Most of you may be under a perception that globalization is a modern phenomenon. But reality is altogether different. Globalization was even during the days of the Indus Valley Civilization, as various artifacts from the excavation sites prove. However, the pace and degree of globalization has become much more intense than earlier eras.
The Silk Route is a good proof of globalization present during the medieval period. The trade route which linked China to the western world and to other countries is called Silk Route. There were many Silk Routes. Some of them passed through the land while some of them passed through the oceans. The Silk Routes existed before the Christian Era, and persisted till the fifteenth century. The Silk Route facilitated movement of goods, people, culture, cuisine, philosophy, knowledge and religion. Chinese potteries travelled from China to other countries through the Silk Route. Similarly, gold and silver travelled from Europe to Asia through this route. Religions; like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism travelled to different parts of the world through the Silk Route.
Some examples of travel of food from one part of the world to another part are as follows:
Noodles travelled from China to different parts of the world. The sevian or vermicelli, which are used in India are localized form of noodle. Similarly, spaghetti of Italy is the European version of noodles.
Many common food of today; like potato, chillies, tomato, maize, soya, groundnut and sweet potatoes were introduced in Europe after Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered the American continents.
Potato brought dramatic changes for the life of people of Europe. Because of introduction of potato, the people in Europe could eat better and could live longer. The peasants of Ireland became so dependent on potato that when disease destroyed the potato crop in the mid-1840s, hundreds of thousands died due to starvation. This famine is known as Irish Famine.
The European sailors discovered the sea route to Asia and Americas in the sixteenth century. The discovery of new sea route not only helped in expanding the trade but also in European conquest over other parts of the world. America had vast reserves of minerals and there was abundant crop in this continent. The food and minerals from America transformed the lives of people in other parts of the world.
Effect of Small Pox: By the mid-sixteenth century, the Portuguese and Spanish colonization of America began in a decisive way. What is astonishing is a disease rather than arms and ammunition facilitated this conquest. The name of the disease is small pox. Europeans had been exposed to small pox and hence they had developed immunity against this disease. But the Americans had been isolated from the world and they had no immunity against small pox. When the Europeans reached there, they carried the germs of small pox along with them. The disease wiped off the whole communities in certain parts of America. And thus, the Europeans could easily get control of the Americas.
Till the nineteenth century, Europe was suffering from many problems; like poverty, diseases and religious conflicts. Many religious dissenters fled to America for the fear of prosecution. Many people also left for America to escape from poverty. Those people utilized the opportunities in America and could dramatically alter their life.
Till the eighteenth century, India and China were the richest countries of the world. But from the fifteenth century onwards, China began to restrict overseas contacts and went into isolation. Because of China’s reduced role and America’s rising importance; the centre of the world trade shifted to Europe.
The world had changed dramatically during the nineteenth century. There were changes in social, political, economic and technological factors in much complex ways during this period. The changes altered the external relations beyond recognition.
Economists identify three types of flows within international economic exchanges. These are as follows: Flow of trade, Flow of labor and Flow of capital.
Food is among the most important things needed for life. Let us see how various changes in food production facilitated globalization across the world.
Traditionally, countries liked to be self sufficient in food. But self sufficiency in food meant a low quality of life for the people of Britain. Quality food in sufficient quantity was not available in Britain.
Corn Law: During eighteenth century in Britain, there was exponential increase in demand for food because of huge growth in population. The government introduced the Corn Laws (to restrict import of corn) under pressure from the landed group. Restriction on imports resulted in steep hike in food prices in Britain. After that, the industrialists and urban dwellers forced the government to abolish the Corn Laws.
Abolition of Corn Laws resulted in cheaper imports giving tough competition to the British farm produce. Farmers left vast areas of land uncultivated because farming no longer remained profitable. Facing the problem of unemployment, people migrated to cities in search of work. Many people also migrated overseas.
As the food prices fell in Britain, demand increased. People’s income had also increased because of industrialization. Increased demand resulted in increased import of food items into Britain. Large tracts of land were cleared in Eastern Europe, America, Russia and Australia to cater to this demand.
Railway lines were laid to connect farming hubs to the ports, so that food-grains could be supplied to the ports. New habitations started coming up in agricultural hubs because of influx of workers. To facilitate these activities, capital flowed from financial centers (such as London).
The demand for workforce resulted in large scale migration of people to Americas and Australia. About 50 million people from Europe migrated to Americas and Australia during the nineteenth century. About 150 million people migrated all over the world during this period.
The example of Corn Laws shows how movement of goods, capital and people increased the scale of globalization. Thus, a global agricultural economy had taken shape by 1890s.
Technology definitely played an important role in globalizing the world economy during this period. Some of the major technological innovations were the railways, steamship and telegraph. Railways helped in connecting the hinterland to the ports. Steamships helped in transporting goods in bulk across the Atlantic. Telegraph helped in speeding up the communication and thus facilitated better economic transaction.
Trade in Meat: Trade in meat shows a very good example of benefit of technology on the life of common people. Till 1870s, live animals were shipped from America to Europe. Shipping live animals had its own problems. Live animals took more space and many animals either died or became sick during the transit. Due to this, meat remained a luxury item for most of the Europeans.
Arrival of refrigeration technology changed the picture. Now, animals could be slaughtered in America and meat could be shipped to Europe. This helped in better utilization of space in the ships. This also helped in better availability of meat for the Europeans. Prices of meat products fell as a result. Now, even the common people could afford to eat meat on a regular basis.
Better availability of food promoted social peace within the countries. People of Britain were now more receptive to imperial ambitions of the country.
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