ERC AdG Transpacific

The Structure and Impact of Trans-Pacific Trade, 16th to 18th Centuries: The Manila Galleon Trade Beyond Silver and Silks

ERC AdG Transpacific


This project will provide a radically new history of early modern trans-Pacific trade, by critically re-evaluating conventionally used sources, examining hitherto neglected historical archives and records in a range of Asian and European languages, and analysing recent archaeological evidence using new methodologies and perspectives. An interdisciplinary team, comprising specialists in Chinese, Japanese, Latin American, Southeast Asian, economic, environmental, and medical history, maritime archaeology, and geographical sciences, will, for the first time, systematically investigate the roles of actors, objects, side-effects, and exchanges that were ‘invisible’ or marginal to conventional histories of the Manila Galleon trade (1565 to 1815). The project will also examine informal trade routes and networks in this trans-Pacific trade connection, concentrating on the 16th to 18th centuries.


To achieve this goal, the project team will expand upon the structure and impacts of contraband, informal, accidental, and undesired exchanges of cargoes, people, knowledge, technologies, and diseases across the Pacific, to evaluate, first, the complexity, nature, and degree of the global interconnectivity of Asian and European sub-regional networks, and, second, to reassess both their positive and negative impacts on trans-Pacific trade generally, and on indigenous actors and societies in China, Japan, and the Viceroyalty of Peru specifically. This includes aspects such as the examination of geographical knowledge as portrayed in maps; navigation routes; military, navigational, and other technologies, medicinal knowledge and products, the role of environmental impacts (such as typhoons, ocean currents, etc.), climate change, piracy and human reactions to such hazards, as well as the accidental transfer of diseases. Our aim is to replace the outdated image of the galleon trade as being a pure exchange of silks, ceramics, and spices for silver between Acapulco and Manila, and to create a novel and more comprehensive bottom-up narrative that places human-environment interaction at the core of analysis.

TRANSPACIFIC will substantially transform the understanding of the trans-Pacific Manila Galleon trade and its impacts, and, in so doing, will open the way for the re-evaluation of other major trans-maritime networks.

Finally, we are creating a large spatio-temporal project database.

This project is funded by the European Research Council, through an ERC AdG (Horizon 2020).

Project publications
– Angela Schottenhammer, “’Peruvian balsam’”: An Example of Transoceanic Transfer of Medicinal Knowledge”, Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 16:69 (2020), 1-29,;

– Angela Schottenhammer, “Connecting China with the Pacific World?“, Orientierungen. Zeitschrift zur Kultur Asiens 31 (2019), 111-170.

– “Some Remarks on the Use and Provision of Camphor in Early Modern China and in Spanish Asian and American Colonies”, in From the Steppe to the Sea: A Festschrift for Paul Buell, ed. by Timothy May (2021), in press.

–  “Insights into Global Maritime Trade Around 1600”, in Festschrift for Ranabir Chakravarti, ed. by Suchandra Gosh et al. (Bloomsbury: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021), in press.

– Mariano A. Bonialian, “Peruleros en China y Filipinas”, Islas e Imperios 23 (2021), forthcoming.

–  Angela Schottenhammer, Mathieu Torck, Wim De Winter, “Surgeons and Physicians on the Move in the Asian Waters (15th to 18th Centuries)”, Haiyangshi yanjiu 海洋史研究 (2021), in press.

– Angela Schottenhammer, “Maritime Disasters and Risk Appraisals in the East Asian Waters”, Études thématiques (2021), forthcoming.

– “Epidemic and Environmental Change in China’s Early Modern Maritime World during the “Little Ice Age” (ca. 1500–1680)”, in Philip Gooding (ed.), Drought, Floods, and Rainfall anomalies in the IOW (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021/22), forthcoming.

Conferences, Workshops

– Wim De Winter, Angela Schottenhammer, Mathieu Torck, “Reading Early Modern Books at Sea: the Use of Medical Works and Travelogues Crossing the Pacific & Indian Oceans”, Boekhistorisch Forum IV (13 november 2020)

– Juan Carlos Gonzáles Balderas (MA), “Más allá de la plata y la seda, el tráfico de medicinas entre Filipinas y América a través del Galeón de Manila“, Conferencia para alumnos de la licenciatura en Historia de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (Monterrey, México)

Seminars, Talks, Presentations

– Angela Schottenhammer, Informal talk with the ERC AdG RUTTER team about transpacific connections and maritime history (12 March 2021)

– Angela Schottenhammer, “Maritime Disasters and Risk Appraisals in the East Asian”, L’Asie maritime. Les périls de la mer, École française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO), EHESS, Paris (16.12.2020)

Legendary ocean expeditions with a ‘Belgian touch’

Wim De Winter introduces TRANSPACIFIC project in the “VLIZ Newsletter“, the Flanders Marine Institute (Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee)

Most recent podcast

Angela Schottenhammer on “Maritime Disasters, Risk Appraisals, and Exchanges of Medicinal Knowledge in Maritime East Asia“, hosted by Philip Gooding, McGill University