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Andrew Allen

Mr. Malone

AP World History


Responses to Wealth Accumulation

The period circa 600 B.C.E. 1500 C.E. contained great advances. Many of these

advances were direct results of trade throughout societies, which had not previously existed.

Trading among societies led religious diffusion, especially of Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism.

This newfound trade also gave way to merchants and traders now being able to accumulate

wealth which saw very different responses from state and religion. During the period circa 600

B.C.E. to 1500 C.E., religions generally rejected the accumulation of wealth in favor of

charitable donations, whereas states allowed, or even encouraged wealth accumulations within

their guidelines.

Religions generally discouraged wealth accumulation. This can be seen in Christianity,

Islam and Buddhism. Document 4, written by a Christian monk, chronicles the life of Melania

the Younger, who gave away her entire estate. This was met with praise from the monk, who

thought that this money could be better used in the church. “So the blessed ones fearlessly gave

away all their possessions… they established monasteries of monks and nuns, furnishing each

place with a sufficient amount of gold” (Document 4) Christianity, as shown in the previous

quote, clearly dissuaded followers from holding wealth, thinking that it given by the devil, and

better used on the church and charity. ​The Quran​, quoted in Document 5 also clearly puts forth a

precedent that wealth should not be collected by individuals, but instead used charitably. Written
by Muhammad with the purpose of spreading his teachings, the Quran states that Satan

encourages people to be stingy, whereas God sees keeping wealth instead of using the money for

greater good as wrongdoing. Both Islam and Christianity clearly denounce wealth accumulation

in their respective texts. Buddhist art also shows a disdain for personal wealth accumulation.

Buddhist art shows followers bearing gifts to temples, rather than keeping wealth personally.

Religions almost universally denounced wealth accumulation in this period.

Various states on the time had differing opinions on wealth accumulation, all allowing it,

but at vary degrees of freedom and fairness. In Document 1, the Chinese, especially Confucian

views are portrayed. An ambassador demands a jade ring, but is later shown that it would be

unjust to steal from the merchant who owned it, citing a pact with ancestors. This shows that the

Chinese were not opposed to personally accumulating wealth, but it could not be done unfairly or

through theft. Document 2, from an advisor to the first Mauryan emperor, allows for

accumulation of wealth but sets out very strict and rigid price controls. It borders on an early

form of Communism, save for the allowed 5% profit. A Roman statesman and philosopher

shows a great contempt for merchant, tax collectors, and moneylenders in Document 3.

Although the accumulation of wealth is not prohibited, the Romans looked down upon those who

profited off of others rather than on their own accord, through agriculture. Ganapatideva of the

South Indian Kakatiya state has the most free-market based opinion. The only rule on wealth

accumulation in his society was a one-thirtieth flat tax rate. Although he may not have agreed

with the traders stating, “out mercy, for the sake of glory and merit, hereby pledge to leave

everything except the fix duty to those who have incurred the great risk of a sea-voyage with the

thought that wealth is more valuable than even life.” (Document 7) He basically insinuates that
these voyagers are extremely greedy and ill-advised in their trips, but he will not stop them

through his government. State responses to wealth varied greatly, but none completely

denounced or disallowed the accumulation of wealth.

State and religion varied greatly in their responses to accumulation of wealth. Most

religions, and all represented in the documents denounced wealth accumulation, in favor of

contributing to the greater good and to the church. This notion remains in modern society,

although the ideals are less intense, and in Christianity, for example, it has gone from giving all

wealth away to the church or to charity to giving a fraction, often tithing. State responses to

wealth accumulation varied greatly, but none disallowed it. Early forms of modern government

systems are shown, as the ideals in Document 2 border on Communism, but on the other end of

the spectrum the system shown in Document 7 has a more free capitalist market than any modern

society, only demanding an extremely small “duty.” Wealth accumulation from 600 B.C.E. to

1500 C.E. was allowed by the states of the time, but condemned by religions.