History of Globalization

A long, long time ago…

If we define globalization as a process which makes the world a smaller place by connecting countries and continents it is difficult to say when this process started. Humans have always been wanderers, which made them populate all the continents ( well not Antartica …) already tens of thousands of years ago. Take as an example the colonization of North America from Asia via the dry Bering Street during the ice ages some 30000 years ago.

Trade has also been a major and early reason for crossing huge distances. One of the more famous examples for trade routes is the Silk Road in Asia which has been a path for traders and merchants, soldiers and pilgrims for almost three thousands years.

Please note that a trade route works always as an exchange route for ideas, too, involving all aspects of culture from fashion to literature and music and including technology, political views or even religious systems.

A very complete article on the Silk Road can be read via this link: “The Silk Road” by Oliver Wild.

When you start to think about globalization like we did in course 12GK with our timeline  including so seemingly far fetched events like the first humans leaving Africa or the empire of Dhengis Khan you can come to the conclusion that everything somehow is part of the globalization process. Perhaps a better way to put it is that very many things can be looked at from the angle of globalization.

Thomas Friedman’s view on globalization has not been the same and has developed since his first book on globalization. Where he nowadays speaks about the way from “globalization 1.0” to “globalization 3.0“, his views at the beginning proposed that

“globalization is not simply a trend or fad but is, rather, an international system. It is the system that has replaced the old Cold War system, and, like that Cold War System, globalization has its own rules and logic that today directly or indirectly influence the politics, environment, geopolitics and economics of virtually every country in the world.”

from: Th.L. Friedman “The Lexus and the Olive Tree.” / found on the Wikipedia site about Friedman’s book.

In this book  of 1999 Friedman also showed a view that was not purely optimistic when he saw the world involved in two fights with seemingly different goals:

” […] the drive for prosperity and development […] and the desire to retain identity and traditions […]”

(same source as above)

I wouldn’t want to take these thoughts to far. I only want to point out that chosing different aspects of globalization leads to different views on the history of gloabalization.

The aspect of technological development

The aspect of technological development is the easiest one to understand. In terms of making the world a smaller place everything that allows humans to simply reach a certain place somewhere in the world is a tool of globalization, everything that lets us go faster from one place to another is such a tool, too. From that point of view the domestication of the horse was a step towards globalization, as well as the invention of the wheel.

Yet nobody (with some exceptions) would consider to walk or ride around the world on horseback. This is definitely true if you are a merchant and want the goods you had your representatives buy in some distant country return to you in your lifetime, so that you will make some profit from your investments. Also a message carried around the world on horsback will usually take too long, even for a private person.

There are always exceptions. Look at the story of the legendary Pony Express, which established a very fast transcontinental mail service in the USA from 1860 to 1861. If you start to look for more examples, you will find a lot.

Notice that with the above mentioned example we find ourselves already a long time after the date which Friedman symbolically gives for the start of “globalization 1.0” – Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492.

to be continued …