3.1: Expanding Trade Networks
Although Afro–Eurasia and the Americas remained separate from one another, this era witnessed a deepening and widening of networks of human interaction within and across regions. The results were unprecedented concentrations of wealth and the intensification of cross-cultural exchanges. Innovations in transportation, state policies, and mercantile practices contributed to the expansion and development of commercial networks, which in turn served as conduits for cultural, technological, and biological diffusion within and between various societies. Pastoral or nomadic groups played a key role in creating and sustaining these networks. Expanding networks fostered greater interregional exchanges while at the same time sustaining regional diversity. Islam, a new monotheistic religion, spread quickly through practices of trade, warfare, and the diffusion that was characteristic of this period.
Existing trade routes grew.
- New trade cities on
- Silk Roads
- the Mediterranean Sea
- Trans-Saharan routes
- Indian Ocean basin
Trade networks developed in the Americas.
- Mississippi River Valley
New technologies and commercial practices expanded trade.
- new ship designs
- bills of exchange
- banking houses
- paper money
States supported commercial growth.
- Inca road system
- Hanseatic League
- Grand Canal in China
Expanding empires drew new people into their trade networks.
- Byzantine Empire
- Muslim states
Long-distance trade often depended on adaptations to the environment.
- Scandinavian Viking longships
- Arab and Berber camels
- Central Asian horses
Some migrations impacted the environment.
- Bantu transmission of iron technologies and agriculture to Sub-Saharan Africa
- Polynesian migrations
Migrations and commercial contacts spread languages and led to the emergence of new languages.
- Bantu languages
- spread of Turkic
- spread of Arabic
Islam spread through military conquests, trade, and missionaries.
- influence of Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians
Merchants set up diasporic communities introducing their cultural traditions into the indigenous culture.
- Muslim merchant communities in the Indian Ocean region
- Chinese merchant communities in Southeast Asia
- Sogdian merchant communities in Central Asia
- Jewish communities in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean basin, and along the Silk Roads
Afro-Eurasian travelers wrote about their journeys.
- Ibn Battuta
- Marco Polo
Increased cross-cultural contact spread literary, artistic, and cultural traditions, and scientific and technological innovations.
- spread of Christianity in Europe
- influence of Neoconfucianism and Buddhism in East Asia
- spread of Hinduism and Buddhism into Southeast Asia
- spread of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia
- influence of Toltec and Mexica traditions in Mesoamerica
- influence of Inca traditions in Andean America
Crops and pathogens spread along trade routes.
- bananas in Africa
- new rice varieties in East Asia
- spread of cotton, sugar, and citrus
- bubonic plague