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History of Globalization

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Although the process known as globalization has visibly taken hold during the twentieth century, it has distinct historical antecedents. From the dawn of humanity, the world has grown increasingly integrated. Despite the admittedly fluid nature of history, a number of historians have divided the process of globalization into sections. Keep in mind that this is currently a work in progress.

Archaic Globalization

Proto Globalization

Modern Globalization

The process of globalization is influenced by a number of empires. Among them are some of note:

The Phoenicians Edit

While the cultural advances during the Bronze Age had mostly been confined to the eastern parts of the Mediterranean, with the Iron Age, the entire coastal region surrounding the Mediterranean now becomes involved, significantly due to the Phoenician expansion from the Levant, beginning in c. the 12th century BC. Fernand Braudel remarked in The Perspective of the World that Phoenicia was an early example of a "world-economy" surrounded by empires. The high point of Phoenician culture and sea power is usually placed ca. 1200–800 BC. Many of the most important Phoenician settlements had been established long before this: Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, Simyra, Arwad, and Berytus, all appear in the Amarna tablets.

The Phoenicians and the Assyrians transported elements of the Late Bronze Age culture of the Near East to Iron Age Greece and Italy, but also further afield to Northwestern Africa and to Iberia, initiating the beginning of Mediterranean history now known as Classical Antiquity. They notably spread alphabetic writing, which would become the hallmark of the Mediterranean civilizations of the Iron Age, in contrast to the cuneiform writing of Assyria and the logographic system in the Far East (and later the abugida systems of India).

During classical antiquity, the Phoenicians spread through the western Mediterranean reaching North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. They often provided the naval forces of the Achaemenid Persian Empire and their heartland in the Levant was still dominated by powers rooted east in Mesopotamia or Persia.

The earliest evidence for a spherical Earth came from an ancient Phoenician expedition for ancient Egypt. The Egyptian pharaoh Necho II, during his reign from 610 BCE to 595 BCE, employed Phoenician sailors to circumnavigate around the entire African continent, then known as "Libya". In The Histories (written c. 431 BCE - 425 BCE), Herodotus described how the Phoenicians reported the sun being observed shining from the north. [1] With this expedition, the Phoenicians and Egyptians were thus the first to discover evidence of the Earth being curved and therefore spherical.

The Phoenicians were also the first Mediterranean sailors to reach as far north as Britain, where they traded with locals and which was an important source of tin. The Phoenicians thus established an early world economy, having sailed as far north as Britain and as far south as South Africa. Their accomplishments as sailors would not be surpassed until the Arab sailors millennia later.

The Persian Empire Edit

Around 500 BC, Darius the Great started an extensive road system for the Persian Empire, including the famous Royal Road which was one of the finest highways of its time. The road was used even after Roman times. Because of the road's superior quality, mail couriers could travel 2,699 kilometres (1,700 mi) in seven days. This allowed long-distance communication to take place through land.

The Arab Empire Edit

Beginning with the Arab Empire in the 7th century, the Islamic Golden Age was an important early stage of globalization, when Muslim traders and explorers established a sustained global economy across the Old World, resulting in a globalization of crops, trade, knowledge, and technology. Globally significant crops such as sugar and cotton became widely cultivated across the Muslim world in this period, while the necessity of learning Arabic and completing the Hajj created a cosmopolitan culture.[1] The accomplishments of Arab sailors would not be surpassed until the European sailors during the Age of Discovery many centuries later.

The Mongol Empire Edit

The Mongol Empire is widely known as the most prolific of the great 'mixers of peoples'. This nomadic people spread from Northern China and Eastern Russia to encompass much of the Eurasian landmass. Under the rule of Genghis Khan (spelling), the Mongol Empire embraced no specific moral code or religious programme.

The advent of the Mongol Empire, though destabilizing to the commercial centers of the Middle East and China, greatly facilitated travel along the Silk Road. This permitted travelers and missionaries such as Marco Polo to journey successfully (and profitably) from one end of Eurasia to the other. The so-called Pax Mongolica of the twelfth century had several other notable globalizing effects. It witnessed the creation of the first international postal service, as well as the rapid transmission of epidemic diseases such as bubonic plague across the newly unified regions of Central Asia.[2] These pre-modern phases of global or hemispheric exchange are sometimes known as archaic globalization. Up to the sixteenth century, however, even the largest systems of international exchange were limited to the Old World.

The Ottoman Empire Edit

The Portuguese Edit

The British Empire Edit

The next phase is known as proto-globalization. It was characterized by the rise of maritime European empires, in the 16th and 17th centuries, first the Portuguese and Spanish Empires, and later the Dutch and British Empires.

British East India Company Edit

In the 17th century, globalization became a private business phenomenon when chartered companies like British East India Company (founded in 1600), often described as the first multinational corporation, as well as the Dutch East India Company (founded in 1602) were established.

The Dutch Empire Edit

Dutch Reformed Church Edit

The Dutch merchant fleets were obliged to deny other religions from creating churches and insulting the Dutch Reformed Church in any way on Dutch land and ships. As Geoffrey Parker mentions, although the Dutch did not allow religious pluralism on their ships and land, they had to be prudent in censoring other religions since the Dutch Naval and Merchant fleets were largely composed of foreign men (German, etc.). So, even though other religions were denied open recognition and not allowed to insult the Dutch Reformed Church, the Dutch government couldn't very well force people of varying backgrounds to their way of thinking without serious internal problems that might have impeded trade.

VOC or Dutch East India Company Edit

Merchant Warriors Edit

In a chapter entitled "Rise of the Merchant Empires", Geoffrey Parker describes how the rise of merchant empires roughly coincides with the advent of 'modern history'. He claims that the growing relationship between war making in Europe and the merchant elite caused a shift in the balance of power between increasingly poor nobles and the rising merchants.

New Amsterdam Edit

Authors and Citations Edit

Alfred Crosby Edit

John Weaver Edit

John Weaver is a professor of history at McMaster University. He is the author of The Great Land Rush, and other selected titles in Canadian and global history. The Great Land Rush discusses the creation and extension of property rights in the frontier areas of colonizing regions. Weaver discusses the various conditions for settlers, speculators, and squatters on the frontiers of Australia, Canada, the United States, Russia, and South America.

Phillip Curtin Edit

Michael Adas Edit

Of particular note to the discussion of Globalization is Adas' Machines as the Measure of Men in which he discusses the varying degree to which technological and scientific achievement served to differentiate Europeans from their global counterparts. This book looks specifically at the relationships between Europe and Africa, India, China, and Japan. As Adas' implies, the relationships were ones of unequal strength. As time went on, the European powers quickly realized that they held the upper hand in scientific and technological achievements. (work in progress)

John Thornton Edit

J. de Vries Edit

J. Israel Edit

Amira Bennison Edit

Thomas Brady Edit

Geoffrey Parker Edit

Samuel Huntington Edit

Steven Kobrin Edit

Brian McKibben Edit

Jared Diamond Edit

Jared Diamond is widely known for Guns, Germs, and Steel. This book discusses the development of humanity through a scientific-historical viewpoint. Diamond employs ecological determinism to explain how certain peoples developed in different ways from each other. He looks at the ecological endowment of each region of the world where humans developed largely distinctly at first. Throughout Guns, Germs and Steel, Diamond explains how there are proximate and ultimate causes for certain regions and peoples to develop in certain ways. In terms of proximate reasons, Diamond proposes that socio-political decision-making played a secondary role in the development of human peoples. The more determinant factors, according to Diamond, are ultimate factors. The ultimate factors include animal-vegetable-mineral resources in the proximity of development. Also, the spread of these materials could speed up or slow down development. While Diamond brings a new perspective to the study of global history, he remains bound by his scientific background. Jared Diamond proposes his ecological determinist argument, and will not back down from it. As happens often in institutional science, once a thesis is proposed, it is stood by firmly for fear of being supplanted. The problem is that this is incompatible with the study of history. This issue manifests itself in Diamond's section on Chinese history. China defies Diamond's thesis in a number of ways. First of all, China was unified since 225BC, making them far more advanced than their European counterparts. Despite significant scientific and technological advances, the Chinese government decided to stop its treasure fleets from sailing starting around 1450AD. This caused the region to become intraverted and unconcerned with external interaction. So, despite having been endowed with all the 'necessary' resources, as Diamond lays them out, China still 'failed' to expand as predicted. Instead of conceding this problem, Diamond published an epilogue a couple of years after the original publication upholding his original thesis. Despite this problem, Guns, Germs and Steel remains an excellent source on the development of different regions of the world. It is interesting and useful in describing the integration of the globe in terms of spreading resources and biota.


  1. John M. Hobson (2004), The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation, p. 29-30, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-54724-5.
  2. Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Crown, 2004

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