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Commerce and Empire in the Borderlands: How do Merchants and Trade Fit into Qing Frontier History?

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As our understanding of the Qing empire and its various borderlands has evolved, so too have we come to appreciate China’s early modern commercial sophistication. In recent North American studies of the Qing, the links between commerce and conquest have come under investigation, and we are increasingly urged to pay attention to merchants and merchant capital. But how should we understand the relationship between merchants and the Qing empire in the borderlands? This article surveys selected work on the borderlands and commercialization, primarily in the Northwest and Southwest. The goal is to initiate a more comprehensive discussion of how to understand the intersection of commerce and empire while also making some suggestions for ways that borderlands history might shape future work on China.


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