Thursday, September 10, 2009

The World System- A.D. 1250-1350

In the first two chapters of Abu-Lughod’s “Before European Hegemony” she talks about the World System of trade from 1200-1300. In this trade most goods were exchanged from Periphery countries to the Core countries. She talks about the different levels of countries and how they interact with each other. The Core countries were the ones that were most developed and that had already attained domination status over other countries. The semi-periphery level was made up of the countries in the middle that are not the most powerful but that did have some power over other countries. The lowest level was made up of the periphery countries. They were generally undeveloped and had high rates of exportation. This system was also called the Pax Mongolica and the major participants were India, China, Middle East and Europe. However, this trade was before Europe claimed all of its glory and had years of domination. Instead of talking about all of Europe’s accomplishments like most historians and writers Abu-Lughod started before the European era. In fact, at this time Europe was still a baby player in the trading game. Abu-Lughod describes to us that unlike now there were no strong dominating forces in the World Trading system.

I think an interesting comparison can be made with the World trading system we have to day and the Pax Mongolica system used in the 1200-1300 hundreds with the types of merchandise that was traded. Now we trade things that are fast and easy to make and that generally serve a productive purpose of some kind. In the twenty first century I think that the most successful traders are ones that can deliver fast. Where as, the items that were traded in the Pax Mongolica system were mostly superficial like beautiful rugs and tapestries, incense, gold, etc. Not only were the actual items different but the attitude was too. Speed was not the main concern; sometimes it took years for deals to be made in this time. At that time it was quality over speed. And considering the rate of time each transaction took I am impressed with the success system of trade. Even though compared to now this trade was rather small, without it we would have suffered. This trade made the initial connections and established relationships and trade routes.

I would have liked Abu-Lughod to go deeper into the issues surrounding the Black Death. She stated that the main problem was that it changed the way things were exchanged but it seems to me that there must have been much more serious problems. And if there was not if she could explain why. Was it because Europe was not a dominating player yet and one of the places that suffered the most and therefore it did not have a lasting effect on the actual trade? It makes sense to me that technology advancements were a factor in the end of the pax Monglolica trading system because any country would be left in the dust that did not conform. But I would think that the Black Death would also have played a major role.

--Dorothy "Bunny" Smith,

1 comment:

  1. I agree with what you said about the quality of the trading system of the time. Because it took so long for goods to reach from point a to point b there is a certain sense that the goods had to be of exceptional quality or the trade between certain areas, and perhaps the entire system, would have collapsed. Unfortunately, as trading progressed and new technology became available people found it increasingly easy to make massive amounts of goods to send out to and increasingly demanding population. This may have resulted in the decline in quality. As trade became less personal through speedier transactions so did the goods.

    As for what you mentioned about the Black Death and other factors of the change in trade, I believe that the Plague simply drew the world's attention away from the fact that trade was becoming less personal. Technology was shifting, people's interests and ideas were shifting, and therefore trade was changing. The Black Death shifted the world's attention inward as they attempted to deal with their problems at home. By the time the plague subsided, the time to rebuild meant a near complete change from the previous trade model.