Historical Trade

Topics: Black Death, Infectious disease, Malaria Pages: 5 (1774 words) Published: July 11, 2013

Communication is the Key
Alex Belerique
HUMA 1770

During the 12th to 14th centuries, technology related to communication was still fairly primal, and generally limited to face to face interactions. Of course, during a time where trade was at some points, booming between civilizations, a system of exchanging information was vital to successful trade, on small scales like people within the same area, and on larger scales, like communities in different regions. Successful trade transactions relied on many things in a time where rule and order was restricted to a geographical location. Thus, the exchange of information pertaining to potential trade deals was just as vital as the trade itself. Without that communication of pertinent knowledge such as cost, quantity and general negotiations, trade would have likely been restricted to individuals within a community at best. With these communications between people of different areas, as well as the manpower necessary to deliver the products, something else was traded, disease. While trade was necessary for economic expansion, and the benefits provided by trade in the middle ages proved to be fruitful and highly beneficial to our success as a species, it is this writers position for the sake of this paper to discuss how large scale trade led to rapid spread of disease among people of different civilizations and the potential it had to wipe out entire areas through all of the mortality. This paper will explore the exchange of information and disease from Italy, Greece and China. Though trade was important to our survival, it did not come without a cost.

The first idea this paper will discuss is the trouble with long distance trading, which is to say trading across different geographical locations, from one civilization to another. Communication across far distances was difficult and costly in itself. Therefore the implications of that communication would be considered during trade negotiations. Across cultures, differences surfaced that presented problems, such as misinterpretation of what condition the product was expected to arrive in, different units of measurement according to different cultures, and differing currency values (Goucher, 1998). Open lines of communication were vital to ensure continued trading as opposed to single instances of trade followed by disagreement and potentially battle. Another area of concern was these agreements actually following through on both ends. Often times, trades didn’t consist of the traditional bartering, but of an agreement to ship through boats or land caravans which could take several weeks in some instances for the shipment to arrive (Goucher, 1998). Since there was no structured way of formalizing trade at the time, the solution to shipments not being made or delivered to poor standards, an honor system of sorts was introduced. The way to ensure compliance on both ends was to create a continuous relationship between civilizations so that they would be less inclined to try and cheat the other out of a product, for example spices, or silk, or gold traded continuously to forge a verbal contract of compliance (Goucher, 1998). The exchange of information to ensure long lasting relationships among different civilizations had a tremendous impact on sustaining the trading business. And up until the 13th century, that business was lucrative. That is, until the spread of diseases took over the attention of the public followed by an untimely depression.

Different ways of thinking about the world, and products were not the only thing to be traded on trade routes; disease was also a common exchange between tradesmen. The trouble with the spread of disease was that if a virus or bacteria was common to a geographical location, the inhabitants of that area would not fall prey as easily as minimal exposure during the course of their lives had given them a degree of immunity that didn’t exist when it spread to foreign...
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