The gid advantage we have today is the fact that you can hit the closest mall and just head home, but thousands of years ago, the process was much more complicated. Moving goods around has become almost invisible, but the policy and politics of trade have been forces throughout history. The top trades’ deals that changed the global trading network took multiple decades in order to reach the current degree of complexity.
These days, with Donald Trump imposing tariffs on steel imports, it seems like a good time to reiterate the global system of trade. In the old days, if you didn’t grow it or make it, you needed to travel for it and for many of the people back then the effort was too much. The key threads to understand how trade shaped the world are the benefits of the nations that engage in it, as well as the minority that is hurt by the trade patterns.
As early as the sixteenth century, Madeiran sugar growers obtained prohibitions against cheaper sugar. Nowadays, trade agreements provide the framework that enables capital to flow and enable the global economy. However, when the first civilizations began trading about five thousand years ago, human interaction was taken to a whole new level.
Trade routes have been developed since ancient times since scarce commodities were available in certain locations, such as spices. Once established, they also facilitated cultural exchange, including the spread of ideas, and sometimes even bacteria. Over the centuries, deals opened up new markets and created new employment opportunities, although from these trade agreements not everyone had benefitted.
Between 1950 and 1973, trade grew widely, helping countries recover from the Second World War and bringing along technological advancements which played a key role in international trade networks. Here are some of the most important historical trades, which’s international impact cannot be disputed.
- Silk Road
It was actually a network of trade routes, established when the Han Dynasty officially opened trade in 130 B.C. Alongside spreading trade, the Silk Road became a route for the spread of technology, and arts, with trading centres along such as Samarkand becoming centres of intellectual exchange. The routes remained in use until 1453 A.D., so it’s been 600 years since they had been last used for international trade. The famous route is an ancient trade route from China to the Roman Empire, starting in the first century BCE, in exchange for silver, and gold. It had a lasting impact on culture that resonates even today. It originated in Xi’an and travelled alongside the Great Wall before crossing the Pamir Mountains on to the Levant.
- Convention of Kanagawa (1854)
The convention, signed under threat, ended Japan’s period of cultural isolation that had begun in the early-17th century. Trade agreements such as the Convention of Kanagawa usually have direct economic effects as well as a long-term impact. Prior to signing it, Japan engaged only with Netherlands and China, under strict government control and although it did not immediately result in an increase in trade, the convention led to the signing of other treaties.