Pienso y Existo

octubre 21, 2012

Global integration to bring us appart

At the beginning of the seventeenth century the world had a different shape, in terms of global relationships between nations, compared to what it was just two hundred years before. The main cause being the exponential increment in global trading, this, in turn, was accelerated by the availability of international tradable goods: furs, sugar, tobacco, coffee and tea, among others . These goods, as well as others stimulants and preciosities, could be now bought thanks to the constant supply of silver and gold that was being shipped out from the Americas to Europe and Asia.

The key importance of global trade is that it generated wealth for those controlling it. Everybody, then, wanted a share of the cake. However, in order to trade, one needs goods on one side and the possibility of paying for those goods on the other. Europeans were interested in spices and preciosities from Asian countries and, even though for a long time they have had different levels of access to those markets, they haven’t had enough purchasing power, neither have had they goods that were sought for in Asia. With the sudden availability of silver and gold from the Americas, Europeans, mainly Spanish at the beginning, had now trading power in the Asian markets. This created a network of commerce routes which basically consisted of taking gold and silver out of the mines of Potosi, Peru and Mexico, in the heart of the Spanish colonies; and ship them out to the Iberian Peninsula, from where it was later distributed to other spots in Europe and Asia, and China and India .  Along with the Asian trading, there was also an increment on goods directly produced in the Americas for consume in Europe: wood, sugar, coffee, cotton and furs mainly.

All this commerce propitiated an unseen wealth for the political European powers on one side of the globe but also contributed to the consolidation of the Qing dynasty in China and the Mughal Empire in India. With the silver brought from the Americas it was possible to keep an organized flow of internal economic trading. Merchants could now afford to pay their taxes and the empires and dynasties had the founding to sustain their political dominance .

Not only main Asians and Europeans players extracted benefit from the increase in global trading. Owing to the complex network of routes followed by the trading routes, those powers in control of strategic locations saw and increase or resurging of activity. The Ottoman Empire had control over the strategic points of Alexandria, Aleppo and Suez; whilst the Safavid Empire had control over Hormuz, however they were not as involved in the global trading for they feared of external players interfering with their internals affairs. Asian powers, in general, benefited not only from the taxation over the goods being transported but also from the access to information available as being part of the global trading.

Besides being able to trade with Asia, Europeans established trading posts or proxies of commerce in the Indian Ocean to facilitate trading and, eventually, use the land to produce goods themselves by colonization. From the point of view of Europeans, colonies only purpose was to “feed” or produce for the power in charge.

With the flourishing of trading around the globe, based mainly on the richness of several kinds extracted from the Americas, an increased pressure for labour force felt upon the American Indians. However, owing to the wipe out of Indian population caused by the diseases and the wars, manpower had to be imported, being Africa the ready available source. Not only Africa suffered by the massive deportation of productive workforce but also for the shift imbalances produced by the capturing of natives and the surge of an elite class financed by the slave trading. Africa started then the long declined of social patterns that were later reinforced by the colonisations and effects of the Cold War even later in history that has nowadays sub-Saharan Africa suffering from many social consequences of the late development Africans faced.

In spite of the significant commercial expansion that European states had with the global trade and the subsequent increase of wealth (at least for the ruling and merchant class), Europeans used most of those funds to finance wars against one another over land control and/or religious differences, up to the point that even the wealthy Spain bankrupted . Europeans also engaged in wars with the Islam world which brought not only economic consequences but also brought apart cultural and artistic amalgamation that had been, up to some point, reached in the preceding centuries.

In some respect, the boom of Global trade that commercially united the world in the seventeenth century, also established the basis to bring apart not only continents but cultures: war over religious differences increased and human trade created a pattern of discrimination that even nowadays societies are in the process of healing.


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