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Embassy to the Eastern Courts: America’s Secret First Pivot Toward Asia, 1832-37 by Andrew C A Jampoler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Here’s an excellent book for those of you who dig the history of international trade and the opening up of the Far East to American ships. We always think of President Andrew Jackson as a man focused on his stateside job rather than the international world. This excellent work by Andrew Jampoler shows how the little known voyages and adventures of failed businessman Edmund Roberts helped open up trade with Muscat, Oman, Zanzibar and the kingdom of Siam. The author recounts many aspects of the two, two-year long trips which cover over 70,000 miles of sailing around the world aboard the USS Peacock to first negotiate treaties with Oman and Siam and then after their ratification by congress and the president, the return journey to deliver these documents. 1832 through 1837 was no period of time for a timid man to undertake such journeys when over a third of the sailors, officer and passengers were felled by tropical diseases for which there was no effective treatment. Heat, humidity, insects, foul water, pirates and crowded conditions all contributed to making such voyages a venture for only the most hardy or desperate of men. You will enjoy the insider comments of the medical doctors whose records give us the most complete view of the hardships, desertions and punishments meted out and the good ship Peacock is grounded, visits exotic ports in Cochin-China, the Pacific and along the coasts of Africa and South America. Those of you who are coin collectors will get a better idea of why the 1804 silver dollars used as a part of the diplomatic exchanges are so rare and steeped with a history that only enhances their value. A travelogue with many added twists and turns. Well worth the read and taking the time to compare diplomacy in the early 19th century with that of today. After almost 200 years, communication between nations of different languages and cultures has remained one of the most difficult areas of human endeavor. We are still not good at it. Enjoy the thoroughness and completeness of this great book!
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