This chapter presents Nathaniel Bowditch’s participation in trading voyages to Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Indian Ocean island of Réunion in the 1790s. As he encountered foreign cultures, Bowditch responded with the mix of provincialism and cosmopolitanism typical of this era’s seaboard populations. As a Yankee, he was appalled by French immorality, Iberian laziness, Catholic superstition, and the evils of the slave trade, but he also expressed curiosity about and respect for Malay and Chinese merchants. As a clerk, mate, and supercargo, Bowditch encountered such familiar maritime perils as hostile privateers and shipboard accidents, but also perils new to this era of Asian trade: uncharted waters, unfamiliar markets, and unknown and potentially untrustworthy middlemen. At sea, his status separated him from common sailors. Back in Salem, the status that came with commercial success made it possible for him to marry advantageously.
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