Main Trade Routes: The Silk Road

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Main Trade Routes:
The Silk Road

  • Caravan routes connecting China and the Middle East across Central Asia and Iran

  • Reason for Silk Road: 1) Chinese eagerness for western products, especially horses, and 2) the organized Parthian state

  • What was exchanged: crops, religion, ideas, technology

  • Pastoral nomads provided animals, animal handlers, and protection

    • Called the Scythians

  • The Sassanid Empire defeated the Parthians and used Silk Road as avenue for the transfer of religious ideas

  • The Arab Pastoralists supplied camels and guides for the extension of the Silk Road from Euphrates River to the Mediterranean

    • Transformed the transportation economy of the Middle East—camel saddle

  • Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Buddhism spread

The Indian Ocean Maritime System

  • A network of seaports, trade routes, and maritime culture linking countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean from Africa to Indonesia

  • In contrast to Mediterranean boats, used: triangular lateen sails, ships were pierced, and tied together, and there normally was no rowing

  • The traders of the Indian Ocean rarely retained political ties with homeland—distances were greater and contacts less frequent than Mediterranean

  • Traded variety of highly valued products

  • A rich cultural diversity came from men having many wives in different ports—bring with them their culture and religion and pass it to their wife.

    • Produced multicultural, bilingual children

Trans-Saharan Caravan Routes

  • Trading network linking North Africa with sub-Saharan Africa across the Sahara

  • Saharan Trade relates with the spread of animal domestication—supporting evidence comes from the rock art

  • Trade between the two different trading systems developed slowly

  • Native men in the Sahel played the role of the middlemen

The Columbian Exchange

  • The transfer of peoples, animals, plants, and diseases between the New and Old worlds

  • The new world crops revolutionized agriculture and diet in Europe (maize, potatoes, manioc)

  • The disease that spread killed the native populations because of their long isolation and little exposure

  • European livestock had dramatic effect on new world—especially horses

The Atlantic Circuit

  • Clockwise network of sea routes that connect Europe, Africa, and the Americas

  • Goal was to make a profit on each leg of the journey

  • The middle passage: transpiration of enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas


Textiles, guns, metlas




Plantation goods: Sugar, tobacco, silver

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