Talk - The Atlantic Origins of Early American Trade to the Indian Ocean
Event At A Glance
For the merchants, sailors, and traders of the newly independent United States, the Indian Ocean was a continuous extension of the Atlantic marketplace. Americans approached the Indian Ocean in the 1780s armed with their knowledge of how to trade, assess risk, and outfit voyages in the Atlantic. The methodology of American Atlantic commerce was a means to commercial advantage for otherwise capital-poor traders, and after the close of the American Revolution it also became a means to expand the geography of early American trade. In the Caribbean and in southern Europe, the traditional and predominant Atlantic arenas for colonial American trade, American ships traded circuitously from port to port or island to island, gathering information from trusted associates in their networks of trade, in search of the best prices and the strongest sales for their mixed Atlantic cargoes. Poor economic conditions in the Atlantic and independence from Britain by 1783 encouraged Americans to seek out additional trading opportunities and new commercial endeavors. By the end of the eighteenth century, Atlantic commercial practices primed American traders to transfer their Atlantic methodology to new markets, particularly those beyond the Cape of Good Hope.
Randi Lewis Flaherty is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Virginia. Her dissertation, entitled, “To ‘the most distant parts of the globe’: Trade, Politics, and the Maritime Frontier in the Early Republic, 1763-1819,” explores the commercial strategies that American merchants pursued as they learned to trade in new markets in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans after the American Revolution.