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Slides by M Shahjahan



Emperor Qian Longs letter to King
George III, 1793
tea, silk and porcelain which the
Celestial Empire produces (CHINA)

In this chapter we will see many

glimpses of what Adam Smith called
the basic human instinct for truck
and trade for profit

Since the time humans settled in the

Fertile Crescent, they have not
stopped searching for different and
better food, commodities, and tool
making materials. To meet that social
need and make profit through price
arbitrage buying low and selling
highcame along a new class of
people, traders

The means of transporting the fruits of trade have

progressed from donkey
and camel to sail and steamboats, from container
ships and airplanes to fiber-optic cables. The modes
of payment have evolved from barter, cowries, metal
coin, paper money, and credit card to electronic bank
transfers and online payment
systems like PayPal. These developments enabled the
speedy transportation
of large quantities of goods, and the consumer base
and the number of
traders and entrepreneurs also grew.

Multinational enterprises replaced

and groups of traders, all successors
to one of the earliest examples, the
English East India Company, founded
in 1600. By a United Nations count,
2003 there were sixty-three thousand
multinational corporations in the

The difference between the camel

caravanborne c-commerce of the
past and todays e-commerce,
which delivered the Apple iPod to my
door, is in the scale and speed of such
transactions. Thus, it is not surprising
that in the popular imagination,
foreign trade has become
synonymous with globalization.

A music player designed by Jobs and

his engineers in Cupertino, California,
integrating the innovations and work
of many others from Taiwan, South
Korea, and India, was assembled in
China, sold on the Internet, and
delivered to my home by an
American courier company.

Yet Apple is driven to expand its

market by the same profit motive
has inspired traders for millennia,
with its profit enriching millions of
worldwide who own Apple shares.

The most traded commodity

among communities was the blade of
obsidianvolcanic rockthat
could be used as a knife to cut meat
and a sickle to harvest grains
However, the first written account
of trade comes to us from the
beginning of the second millennium

Both necessity and a taste for the exotic

have led humans to engage in commerce
Traders frequently worked
with the sanction of the ruler and paid tax,
as we have seen in ancient Mesopotamia.
However, often the ruler himself took
charge of trade to ensure a supply
of luxuries and profit to be made from
commercial transactions

The fertile Tigris and Euphrates Valley produced

enough food grain and wool
to make cloth but completely lacked mineral
resources needed to make bronze
battle gear
We meet traders like
Assur-idi, Su-Kubum, Salim-ahum, and Pusu-ken,
who prospered by operating
the caravan trade between the Assyrian capital
and the entrepot city of Kanis,
in the Anatolian region of present-day Turkey.

Long caravans, sometimes

consisting of three hundred donkeys loaded with grain and
wool, made the
eight-hundred-mile journey, at the end of which most of the
donkeys were sold
and a smaller number were sent back to Assur carrying
minerals, gold, and silver.
The donkey caravans traveled at an average speed of
almost twenty miles a
day. A donkey could carry an average of two hundred
pounds, limiting the
quantity and type of goods that could be traded or the kind
of terrain traversed

It is estimated that traders made

approximately 100
percent profit on tin and 200 percent
on textiles
The key player in the Assyrian trade
was the wealthy entrepreneur, or
who supplied the necessary capital
and goods.

There was also trouble on the path of

the donkey caravans that trekked the
long distance from Assur to Kanis
over rugged mountains and deserts

Transport of higher capacity was pressed into

service toward the beginning of
the Christian era. Although the domestication of
camels got under way between
3000 and 2000 bce in the Horn of Africa, it was
not until sometime between
500 bce and 200 ce that the North Arabian
saddle was invented and
traders in the Arabian Peninsula could exploit the
camels ability to be a ship of
the desert.

Camels can travel approximately twenty miles in

about six hours
and carry about 550 pounds, twice as much as a
horse or a mule. Since they foraged
along the way, historian William McNeill notes, In
most Middle Eastern
landscapes, where semi-arid wasteland
abounded, caravans captured free energy
just as sailing ships did Thus caravans could often
compete with ships on
fairly even terms.

They did so for about a thousand

years, from the time when
the arts of camel management
became firmly established in the
Middle East
during the early Christian centuries
until improvements in ship design
techniques of navigation changed
the terms of competition after 1300

Camel caravans
across the Central Asian deserts established the
first direct connection between
China, India, and the eastern Mediterranean. A
series of trading routes linking
oases and human habitations along the steppes
and along the edge of the Taklimakan
Desert and mountain valleys of Central Asia
By the
first century ce,

foreign traders were present in small

oasis towns fringing the
Taklimakan, carrying silk and
lacquerware to the Roman Empire
and woolen
From Camel Commerce to ECommerce 41
and linen textiles, glass, coral,
amber, and pearl to China

Because Chinese silk

was the most prized commodity
transported along the pathways, the
nineteenth century German geographer Baron
Ferdinand von Richthofen gave this
collection of routes the romantic
name of the Silk Roads, or Die
popularly known today as the Silk

For more than a millennium, this

constantly shifting network of pathways
served as the great connector between
the Asian mainland, Europe, and sub Saharan Africa.
For rulers, whether in China or India or
other countries without pastures for horsebreeding, Central Asian horses became
a prized export item on the Silk Road.

Chinas Tang dynasty records show

the government spent nearly a
seventh of its
annual revenue received from bolts
of silk to import one hundred

In the eleventh century, Tibetan

tribes who controlled major trade
routes from Central Asia to China
prospered by exchanging Chinese tea
Central Asian horsesat times
trading twenty-two thousand horses
a year.

And of course, the Silk Road

conveyed much more than goods.
For more than
a millennium the path that spanned
three continents became a conveyor
for the transmission of religions, art,
philosophy, languages, technologies,
and genes.10

Trading on the Silk Road reached its peak

during the thirteenth century,
when the Mongol Empire presided over
its entire length
The journey on the
backs of double-humped Bactrian camels
from Afghanistan to Peking took a
year to complete on the average, but
goods did get delivered.