IOWC Research Associate: Omri Bassewitch Frenkel

In his doctoral thesis, completed at McGill University under Gwyn Campbell (2017), Dr. Omri Bassewitch Frenkel focuses on attempts at spice transplantation in the Spanish Empire between the mid-sixteenth and late-seventeenth centuries. His research is based on archival material from archives in Spain, Mexico and the Philipinnes. 

Omri's broader research interests include sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European trade and imperial adventures along the shores of the South China Sea, early modern European relations with overseas Chinese communities, and the Asian-European food and spice trade and its impact on food consumption in Europe. He has received a number of scholarly awards including the Wolfe Fellowship in Scientific and Technological Literacy (2015-2016), Abner Kingman Fellowship in Arts at McGill University (2014-2015), and the Peter Cundill Fellowship in History at McGill University (2011-2014). Omri is also a trained chef and a former proprietor of a café-bistro.

Prior to his PhD at McGill, Omri completed a M.A. in History (2010) at the Tel Aviv University. His Master’s thesis, "Conquistadores or Merchants? China’s role in the formation of the Spanish colonial society in the Philippine Islands, 1565-1603," which combined his interest in both European and Chinese history, focused on Spanish-Chinese relations in early colonial Manila and Spanish aspirations for the conquest and evangelization of China.

Contact Information
Indian Ocean World Centre
Peterson Hall
3460 McTavish Street, Room 100
Montreal, Quebec, H3A 0E6


2014 Review of G. B. Souza, "Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese in Maritime Asia, c. 1585–1800: Merchants, Commodities and Commerce." In Itinerario 38: 143-144. DOI:10.1017/S0165115314000606.

Selected Presentations

2015 "Bernardino Del Castillo and the first Botanical Garden of New Spain", Paper presented at the IOWC speaker series, Oct. 8 2015, McGill University.
2015 “Ginger, Pepper and Prestige: Spice Transplantation, the Philippine Project and Spanish Ideals of Chivalry.” Paper presented at the FEEGI-Europe conference, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands, 2-5 June, 2015.

2014 "So Long, and Thanks for All the Elephants -  The role of animal presents in 16th cen. Spanish East-Asian diplomacy". Paper presented at the IOWC international conference "Trade in Animals and Animal Parts in the Indian Ocean World from early times to c.1900", McGill University, Montreal, QC., Canada, 23-24 October 2014.

2014 "Smoke over Waters - Tobacco Transplantation and Trade in mid Sixteenth to mid Seventeenth Century Spanish Philippine". Paper presented at the 2014 Biennial FEEGI Conference, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, USA, 21-22 Feb. 2014. Paper also presented at the IPC International Summer School for Doctoral Researchers on the Philippines,  Ateneo de Manila University, Manila, Philippines, 1-4 June 2014.

2013 Co-author (with Martha Chaiklin), "An Elephant Story: Alliance and Diplomacy in Late 16th Century Philippines." Paper presented at the 59th annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, San Diego, CA, USA, 4-6 April.

2012 "Social, Cultural and Material Aspects of the Chinese Silk Trade with Spanish Manila, 1571-1644." Paper presented at the IOWC international conference on "Textile Trade and Consumption in the Indian Ocean World, from Early Times to the Present", McGill University, Montreal, QC., Canada, 2-4 November 2012.

2012 "Between Local and Global: A New Approach to Sixteenth-Century Spanish Plans for the Conquest of China." Paper presented at the MCRI international conference on "Crossroads between Empires and Peripheries – Knowledge Transfer, Product Exchange and Human Movement in the Indian Ocean World," Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, 21-23 June 2012.

2012 "Conquistadores or Merchants? Spanish Settlers of Manila and Their Aspirations Towards China, 1565-1586." Paper presented at the 2012 Biennial FEEGI conference, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA, 19-21 April 2012. Paper also presented at the Indian Ocean World Centre's seminar series, IOWC, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 16 February 2012.