and it was published online as well as in print by Columbia University Press. He has published research papers in some internationally prestigious journals such as The China Quarterly, Modern Asian Studies, Journal of World History, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and Journal of Women’s History. He is one of the founding member of the Asian Association of World Historians and serves as Manning Editor of the Asian Reviews of World Histories.

About the Series

Routledge Approaches to History

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies