Afroeurasian Trade Networks essay, 1 and 2

Alex House
Dr. Murnane
AP World History – C
9 February 2011
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Afro-Eurasian Trade: The Dynamic Sculptor of World History from 600 to 1850 C.E.
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Afro-Eurasian trade had a profound impact on world history from 600 C.E. to 1850 C.E. The Silk Road, trans-Saharan trade, Indian Ocean trade, and European sea trade were the most significant networks at this time. Trade along the Silk Road caused the spread of major world religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as culture and technologies such as gunpowder. However the Silk Road also proliferated the Black Death. This devastating disease killed millions of people, led to the persecution of the Jews in Europe, and loosened the power of the aristocracy in Europe as well. Trans-Saharan trade facilitated the spread of Islam in West Africa. Through Islam, people learned how to write, leading to the establishment of Timbuktu as a center of culture and education. In addition, trans-Saharan trade brought an end to West Africa’s gerontocratic age-grade system and gave rise to slavery. In the Indian Ocean trade network, the spread of Islam led to the creation of an entirely new culture—the Swahili. The export of gold, ivory, and slaves fueled growth of Southern Africa as a commercial superpower, which is epitomized at Great Zimbabwe. European sea trade caused conflict and competition. The bloody massacre of the Swahili by Portugal, warfare between the British and Dutch, and the Opium Wars were results of European sea trade. Moreover, competition for control over European sea trade led to the expedition of Columbus to the New World, bringing about the decimation of the Native Americans, the creation of Atlantic slave trade, the shift of world power to Europe, and eventually the industrial revolution. In short, Afro-Eurasian trade shaped world history drastically from 600 C.E. to 1850 C.E.
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The first trade route that spanned across Eurasia was the Silk Road. The Silk Road originated in Han China during the reign of Wu Di. It began when the emissary Zhang Qian was sent westward from the capital Xiang around 130 B.C.E. in search of a military alliance against the Huns with the Yuezhi, an ancient civilization that ruled Bactria and India (“Yüeh-Chih,” Encyclopedia Britannica). No such alliance was gained, but Zhang brought back tales of the places and peoples he had encountered, specifically of the “horses that sweat blood” from Ta-Yuan, a region close to the Yuezhi in modern day Uzbekistan. Wu Di was enchanted with the image of these magnificent beasts, and employed merchants to obtain the horses through trade. These horses aided China in the defeat of the Huns, and firm trade routes were established. China then sent more emissaries to connect with the people of central Asia, and trade along the Silk Road began.
The Silk Road facilitated the spread of technology and culture that influenced world history in both constructive and destructive ways. For example, paper, silk, spices, and gunpowder were spread on the Silk Road. Some ideas, such as the ney, a type of flute from Iran, spurred innovation and the development of culture. Other technologies, however, gave rise to deadlier weaponry and increased the destructive abilities of the human race. One of these technologies was gunpowder. The invention of gunpowder has been traced to China around 850 C.E., when it was discovered by Chinese alchemists experimenting with “life-lengthening” elixirs. Originally gunpowder was only used for entertainment purposes, such as fireworks, but military strategists quickly recognized its potential as a weapon (Whipps, LiveScience). The Mongols then adopted the use of gunpowder from the Chinese (May, 195-195). As Mongolian conquests fueled by the effectiveness of their new weapon pushed west, more people were exposed to the use of gunpowder in battle (Ling, 173). As a result, guns would soon become the defining weapon in warfare. In addition to culture and technology, major world religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam were also spread along the Silk Road. The spread of Buddhism was, in the words of Richard Foltz, “the first large-scale missionary effort in the history of the world’s religions” (37). This was because Buddhist monks believed the Buddha’s message to be universal, and traveled from India along trade routes to spread his teachings (Foltz, 37). The spread of Islam through trade was inevitable, seeing as the Prophet Mohammed himself was a businessman (Foltz, 89). The values and ways of life associated with these religions greatly impacted world history. At the root of most world religions are teachings of love, peace, and cooperation, which are found in works such as the Buddhist Dharma, the Islamic Qur’an, and the Christian Bible. These guidelines helped preserve ethics and morality in the masses. The impact of these religions was huge, seeing that today these religions have billions of followers.
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By 600 C.E., the classical civilizations—Rome, Han China, and Gupta India—had collapsed, and Silk Road trade dried up as a result (Stearns). Without the military strength of the former empires, the long journey on the Silk Road became very dangerous. In addition, people were less concerned with trade than they were with their own survival. As a result, East-West trade dried up. Yet in the mid-late thirteenth century, the Mongols, under the reign of Kublai Khan, unified the fragmented dynasties of China, and revitalized Silk Road trade.
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However, the Mongols expedited the spread of the Black Death. Kublai Khan lifted trade restrictions that the Chinese had set down based on Confucian principals, allowing merchants to thrive once again. Furthermore, the Mongols’ strong military made trade routes safer to traverse. However, in the late 1320’s, the Black Death emerged from the Gobi desert north of China. The disease spread along trade routes like wildfire, and by 1347 it had reached most of Europe. The pandemic had devastating effects, one-third of Europe’s population alone, died from the disease, along with millions more in Central and Eastern Asia. But the plague had other effects too, besides population loss. It led to persecution of the Jews, who were blamed for the disease by Christians, and loosened the power of the aristocracy in Europe, who were ravaged by the disease. In short, Silk Road trade also impacted world history from 600 to 1850 C.E. by spreading disease (Knox, History of Western Civilization).
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The second important Afro-Eurasian trade network, trans-Saharan trade, brought Islam into West Africa, thereby introducing writing, enriching education and business, and causing a shift in political structures. After the death of Mohammed in 632 C.E., the followers of Islam expanded immensely, and by 750 they controlled a vast territory in the middle of the Eurasian continent, as well as Egypt and areas on the Northern border of the Sahara. These Muslims brought salt from the Sahara on camels to the Mali Empire in West Africa in exchange for gold from the Niger River. This resulted in the spread of Islam into sub-Saharan Africa. As cited by Robert B. Marks in his The origins of the modern world: a global and ecological narrative from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century, “after the exploration of Islam across the Mediterranean in the seventh century, all of the African empires that traded north across the Sahara converted to Islam between the tenth and twelfth centuries C.E.” (Marks, 55). Islam drastically impacted West Africa, in aspects both constructive and destructive (Marks).
Islam impacted West Africa constructively by introducing writing. Prior to the introduction of Islam, language in West Africa was exclusively spoken. Writing enriched culture, education, and business. This is epitomized by the city of Timbuktu in what is now modern day Mali. The location of Timbuktu along the Niger made it an important stop for the salt caravans coming from the Sahara. As a consequence it became a center for trade. Because of the significant amount of trade that passed through Timbuktu, the influence of Muslim merchants was immense. Through study of the Qur’an people learned how to read and write, and even today Timbuktu has a one hundred percent literacy rate. As the city grew from the riches of trade, it became an important center for Muslim culture. Many mosques were constructed under emperor Mansa Musa, known for his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 (“Timbuktu,” Encyclopedia Britannica). Additionally, more than one hundred Muslim schools were established (Marks, 55). However, not all of the effects of trade were positive in West Africa (Reader).
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The adoption of Islam and thriving trans-Saharan trade had negative effects as well, such as the replacement of gerontocratic government with centralized rule by an elite class, and the rise of slavery. John Reader adequately describes this in Africa: a biography of the continent as “…the centralization of authority and the exercise of coercive power by a ruling elite” (Reader, 279). Previous to large-scale trans-Saharan trade, societies in sub-Saharan Africa followed the age-grade system: a political structure that distributed power based on age and sex. Since age is not constant, this meant that each person gained or lost responsibilities and influence progressively as they aged. This strategy prevented abusive rule by societal elites. Large-scale trans-Saharan trade, however, completely uprooted this system. With resources comes power, therefore when merchants and other individuals who participated in trade became wealthier than others, they also become more powerful. Since this was not restricted by age, it meant that the elders no longer held authority. Instead, a ruling group of elites emerged, disrupting the equality imposed by the age-grade system (Reader).
This political shift simultaneously gave rise to slavery. The powerful new group of traders discovered that they could obtain wealth not just from trading gold and other resources, but also the laborers who transported it. With the sharp power-divide created by the downfall of the age-grade system, these workers had no means by which to refuse. Additionally fueling the rise of slavery was the fact that land was not owned privately in Africa. Therefore, the control of labor constituted wealth. In contrast, control of land was the basis for wealth in Europe, China, and India. In short, trans-Saharan trade disrupted the age-grade system, allowing for the slave trade controlled by the wealthy elite, which was stimulated by the lack of private land ownership in Africa.
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Indian Ocean trade is the third important Afro-Eurasian trade network. It was a tremendously prosperous network, serving as a connector between China, India, and the Islamic Near and Middle East. One impact of this network was the creation of an entirely new culture on the Eastern coast of Africa: the Swahili. Around the 8th century, Arab traders from Northeast Africa began to incorporate harbors farther down the coast of Africa into the Indian Ocean trade network (“Southern Africa,” Encyclopedia Britannica). Trade in these areas heightened contact between Muslim merchants and the Bantu locals, and led to intercultural marriage and breeding. The result was a new Afro-Arabic, or Swahili culture unique to the Eastern coast of Africa. This primarily Muslim culture, defined by trade, became very wealthy and successful and gave rise to many flourishing cities, such as Great Zimbabwe.
Great Zimbabwe serves as a paragon for the tremendous wealth and economic power Indian Ocean trade brought to the Swahili coast. In the words of John Reader, “Great Zimbabwe was the focal point for a substantial internal African trade” (Reader, 321). Gold, slaves, ivory, and numerous other commodities from sub-Saharan Africa flowed to Great Zimbabwe where they were exported via the Indian Ocean. In return, the city received many exotic goods, such as spices, tea, silk, and porcelain. Great Zimbabwe grew in both wealth and size. The Great Enclosure, a 244-meter long and 5-meter thick outer wall that surrounded the city, is the biggest prehistoric edifice in sub-Saharan Africa (Reader). Furthermore, strong evidence of social stratification characteristic of rich trading cities is present at Great Zimbabwe. In short, Indian Ocean trade both created the Swahili culture and facilitated its ascension to great wealth and economic power (Reader).
European sea trade was also an extremely significant part of Afro-Eurasian trade from 600 C.E. to 1850 C.E. Its main areas of impact were conflict and competition. Some of the main conflicts caused by European sea trade were the clashes between Portugal and the Swahili, the Anglo-Dutch wars, and the Opium wars. Competition for dominance of European Sea trade led to the expedition of Christopher Columbus to the New World, bringing about the fall of the Native Americans, the Atlantic Slave Trade, a global power shift to Europe, as well as the Industrial Revolution. In short, European sea trade instigated numerous conflicts, and caused competition that led to a major shift in world history.
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Throughout the 15th century, European traders were eager to get in on the prosperous trade in the Indian Ocean. However, their attempts were thwarted by the Islamic Ottoman Empire, which had arisen from Turkey to control a vast territory from Central Europe to the Middle East (“Ottoman Empire,” Encyclopedia Britannica). They therefore had to seek alternate routes, and in 1497 C.E., Portugal sent explorer Vasco da Gama to attempt to reach the Indian Ocean by rounding the Cape of Good Hope. His journey was successful, but it also spurred bloodshed. On the Swahili coast, da Gama encountered wealthy Muslim merchants, to whom the Portuguese had nothing of value. This caused tension and resulted in violence. The consequence was that Portugal had made enemies with the Swahili, who were known to possess a significant amount of wealth. After da Gama returned and shared the news, Portugal sent out to the Swahili Coast by force, seizing cities and slaughtering Muslims. Continuing to India, the Portuguese captured Calicut, sparking the European contest for control of India. In short, the desire for wealth and control of trade was overpowering, and led Portugal to decimate the Swahili people who stood in their way (Reader).
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The Anglo-Dutch Wars are another example of conflict caused by European sea trade. The first Anglo-Dutch war was started in 1652 after the English attempted to exclude the Dutch from their sea trade with the institution of the Navigation Act. Several bloody battles were fought with both sides suffering heavy losses, but in the end England’s superior navy prevailed. The war was ended by the Treaty of Westminster in 1654. That was not the last clash between the trade rivals, though, and England and the Dutch republic fought three more devastating wars in the next 100 years over sea trade routes. At the end of the fourth and final Anglo-Dutch war in 1784, England finally defeated the Dutch and secured their dominance of East-West trade in Europe (“Anglo-Dutch Wars,” Encyclopedia Britannica).
Britain would later ascend from dominating European trade to dominating world trade after bringing China to its knees during the Opium Wars. The demand for tea from China was growing, but Britain was running out of silver to pay for it. At this time, however, the British took command of India, and began to pay for their tea with Indian exports of cotton and opium. Soon, a large percent of the Chinese population was addicted to opium, and the uneven trade balance caused China to fall into debt. Because of their dire economic situation and the negative effects opium was having on its people, China eventually banned opium trade. British merchants continued to smuggle it in, though, and when China upped the enforcement on the ban, Britain resorted to violence. British ships reached China in 1840, beginning the Opium Wars. The highly advanced British navy was given little resistance from the older Chinese ships, and soon China was at Britain’s mercy. China was then forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking along with many other treaties that gave Britain the right to do whatever they wanted in China. China was in turmoil, powerless, and vulnerable to western forces. With India and China now under its control, Britain now ruled world trade (“colonialism, Western,” Encyclopedia Britannica).
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Competition for dominance in European sea trade was intense, and impacted world history drastically. In 1492 C.E., Spain tried to gain the upper hand by sending explorer Christopher Columbus to what they hoped would be India, so that Spain could reap the riches of Indian Ocean trade (“Columbus, Christopher,” Encyclopedia Britannica). Instead, he reached America, and the Columbian Exchange ensued. It gave rise to the Atlantic Slave Trade, the eradication of the Native Americans, and the shift of power to Europe that sparked the industrial revolution.
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In the New World European explorers found abundances of rich crops such as corn, potatoes, and tomatoes to export back to Europe; the only thing in their way was the Native Americans. To remove this obstacle, they traded for the crops with blankets contaminated with smallpox. This disease devastated the Native Americans, killing 95% of the population and clearing the way for Europeans. To harvest the crops required a large amount of labor however, and Europe’s solution was slaves. In what is now known as the Atlantic Slave Trade, Europe transported vast numbers of slaves from Africa to the Americas, where they were subdued by unbearable amounts of work for Europe’s benefit. And the benefit was great indeed; many of the crops became staple foods in European countries that were not rich in agriculture, such as the potato in Ireland. This caused a population boom in Europe, providing Europe with the prerequisites for the Industrial Revolution. Hence, competition for European sea trade led to the ‘discovery’ of the New World, bringing about the fall of the Native Americans and the beginning of the Atlantic Slave Trade, while providing Europe with money, power, and the prerequisites for industrialization.
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In short, Afro-Eurasian trade played a major role in world history from 600 to 1850 C.E. In the beginning, major world religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam as well as culture and new ideas such as paper, silk, and gunpowder were spread peacefully on the Silk Road. The Silk Road also facilitated the spread of deadly diseases such as the Black Death, which devastated Europe as well as led to the persecution of the Jews. Trans-Saharan trade caused the spread of Islam into West Africa, which brought writing and boosted education, culture and business. Furthermore, Trans-Saharan trade caused the vertical stratification of society in West Africa, resulting in the rise of slavery. Indian Ocean trade created an entirely new culture, the Swahili, and allowed them to become incredibly wealthy and economically powerful. European Sea trade caused conflicts, such as the murder of Swahili merchants by Portugal, the Anglo-Dutch wars, and the Opium Wars. Competition within European Sea trade led to the “discovery” of the New World, destroying the Native Americans, sprouting the Atlantic Slave Trade, and helping to spark the industrial revolution. In short, world history has been greatly shaped by Afro-Eurasian trade from 600 to 1850 C.E.

Works Cited
Foltz, Richard C. Religions of the Silk Road: overland trade and cultural exchange from
antiquity to the fifteenth century. United States of America: 1999.
Knox, E.L. Skip. The Black Death. Date Accessed 5 December 2010.
<http://www.boisestate.edu/courses/westciv/plague/&gt;
Ling, Wang. On the Invention and Use of Gunpowder and Firearms in China, Isis 1947;
37 (3/4): 160-178.
Marks, Robert B. The origins of the modern world: a global and ecological narrative
from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century. United States of America:
Rowand & Littlefield, 2007.
May, Timothy. Genghis Khan and the Mongolian Empire. Ed. William W.
Fitzhugh, Morris Rossabi, William Honeychurch. Published in conjunction with
an exhibition which is first appearing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, February-September 2009.
Reader, John. Africa: a Biography of the Continent. New York: Knopf, 1998.
Whipps, Heather. How Gunpowder Changed the World | LiveScience. Date Published 7
April 2008. Date Accessed 5 December 2010. <http://www.livescience.com/
history/080407-hs-gunpowder.html>
“colonialism, Western.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Standard Edition.
Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010.
“Columbus, Christopher.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Standard Edition.
Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010.
“Yüeh-chih.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Standard Edition.  Chicago:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010.
“Ottoman Empire.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Standard Edition.  Chicago:
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Anita Alur
Dr. Murnane
AP World History
6 February 2011
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The Second Chapter of Global Trade: From Africa to Eurasia
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Afro-Eurasian trade from 600 to 1850 CE drastically affected world history, both positively and negatively. The routes began with the Silk Road, after which trans-Saharan trade began, and later Indian Ocean trade, all of which became a part of European sea trade. Each of these routes had positive and negative effects on the surrounding nations. The cultural spread across the Silk Road shaped global development, allowing for technology, such as musical instruments and invention of paper, as well as religion and philosophy, mainly Buddhism and Islam to grow and spread. This also led to the Black Death or the spread of the bubonic plague, killing millions, along with the Mongol conquest, which destroyed many civilizations and led to human rights violations, conflict, and competition. Trans-Saharan trade, mainly the salt-for-gold trade networks spread Islam and culture, as the stopover locations for the traders transformed into libraries and mediums for cultural exchange. This did, however, also lead to conflict as the age-grade system was demolished and a class system, which included slavery, emerged within North and West Africa. Indian Ocean trade demonstrated a peaceful exchange of culture, goods, and ideas, as Great Zimbabwe acted as the major port in East Africa, importing mainly Islam and being the birthplace of the Swahili people. East Africa, however, later became the exporter of slaves, as the Arab slave trade began and African women were shipped off to Arab nations in exchange for goods. European sea trade began as the Europeans arrived in different parts of the world, hoping to place themselves in the various trading systems by incorporating competition and violence. Their dominance continued with the Spanish arrivals to the New World, and persisted as the Atlantic slave trade began. This subsequently led to conflict, including the Anglo-Dutch wars and the Opium Wars from 1839-1850. The Afro-Eurasian trading environment integrated both positive advancements with the spread of culture, as well as negative disease, conflict, and slavery spreads over the globe.
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The Silk Road began in the city of Chang An, China in 138 BC. Wu Di, a Han dynasty emperor at the time, was searching for a strategy to give the Chinese military an advantage of their nomadic opponents. He heard of a type of horses that had provided other armies with great military advantage, so he decided to send out a traveler to central Asia to gain these horses. In return for their items, Wu Di sent silk, a valuable and at that time, rare Chinese cloth. With this exchange began trade between the Chinese and the central Asians, and as their trade developed further, the routes expanded. Travelers would stop at certain places, become acquainted with the people, exchange items and eventually, these traders would go home. Over time, the Silk Road developed into a complex set of routes extending from China to Europe. By 618 AD, the Silk Road was booming with new items being exported and imported into China. Different types of people, including merchants, missionaries, and craftsmen began travelling on the Silk Road, in hopes of spreading their own cultural beliefs. With this newfound interest in globalization, the Silk Road began, expanding and advancing and setting the foundation for trading systems in the future.
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The positive effects of the Silk Road resulted from the exchange of cultural items, including language, religion, art, musical instruments, and various types of goods. The exchange began with the “heavenly horses” and silk, but was later expanded to large word-changing concepts. Silk acted as a world-changing item, and since the demand was high for the rare cloth, many people began trading various artifacts for silk. With this exchange also came the spread of ideas, such as Islam and Buddhism. Buddhism traveled from India to China and Eastern Asia along the Silk Road. Also, Islam spread from the Middle East into Africa around the same time.

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The spread of disease arose along the Silk Road with the arrival of the Mongols. The Mongols, under the rule of Kublai Khan, arrived in a newly demolished China and revitalized it. They connected the divided empire and reopened the Silk Road in 1300’s. The Silk Road had broken apart, and the Mongol arrival brought it back to life. Traders began travelling into and out of China, bringing with them disease. The bubonic plague, or Black Death had originated in China, and as traders sought out to expand their horizons and travel to Europe, the disease travelled with them, spreading more and more. The disease spread through rats and fleas, both of which ended up with the traders as they moved along the trade routes into Europe. By the 14th century, the bubonic plague had killed millions within parts of the Mongol Empire and Europe, causing a decline in East-West trade routes. An estimated one-third of the population within Europe died due to the plague between 1346 and 1351 CE, causing a major decline in European success. The economy of European and Asian nations fell as the population decreased and there was an overabundance of goods, causing prices to rise tremendously. The Black Death affected all parts of life for the people of European and Asian nations as a result of the Silk Road and the desire to trade.
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Conflict along the Silk Road increased as competition arose among the societies in Europe and Asia. Specifically, the Mongols dramatically impacted Asia and Europe through their violent conquests. They were known for having an effective and powerful army, led by Genghis Kan, which allowed them to defeat armies that outnumbered them and were more technologically advanced. By 1206 CE, the Mongols had grown to be powerful, but they were still underestimated by their nemeses, which gave them even more of an advantage during warfare. They began to violently seize nations in order to gain control of the expansive trade networks, while in the process, destroying and absorbing cultural values and institutions. They violently destroyed areas of the world, leading to damaged societies and cultural diffusion within Europe and Asia, as well as a fear towards the Mongols that gave them military advantage over people for years to come. The Mongols did, however, fall and lose their military advantage with their defeat in Baghdad in 1215 CE.
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Trans-Saharan trade networks spread technology and ideas, which shaped the African continent. The trade began with the domestication of the camel in that region and its abilities pertaining to trade. The people of surrounding the Sahara desert faced the issue of travelling across the dangerous deserts. By foot, the voyage was nearly impossible, and for years, this prevented any contact between Northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. The camel, being a means for transport, allowed travelers to move past the desert, bringing with them goods and ideas. The main trade that existed within the trans-Saharan networks was the salt-for-gold exchange. This exchange existed between the Muslims of Northern Africa and the sub-Saharan West Africans. Salt was a valuably commodity, as it was used for preservation of meats and flavor in foods, and the demand grew within West African societies. The Berbers of Northern Africa had salt to trade, while the West Africans had gold in excess amounts. This began a trading network between the two people, and along with spreading goods; it spread Islam to West Africa. The Berbers had constant contact with the Mediterranean societies, which brought Islamic influence into their culture, and their contact with the West Africans brought about Islam within their environment as well. They met at middle-places along the trade networks, such as Timbuktu in Mali, in which the Arabic language spread and Islamic libraries were created. The spread of Islamic culture to West Africa allowed for massive amounts of education to flow within cities such as Timbuktu, along with the salt and gold.
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Before contact with the Berbers and other Muslims, West Africa had possessed an age-grade system. This allowed for a peaceful environment without conflict because there were equal opportunities for people based solely on age. With the arrival of wealth because of trans-Saharan trade, the age-grade system began failing, as the distribution of wealth became uneven. During this time, the Ghana and Mali empires had became almost solely Muslim, causing an adoption of new ideas and technology. This led to the creation of slavery, as the elite Africans needed people for labor that they no longer had the young tend to. It became a system based on wealth versus the previous system based on age, as the specialization increased and the labor-intensive work still needed to be cared for. From 750 CE to 1500 CE, an estimated 10,000 Africans were annually enslaved, as more people sought to gain wealth from the trade, and thus needed agricultural and domestic work to be tended to. The education and wealth established nations and unified states within West Africa, causing the disintegration of the age-grade system and the spread of Islam.
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Indian Ocean trade continued the series of Afro-Eurasian trade networks on the Eastern Side of Africa. Since the monsoon wind patters in the Indian Ocean brought travelers right into Africa from the Middle East, many traders traveled by sea and exchanged goods with the people of Egypt and other parts of Northern and Eastern Africa. This began with the early formation of Carthage, a city in Northern Africa, formed by the Phoenicians. Because of its prime location on the Mediterranean Sea, Carthage was a strong port for many traders coming in from Europe and Asia. This allowed for the exchange of language and culture, and as this relationship between other civilizations and Carthage grew, Africa became a prime-trading region for Europe and Asia. This trade was mostly sea trade, as there were major ports on parts of the Middle East, Africa, and India. The major port within Africa was Great Zimbabwe, a city that traded both within Africa and out of Africa. Great Zimbabwe received gold, ivory, and slaves from other parts of Africa, which was then exported to other parts of the world. Islam was a major import, as Arabic traders arrived in Great Zimbabwe and brought the religion and culture with them. Also, Indian and other Asian traders brought tea and spices into Great Zimbabwe. This trade network was extremely peaceful and based on the monsoon wind patterns within the Indian Ocean. These wind patterns allowed for seasonal trade, as the traders needed to cooperate with the wind direction, and thus ended up staying at trade ports while waiting for the winds move in the direction of home. The Bantu people of Eastern Africa were soon mixing with the Islamic people, forming a new culture entirely. The Swahili people were born as a result of interracial marriage, and they had their own language and culture that adopted elements from Arab and Indian societies. The Indian Ocean trade brought about this cultural diffusion, as the stays at port cities were prolonged and people were mixing. East Africa as a result became a wealthy source of goods, as large amounts were both being imported and exported out of the major cities.
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Indian Ocean trade had positive cultural effects, but it also caused the Arab Slave trade, a massive exchange of goods for people out of East Africa. The Arab traders came via sea to East Africa for trade. Once they noticed the women present, they began a trading system in which they took East African women and sold them in marketplaces in the Arabian Peninsula. The women were used as nannies as well as sex-slaves, and if they had children, the children were brutally abused and many times castrated. Islam did not completely rule out slavery, and as more people were converting to Islam within East Africa, slavery became more prominent, and slaves also became a major export for East Africans. Although much of this slavery existed through the Indian Ocean routes, Arab slave trading was a major part of other trade networks within Africa as well. This included the trans-Saharan routes, leading from West Africa to Morocco, as many Northern African nations were Muslim and had a mainly Arabic population. This slave trade was promoted with Indian Ocean trade, as the sea routes and monsoon wind patterns were ideal for Arab-African trade.
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Indian Ocean trade attracted the Europeans, as the trade was prosperous and a major source of much of the world’s wealth at the time. The Europeans were, however, impaired, as they did not possess valuable goods that the African and Asian people desired. They did possess a different mindset of conquest and violence in order to gain wealth, which allowed them to become a part of the trade networks. Soon European nations were competing to control the Indian Ocean trade networks. They sent explorers out to gain control of the expansive and wealthy sea trade networks. The Spanish sent Christopher Columbus to find India and bring back spices and establish Spain in the Indian Ocean trade network. Through his voyages, he ended up in the Americas, creating a new location for European conquest. Columbus brought back valuable goods from the Americas, but with his voyages, he brought the small pox epidemic, killing over half of the Native American population. This was an indirect effect of Afro-Eurasian trade, because the Europeans sought to become a part of the sea trading networks, and this brought Columbus to the New World. Although Columbus did not make it to Africa and Asia, a Portuguese explorer named Vasco Da Gamma was successful in doing so. Da Gamma led a voyage to accomplish the same as the Spanish, in becoming a part of or controlling the Indian Ocean trade networks. He travelled to the Eastern coast of Africa, as well as to India in 1493 CE, and although he did not gain control of the expansive sea trade networks, he proved to other Europeans that the voyage was possible. Indian Ocean trade not only made Africa and Asia reachable and desired locations for travel, but also established the Americas on the global map of trade, as more voyages proceeded to the New World after Columbus.
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The Europeans began to compete more and more for control over the various trade routes. This led to a series of conflicts between various groups of people, since each was trying to protect or gain more for their nation. After the Portuguese and Spanish explorers’ travels to the Indian Ocean, the Dutch began to get involved in the trade networks. They succeeded in taking control over the Indian Ocean trade networks, and soon, they were envied by their fellow European nations. In particular, the British wanted control over this network, and this began a series of wars between the British and the Dutch, known as the Anglo-Dutch wars. These wars went on from the 17th century CE into the 18th century, until the British won and established their naval power. This allowed them to ultimately gain control over the important and valuable trading ports, which then let them begin trading with the many nations within Africa and Asia.
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The British also gained control over the New World after their success in the Anglo-Dutch wars, giving them a source for goods for Eurasian trade. Although the British had control, they did not have a suitable environment for trade, as their nation did not possess any desirable goods. They needed to trade, and thus began expeditions within the New World to find valuables. The Spanish had discovered large amounts of silver within the New World, which they then shipped back to Europe and began trading. The British began cultivating silver within the New World, although they did not have large amounts of it. They received tea in return for the silver that they gave to the Chinese, resulting in many British people becoming addicted to the stimulant in the tea. They needed to continue trading silver for tea, as the demand for both items was high, but as their ability to control the New World decreased, the British realized that they needed to find a substitute for silver. They gained control of parts of India, and in 1773, they had control over a major opium industry. They imported opium from India and then traded it with the Chinese, who became addicted. The Chinese government was enraged by the massive population’s addiction and thus closed its doors to the British for any more trade. The British then began the Opium Wars, or a battle between the Chinese and the British in order to force them to reopen China to British trade. After a single battle, the Chinese were defeated, resulting in the Treaty of Nanking to be signed in 1842 by both parties. This allowed the trade to continue between both nations, established the British as more powerful than before.
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Before the Opium Wars, the British explored the Americas to find more resources. In order to do so, however, they needed laborers. The Atlantic Slave trade thus began, as the British travelled to Africa and traded rum for slaves. They then brought the slaves back to the Americas and assigned them to labor-intensive work including weaving cotton into textiles, digging silver, and working at sugar plantations. Africans were given the menial work and forced into slavery by the British, which increased their success and productivity, but subsequently decreased any progress that the African nations had already been making. The British henceforth created a dominant and strong empire as a result of the Afro-Eurasian trade surrounding them.
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Afro-Eurasian drastically affected all the nations and groups of people that it included. In many ways, it was a positive exchange, as goods such as silk, musical instruments, religion, culture, and philosophy spread. It assisted the spread of Islam to Africa and the spread of Buddhism to other parts of Asia. With the exchange came the creation of libraries, as literacy and knowledge became a major commodity. Cultural diffusion ensued in areas that had excessive amounts of travelers arriving, as in the case of the Swahili people. In many situations, the trade was positive for the nations that it affected. It did, however, lead to wars and competition amongst groups, in the case of the Chinese and British, the Dutch and British, and the fight to gain control of the New World. Slavery also resulted in many forms, as the Arabs forcibly imported African women for their needs, and the Atlantic Slave trade began. Hierarchies within Africa formed with the arrival of Islam, also resulting in more slavery within the smaller societies. The effects of the Afro-Eurasian networks encompassed good and bad, as they impacted the world.
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Works Cited

http://www.ess.uci.edu/~oliver/silk.html

“The Islamic World, 600–1500 CE.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2010.
“East Meets West: The Silk Road (Overview).” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2010.
“Carthage.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.
“The Black Death (Overview).” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.
Stockdale, Nancy. “The Mongol Conquests: Need To Know.” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/CHING/OPIUM.HTM

http://www.zkea.com/archives/archive01002.html

http://www.boisestate.edu/courses/westciv/plague/

http://www.gilderlehrman.org/historynow/06_2007/historian2.php

http://sheikyermami.com/2009/08/13/the-arab-slave-trade/

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1497degama.html

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Elena Stamatakos
World History AP
Dr. Murnane
November 27, 2007

Positive and Negative Impacts of Afro-Eurasian Trade
From 1000 to 1850 C.E.

Afro-Eurasian trade networks had both beneficial and detrimental effects on the world from 1000 to 1850 C.E. Trade along the Silk Road, trans-Sahara trade, the Indian Ocean trade, and European sea trade all had impact on the world during this time. Trade along these routes resulted in cultural diffusion, the spread of religions, and the development and discovery of many societies. However, these trade networks also led to the spread of disease, conflict, and the loss of certain cultures. The Silk Road aided the spread of Buddhism and cultural diffusion, while also spreading the bubonic plague. Merchants trading along the trans-Sahara network spread Islam to West Africa, and allowed new empires to replace gerontocracy. The spread of Islam, the birth of Swahili Culture, and the rise of East Africa were results of Indian Ocean trade. Europeans then took control of Indian Ocean trade and expanded its reach to Europe. In the following centuries the discovery of the new world, Portuguese assaults on East Africa, the Anglo-Dutch, and the Opium Wars ensued. Europeans copied small-scale slave trade in the Indian Ocean and the Sahara and created the Atlantic Slave Trade. In summary, these positive and negative impacts were made on the world due to Afro-Eurasian trade.

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Impacts made by the Silk Road inadvertently occurred because of difficulties China had with the Xiongnu, or the Huns. The problematic Xiongnu caused the Han emperor Wu Di to seek military alliances with the neighboring Yuezhi. The ambassador, Zhian Quian, failed to create an alliance, but he managed to establish trade for the Yuezhi’s talented “Heavenly Horses”. With the help of these horses, China defeated their enemies. The new expanse of China’s empire allowed safe travel between East and West. Merchants traveled this corridor and the Silk Road was eventually established. China’s attempt to form an alliance with the Yuezhi led to trade between the two societies, which eventually led to trade across continents.
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The spread of Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism is one of the most profound ways the Silk Road impacted the world. Christianity reached China but gained few converts, but enough to build centers of worship and create depictions of Jesus. Islam spread into China and gained the most Asian converts in the 7th century. But Buddhism had the largest impact on China out of all other religions. Buddhism became the most popular religion in China, mostly because of Suang Zuang. Suang Zuang traveled all the way to India to gather a multitude of Buddhist sutras to translate. Because of his efforts, Buddhism become accessible to the Chinese and gained popularity.
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Food, music, and ideas were also spread with the help of Silk Road trade. Watermelons, pomegranates, sesame, and carrots are all foods that spread to multiple regions due to the increased trade. Styles of music and dance helped shape each other through cultural contact. Indian and Chinese dance are extremely similar, making it likely that they influenced one another. The Ney and the Tabula are two instruments used during this period that influenced music in new cultures. Other sources of entertainment spread via the Silk Road such as the sport polo, a Court favorite, and the circus from Persia, which is depicted in many Chinese tapestries. Gunpowder, the concept of the decimal, Astronomy, and the compass are other innovations passed among cultures as a result of trade. Cultural crossover occurred on many levels due to the Silk Road.
This cultural diffusion could not last forever, and Chinese politics eventually failed. A new era then arose known as “Pax Mongolica” in the 13th century. Under the strong rule of Kublai Khan an Asia empire was established and peaceful Silk Road trade was revived. This popular travel route then became a super highway for disease. The bubonic plague was carried by fleas living on rodents and horses, and came in contact with large numbers of other animals and humans. By the 14th century, fatalities had reached the millions. Europe and Asia each lost from one-fourth to two-thirds of their populations, and Africa and the Middle East were also affected. Persecution of Jews, Lepers, women, and many other minorities resulted as a way to find blame for the Black Death. The most negative effect of Silk Road trade was the devastation caused by the spread of this devastating epidemic.
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From the 8th to the 16th centuries, salt for gold trade across the Sahara, spread Islam to West Africa. The river societies in West Africa needed salt for themselves and their livestock, but had plenty of gold for which they had no use. The Berber traders from the Sahara had plenty of salt and wanted gold to trade for food with Mediterranean societies. Trade was established and salt was exchanged for gold ounce for ounce. With the constant Muslim contact from the Berbers, Islam gained converts in West Africa. The Africans adopted Arabic religion, language, and knowledge. Education increased and the city of Timbuktu has a 100% literacy rate even today. Trans-Saharan trade completely changed the culture and lifestyle of West Africa.
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Previous to heavy Muslim contact, gerontocracy was present in the river societies of West Africa.  Age-grade systems provided these societies with work forces and ruling elites based on age groups, not lineage or wealth. The new wealth brought in by the salt for gold trade caused surpluses and social stratification. A new lifestyle took over and gerontocracy began to disintegrate. In the wake of the age-grade system, the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires rose to power. The Ghana Empire reached its peak at the 11th century as a major center for trade and grew extremely rich. But overtaxing, overpopulation, and conflict with the Almoravids caused strain and the empire fell. In the 13th century, the emperor Sundiata unified much of West Africa and the Mali Empire was formed. At its height, Mali was a center of learning and trade. Mansa Musa helped establish this by making a famous hajj to Mecca and bringing attention to West African goods. Education was offered to all citizens and women held some government positions. However disagreement on the succession of the Mali ruler led to the destruction of the empire. Next came the Songhai Empire, which stretched all the way to the Atlantic Ocean and prospered through trade. Though this empire also fell due to civil wars. Gerontocracy was replaced by prosperous unified states due to trans-Sahara trade.
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Trade on the other side of Africa, with the Indian Ocean merchants also caused the spread of Islam and brought about the creation of a new culture. Trade between the Middle East, and Africa spread Islam into the Swahili coast. The elite were attracted to Islam for the justification it could give their rule. Others living along the coast followed suit. The large-scale conversion to Islam can be seen today in the large percentage of Muslims in Africa. The adoption of the Muslim lifestyle led to the creation of a new culture. The Bantu and the Islamic people meshed and interracial marriages became popular. Hindi influenced this new culture as well, through contact with Asian traders. This new mix of cultures, known as Swahili, became very prominent. A language, a lifestyle, and an entire new culture and race of people were created.
This new culture, led the rise of East Africa as an economical and mercantile power. Swahili traders grew in number in trading ports all over the Eastern African coast. Coastal cities such as Sofalia and Mombasa became more and more prosperous due to trade in the Indian Ocean. Slaves, gold, ivory, and other luxuries from Great Zimbabwe were exported. Africa received spices, tea, silk, and porcelain in exchange. The vast amounts of wealth pouring into the Swahili coast caused East Africa to become a major center for trade and an economic power. In short, wealthy Indian Ocean trade led to the rise of the Swahili Coast.
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This wealthy Indian Ocean trade was extremely attractive to European countries, which inadvertently caused the discovery of the New World and conflict between Portugal and Africa. European countries were hungry for riches, and when they discovered the thriving trade between Asia, and Africa they wanted a share of the wealth. Soon there was competition to find and control the fastest route to Asia between European states. The Spanish sent Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic in search of a direct western route to Asia. Instead he found the new world, or the Americas. Not only was the native population decimated by disease and conflict with the Europeans, but Europe settled and soon controlled the Americas. The Portuguese went around the coast of Africa and were surprised to find the affluent Swahili Coast. The Portuguese wanted this wealth and Vasco De Gamma pillaged seaports in East Africa. Though he failed to secure control over the Indian Ocean trade. The conflict between Portugal and Africa, and the discovery of the Americas were direct effects of European sea trade.
After the Spanish and Portuguese failed, the Dutch took control of the Indian Ocean. The Dutch captured many Portuguese settlements in Asia and Africa and became extremely affluent from the spice trade they controlled. England also wanted to control this trade. In the 17th century, the English and the Dutch were at war for control of trade in Asia. After two wars in a thirty-year period, the English were victorious. England became a major mercantile power in Asia due to the Anglo-Dutch wars over European sea trade.
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Britain controlled trade with Asia and in the Indian Ocean with little competition until the 19th century. England and China had healthy silver for tea trade until England ran out of silver. The precious metal was replaced with opium. The Chinese grew addicted to opium and soon opium for tea trade was parasitic for China. China banned the importation of opium, but Britain wouldn’t stand for that. In one battle, the Chinese navy was destroyed. The Treaty of Nanking was drawn and England was awarded control of Beijing. Britain had finally won a permanent foothold in the East. England’s desire for complete control of European sea trade resulted in the opium wars and English dominance in the East.
Another major impact made by European maritime trade was the Atlantic slave trade. Slaves were traded across the Sahara and in the Indian Ocean on a small-scale. This set precedence for Europans and soon large-scale slave trade was occurring. Slave labor wasn’t needed in Europe, so the slaves were sent across the Atlantic to the Americas. African slaves were used for everything from plantation farming of cotton and sugar, to managing household tasks. Millions of Africans were forcefully taken from their homes in Africa and shipped across the Atlantic. This left Africa with population shortages, setting back any progress they were making. European sea trade effected Africa on a huge level by initiating the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
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There were many global changes as a result of Afro-Eurasian trade. The Silk Road set back advancements in Europe, Asia, and Africa by spreading the devastating bubonic plague. Buddhism and other cultural aspects were shared through this East-West trade route. Islam became the dominant religion in Africa due to Trans-Sahara trade. Salt for gold trade would also cause the fall of gerontocracy and the rise of the Sahelian empires. Indian Ocean trade also spread Islam, which caused the birth of the Swahili culture. The rise of East Africa as a power was also an effect of Indian Ocean trade. European sea trade had some of the biggest and most negative impacts on the world. Vasco De Gamma ended the reign of the Swahili coast as a trading power. Columbus discovered new continents and societies, decimating populations and vastly altering the course of history. The Anglo-Dutch wars and the Opium wars caused conflict between many countries and altered the balance of power in the world. Precedents set by Indian Ocean and Saharan slave trade caused the birth of Atlantic slave trade affecting the history of the Americas and of Africa. Enormous beneficial and detrimental impact was made on the world because of Afro-Eurasian trade networks.

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