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China, Global History, and the Sea: Pedagogical Perspectives and Applications

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Editor’s Note: In this article, Grant Rhode, Adjunct Professor of Strategy and Policy at US Naval War College, along with a secondary school educator, university professors, and a senior high school student, reflect on the teaching of Asian maritime history and its importance in high schools and undergraduate courses. Please see this issue’s online supplements for a case study and guide on the thirteenth-century Mongol invasions of Korea and Japan, three visual sidebars, a resources guide for teaching maritime Asian history, and a case study on China’s global silver trade.

China has had a long and complex relationship with the sea. Although regarded primarily as a continental power within the context of global history, China’s maritime history has taken place within the context of the Asian region, and more recently within the broader scope of global affairs. The maritime history of China, distinct from its continental history, has its own stories, evidence, scholars, and scholarship. This article will tell some of these stories with notes on evidence, and introduce teachers and students of Chinese maritime history, who will discuss materials and methods they use in their teaching and scholarship.

As a maritime affairs and Asia specialist fascinated by patterns found in both ancient and modern maritime silk roads, I have had the good fortune to work with a range of colleagues interested in both maritime and Asian affairs.1 Several of them with especially strong China experience have agreed to reflect on their experience related to the instruction of Asian maritime subjects in high school and college classrooms. Thomas Kennelly, Eytan Goldstein, and William Grimes offer their observations in the first section on “Maritime History and Maritime Affairs in World History and Global Studies.” Eugenio Menegon and Robert Murowchick subsequently provide “Examples from China’s Maritime History and Maritime Affairs.” The current positions and research interests of each of these scholars precede their individual comments so that their views may be connected to the teaching work they seek to accomplish both for themselves and for their students.

History Head Thomas Kennelly and high school student Eytan Goldstein point out that high school curricula are expanding non-Western content and “Southernization” of the curriculum to include archipelago civilizations and states. Given the significance of Asia and its predominance in global politics and economics, knowledge of Asian maritime historic cases, such as the Mongol maritime invasions of Japan during the thirteenth century, is in demand. For undergraduate global studies programs, Academic Dean William Grimes develops the case for university students to learn about the international relations activities that take place on 75 percent of the globe’s surface covered by water, such as shipping and trade; resource access, including fisheries, oil, and minerals; the practice of international maritime law of the sea; environmental protection; and security concerns involving naval activities. All these are critical factors for understanding global geopolitics and geo-economics, and thus are imperative for teachers to teach and students to study and understand. For instance, all five of these factors are fundamental to the contestation that has taken place in the East and South China Seas during the past decade, involving not only great powers China and the United States, but also regional player nations including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Việt Nam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia.

The China history and archaeology examples that are presented here illustrate that maritime studies can offer unique insights. Historian Eugenio Menegon affirms that daily life in Beijing cannot be understood historically without examining its relationship with Canton and Macao, the conduits through which the outside world gained access to Beijing. He uses ship logs and diaries as research tools that offer insight into the large proportion of human travel that has taken place by sea. Archaeologist Robert Murowchick emphasizes the unique contributions of maritime shipwreck archaeology, such as the Belitung and Nanhai No. 1 examples, which offer “time capsules” to understand material culture and the precise level of trade interaction at a point in time that more confused layered land sites cannot provide.

Maritime History and Maritime Affairs in World History and Global Studies

By Thomas Kennelly, Eytan Goldstein, and William Grimes

THOMAS KENNELLY, Program Director for History and Global Understanding at Boston Latin School, comments on incorporating Eurasian maritime material into Boston Latin School courses.

 At Boston Latin School, we have decided to add Asian Maritime History case studies into our world history curriculum for three reasons: maritime content, Asian content, and pedagogical use of the case study approach. We are glad that an opportunity has come up to try out such cases with material recently available. We have introduced some maritime history into our world history teaching, with material available on ancient trade networks in the Indian Ocean and on the European age of exploration. We have also engaged in ‘Southernization’ of our curriculum to include more material on Africa and Asia. We would like to include more on archipelagic entities such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan. Thus, it has been a logical step to introduce more maritime and more Asian material in tandem. In general, we are shifting more of our history curriculum from land-based to sea-based. This is the context for our introduction of more Asian maritime history into our world history teaching at Boston Latin School.

Along with other high-performing secondary schools in other parts of the country, Boston Latin has engaged in student-centered learning for a number of years, including document-based study, group research, and an emphasis on problem-solving. We have used DBQs, document-based questions, to ask broad and fundamental questions in world history. More recently, we have successfully introduced a case study approach into our American History curriculum using case studies of democracy that are coupled with “decision point questions” that put students in the position of making decisions that leaders have had to make in the past that have led to subsequent historical outcomes.2

Because our teachers have found this case study method to be effective in reaching American history students, we recently introduced an Asian maritime history case study into a ninth-grade world history class. This case study, Mongol Invasions of Northeast Asia: Korea and Japan which has been built on the extensive coverage of the Mongol land-based empire in our curriculum, includes reading and examination of problems that the Mongols encountered when they tried to continue the expansion of their continental empire into the maritime domain.3 The Mongols failed to become a maritime power during their two invasion attempts of

Japan in 1274 and 1281. Decision point questions discussed by the students included those about the original decision to invade Japan, Mongol commanders’ decision points while at sea, and a “what if ” counterfactual question about a possible third invasion, “If you were China’s emperor Kublai Khan, what would you have done after the failure of the second invasion? Would you recommend another invasion? Why or why not?” The intent of such questions is to develop both analytical and leadership skills. By answering questions posed to leadership, students come to realize the hard choices that leaders within the context of world history must make and that the course of history is not inevitable. The students must think through and explain their reasons for making the decisions they would have made if they were in the historical leader’s shoes. 

Our first experience with teaching the Mongol invasions of Northeast Asia has encouraged us to plan introduction of other case studies over time. Next fall, we plan to expand teaching of the Mongol Invasions of Northeast Asia: Korea and Japan into several sections of advanced placement world history.4 We are also considering adding case studies of the Mongol invasions of Southeast Asia, Hideyoshi’s Japanese invasions of Korea in the sixteenth century, and Zheng Chenggong’s (Koxinga) 1662 expulsion of the Dutch from Taiwan. We plan to examine, modify, and improve the use of the case study approach as we proceed with expanding both maritime and Asian studies into our world history curriculum at Boston Latin School going forward. 

EYTAN GOLDSTEIN, is a rising senior at Barrington High School in Rhode Island. He helped prepare the study guide for the maritime Mongol case study. Here, he gives us his views about the importance of including Asian maritime history in a high school world history curriculum.

map of mongol invasion of japan
Source: Maps 1 and 2 have been adapted by Jamie Rhode from maps in Stephen Turnbull, The Mongol Invasions of Japan 1274 and 1281 (Oxford: Osprey, 2010), 34, 56, 57.
map of mongol invasion of japan
Source: Maps 1 and 2 have been adapted by Jamie Rhode from maps in Stephen Turnbull,
The Mongol Invasions of Japan 1274 and 1281 (Oxford: Osprey, 2010), 34, 56, 57.

My passion for history came from my early love of cartography. In the age of Google Maps, kids today can explore the entire planet in unbelievable detail, as never before. As in Europe, Asia’s physical geography cannot be separated from its dramatic maritime past. From a student’s perspective, maritime history has the unique power to unite regions of the world and tie different strands of history together, allowing students to explore key interactions between cultures, states, and individuals.

In this case study, students were quite literally able to see how the Mongols adapted, learning Chinese as well as Korean technology and cultural practices, through the discussion of the expansion of Mongol sea power. Additionally, students were able to interpret the connections among the histories of three powerful East Asian nations—Korea, China, and Japan. Northeast Asia, moreover, has emerged as especially significant on the world stage today. Responses from the student assessment of the case study indicated that students found the Mongol case study much “deeper” than history they had previously studied. In this fashion, the case may be exposing these students to the type of focused work that they will be expected to do at the university level. Indeed, this case study allowed students to situate the Mongol Empire with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese dynasties of this period, giving students a sense of the grand sweep of history, including the rise and fall of mighty empires.

As a current high school student, the opportunity to help create a curriculum through the lens of maritime history, given in a case study approach, proved particularly gratifying. The course allowed high schoolers to expand upon basic themes, and thus to challenge themselves. The decision point questions that I helped develop required students to think critically about ideas conveyed in the narrative history, a departure from standard high school history prompts. In these decision point questions, students were able to stand in the shoes of famous historical leaders, and forced to make difficult decisions based on historical circumstances. In addition, I helped create study guide questions, which checked students’ comprehension of the text, an oft-overlooked element of historical study.

At my high school, history is Eurocentric and the focus is more on traditional themes. While certainly relevant in European history, maritime history can also be a medium through which to study the great Asian civilizations, and Asia’s emergent role in a new global economic and social order. Returning back to my childhood inspiration, I am certain the maps in this case study will inspire wonder in many young students. 

WILLIAM GRIMES, Academic Dean of Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, addresses the undergraduate level by commenting on incorporation of maritime material into the Pardee School of Global Studies curriculum.

I came across John Perry’s class on maritime history at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts, and I realized that there were a lot of really important issues in international relations and global politics that came together in the world’s oceans but weren’t being covered in a coherent way in our curriculum. I immediately brought this up with Mike Corgan,5 who had been raising the idea of teaching a new course, and I pitched it to him as The Sea and International Relations. Mike and I had been discussing a number of these issues for years, including law of the sea, naval strategy and practice, fisheries and global commons, sea lanes of communication, and the Arctic. All of these were areas of Mike’s own passion and expertise, and I thought that since I had learned so much from him about these issues that it would be great to give our students the same opportunity. Mike jumped at the chance and developed the course from there.

While we cover a number of these issues (security, law, environment) in different classes, they come together in important and interesting ways in the ocean. Also, I think that even in the classes that address these issues, maritime perspectives don’t get the time they deserve. For example, security classes spend a lot of time on nuclear deterrence, causes of war, etc., but they usually don’t do much more on maritime than a day of Mahan.6 And law of the sea is so important to contemporary politics—particularly in Asia, where disputes in the East and South China Seas are highly contested—that it seems to merit more than just one week in an international law seminar. Finally, I knew that it was a class that Mike would love to teach and that his students would benefit from his infectious enthusiasm.

Yes, these issues were all in there from the beginning, when I first proposed it. We wanted it not to be just about naval security, but also about the vital role of oceans in connecting and dividing states, societies, and ecosystems. That multiplicity of interrelated issues, as well as their interdisciplinary nature, was what excited us about the potential for the course.

Grant Rhode: Aspects from this Boston University course, The Sea and International Relations, that have broad instructional value include the history of the law of the sea, territorial disputes, and regional maritime ecosystems. Placed within the international relations curriculum, the course draws from a variety of disciplines, including history, political science, economics, law, anthropology, and environmental science. As an undergraduate 300-level course, it draws students from sophomores through seniors.

The changing nature of maritime interactions in global history may be considered through evolution of law of the sea concepts. Hugo Grotius, the seventeenth-century Dutch legal scholar from Delft, argued for freedom of the seas to conduct trade, as a necessary counternarrative for northern Europeans to give them rationale and a program to share the wealth being created by Portugal and Spain. Earlier, in the prelude to the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, the pope divided the globe into hemispheres, and assigned half the world to Portugal and half to Spain. This action resulted in a law of the sea that left all other parties out of the picture. Grotius’s freedom of the seas concept subsequently informed the actions of the Dutch and English East India Companies. It now continues to serve as a basis for the current law of the sea as codified in UNCLOS, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. History, law, economics, politics, culture, and environmental factors all play a part in providing the context for the evolution of the law of the sea concept.

As an example, all these aspects have application in the South China Sea, a good example from Asian maritime studies. On the one hand, Grotius’s freedom of navigation concept still informs the conduct of American naval destroyers operating in the South China Sea today. On the other hand, China regards the South China Sea as a regional Asian sea, much as the Caribbean has been regarded as a regional American sea. The South China Sea is also a regional marine ecosystem, not only in terms of its plentiful resources of fish and oil that must be shared by parties involved, but also in terms of the dynamic interactions of economies of Southeast Asian states, including an increasing dominance of China in the region over the past two decades. Within global studies, the maritime past, present, and future of the South China Sea will remain a critically important subject to teach.7

There are many other examples of important maritime international relations questions that are reviewed in the Boston University course that are worthy of study, such as maritime resource extraction and sharing, shipping and port development, and environment and tourism.

Examples from China’s Maritime History and Maritime Affairs

By Eugenio Menegon and Robert Murowchick

EUGENIO MENEGON, Boston University Associate Professor of Chinese History specializing in the late Ming and Qing periods, has developed and teaches an undergraduate course on maritime Asia.

Over time, China’s maritime history has come to play an increasingly significant part in my work on Ming/Qing history. As a student many years ago in Venice, Italy, my imagination was provoked by a course in the history of Asian explorations in which we learned about such characters as Marco Polo and Prester John. Through contact with missionary records in Europe, I became fascinated by the complex interplay of the cultural history of Fujian Province and its maritime connections with Manila and Taiwan, which I have discussed in my writing,8 as well as used in my teaching. I developed a course for undergraduates at Boston University on maritime Asia, which includes a focus on Fujian and Taiwan. I consider the Fujian/Taiwan maritime complex to be one of two critical regions for the study of China’s maritime history during the late imperial period. Students of global history should know that Ming loyalist Zheng Chenggong, also known as Koxinga, led the first Chinese military victory over a Western power by forcing the Dutch from Taiwan in 1662. His family, the Zheng clan based in Xiamen and Jinmen on the Fujian coast, ran a trading company with revenues and profits larger than those of the Dutch East India Company. These are eye-opening stories for students working to understand global history and the place of China’s maritime history within it.9

The second region of importance for China’s late imperial maritime history is the Pearl River Delta with its deep history of Canton/Guangzhou as the main maritime port of contact for China with the rest of the world for centuries.10 Port nodes at the mouth of the estuary include Portugal’s sixteenth-century establishment of Macao and Britain’s development of Hong Kong 300 years after Macao’s founding. The book on which I am currently working has to do with everyday life of foreigners in Beijing during the Qing period, but this history could not have existed without the access point for Europeans to China through Canton and Macao.

I have become increasingly interested in historical journeys, and not just the destinations. The journeys of Europeans to China were mostly by

sea, an important aspect of maritime history. I am involved with a group at Boston University that works on historical aspects of travel literature. Logs kept at sea are a valuable primary source, whether ships’ records or private diaries. During long sea passages, travelers had time to observe and write, and many preserved their records. For instance, I recently published an essay on an eighteenth-century missionary’s sea travel based on letters I found in Italy, which gives a real sense of what the journey was like at that time.11 I am interested not only in the sea journey to Canton from the West, but also in the two-month riverine journey to Beijing via the Yangzi River and Grand Canal.12

statue of a man
Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) statue in Xiamen, Fujian, China, gazing across the Taiwan strait. Source: Photo courtesy of Grant Rhode, 2015.

All this commentary has been about the very late Ming and the Qing periods of China’s maritime history. There are, however, many other im – portant aspects of Chinese/Asian maritime history. Zheng He’s voyages are of course highly significant, although they took place during an earlier period than my research interests. In English, Robert Antony’s recent work on piracy in Asian seas is also central to the study of maritime Asia. Another important aspect is the diffusion of Buddhism along early mari – time trade networks, witnessed by the stone carvings of ships at both Bo – robudur in Java and Angkor Thom in Cambodia. Coming far forward in time are the critical aspects of China’s current maritime involvements, not only those in the East and South China Seas, but also in the development of the Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road. If you have an interest in China’s maritime history and affairs, choose a period any time in the last 2,000 years. I myself am rather stuck, happily so, in the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries.

Two scholars who have both written core work on Asian maritime history are Jack Wills on the American side and Leonard Blussé on the European side. They have largely been responsible for training the current generation of Asian maritime historians.13 It is difficult to overestimate the role of teaching as part of the discipline of the study of world history. 

ROBERT MUROWCHICK, Boston University Adjunct Associate Professor of Archaeology, teaches undergraduate courses on Chinese and Southeast Asian archaeology that incorporate maritime archaeological discoveries in the exploration of the development of early China and its foreign interactions.

photo of several people examining various ceramics
Asian maritime trade scholars examining the ceramics recovered from the Belitung wreck. Source: Photo courtesy of Robert Murowchick, March 2007.

In addition to providing tangible material evidence that illustrates the complexity of China’s early cross-cultural interactions with some fifty other countries, maritime archaeology has become an important tool of soft diplomacy in China and other nations surrounding the South China Sea. Surging budgets in support of maritime archaeology by China and every other country of East and Southeast Asia over the past decade are one reflection of the increasingly contentious territorial claims over the South China Sea and many disputed island groups, both for their valuable natural resources and their militarily strategic value. Archaeologically recovered material remains from shipwrecks are playing a key role in developing a new historical narrative on soft diplomacy in this high-stakes game of international chess, versus the harder diplomacy roles of military and economic action.

Shipwrecks provide a unique “time capsule” of information that terrestrial sites rarely can. Unlike land sites that evolve over many centuries or longer as a complex “layer cake” of cultural strata, a ship sinks in a matter of minutes or hours, and the shipwrecks and their cargo produce a unique, virtual snapshot of maritime cultures and trade at that particular historical moment. The waters off of China and throughout Southeast Asia—among the busiest sea lanes in the world—are thought to contain thousands of wrecks spanning at least two millennia, holding details about nautical technology and the history of commerce between China and East, Southeast, and South Asia, maritime trade that would eventually extend to Southwest Asia and the East African coast. Many of these wrecks have been destroyed gradually by the destructive action of the currents or wood-eating marine worms, while others are obliterated suddenly by modern bottom-trawling weighted fishing nets dragged across the ocean floor, clear-cutting all that they encounter. Many other wrecks may be preserved in situ for centuries until they are found (usually accidentally by fishermen) and then excavated by maritime archaeologists or, more frequently, salvaged by private commercial companies who divide the recovered finds among their investors for subsequent sale.

Coastal trade between China and Southeast Asia took shape at least as early as the Han dynasty (third century BCE–third century CE), expanding dramatically in later periods. One of the earliest wrecks discovered so far in Southeast Asia is the spectacular ninth century CE Arab dhow ship known as the Belitung or Batu Hitam wreck, which sank in the reefs off the island of Belitung between Sumatra and Borneo, many hundreds of miles south from the trade’s usual route through the Straits of Malacca. This Arab dhow, the only known early wreck in Southeast Asia that exhibits Arab (or possibly Indian) construction, provides rich archaeological evidence to show direct maritime trade between China and the Indian Ocean as early as the ninth century CE. Excavations in 1998–1999 revealed that this ship apparently was on its return journey from China home to Southwest Asia, as it was filled with Chinese cargo most likely destined for markets of that region. Among the ship’s 60,000 recovered objects were tons of ceramics from the Changsha kilns in south-central China, some bearing a date that corresponds to the year 826 CE and many adorned with Koranic inscriptions and with colors favored in the markets of Iran. The ship also carried a cargo of imperial Tang gold and silver, probably intended as a Chinese gift for a foreign ruler (earning this wreck the nickname “Tang Treasure Ship”).


photo of a diagram of a ship's storage hold
Cross-section diagram of the storage holds and shipping jars on the Belitung. Known as the “Tang Treasure, Ship” there were 60,000 items of ceramics, and gold and silver objects found in the wreckage, along with spices and resin. Source: Screen capture from the documentary Secrets of the Tang Treasure Ship on the Documentary Heaven website at


In addition to its diverse cargo revealing aspects of early Chinese trade across the Indian Ocean, the Belitung also provides important new details about early Arab ship construction. A well-preserved part of the hull, buried deep in the sediment and protected from marine worms, reveals details of the flexible stitched plank construction of these early dhows that provided flexibility in rough seas and made repairs easier if damaged. These and other details of ship construction, rare in such an early wreck, allowed for the reconstruction of a full-size replica, The Jewel of Muscat, currently on display in Singapore’s Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium.

Another remarkable wreck discovered in 1997, called the Nanhai No. 1, provides details about China’s trade with its Southeast Asian neighbors and also illustrates the exceptional national support for maritime archaeology in China. Dating from the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279), the Nanhai 1 was a huge sharp-prowed merchant ship made of red cedar that sank off the Guangdong coast carrying an enormous cargo of some 100,000 ceramics from the most famous kilns in Fujian, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang, along with Chinese bronze coins, silver ingots, and other wares meant for an unknown destination. The difficult underwater conditions prompted Chinese archaeologists to build an innovative steel caisson, an enormous watertight container inside of which the intact wreck and its entire surrounding block of ocean floor were hoisted and transported to land in 2007. Placed inside a huge water-filled tank, this became the main exhibit within the new Yangjiang Maritime Silk Road Museum in Guangdong. By carefully lowering the water level, archaeologists could produce a more controlled environment that has allowed them to precisely excavate the wreck as if it were a terrestrial site, uncovering subtle details that would be impossible to obtain in a typical underwater excavation. The excavations continue within view of museumgoers, a truly remarkable setting that some compare to the excavation and display of the Swedish warship Vasa in Stockholm and Henry VIII’s flagship Mary Rose in Portsmouth, England. 

statue of a man
Zheng He monument in Malacca City, Malaysia, where Zheng He established a base for exploring the Western Ocean (Indian Ocean) Source: Photo courtesy of Grant Rhode, 2018.

The Maritime Silk Road Museum underscores the growing importance of maritime archaeology throughout East and Southeast Asia, reflecting the realization of the value of material cultural heritage as a tool for soft power diplomacy in territorial debates over the South China Sea and other disputed areas of great strategic or economic importance. Maritime archaeological finds can provide evidence to bolster historical territorial claims of occupancy and domination. All the countries surrounding the South China Sea have dedicated increasing budgets to maritime archaeology, motivated at least in part by political concerns. The Chinese government first noted massive quantities of Chinese coins among the reefs of the Xisha (Paracel) Islands in 1935, with extended study in the late 1940s. By 1974, serious archaeological work was being done there, with the resulting publications backing China’s claim that “the Paracels have been a sacred part of China since ancient times.” The claims showcase a variety of Chinese artifacts showing “strong historical evidence of the long-term labor and residence of our people in the Xisha Islands for thousands of years.”14 The importance of maritime archaeology in China was underscored further by the establishment in 2009 of the China Centre for Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, and by the creation of state-of-the-art, open-ocean exploration platforms, and the expansion of survey and excavation of shipwreck sites.


By Grant Rhode

The remarks here by a range of teachers and scholars committed to the study of maritime Asia indicate why inclusion of maritime studies is crucially important and provide examples that teachers can use to illustrate the importance of maritime history.

Studying the maritime past provides the framework for understanding the present and the future, while studying naval leaders provides models for understanding the influence of leadership upon history. In my own examination of naval leadership, I have found that many in the West have an acquaintance with the work and accomplishments of important British and American naval leaders such as Horatio Nelson, John Paul Jones, and Chester Nimitz. However, based on the findings of my research, it is just as important for understanding world history to know the stories of China’s Zheng He, the Ottoman’s Hayreddin Barbarossa, and Japan’s Togo Heihachiro.15 They are equally great figures in Asian maritime history as British and American naval heroes are in Western maritime history. They are well-known figures within the consciousness of Asian societies and international relations professionals. Asia’s emergence as a key center of global power makes knowing about these leaders an important part in international maritime literacy. Therefore, these leaders need a place in our maritime history curricula at all levels.

The accounts of the contributors to this article and my own experience show that the complexity of global studies today justifies the need for increasing knowledge of Asian maritime history and maritime affairs. Teachers may consider the variety of approaches and disciplines presented here as part of their toolkit, including a range of ways to bring Asian maritime studies into their world history and global studies curricula. 


1. Dr. Grant Rhode has taught Asian Maritime History at the US Naval War College and The Sea in International Relations at Boston University.

2. At Boston Latin School, we use individual case studies by David Moss in Democracy: A Case Study (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017).

3. The Mongol Invasions of Northeast Asia: Korea and Japan case study and the study guide for it are found in the EAA fall 2020 online supplement.

4. At Boston Latin School, we are using individual Eurasian maritime history case studies prepared by Grant Rhode.

5. Professor Michael Corgan, a retired US Navy officer, Việt Nam veteran, scholar, and longtime teacher of international relations at Boston University, passed away due to complications related to cancer in the fall of 2018. His engaged teaching of the introductory survey course attracted many students to major in international relations at Boston University. Mike had a love of the sea and a love of small states reliant on the sea for their survival. For instance, he was an Icelandic speaker who worked extensively on the Cod Wars between Iceland and the United Kingdom, as well as on NATO’s involvements in Iceland. Mike’s interests in maritime history tended toward US maritime history, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Arctic Circle, although he also developed a special interest in the South Pacific.

6. Naval Strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan developed theories of seapower that influenced American, European, and Japanese naval decision-making during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

7. Two lucid recent books on the South China Sea are those by Bill Hayton and Robert Kaplan, both cited in the selected reading list.

8. For history regarding China’s southeastern maritime province of Fujian, see Eugenio Menegon, Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009), which won the 2011 Association for Asian Studies Levenson Book Prize for Pre-1900 China Studies.

9. For engaging, well-written work on Koxinga’s conquest of Taiwan, see Tonio Andrade, and for the Zheng family trading from Japan to Indonesia and Malaya, see Xing Hang, both cited in the selected reading list.

10. For a clear description of the Canton trade system, see works by Paul Van Dyke in the selected reading list in the online supplements of this issue.

11. Eugenio Menegon, “Desire, Truth, and Propaganda: Lay and Ecclesiastical Travelers from Europe to China in the Long Eighteenth Century,” in Illusion and Disillusionment: Travel Writing in the Modern Age, ed. Roberta Micallef (Boston: Ilex Foundation & The Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard University, 2018), 11–41. Distributed by Harvard University Press.

12. For an English account of the eighteenth-century Dutch embassy, including travel on the Grand Canal, see Andre Everard van Braam, Braam, An Authentic Account of the Embassy of the Dutch East India Company, to the Court of the Emperor of China, in the Years 1794 and 1795 (London: R. Phillips, 1798). A downloadable pdf with the Grand Canal map is available at Emory University scholar Tonio Andrade is currently completing a book on this Dutch Embassy that will make more material available on Grand Canal travel.

13. Part of the proceedings of a conference chaired by Jack Wills and Leonard Blussé is published as a monographic issue titled “Binding Maritime China: Control, Evasion, and Interloping,” eds. Eugenio Menegon, Philip Thai, and Xing Hang in CrossCurrents: East Asian History and Culture Review 7, no. 1 (2018): y4wc3fbr. Conference website:

14. From Guangdong sheng Bowuguan, Xisha Wenwu: Zhongguo Nanhai zhudao zhi yi Xisha qundao wenwu diaoch (Xisha Cultural Relics: A survey of the cultural relics of the Xisha (Paracel) Islands, one of the South China Sea island groups) (Beijing: Wenwu Press, 1975), 1. English translation by Robert Murowchick.

15. Other important Asian naval leaders that students would find interesting and that have made critically important contributions to Asian maritime history include India’s Rajendra Chola, Kunjali Marakkar, and Kanhoji Angre; Việt Nam’s Tran Hung Dao; Korea’s Yi Sun-sin; and China’s Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga). They are all accomplished and colorful characters who lived in various parts of maritime Asia between the eleventh and eighteenth centuries.