The Intimacies of Four Continents

Lisa Lowe
UC San Diego

Liberal ideas of human freedom were central to the founding of eighteenth-century republics, and to the international forms of empire, trade, and government taking shape throughout the nineteenth century. This book, The Intimacies of Four Continents, examines liberal philosophies and institutions of citizenship, free labor, and free trade, in light of transatlantic and transpacific encounters in the “new world,” Africa, and Asia. Studies of the early Atlantic world observe links between Europe, Africa, and the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade, while recent work on Asia suggests that China possessed advanced state formation, market, and government, in the seventeenth century. Drawing upon these insights, this project brings the Pacific and Atlantic worlds into relation and elaborates the emergence of the United States within late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British and European encounters with Africa and Asia. Not only did the post-1840 worldwide trade in Chinese laborers enable British abolition of the slave trade, but the British engagements with China during and after the Opium Wars constituted conditions for U.S. liberalism, and inaugurated new modes of Anglo-American free trade and imperial intimacy.