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Order in the “Arbitrary”: The Distribution, Content, and Temporal Cycles of English Merchant Tribute in Eighteenth-Century Yemen

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AbstractDrawing on the documents of the English East India Company, along with comparative material from the Dutch East India Company and sources in Arabic, this article looks closely at the distribution, content, and timing of merchant tribute in relation to the practices of trade in eighteenth-century Yemen. The goal is to uncover the patterns surrounding English commercial gift practices at a time when European merchants were flocking to the southern Arabian Peninsula to procure coffee beans. This study casts gifts as central and regularized parts of the cycle of exchange, rather than as non-transactional or incidental social accessories of the Indian Ocean trade, thereby allocating an important place for gifts within early modern cross-cultural commercial interactions.

Affiliations: 1: Binghamton University


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