Iycee Charles de Gaulle Summary Trade Networks Change Over Time Essay

Trade Networks Change Over Time Essay

In 300 CE the trade routes of Africa and Eurasia were increasing in complexity, as they became major arteries for the exchange of goods and ideas over long distances. The trade networks of these regions consistently enabled the spread of religious ideas far beyond their original homelands. Networks like the Trans-Saharan, Indian Ocean, and Silk Road systems always brought wealth to foreign products that enabled local producers to specialize in items best suited to their regions. Yet, the risk of long distance trade decreased over this period as societies expanded and technology increased. Furthermore, the amount of trade done on these networks was inconsistent between 300 CE and 1450 CE.

Throughout this extensive time period, the trade networks of Africa and Eurasia retained some very important qualities. One of these qualities was that the trade networks of these regions served as conduits for religion. The spread of religious ideas has always been important along trade routes especially because of the use that common religion had for merchants. An example of this constant spread of religion over trade networks can be found on the Eurasian Silk Road. Buddhism was the prominent faith of Silk Road merchants until 700 CE, and managed to spread to Indian merchants in Ceylon, Bactria, Iran, and China. Indian merchants utilizing the sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean also spread Hinduism throughout Southeast Asia in this entire time frame. Christian missionaries capitalized on the ease of travel and communication in the Mediterranean trade routes for the entirety of the Roman Empire.

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These missionaries spread Christianity to Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa for a huge amount of time via the trade routes available to them in Europe. These efforts even penetrated into lower African regions via the trans-Saharan trade route and converted societies like Ethiopia. Wherever there was a significant trade network during this time period, religion was sure to be found traveling on it. Another continuity of the African and Eurasian trade networks in this period was the ability for local producers to gain tremendous wealth. In global trade markets like the Silk Road and the Indian Ocean network, it was possible for local pottery craftsman in central China to gain a huge consumer market in the wealthy sectors of Rome.

The ability for people to sell items unique to their regions in a global market remained a vital part of trade for the entirety of this period. In China this was especially true, where the local silk makers fueled an enormous import market to the upper class societies of the Mediterranean word. The same is true in India. From 300 CE even until 1492 when Columbus set out on his exploratory journey, local Indian spice producers were able to gain tremendous wealth in the interregional trade networks connected to them. A final example can be seen in Africa, where products such as ivory and gold remained staples of the trans-Saharan trade route for this entire period, where locals of kingdoms like Ghana, Mali, and Songhai could all capitalize on the resources local to them in the foreign market of these trade networks.

While several aspects of Afro-Eurasian trade networks remained the same in this time period, a key change was the fact that trade became more widespread as time went on. One of the reasons for this was an increase in technology, which made trade safer. The development of the padded saddle by the Assyrians in 300 started a trend of technological advances that made long distance travel much easier for merchants. The domestication of the camel and incorporation of camel caravans was a vital advancement for Trans-Saharan trade. The invention of the Dhow and Lateen sails made sea trade much easier and faster, and these technologies eventually dominated sea trade from the Mediterranean to East Africa and the Indian Ocean. As technology increased over this time period, trade became easier and thus it occurred more often and over greater distances. Another reason why trade became more widespread was the expansion of empires. When empires were compacted, the space between them was large and nomadic societies presented more of a threat in the distance between them.

In China, the expansion in the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties gave China a wider reach and thus a farther extension of trade to regions in the west. The same is true in Africa, when kingdoms like Ethiopia and Ghana expanded, they became closer to the societies in North Africa and the Mediterranean and increased trade in this way. Whether it was by the increase in technology, or the growth of societies to develop safer and more protected trade routes, the trade networks in this period undoubtedly became more widespread because of these factors. Another important inconsistency in this period was the irregularity of trade levels from specific regions. While trade was increasing in China because of technological advancement and expansion, it was decreasing in Europe in the centuries after 300 CE because they were recovering from the fall of the Roman Empire. This created a scenario in which the importer could no longer buy the good that the exporter was still producing, which caused trade levels to fall. An excellent display of the inconsistency of trade levels in this period can be seen in the period in which trade increased exponentially in Eurasia when the Mongols briefly conquered vast amounts of territories and thus united the major trading societies under a common rule. Yet, in the Middle Ages trade fell drastically as the entire European market was lost. For these reasons, the levels of activity on these trade networks definitely did not remain the same.