As farming societies around the world grew into cities, people became more connected—to other city folks, to the farmers outside the city, and even to people in other cities as larger networks began to enable long distance trade. In Rome, a passion for silk clothing made by people in China five thousand miles away helped create the “Silk Road”. It wasn’t just cloth that traveled on it—people, ideas, beliefs, and knowledge now spread faster and farther than ever before.
Driving Question: Why is trading necessary, and how does trade change societies?
- Trade, or commerce, is the exchange of goods and services. Throughout this period, the scale of trade mostly grew.
- There are two major trade routes in Era 3 that span thousands of miles. The first, called the Silk Road, is the name of a whole bunch of connected routes that spanned across Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The other is the Meso-American trade route, which included parts of modern-day Mexico and central America where Native Americans had developed complex societies before the arrival of Europeans.
Word of the Day: Afro-Eurasia
- Definition: The largest landmass in the world, which includes: Africa, Europe, and Asia.
- This is important to study because many of the societies spanning across it – African, European, and Asian – were in contact with each other quite early. The largest trading route in the ancient world – the Silk Route – went mainly from East to West across this landmass. This meant some people in these places had access to goods and ideas from many other societies across large distances.
- Read: “Regional Trade Networks, 1000 BCE – 1 CE”
- Optional: Watch the video Crash Course World History: The Silk Road and Ancient Trade
- As you read this text, think about how these trade networks grew, and see if you can spot the impact they had on societies involved.
Historian’s Journal Prompt
- When considering the impact of COVID-19, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being part of a long-distance trading network today?
- Think about the spread of COVID-19 and its relationship to trade networks in today’s globalized economy. Everyone loves free one-day shipping on the stuff you buy online, but are the risks worth the benefits?