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When globalization actually began – The New York Occasions


When globalization actually began – The New York Occasions


As explorers connected the world – and globalization began
From Valerie Hansen

In the year 1000 the world was on the move. Traders and pilgrims sailed across the Indian Ocean, to and from East Africa, Arabia, India and China. Slaves were marched from Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa to Constantinople, Baghdad and Cairo. The Maya of the Yucatán Peninsula traveled as far as the Mississippi Valley and south to Colombia. And then, on the most significant voyage of the era, the Vikings sailed to Canada, connected those trade routes, and created a circumnavigation of the world. Globalization, argues Valerie Hansen in her fascinating new book “The Year 1000”, has begun.

Today in the West we tend to believe that the world was not connected until the late 14th and 16th centuries, when Europeans sailed to America and around the Cape of Good Hope, and that it wasn’t until the 20th century that globalization developed . But, as Hansen shows, the Europeans only used the existing trade routes, and when they dared, they dared globalization with all its advantages and disadvantages – cultural exchange and conflict, winners and losers, technological growth and loss of tradition – was already in full swing . One of the book’s surprises is its demonstration of how much life in the early 1000s resembled that of the 21st century. At that time a citizen from Quanzhou, China, could buy sandalwood tables from Java, ivory ornaments from Africa and amber bottles from the Baltic States; attend Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist services; and if you are well educated, read a Japanese novel or the latest writings of Islamic scholars.

Hansen, Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale University, where she teaches Chinese and world history, draws on nearly 30 years of research to make her case. She has examined contemporary records, travelogues, art, artifacts, and more, and consulted with archaeologists, Arab scholars, and other experts around the world to paint the most comprehensive intercultural picture possible.

Religion played a strikingly central role in the early years of globalization. Hansen shows time and again that leaders converted their peoples to the religion of a more powerful neighbor in the hopes of gaining commercial and political advantage. These conversions had little to do with faith and all with pragmatism, and resulted in the demise of some minor religions (such as Manichaeism in Persia) and the explosive growth of others that still reverberate today. Hansen writes: “We live in a world that was shaped by the interactions of the world in the year 1000: 92 percent of today’s believers belong to one of the four religions that gained in importance at that time.”


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