Friday, September 25, 2009

Blog 3/ Trade Routes

In this weeks reading of Janet Abu-Lughod's novel, Before European Hegemony, he clearly states that the location of a major world system can directly affect its outcome in trade. The main focus of our reading is trade between the Middle East, the Red Sea,the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. Trading by sea was a main technique in the 13th and 14th centuries, and still is today. It is a very productive way of transporting goods from one place to another. Although, when modern ships and technology were not around there were obstacles that had to be avoided. When the different bodies of water first began trading with each other there was not definite hegemony and each worked together peacefully. Then competition started to rise between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The Persian Gulf was unable to maintain its power in the trade system, although it had a better body of water consisting of calmer seas. The gulf was unable to keep its power due to economic deficiencies which allowed for other regions to take control.Egypt was one of the powerhouses that took advantage of the fall of the Persian Gulf and in tern strived off trade. Even though this did occur Baghdad was still the main center of trade and still occupied the majority of trade route between the Middle East and Europe. Even though the Middle East was not very fond of Europe at the time, due to wars, they still needed their trade to survive and continue flourishing.
The weather also played a very big part on trade. The location alone is a key fact in any trade system but when you're dealing with bodies of water it becomes a completely different standard. Each exchange between the Middle East and Europe through any sea had to be thoroughly planned out and equipped with the right materials for a safe arrival. The seas were not always calm enough for travelers to make it across safely and the weather did not always agree. There were many times where strong winds would wreck a trading ship and cause destruction. This would cost a lot more money than most people who were exporting would want to spend during that time.
I thought it was interesting how the weather could affect the trade system and ones power with in it. It never really occurred to me that there were such problems with high winds and rough seas because you do not hear much about travel issues like that today. Also, i find it funny how each different section of the world it going through its own time at being a hegemony. Looking towards today, and thinking about that now makes me wonder what will happen in future years to come and who will the hegemony be?


  1. I agree with your thought on the hegemonies. It is very interesting traveling around the world to see the rise and falls of some very big powers.
    Something always occurs causing the falls of these hegemonies. Unfortunately for India, they never got too big to begin with. Their trade was always good but the 'world power' status was never truly present.

    I think you had a very accurate description and summarization of the part of the book.

  2. Weather has had a surprisingly large impact on past societies. Monsoons where the reason the mongols failed to capture Japan. As a result Japan has remained homogeneous and self-sufficient.
    I think it is difficult in this type of world system to determine a hegemony. Trade systems are so intricate and world wide I believe there are many players in the world system who can be considered hegemonies.

  3. I agree with Sean that today's world system is so intricate it would be impossible to choose a single hegemon. During the middle of the 20th century, we could probably argue that the United States had global hegemony. After winning WWII, there simply were no other powers that could compete with us militarily, or industrially. Almost all of Europe was in a long rebuilding process, and the Soviets, despite their best efforts simply were not as advanced as the Americans. Look at the Security Council of the United Nations, of the five permanent members(China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US), we have long been dominant. However, over the last half-century we've definitely seen a decline in United States world power. We've gone from the most dominant world power, to one of many competitors in today's international market. America's agricultural superiority has declined as many American farmers find more lucrative careers, and rising nations such as China and India have taken over the industrial areas we used to dominate. But don't get me wrong, America is still one of the most powerful countries in the world, our influence in global politics is still impressive, we just have a little more competition than we're used to.