Mediterranean Cultures Imported Asian Exotic Foods Before 1700 BC

Mediterranean Cultures Imported Asian Exotic Foods Before 1700 BC

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The remains of exotic foods, spices and oils discovered on the calculus of ancient teeth discovered around the Mediterranean have been analyzed revealing new insights into the ancient Bronze Age food trade between Asia and the Levant. Turmeric, bananas, soy and other exotic Asian foods and spices reached the Mediterranean more than 3000 years ago, according to a new paper by a team of international researchers at the University of Munich (LMU). Studying long-distance trade routes between Asia and the Levant during the Bronze Age, the team set out to discover if exotic foods were also exchanged, and they discovered that hugely distant societies were connected much earlier than previously thought.

Using Ancient Teeth From Israel To Prove Exotic Foods Trade

Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC) and Early Iron Age (starting from 1200 BC) dental calculus was gathered from the teeth of skeletons unearthed in the Southern Levant . The remains of dietary plant micro-remains and proteins in the teeth matrixes were analyzed and revealed that early Mediterranean cultures consumed exotic foods from South and East Asia during the second millennium BC, including “sesame, soybean, probable banana, and turmeric.”

Professor Philipp Stockhammer and his multidisciplinary international team of scientists analyzed the microscopic food residues found in tooth tartar to discovered ancient people in the Levant were consuming turmeric, bananas, and soy in the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. This finding, according to Stockhammer, dates the trade connection between the Near East and Middle East to “millennia, earlier than had been previously thought.”

The Megiddo archaeological site in Israel provided some of the ancient teeth that proved the Southern Levant was importing exotic foods like bananas, soy, and turmeric from South East Asia as early as 3700 years ago. (Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority )

The New Evidence For Long-Distance Trade In Exotic Foods

The results of the new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , present the earliest direct evidence to date of turmeric, banana, and soy outside of South and East Asia. The paper reports on the analysis of 16 people’s teeth from the Megiddo and Tel Erani excavations in present-day Israel (Southern Levant), which in the Bronze Age served as an important link connecting the Mediterranean, Asia and Egypt. The ancient proteins and plant microfossils found in the tooth calculus “enables us to find traces of what a person ate,” says Stockhammer, in a new discipline of analysis called “Palaeoproteomics.”

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Co-senior author of the article, Christina Warinner , a molecular archaeologist at Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History , told PNAS that this new research demonstrates “the great potential of these methods to detect foods that otherwise leave few archaeological traces. Dental calculus is such a valuable source of information about the lives of ancient peoples.” And lead author, Ashley Scott, another LMU biochemist, is quoted in Archaeology News Network as saying the new approach, “Palaeoproteomics, breaks new scientific ground.”

Dr Ianir Milevski of the Israel Antiquities Authority on site at Tel Erani, Israel. Dr Milevski was involved in the latest study on the ancient trade in exotic foods to the Southern Levant from South East Asia. (Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority )

Tracking Ancient Diets, Trade Routes With Palaeoproteomics

Palaeoproteomics involves looking at allergy-associated proteins that are related to the thermostability of many allergens, says Scott. Applying this method of analysis, the team was able to identify wheat by reading the signatures of wheat gluten proteins and then independently confirming the finding using a type of plant microfossils known as “ phytoliths.” Phytoliths were also used to identify millet and date palm in the Levant during the Bronze and Iron Ages. In the same way, sesame proteins were identified in the dental calculus from both the Megiddo and Tel Erani archaeological sites, said Scott.

In one individual’s dental calculus from Megiddo, turmeric and soy proteins were found. And at the Tel Erani site, dental calculus containing banana residue was found. Bananas are known to have been domesticated in Southeast Asia from the 5th millennium BC onward.

While hard evidence of the long-distance trade in exotic foods was presented in the new study, the extent to which these spices, oils and fruits were imported into the Levant is still unclear.

However, the team set out to clarify if the early globalization of trade networks in the 2nd millennium BC also included exotic foods. They discovered that there already existed a flourishing long-distance trade route between South Asia and the Levant via Mesopotamia or Egypt in the 2nd millennium BC.

In conclusion, the researchers confirmed that exotic fruits, spices, and oils were on the inventory lists of long-distance traders since at least the Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC).

Trade of Asia

In ancient times, regions of Asia had commercial relations among themselves as well as with parts of Europe and Africa. In the earliest days nomadic peoples traded over considerable distances, using barter as the medium of exchange. Particularly important in such trade were fine textiles, silk, gold and other metals, various precious and semiprecious stones, and spices and aromatic products. Trade between Europe and Asia expanded considerably during the Greek era (about the 4th century bce ), by which time various land routes had been well established connecting Greece, via Anatolia (Asia Minor), with the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. Further development of land and sea routes from the Mediterranean basin, especially to southern India, occurred during Roman times. This east-west trade flourished in the first four centuries ce but was subject to considerable vicissitudes in later centuries. During that period trade also expanded considerably to Southeast Asia and to China through what are now Malaysia and Cambodia.

After Spain and Portugal, in the 15th century, became interested in discovering a direct sea route to Asia—an interest that led to the European discovery of the Western Hemisphere—the era of the great circumnavigators arrived in the 16th century. Portugal was one of the first countries to attempt to establish a monopoly over the lucrative spice trade with the East, and it founded a network of trading outposts in Asia. The Spanish, meanwhile, established control over the Philippines. The Dutch and the British started similar enterprises at the beginning of the 17th century, each country establishing its own East India company. The British began by centring their activities on the Indian subcontinent and extended their control to Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Malaysia. The Dutch first concentrated on Ceylon but later expanded into and concentrated on Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia. The French were able to establish only minor footholds on the Indian subcontinent, but their 19th-century penetration of the Indochinese Peninsula was more successful. Over time these European trading companies developed into colonial empires.

The East India companies of Europe came seeking the exotic products of Asia: silks, cottons, and precious commodities such as spices and aromatic products. These products required the skilled labour of weavers and farmers or soil and climatic conditions unique to the region.

As the East India companies developed and imposed colonial rule, a new pattern of trade emerged. Generally speaking, the colonial countries became the exporters of raw materials and imported the finished products from their colonial rulers. For example, Britain ceased importing finished cotton goods from India and instead imported raw cotton to be spun and woven in the new industrial mills. Cotton cloth was then exported back to India, where indigenous weavers lost their employment. Steel products from cutlery to railway locomotives were exported to Asian countries from Europe. During that period tea and tobacco also entered into international trade, and jute became a monopoly product of the Indian subcontinent. After the British went to war with China to block Chinese efforts to ban opium imports, opium was traded legally by British merchants from India to China and was a source of tax revenue for the government of India. From the 17th to the second half of the 19th century, Japan had limited trading relations primarily with Korea and China and prohibited trade with Western countries apart from a small Dutch trading post in southern Japan.

The latter half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th constituted the heyday of colonial rule. By the first decade of the 20th century, Japan had emerged as a major military and naval power, and it gradually developed into an important trading partner with the rest of the world. The era that followed was that of the colonies’ struggle for political independence, which reached its climax immediately after World War II. Less than two decades after the end of the war, the great British, French, and Dutch empires had virtually ceased to exist in Asia.

After independence many countries in Asia sought to develop industries of their own to produce substitutes for their former imports. This happened under both socialist and nonsocialist regimes. A few countries—Japan the most notable among them—lacking natural resources but endowed with an educated labour force, opted for promoting new industrial production for export instead of import substitution. In general this strategy has paid off better, particularly for Japan and the “four tigers”—Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. At the beginning of the 21st century nearly all countries were responding to the globalization of production by promoting exports and opening domestic markets to international competition to varying degrees. Such liberalization exposed those economies to the volatility of international markets, and there were major currency collapses and episodes of capital flight in the late 1990s. Although most Asian economies had begun to recover by 2000, there was still a legacy of unemployment, poverty, and resentment for many.

The Birth of the Age of Exploration

Many nations were looking for goods such as silver and gold, but one of the biggest reasons for exploration was the desire to find a new route for the spice and silk trades.

When the Ottoman Empire took control of Constantinople in 1453, it blocked European access to the area, severely limiting trade. In addition, it also blocked access to North Africa and the Red Sea, two very important trade routes to the Far East.

The first of the journeys associated with the Age of Discovery were conducted by the Portuguese. Although the Portuguese, Spanish, Italians, and others had been plying the Mediterranean for generations, most sailors kept well within sight of land or traveled known routes between ports. Prince Henry the Navigator changed that, encouraging explorers to sail beyond the mapped routes and discover new trade routes to West Africa.

Portuguese explorers discovered the Madeira Islands in 1419 and the Azores in 1427. Over the coming decades, they would push farther south along the African coast, reaching the coast of present-day Senegal by the 1440s and the Cape of Good Hope by 1490. Less than a decade later, in 1498, Vasco da Gama would follow this route all the way to India.

What’s For Dinner? What Your Ancestors Ate Back in the Day

Your Indus Valley ancestors (3300-1300 B.C.), according to archaeologists, ate a healthy diet that contained more fruits and vegetables than meat. They did keep cows, pigs, sheep, and goats for food, and they grew dates, grapes, and melons. Their field crops included wheat and peas.

How did our diets evolve over the centuries, and what did our more recent ancestors eat?

Medieval England (5th to 15th century)

Most people in medieval times were peasants who grew, raised, or hunted their own food. Though they preferred white bread made from wheat flour, peasants usually baked bread from the rye and barley they were able to grow (wheat needed lots of manure to grow well, so only farmers and lords generally had wheat bread). After a poor harvest, peasants sometimes had to include beans, peas, or acorns in their bread, which they baked in an oven belonging to the lord of the manor that they had to pay to use they weren’t allowed to have their own ovens.

They typically ate a type of soup or stew called pottage, made from oats and sometimes including beans, peas, and vegetables such as turnips and parsnips. They kept pigs and sheep for meat and used the animals’ blood to make black pudding (a dish made from blood, milk, animal fat, and oatmeal). They occasionally had some fish and cheese, and they drank water from the river (usually dirty) and milk from cows. In the villages, people made and drank ale.

Lords ate much better, of course. Their bread was white, and there were numerous meat and fish dishes at each meal. For the evening meal, they might have pigeon pie. They regularly drank wine or ale.

Ireland before potatoes

The potato is actually Peruvian and didn’t arrive in Ireland until the late 1600s. So what did Irish people eat before that? Pity the lactose-intolerant Irishman, because much of the diet revolved around dairy. They drank milk and buttermilk, ate fresh curds, and mixed whey with water to make a sour drink called “blaand.” They flavored butter with onion and garlic and buried it in bogs for storage (and later, as the taste grew on them, possibly for flavor).

The other primary food of pre-potato Ireland was grain, mostly oats, which were made into oatcakes. Wheat, which wasn’t easy to grow in Ireland, was mostly eaten by the wealthier. People supplemented their grains and milk with occasional meat and fish grew cabbages, onions, garlic, and parsnips and ate wild greens.

[Photo credit: Shutterstock]

American Colonial Era (1600s and 1700s)

There were many small farms in the Middle Colonies, which were known as the “breadbasket colonies” because they grew so many crops, including wheat, barley, oats, rye, and corn. They also raised pumpkins, squash, and beans. In the South, crops grew year round, and there were large plantations and farms that exported corn, vegetables, grain, fruit, and livestock to other colonies. The Colonies also had access to fish and seafood, including cod, halibut, mackerel, tuna, trout, salmon, clams, oysters, lobster, and mussels. They hunted game birds as well.

Most English settlers in the Colonies ate three meals a day. Breakfast was bread or cornmeal mush and milk with tea. Dinner, the biggest meal, was generally at midday or mid-afternoon and might include one or two meats, vegetables, and a dessert. Supper in the evening was a smaller meal, more like breakfast: perhaps bread and cheese, mush or hasty pudding, or leftovers from the noon meal. For the gentry, supper was a sociable meal and might include hot food like meat or shellfish, such as oysters, in season.

There was no refrigeration, and hunting was difficult in the harsh winters, so colonists preserved food by salting, smoking, pickling, drying, and making preserves such as jams, marmalades, and syrups. Some of the herbs they used for flavoring included basil, lovage, mint, parley, sage, and dill. They drank coffee, tea, and chocolate drinks.

Frenchman C. F. Volney, speaking of America during the second half of the 18 th century, was not impressed with the food. He wrote, “I will venture to say that if a prize were proposed for the scheme of a regimen most calculated to injure the stomach, the teeth, and the health in general, no better could be invented than that of the Americans.”

U.S. Civil War (1861-1865)

Before the Civil War, most people raised vegetable gardens, kept livestock, hunted, and preserved foods. A family in the North might eat a seafood chowder or Boston baked beans cooked with molasses, while a Southern family would enjoy collard greens with cracklin’ bread (corn bread mixed with fried fat).

As the war dragged on, though, food became scarce, especially in the South (see Gone With the Wind). Soldiers on both sides ate canned beans (canned foods were just starting to be available) and bread. Both sides’ armies supplied salt pork and coffee, though after a time, the latter was hard to come by in the South. Civilians, too, had to eat what was available fresh game could not always be had, and some soldiers, themselves lacking enough food, stole food and livestock from farmhouses they came upon.

[Photo credit: Shutterstock]

Victorian England (1837-1901)

The poorest people ate mostly potatoes, bread, and cheese. Working-class folks might have had meat a couple of times a week, while the middle class ate three good meals a day. Some common foods eaten were eggs, bacon and bread, mutton, pork, potatoes, and rice. They drank milk and ate sugar and jam. This is when the English tradition of afternoon tea started. At the beginning of the Victorian period, people ate what was available locally or pickled and preserved. Later in the era, when railways were available, transport refrigeration made importing meat and fish easier.

1930s America

The Depression was on, and some people went hungry because they could not afford food. Some had work, but many people lost jobs. People ate what they grew and canned, what they could afford to buy, or what they scavenged. Some ate dandelion greens, wild berries and fruits, squirrels and gophers, and the like. Economical foods introduced during the Depression years include Spam, Kraft macaroni and cheese, Bisquick, and Ritz crackers. One study found that 20 percent of children in New York City were underweight, as were up to 90 percent in the poorest regions, such as Appalachia. Larger cities had soup kitchens where people stood in line for a free meal. This is when the U.S. government started its food stamp program.

World War II — England

Food was rationed, and people were encouraged to “Dig for Victory” and plant vegetable gardens so they would be more food self-sufficient.

In England, ration books allowed you to buy limited amounts of foods such as sugar, bacon, butter, meat, tea, jam, cheese, milk, eggs, and cooking fat. People were permitted one egg every two weeks, though this was not guaranteed, and one pound of meat per week. The cheese ration varied from one ounce per person per week up to eight ounces. As less wheat was imported, more flour was extracted from what grain there was, and the wholemeal loaf of bread that resulted, though different from the white bread people were used to, was actually healthier.

Starting in 1942, the government distributed one packet of dried egg (equivalent to 12 eggs) per person every other month. (The dried eggs made rubbery omelettes.) Bread and potatoes, which were not rationed during the war, went on ration after it, and tea continued to be rationed until 1952. All rationing finally ended in 1954, long after the war was over.


A report by archaeologist Rakesh Tewari on Lahuradewa, India shows new C14 datings that range between 9000 and 8000 BCE associated with rice, making Lahuradewa the earliest Neolithic site in entire South Asia. [1]

The prehistoric Beifudi site near Yixian in Hebei Province, China, contains relics of a culture contemporaneous with the Cishan and Xinglongwa cultures of about 8000–7000 BCE, neolithic cultures east of the Taihang Mountains, filling in an archaeological gap between the two Northern Chinese cultures. The total excavated area is more than 1,200 square meters and the collection of neolithic findings at the site consists of two phases. [2]

Around 5500 BCE the Halafian culture appeared in Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Anatolia, and northern Mesopotamia, based upon dryland agriculture.

In southern Mesopotamia were the alluvial plains of Sumer and Elam. Since there was little rainfall, irrigation systems were necessary. The Ubaid culture flourished from 5500 BCE.

Bronze Age Edit

The Chalcolithic period (or Copper Age) began about 4500 BCE, then the Bronze Age began about 3500 BCE, replacing the Neolithic cultures.

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilization (3300–1300 BCE mature period 2600–1900 BCE) which was centered mostly in the western part of the Indian Subcontinent it is considered that an early form of Hinduism was performed during this civilization. Some of the great cities of this civilization include Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, which had a high level of town planning and arts. The cause of the destruction of these regions around 1700 BCE is debatable, although evidence suggests it was caused by natural disasters (especially flooding). [3] This era marks Vedic period in India, which lasted from roughly 1500 to 500 BCE. During this period, the Sanskrit language developed and the Vedas were written, epic hymns that told tales of gods and wars. This was the basis for the Vedic religion, which would eventually sophisticate and develop into Hinduism. [4]

China and Vietnam were also centres of metalworking. Dating back to the Neolithic Age, the first bronze drums, called the Dong Son drums have been uncovered in and around the Red River Delta regions of Vietnam and Southern China. These relate to the prehistoric Dong Son Culture of Vietnam. Song Da bronze drum's surface, Dong Son culture, Vietnam

In Ban Chiang, Thailand (Southeast Asia), bronze artifacts have been discovered dating to 2100 BCE.

In Nyaunggan, Burma bronze tools have been excavated along with ceramics and stone artifacts. Dating is still currently broad (3500–500 BCE).

Iron and Axial Age Edit

The Iron Age saw the widespread use of iron tools, weaponry, and armor throughout the major civilizations of Asia.

Middle East Edit

The Achaemenid dynasty of the Persian Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great, ruled an area from Greece and Turkey to the Indus River and Central Asia during the 6th to 4th centuries BCE. Persian politics included a tolerance for other cultures, a highly centralized government, and significant infrastructure developments. Later, in Darius the Great's rule, the territories were integrated, a bureaucracy was developed, nobility were assigned military positions, tax collection was carefully organized, and spies were used to ensure the loyalty of regional officials. The primary religion of Persia at this time was Zoroastrianism, developed by the philosopher Zoroaster. It introduced an early form of monotheism to the area. The religion banned animal sacrifice and the use of intoxicants in rituals and introduced the concept of spiritual salvation through personal moral action, an end time, and both general and Particular judgment with a heaven or hell. These concepts would heavily influence later emperors and the masses. More importantly, Zoroastrianism would be an important precursor for the Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. The Persian Empire was successful in establishing peace and stability throughout the Middle East and were a major influence in art, politics (affecting Hellenistic leaders), and religion.

Alexander the Great conquered this dynasty in the 4th century BCE, creating the brief Hellenistic period. He was unable to establish stability and after his death, Persia broke into small, weak dynasties including the Seleucid Empire, followed by the Parthian Empire. By the end of the Classical age, Persia had been reconsolidated into the Sassanid Empire, also known as the second Persian Empire.

The Roman Empire would later control parts of Western Asia. The Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanid dynasties of Persia dominated Western Asia for centuries.

India Edit

The Maurya and Gupta empires are called the Golden Age of India and were marked by extensive inventions and discoveries in science, technology, art, religion, and philosophy that crystallized the elements of what is generally known as Indian culture. The religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, which began in Indian sub-continent, were an important influence on South, East and Southeast Asia.

By 600 BCE, India had been divided into 17 regional states that would occasionally feud amongst themselves. In 327 BCE, Alexander the Great came to India with a vision of conquering the whole world. He crossed northwestern India and created the province Bactria but could not move further because his army wanted to go back to their family. Shortly prior, the soldier Chandragupta Maurya began to take control of the Ganges river and soon established the Maurya Empire. The Maurya Empire (Sanskrit: मौर्य राजवंश, Maurya Rājavaṃśa) was the geographically extensive and powerful empire in ancient India, ruled by the Mauryan dynasty from 321 to 185 BCE. It was one of the world's largest empires in its time, stretching to the Himalayas in the north, what is now Assam in the east, probably beyond modern Pakistan in the west, and annexing Balochistan and much of what is now Afghanistan, at its greatest extent. South of Mauryan empire was the Tamilakam an independent country dominated by three dynasties, the Pandyans, Cholas and Cheras. The government established by Chandragupta was led by an autocratic king, who primarily relied on the military to assert his power. [5] It also applied the use of a bureaucracy and even sponsored a postal service. [5] Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka, greatly extended the empire by conquering most of modern-day India (save for the southern tip). He eventually converted to Buddhism, though, and began a peaceful life where he promoted the religion as well as humane methods throughout India. The Maurya Empire would disintegrate soon after Ashoka's death and was conquered by the Kushan invaders from the northwest, establishing the Kushan Empire. Their conversion to Buddhism caused the religion to be associated with foreigners and therefore a decline in its popularity occurred. [5]

The Kushan Empire would fall apart by 220 CE, creating more political turmoil in India. Then in 320, the Gupta Empire (Sanskrit: गुप्त राजवंश, Gupta Rājavanśha) was established and covered much of the Indian Subcontinent. Founded by Maharaja Sri-Gupta, the dynasty was the model of a classical civilization. Gupta kings united the area primarily through negotiation of local leaders and families as well as strategical intermarriage. [6] Their rule covered less land than the Maurya Empire, but established the greatest stability. [6] In 535, the empire ended when India was overrun by the Hunas.

Classical China Edit

Zhou Dynasty Edit

Since 1029 BCE, the Zhou dynasty (Chinese: 周朝 pinyin: Zhōu Cháo Wade–Giles: Chou Ch'ao [tʂóʊ tʂʰɑ̌ʊ] ), had existed in China and it would continue to until 258 BCE. [7] The Zhou dynasty had been using a feudal system by giving power to local nobility and relying on their loyalty in order to control its large territory. [7] As a result, the Chinese government at this time tended to be very decentralized and weak, and there was often little the emperor could do to resolve national issues. Nonetheless, the government was able to retain its position with the creation of the Mandate of Heaven, which could establish an emperor as divinely chosen to rule. The Zhou additionally discouraged the human sacrifice of the preceding eras and unified the Chinese language. Finally, the Zhou government encouraged settlers to move into the Yangtze River valley, thus creating the Chinese Middle Kingdom.

But by 500 BCE, its political stability began to decline due to repeated nomadic incursions [7] and internal conflict derived from the fighting princes and families. This was lessened by the many philosophical movements, starting with the life of Confucius. His philosophical writings (called Confucianism) concerning the respect of elders and of the state would later be popularly used in the Han dynasty. Additionally, Laozi's concepts of Taoism, including yin and yang and the innate duality and balance of nature and the universe, became popular throughout this period. Nevertheless, the Zhou Dynasty eventually disintegrated as the local nobles began to gain more power and their conflict devolved into the Warring States period, from 402 to 201 BCE. [8]

Qin Dynasty Edit

One leader eventually came on top, Qin Shi Huang (Chinese: 始皇帝 , Shǐ Huángdì), who overthrew the last Zhou emperor and established the Qin dynasty. [7] The Qin dynasty (Chinese: 秦朝 pinyin: Qín Cháo) was the first ruling dynasty of Imperial China, lasting from 221 to 207 BCE. [9] The new Emperor abolished the feudal system and directly appointed a bureaucracy that would rely on him for power. Huang's imperial forces crushed any regional resistance, and they furthered the Chinese empire by expanding down to the South China Sea and northern Vietnam. Greater organization brought a uniform tax system, a national census, regulated road building (and cart width), standard measurements, standard coinage, and an official written and spoken language. [10] Further reforms included new irrigation projects, the encouragement of silk manufacturing, [10] and (most famously) the beginning of the construction of the Great Wall of China—designed to keep out the nomadic raiders who'd constantly badger the Chinese people. However, Shi Huang was infamous for his tyranny, forcing laborers to build the Wall, ordering heavy taxes, and severely punishing all who opposed him. He oppressed Confucians and promoted Legalism, the idea that people were inherently evil, and that a strong, forceful government was needed to control them. Legalism was infused with realistic, logical views and rejected the pleasures of educated conversation as frivolous. All of this made Shi Huang extremely unpopular with the people. As the Qin began to weaken, various factions began to fight for control of China.

Han Dynasty Edit

The Han dynasty (simplified Chinese: 汉朝 traditional Chinese: 漢朝 pinyin: Hàn Cháo 206 BCE – 220 CE) was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms (220–265 CE). Spanning over four centuries, the period of the Han Dynasty is considered a golden age in Chinese history. One of the Han dynasty's greatest emperors, Emperor Wu of Han, established a peace throughout China comparable to the Pax Romana seen in the Mediterranean a hundred years later. [10] To this day, China's majority ethnic group refers to itself as the "Han people". The Han Dynasty was established when two peasants succeeded in rising up against Shi Huang's significantly weaker successor-son. The new Han government retained the centralization and bureaucracy of the Qin, but greatly reduced the repression seen before. They expanded their territory into Korea, Vietnam, and Central Asia, creating an even larger empire than the Qin.

The Han developed contacts with the Persian Empire in the Middle East and the Romans, through the Silk Road, with which they were able to trade many commodities—primarily silk. Many ancient civilizations were influenced by the Silk Road, which connected China, India, the Middle East and Europe. Han emperors like Wu also promoted Confucianism as the national "religion" (although it is debated by theologians as to whether it is defined as such or as a philosophy). Shrines devoted to Confucius were built and Confucian philosophy was taught to all scholars who entered the Chinese bureaucracy. The bureaucracy was further improved with the introduction of an examination system that selected scholars of high merit. These bureaucrats were often upper-class people educated in special schools, but whose power was often checked by the lower-class brought into the bureaucracy through their skill. The Chinese imperial bureaucracy was very effective and highly respected by all in the realm and would last over 2,000 years. The Han government was highly organized and it commanded the military, judicial law (which used a system of courts and strict laws), agricultural production, the economy, and the general lives of its people. The government also promoted intellectual philosophy, scientific research, and detailed historical records.

However, despite all of this impressive stability, central power began to lose control by the turn of the Common Era. As the Han Dynasty declined, many factors continued to pummel it into submission until China was left in a state of chaos. By 100 CE, philosophical activity slowed, and corruption ran rampant in the bureaucracy. Local landlords began to take control as the scholars neglected their duties, and this resulted in heavy taxation of the peasantry. Taoists began to gain significant ground and protested the decline. They started to proclaim magical powers and promised to save China with them the Taoist Yellow Turban Rebellion in 184 (led by rebels in yellow scarves) failed but was able to weaken the government. The aforementioned Huns combined with diseases killed up to half of the population and officially ended the Han dynasty by 220. The ensuing period of chaos was so terrible it lasted for three centuries, where many weak regional rulers and dynasties failed to establish order in China. This period of chaos and attempts at order is commonly known as that of the Six Dynasties. The first part of this included the Three Kingdoms which started in 220 and describes the brief and weak successor "dynasties" that followed the Han. In 265, the Jin dynasty of China was started and this soon split into two different empires in control of northwestern and southeastern China. In 420, the conquest and abdication of those two dynasties resulted in the first of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. The Northern and Southern Dynasties passed through until finally, by 557, the Northern Zhou dynasty ruled the north and the Chen dynasty ruled the south.

During this period, the Eastern world empires continued to expand through trade, migration and conquests of neighboring areas. Gunpowder was widely used as early as the 11th century and they were using moveable type printing five hundred years before Gutenberg created his press. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism were the dominant philosophies of the Far East during the Middle Ages. Marco Polo was not the first Westerner to travel to the Orient and return with amazing stories of this different culture, but his accounts published in the late 13th and early 14th centuries were the first to be widely read throughout Europe.

Western Asia (Middle East) Edit

The Arabian peninsula and the surrounding Middle East and Near East regions saw dramatic change during the Medieval era caused primarily by the spread of Islam and the establishment of the Arabian Empires.

In the 5th century, the Middle East was separated into small, weak states the two most prominent were the Sassanian Empire of the Persians in what is now Iran and Iraq, and the Byzantine Empire in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). The Byzantines and Sassanians fought with each other continually, a reflection of the rivalry between the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire seen during the previous five hundred years. The fighting weakened both states, leaving the stage open to a new power. Meanwhile, the nomadic Bedouin tribes who dominated the Arabian desert saw a period of tribal stability, greater trade networking and a familiarity with Abrahamic religions or monotheism.

While the Byzantine Roman and Sassanid Persian empires were both weakened by the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, a new power in the form of Islam grew in the Middle East under Muhammad in Medina. In a series of rapid Muslim conquests, the Rashidun army, led by the Caliphs and skilled military commanders such as Khalid ibn al-Walid, swept through most of the Middle East, taking more than half of Byzantine territory in the Arab–Byzantine wars and completely engulfing Persia in the Muslim conquest of Persia. It would be the Arab Caliphates of the Middle Ages that would first unify the entire Middle East as a distinct region and create the dominant ethnic identity that persists today. These Caliphates included the Rashidun Caliphate, Umayyad Caliphate, Abbasid Caliphate, and later the Seljuq Empire.

After Muhammad introduced Islam, it jump-started Middle Eastern culture into an Islamic Golden Age, inspiring achievements in architecture, the revival of old advances in science and technology, and the formation of a distinct way of life. Muslims saved and spread Greek advances in medicine, algebra, geometry, astronomy, anatomy, and ethics that would later finds it way back to Western Europe.

The dominance of the Arabs came to a sudden end in the mid-11th century with the arrival of the Seljuq Turks, migrating south from the Turkic homelands in Central Asia. They conquered Persia, Iraq (capturing Baghdad in 1055), Syria, Palestine, and the Hejaz. This was followed by a series of Christian Western Europe invasions. The fragmentation of the Middle East allowed joined forces, mainly from England, France, and the emerging Holy Roman Empire, to enter the region. In 1099 the knights of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem and founded the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which survived until 1187, when Saladin retook the city. Smaller crusader fiefdoms survived until 1291. In the early 13th century, a new wave of invaders, the armies of the Mongol Empire, swept through the region, sacking Baghdad in the Siege of Baghdad (1258) and advancing as far south as the border of Egypt in what became known as the Mongol conquests. The Mongols eventually retreated in 1335, but the chaos that ensued throughout the empire deposed the Seljuq Turks. In 1401, the region was further plagued by the Turko-Mongol, Timur, and his ferocious raids. By then, another group of Turks had arisen as well, the Ottomans.

Central Asia Edit

Mongol Empire Edit

The Mongol Empire conquered a large part of Asia in the 13th century, an area extending from China to Europe. Medieval Asia was the kingdom of the Khans. Never before had any person controlled as much land as Genghis Khan. He built his power unifying separate Mongol tribes before expanding his kingdom south and west. He and his grandson, Kublai Khan, controlled lands in China, Burma, Central Asia, Russia, Iran, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Estimates are that the Mongol armies reduced the population of China by nearly a third. Genghis Khan was a pagan who tolerated nearly every religion, and their culture often suffered the harshest treatment from Mongol armies. The Khan armies pushed as far west as Jerusalem before being defeated in 1260.

South Asia/Indian Subcontinent Edit

India Edit

The Indian early medieval age, 600 to 1200, is defined by regional kingdoms and cultural diversity. When Harsha of Kannauj, who ruled much of the Indo-Gangetic Plain from 606 to 647, attempted to expand southwards, he was defeated by the Chalukya ruler of the Deccan. When his successor attempted to expand eastwards, he was defeated by the Pala king of Bengal. When the Chalukyas attempted to expand southwards, they were defeated by the Pallavas from farther south, who in turn were opposed by the Pandyas and the Cholas from still farther south. The Cholas could under the rule of Raja Raja Chola defeat their rivals and rise to a regional power. Cholas expanded northward and defeated Eastern Chalukya, Kalinga and the Pala. Under Rajendra Chola the Cholas created the first notable navy of Indian subcontinent. The Chola navy extended the influence of Chola empire to southeast asia. During this time, pastoral peoples whose land had been cleared to make way for the growing agricultural economy were accommodated within caste society, as were new non-traditional ruling classes. [11]

The Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent mainly took place from the 12th century onwards, though earlier Muslim conquests include the limited inroads into modern Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Umayyad campaigns in India, during the time of the Rajput kingdoms in the 8th century.

Major economic and military powers like the Delhi Sultanate and Bengal Sultanate, were seen to be established. The search of their wealth led the Voyages of Christopher Columbus.

East Asia Edit

China Edit

China saw the rise and fall of the Sui, Tang, Song, and Yuan dynasties and therefore improvements in its bureaucracy, the spread of Buddhism, and the advent of Neo-Confucianism. It was an unsurpassed era for Chinese ceramics and painting. Medieval architectural masterpieces the Great South Gate in Todaiji, Japan, and the Tien-ning Temple in Peking, China are some of the surviving constructs from this era.

Sui Dynasty Edit

A new powerful dynasty began to rise in the 580s, amongst the divided factions of China. This was started when an aristocrat named Yang Jian married his daughter into the Northern Zhou dynasty. He proclaimed himself Emperor Wen of Sui and appeased the nomadic military by abandoning the Confucian scholar-gentry. Emperor Wen soon led the conquest of the southern Chen Dynasty and united China once more under the Sui dynasty. The emperor lowered taxes and constructed granaries that he used to prevent famine and control the market. Later Wen's son would murder him for the throne and declare himself Emperor Yang of Sui. Emperor Yang revived the Confucian scholars and the bureaucracy, much to anger of the aristocrats and nomadic military leaders. Yang became an excessive leader who overused China's resources for personal luxury and perpetuated exhaustive attempts to conquer Goguryeo. His military failures and neglect of the empire forced his own ministers to assassinate him in 618, ending the Sui Dynasty.

Tang dynasty Edit

Fortunately, one of Yang's most respectable advisors, Li Yuan, was able to claim the throne quickly, preventing a chaotic collapse. He proclaimed himself Emperor Gaozu, and established the Tang dynasty in 623. The Tang saw expansion of China through conquest to Tibet in the west, Vietnam in the south, and Manchuria in the north. Tang emperors also improved the education of scholars in the Chinese bureaucracy. A Ministry of Rites was established and the examination system was improved to better qualify scholars for their jobs. [12] In addition, Buddhism became popular in China with two different strains between the peasantry and the elite, the Pure Land and Zen strains, respectively. [13] Greatly supporting the spread of Buddhism was Empress Wu, who additionally claimed an unofficial "Zhou dynasty" and displayed China's tolerance of a woman ruler, which was rare at the time. However, Buddhism would also experience some backlash, especially from Confucianists and Taoists. This would usually involve criticism about how it was costing the state money, since the government was unable to tax Buddhist monasteries, and additionally sent many grants and gifts to them. [14]

The Tang dynasty began to decline under the rule of Emperor Xuanzong, who began to neglect the economy and military and caused unrest amongst the court officials due to the excessive influence of his concubine, Yang Guifei, and her family. [15] This eventually sparked a revolt in 755. [15] Although the revolt failed, subduing it required involvement with the unruly nomadic tribes outside of China and distributing more power to local leaders—leaving the government and economy in a degraded state. The Tang dynasty officially ended in 907 and various factions led by the aforementioned nomadic tribes and local leaders would fight for control of China in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.

Liao, Song and Jin dynasties Edit

By 960, most of China proper had been reunited under the Song dynasty, although it lost territories in the north and could not defeat one of the nomadic tribes there—the Liao dynasty of the highly sinicized Khitan people. From then on, the Song would have to pay tribute to avoid invasion and thus set the precedent for other nomadic kingdoms to oppress them. The Song also saw the revival of Confucianism in the form of Neo-Confucianism. This had the effect of putting the Confucian scholars at a higher status than aristocrats or Buddhists and also intensified the reduction of power in women. The infamous practice of foot binding developed in this period as a result. Eventually the Liao dynasty in the north was overthrown by the Jin dynasty of the Manchu-related Jurchen people. The new Jin kingdom invaded northern China, leaving the Song to flee farther south and creating the Southern Song dynasty in 1126. There, cultural life flourished.

Yuan Dynasty Edit

By 1227, the Mongols had conquered the Western Xia kingdom northwest of China. Soon the Mongols incurred upon the Jin empire of the Jurchens. Chinese cities were soon besieged by the Mongol hordes that showed little mercy for those who resisted and the Southern Song Chinese were quickly losing territory. In 1271 the current great khan, Kublai Khan, claimed himself Emperor of China and officially established the Yuan Dynasty. By 1290, all of China was under control of the Mongols, marking the first time they were ever completely conquered by a foreign invader the new capital was established at Khanbaliq (modern-day Beijing). Kublai Khan segregated Mongol culture from Chinese culture by discouraging interactions between the two peoples, separating living spaces and places of worship, and reserving top administrative positions to Mongols, thus preventing Confucian scholars to continue the bureaucratic system. Nevertheless, Kublai remained fascinated with Chinese thinking, surrounding himself with Chinese Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian advisors.

Mongol women displayed a contrasting independent nature compared to the Chinese women who continued to be suppressed. Mongol women often rode out on hunts or even to war. Kublai's wife, Chabi, was a perfect example of this Chabi advised her husband on several political and diplomatic matters she convinced him that the Chinese were to be respected and well-treated in order to make them easier to rule. [16] However, this was not enough to affect Chinese women's position, and the increasingly Neo-Confucian successors of Kublai further repressed Chinese and even Mongol women.

The Black Death, which would later ravage Western Europe, had its beginnings in Asia, where it wiped out large populations in China in 1331.

Korea Edit

Three Kingdoms of Korea Edit

The three Kingdoms of Korea involves Goguryeo in north, Baekje in southwest, and Silla in southeast Korean peninsula. These three kingdoms were like a bridge of cultures between China and Japan. Thanks to them, Japan was able to accept Chinese splendid cultures. Prince Shōtoku of Japan had been taught by two teachers. One was from Baekje, the other was from Goguryeo. Once Japan invaded Silla, Goguryeo helped Silla to defeat Japan. Baekje met the earliest heyday of them. Its heyday was the 5th century AD. Its capital was Seoul. During its heyday, the kingdom made colonies overseas. Liaodong, China and Kyushu, Japan were the colonies of Baekje during its short heyday. Goguryeo was the strongest kingdom of all. They sometimes called themselves as an Empire. Its heyday was 6th century. King Gwanggaeto widened its territory to north. So Goguryeo dominated from Korean peninsula to Manchuria. And his son, King Jangsu widened its territory to south. He occupied Seoul, and moved its capital to Pyeongyang. Goguryeo almost occupied three quarters of South Korean peninsula thanks to king Jangsu who widened the kingdom's territory to south. Silla met the latest heyday. King Jinheung went north and occupiedSeoul. But it was short. Baekje became stronger and attacked Silla. Baekje occupied more than 40 cities of Silla. So Silla could hardly survive. China's Sui dynasty invaded Goguryeo and Goguryeo–Sui War occurred between Korea and China. Goguryeo won against China and Sui dynasty fell. After then, Tang dynasty reinvaded Goguryeo and helped Silla to unify the peninsula. Goguryeo, Baekje, and Japan helped each other against Tang-Silla alliance, but Baekje and Goguryeo fell. Unfortunately, Tang dynasty betrayed Silla and invaded Korean peninsula in order to occupy the whole Korean peninsula(Silla-Tang war). Silla advocated 'Unification of Three Korea', so people of fallen Baekje and Goguryeo helped Silla against Chinese invasion. Eventually Silla could beat China and unified the peninsula. This war helped Korean people to unite mentally.

Chocolate in the American Colonies

Chocolate arrived in Florida on a Spanish ship in 1641. It’s thought the first American chocolate house opened in Boston in 1682. By 1773, cocoa beans were a major American colony import and chocolate was enjoyed by people of all classes.

During the Revolutionary War, chocolate was provided to the military as rations and sometimes given to soldiers as payment instead of money. (Chocolate was also provided as rations to soldiers during World War II.)


Anglo-American hostilities ceased in 1783 following the Second Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War and subsequently freed American trade from British control. At the time, increased global demand for tea was one of the primary reasons for a shortage of silver this was the only currency that the Chinese, sole producers of the commodity at the time, would accept in payment. The East India Company (EIC), monopoly suppliers of tea to the English market, got around the problem by indirect sales of opium (grown on their plantations in India) to the Chinese, the proceeds from which they used to pay for tea.

The Americans meanwhile, also needed silver to finance their burgeoning international trade in furs, timber, and other commodities. They too looked to the Chinese market as a source of hard currency based on their monopoly of the opium trade in Turkey. [1] The man who would become America's first consul in China, Bostonian and former Continental Army officer Samuel Shaw [2] (1754–1794), arrived in the port of Guangzhou (then romanized as "Canton") in 1784 aboard the converted privateer Empress of China. The "Chinese Queen", as the vessel was known, under the command of Captain John Green, [3] carried a cargo of silver specie and ginseng for trade. In Guangzhou, the Americans encountered many European nations already trading under the Canton System, including the English, Dutch, French, and Danish. [4] Shaw subsequently negotiated the sale of the Empress 's cargo and earned a substantial profit. As well as symbolizing a breach of the British East India Company's tea monopoly, the successful and lucrative voyage of the Empress inspired other American merchants to follow suit with the desire to enter a new market with great potential for profit. [5] By 1803, American vessels outnumbered British and all other nations in the trade. [6] While more numerous, American vessels were smaller, averaging just under 300 tons each, compared with the "East Indiamen" from Europe, which averaged 1,200 tons each. [7]

Two years after the voyage of the Empress, Shaw set up the firm of Shaw & Randall to advise American firms unfamiliar with trade in the Far East. [8] Boston Brahmin Thomas Handasyd Perkins of Perkins & Co., the dominant American presence in the Turkish opium business, along with one of his partners and his 16‑year-old nephew John Perkins Cushing, subsequently opened operations in Guangzhou, where Russell & Co. had become the most important American opium dealer. The founders of Russell & Co., Samuel Russell, and Philip Ammedon, had set up in the Chinese city in 1808, buying opium at auction from the EIC in Bombay, which they then shipped clandestinely to Guangzhou on the south coast of China. By 1827 Russell and Co. had become the largest American opium dealer in China, competing in the market alongside British firms including Jardine, Matheson & Co. and Dent & Co.. Of all the American firms, only Olyphant & Co. and one other abstained from the opium trade. [9]

Trade with China, originally an enterprise of seemingly limited prospects involving significant risk instead turned out to be extremely lucrative. American traders, then with a stable foothold in Guangzhou, were eager to sell their goods to China, but the Chinese interest in foreign goods was limited. The first item that tended to sell in China was Spanish bullion: American traders would devote large sums of money to buying and amassing large quantities of the metal for export to China. The Spanish silver bullion was primarily used to complement the less profitable American goods such as cheese, grain, and rum. The use of bullion eventually became considerable with over $62 million worth of species traded to China between 1805 and 1825. This practice, however, gradually declined after 1815, when American merchants began to participate in "chain trade" routes —the buying and selling of goods en route to Guangzhou. The second major —and by far the most lucrative— American export to China was ginseng. Hailed by the Chinese among other cultures, as shown by the genus' Latinate scientific name Panax, as a panacea, the most potent and therefore most demanded type of ginseng, aralia quinquefolia, grew in Manchuria and the Appalachian Mountains. Transported from the interiors of Pennsylvania and Virginia to Philadelphia, New York, or Boston, ginseng was then shipped to China and sold for up to 250 times its weight in silver. Furs were the third-most lucrative American export to China. Searching for another type of item that could be sold to the Chinese aside from specie and ginseng, Americans soon found that the mandarins had a taste for sea otter pelts, which could be inexpensively purchased from the Indians of the northwest coast of America and shipped to Guangzhou. The Chinese mandarins’ desire for bullion, ginseng, and furs was the primary impetus for America's initiation of trade with China. The return of the Empress of China, which had carried all three commodities, and her by the now rich crew to Boston in 1785 inspired other Americans to make similar voyages. However, different reasons emerged for maintaining trade with China.

There had always been a general American desire for foreign and sometimes exotic wares, and, with the British East India Company no longer the dominant force in American trade, the job of satisfying this demand fell to American merchants. Therefore, when the Empress returned home, she brought with her a large stock of outlandish Chinese goods, which her owners sold for a significant profit of $30,000—a 25% gain. Other American merchants did not take long to realize that, while selling American species, ginseng, and fur to the Chinese was undoubtedly profitable, selling Chinese goods in America would be considerably more so. Further motivation came from the knowledge that China, as a whole, had a mercantilist-like attitude towards foreign commerce they tended to resist the importation of foreign goods because of a mixture of Confucian doctrine, which deprecated trade, and the underlying ethnocentrism felt by the Chinese—they did not need to actively search for trade because the inferior white "barbarian" states would instinctively bring it to them as a form of tribute. [ citation needed ] Because of these factors, American traders began to focus their funds on acquiring Chinese goods—a practice that the Chinese were more willing to adopt—rather than on purchasing those of America. What resulted was the flooding of Chinese teas, cotton, silks, rhubarb, cassia, nankeens (durable, yellow cloth), floor-matting, lacquerware, fans, furniture, and porcelains, into America, to the extent that even those of poor social classes possessed some Chinese items—perhaps a painting of Guangzhou's harbor or a pair of trousers made out of nankeen cloth.

The Cohong monopoly and supercargoes Edit

In 1757, the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty confined all Western trade to Guangzhou and regulated it through the use of merchants known collectively as the cohong. This group owned a licensed monopoly on trade with foreigners and served as trading intermediaries accountable for their behavior and cargoes. Relations between the Cohong and the foreign merchants were cordial and very peaceful, as both parties valued their reputations and had vested interests in preventing the disruption of trade. The Cohong reviewed the cargo of each ship and collected tariffs that were then passed onto the Hoppo (Inspector of Customs). The Cohong was at the mercy of the government's demands for revenue, and they had to add costs to the foreign merchants, in order to extract extra money for bribes to please the officials although Qing Dynasty court officials did not actively supervise foreign trade, China's government treasury reaped the benefits of tariff revenues. Additionally, each foreign vessel had to contract a comprador responsible for supplying the ship with provisions and servicing the factories onshore.

Before the rise of four American trading houses in the 1820s that controlled seven-eighths of the China trade by 1825—Perkins and Company, Jones Oakford and Company, Archer, and T. H. Smith—the American trade was conducted through the use of supercargoes. Each American ship had a supercargo who acted as the commercial agent responsible for the purchases of Chinese goods. He had to arrive and leave on his vessel. It was not until 1800 that supercargoes began to establish themselves as resident agents in Guangzhou. These agents either served trading houses or operated off of commissions from other private merchants' transactions. Upon their emergence, large trading houses, greater capitalization, and higher volumes of trade became possible.

Finding mediums of exchange Edit

One of the largest problems faced by foreign traders in Guangzhou was finding a reliable medium of exchange that would enable sustainable trade with the Chinese. The Chinese were always willing to accept bullion, in exchange for tea and other products. This was because the Chinese were fairly self-sufficient and did not have a large desire for foreign goods. Specie was very expensive and difficult to acquire considering that the supply coming from South America fluctuated and it required a lot of goods to attain through a trade. Unable to afford to sustain high-level trading in specie, British merchants turned to the lucrative drug trade, obtaining trading rights for opium from India and importing it to the Qing Empire. Beginning in 1767 and rapidly expanding through the early 1800s, opium was illegally traded for specie with the Chinese and then reinvested in tea for importation to Great Britain.

The Americans had less difficulty finding a variety of different products to barter for tea. The Empress of China and the following early vessels were able to use ginseng and some species to secure tea. Yet, the market for ginseng was rather small, so the Americans began trading furs with Indian tribes in the American Northwest, which was in turn traded for species in Guangzhou, which was then used to purchase tea. From 1790 to 1812 supplies of furs and then sealskins were depleted and new products had to be found as demand also waned. In the Pacific Islands, merchants evaded cannibals and traded with natives to get sandalwood and sea slugs that could be traded for species. But those items soon ran their course, and by 1814 species had risen to nearly 70% of total American exports. In the 1820s, they attempted to compete with the British opium trade that monopolized the Indian crops by trading for Turkish opium. Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital and the Boston Athenæum, the Bunker Hill Monument, many factories, mines, the US's first railroad, university buildings, high schools, public libraries, and an orphanage were built with the proceeds of opium smuggling. The opium trade allowed the US to transfer China's wealth to fuel the industrial revolution. [10]

The innovation of the British credit system and issuance of banking bills allowed the American traders to clear their debts with co-hong merchants and gradually substitute their cargoes away from carrying specie and more towards domestically manufactured items. The Americans could then later pay off the principal and interest on their loans to the British banks. From 1830 to 1850, faster and larger tea clippers were introduced, thereby replacing the earlier, smaller privateering vessels from the American Revolution. As a result, Americans could achieve greater scale with the combination of tea clippers and British credit. Tea could be transported to American markets in less time and with greater freshness, translating into higher profits. By 1834, tea accounted for over 80% of the American trade from China. [11]

The American trade in Guangzhou existed primarily through private traders and without the supervision and supporting authority of the United States government. Soon after 1784, an American consul was appointed in Guangzhou and functioned as a reporting agent on trade to the U.S. government. The consul was not recognized by the Chinese authorities or the hope, and was not allowed to fly the American flag over its factory until well after 1799. The Americans had to trade with the Chinese as subordinates instead of equals and use the Chong for any and all demands. [12] Consequently, the Americans did not have the leverage to raise political or legal protests and had to submit themselves to the Chinese justice system that believed in a "life for a life" and holding groups accountable for the actions of individuals. [13] The chief concern of foreign traders was preventing the Chinese from closing trade, as they could threaten to do over legal disputes. [14]

At the end of the First Opium War in 1842, Britain and China signed the Treaty of Nanking, which effectively overthrew the original mercantilist system and forced open the ports of Guangzhou, Xiamen ("Amoy"), Fuzhou ("Foochow"), Ningbo ("Ningpo"), and Shanghai to British trading. Seeing that Britain could easily eliminate foreign competition in China with its new privileges and considerable trading prowess, Americans found the need to reestablish their diplomatic relations and commercial equality in China. For the previous fifty-nine years, Americans had been interacting with China merely through their business transactions, without government-to-government communication. As a result, the administration of President John Tyler sent the commissioner Caleb Cushing to negotiate a treaty in which America would receive the same privileges as Britain. Cushing, in the Treaty of Wanghsia in 1844, not only achieved this goal but also won the right of extraterritoriality, which meant that Americans accused of crimes in China were to be tried by American courts only. This treaty was monumental in that it laid the foundation for a more extensive and regulated American trade with China American ships would no longer make the sporadic—and somewhat reckless—voyages to China so characteristic of the Old China trade.

Fine art Edit

Porcelain Edit

In the late 18th century, Chinese porcelain could be purchased from two sources: the licensed Hong merchants or the porcelain specialized shopkeepers. [15]

Porcelain specialized shopkeepers Edit

From the records, the original porcelain market was concentrated on a street several blocks north of the thirteen factory area. Until 1760, after the Co-hong was created, all the small shopkeepers were moved to a new street on the quay which was later referred to as "China Street" (called Jingyuan Jie 静远街/靖远街 in Chinese). There were about 180 different names of porcelain shops from foreign trade records between 1700 and 1800. However, since many of them appear in records only once or for a few years, there were only a total of 25 to 30 shops dealing with the porcelain business. Most of the porcelain dealers in Guangzhou were small, family-run operations with sales of less than 1,000 taels of merchandise a year, while a few of them could manage to reach an annual gross sale of 10,000 taels per year. Each year, porcelain dealers generally placed their order to manufacturers at Jindezhen from October to December. The items were completed and shipped to Guangzhou in August or September for export. [16] From the early 1780s to the 1810s, the export market started to shrink. Records show that in 1764, there were 20,116 piculs exported, while in 1784, the porcelain export declined to 13,780 piculs. Although it reached 25,890 piculs in 1798, soon the porcelain exports shrank to only 6,175 piculs in 1801. Finally, the amount of porcelain exported remains at an average level of 6,000 piculs per year around the 1820s. The reason for the drastic change in amounts of porcelain exported could result from the increase in the porcelain price due to the increasing labor cost and Chinese duties on exporting porcelain. [17]

In Salem, Massachusetts there are important examples of American colonial architecture and Federal architecture from the Old China Trade in two historic districts, Chestnut Street District, part of the Samuel McIntire Historic District containing 407 buildings and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, consisting of 12 historic structures and about 9 acres (3.6 ha) of land along the waterfront in Salem, Massachusetts.

How Ancient Trade Changed the World

You've got the gold I need for my necklace and I've got the silk you need for your robe.

Nowadays, if you need something, you go to the closest mall, shell out a few bucks and head home. Thousands of years ago, the process wasn't nearly as simple. If you or someone in your town didn't grow it, herd it or make it, you needed to abandon that desire or else travel for it, sometimes over great distances. For many towns, the effort of trade was too much. Those ancient towns make only rare appearances in our history books.

When the first civilizations did begin trading with each other about five thousand years ago, however, many of them got rich…and fast.

Trade was also a boon for human interaction, bringing cross-cultural contact to a whole new level.

Luxury goods

When people first settled down into larger towns in Mesopotamia and Egypt, self-sufficiency &ndash the idea that you had to produce absolutely everything that you wanted or needed &ndash started to fade. A farmer could now trade grain for meat, or milk for a pot, at the local market, which was seldom too far away.

Cities started to work the same way, realizing that they could acquire goods they didn't have at hand from other cities far away, where the climate and natural resources produced different things. This longer-distance trade was slow and often dangerous, but was lucrative for the middlemen willing to make the journey.

The first long-distance trade occurred between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley in Pakistan around 3000 BC, historians believe. Long-distance trade in these early times was limited almost exclusively to luxury goods like spices, textiles and precious metals. Cities that were rich in these commodities became financially rich, too, satiating the appetites of other surrounding regions for jewelry, fancy robes and imported delicacies.

It wasn't long after that trade networks crisscrossed the entire Eurasian continent, inextricably linking cultures for the first time in history.

By the second millennium BC, former backwater island Cyprus had become a major Mediterranean player by ferrying its vast copper resources to the Near East and Egypt, regions wealthy due to their own natural resources such as papyrus and wool. Phoenicia, famous for its seafaring expertise, hawked its valuable cedar wood and linens dyes all over the Mediterranean. China prospered by trading jade, spices and later, silk. Britain shared its abundance of tin.

In the absence of proper roads, the most efficient way to transport goods from one place to another was by sea.

The first and most extensive trade networks were actually waterways like the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates in present-day Iraq and the Yellow River in China. Cities grew up in the fertile basins on the borders of those rivers and then expanded by using their watery highways to import and export goods.

The domestication of camels around 1000 BC helped encourage trade routes over land, called caravans, and linked India with the Mediterranean. Like an ancient version of the Wild West frontier, towns began sprouting up like never before anywhere that a pit-stop or caravan-to-ship port was necessary. Many of the better-known satellite towns of Rome and Greece were founded this way, stretching those fabled empires further afield until their influences crossed continents.

And in each of these places, foreign traders drank in port towns and shared stories and customs from back home, leaving more than just their parcels behind.

When Europeans Were Slaves: Research Suggests White Slavery Was Much More Common Than Previously Believed

A new study suggests that a million or more European Christians were enslaved by Muslims in North Africa between 1530 and 1780 &ndash a far greater number than had ever been estimated before.

In a new book, Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, developed a unique methodology to calculate the number of white Christians who were enslaved along Africa&rsquos Barbary Coast, arriving at much higher slave population estimates than any previous studies had found.

Most other accounts of slavery along the Barbary coast didn&rsquot try to estimate the number of slaves, or only looked at the number of slaves in particular cities, Davis said. Most previously estimated slave counts have thus tended to be in the thousands, or at most in the tens of thousands. Davis, by contrast, has calculated that between 1 million and 1.25 million European Christians were captured and forced to work in North Africa from the 16th to 18th centuries.

&ldquoMuch of what has been written gives the impression that there were not many slaves and minimizes the impact that slavery had on Europe,&rdquo Davis said. &ldquoMost accounts only look at slavery in one place, or only for a short period of time. But when you take a broader, longer view, the massive scope of this slavery and its powerful impact become clear.&rdquo

Davis said it is useful to compare this Mediterranean slavery to the Atlantic slave trade that brought black Africans to the Americas. Over the course of four centuries, the Atlantic slave trade was much larger &ndash about 10 to 12 million black Africans were brought to the Americas. But from 1500 to 1650, when trans-Atlantic slaving was still in its infancy, more white Christian slaves were probably taken to Barbary than black African slaves to the Americas, according to Davis.

&ldquoOne of the things that both the public and many scholars have tended to take as given is that slavery was always racial in nature &ndash that only blacks have been slaves. But that is not true,&rdquo Davis said. &ldquoWe cannot think of slavery as something that only white people did to black people.&rdquo

During the time period Davis studied, it was religion and ethnicity, as much as race, that determined who became slaves.

&ldquoEnslavement was a very real possibility for anyone who traveled in the Mediterranean, or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland,&rdquo he said.

Pirates (called corsairs) from cities along the Barbary Coast in north Africa &ndash cities such as Tunis and Algiers &ndash would raid ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, as well as seaside villages to capture men, women and children. The impact of these attacks were devastating &ndash France, England, and Spain each lost thousands of ships, and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants. At its peak, the destruction and depopulation of some areas probably exceeded what European slavers would later inflict on the African interior.

Although hundreds of thousands of Christian slaves were taken from Mediterranean countries, Davis noted, the effects of Muslim slave raids was felt much further away: it appears, for example, that through most of the 17th century the English lost at least 400 sailors a year to the slavers.

Even Americans were not immune. For example, one American slave reported that 130 other American seamen had been enslaved by the Algerians in the Mediterranean and Atlantic just between 1785 and 1793.

Davis said the vast scope of slavery in North Africa has been ignored and minimized, in large part because it is on no one&rsquos agenda to discuss what happened.

The enslavement of Europeans doesn&rsquot fit the general theme of European world conquest and colonialism that is central to scholarship on the early modern era, he said. Many of the countries that were victims of slavery, such as France and Spain, would later conquer and colonize the areas of North Africa where their citizens were once held as slaves. Maybe because of this history, Western scholars have thought of the Europeans primarily as &ldquoevil colonialists&rdquo and not as the victims they sometimes were, Davis said.

Davis said another reason that Mediterranean slavery has been ignored or minimized has been that there have not been good estimates of the total number of people enslaved. People of the time &ndash both Europeans and the Barbary Coast slave owners &ndash did not keep detailed, trustworthy records of the number of slaves. In contrast, there are extensive records that document the number of Africans brought to the Americas as slaves.

So Davis developed a new methodology to come up with reasonable estimates of the number of slaves along the Barbary Coast. Davis found the best records available indicating how many slaves were at a particular location at a single time. He then estimated how many new slaves it would take to replace slaves as they died, escaped or were ransomed.

&ldquoThe only way I could come up with hard numbers is to turn the whole problem upside down &ndash figure out how many slaves they would have to capture to maintain a certain level,&rdquo he said. &ldquoIt is not the best way to make population estimates, but it is the only way with the limited records available.&rdquo

Putting together such sources of attrition as deaths, escapes, ransomings, and conversions, Davis calculated that about one-fourth of slaves had to be replaced each year to keep the slave population stable, as it apparently was between 1580 and 1680. That meant about 8,500 new slaves had to be captured each year. Overall, this suggests nearly a million slaves would have been taken captive during this period. Using the same methodology, Davis has estimated as many as 475,000 additional slaves were taken in the previous and following centuries.

The result is that between 1530 and 1780 there were almost certainly 1 million and quite possibly as many as 1.25 million white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast.

Davis said his research into the treatment of these slaves suggests that, for most of them, their lives were every bit as difficult as that of slaves in America.

&ldquoAs far as daily living conditions, the Mediterranean slaves certainly didn&rsquot have it better,&rdquo he said.

While African slaves did grueling labor on sugar and cotton plantations in the Americas, European Christian slaves were often worked just as hard and as lethally &ndash in quarries, in heavy construction, and above all rowing the corsair galleys themselves.

Davis said his findings suggest that this invisible slavery of European Christians deserves more attention from scholars.

&ldquoWe have lost the sense of how large enslavement could loom for those who lived around the Mediterranean and the threat they were under,&rdquo he said. &ldquoSlaves were still slaves, whether they are black or white, and whether they suffered in America or North Africa.&rdquo

Demographic and economic developments

It seems certain that the economy and society of Italy were transformed in the wake of Rome’s conquest of the Mediterranean world, even though the changes can be described only incompletely and imprecisely, owing to the dearth of reliable information for the preceding centuries. Romans of the 1st century bc believed that their ancestors had been a people of small farmers in an age uncorrupted by wealth. Even senators who performed heroic feats were said to have been of modest means—men such as Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus, who was said to have laid down his plow on his tiny farm to serve as dictator in 458 bc . Although such legends present an idealized vision of early Rome, it is probably true that Latium of the 5th and 4th centuries was densely populated by farmers of small plots. Rome’s military strength derived from its superior resources of manpower levied from a pool of small landowning citizens ( assidui). A dense population is also suggested by the emigration from Latium of scores of thousands as colonists during the 4th and 3rd centuries. The legends of senators working their own fields seem implausible, but the disparity in wealth was probably much less noticeable than in the late republic. The 4th-century artifacts uncovered by archaeologists display an overall high quality that makes it difficult to distinguish a category of luxury goods from the pottery and terra-cottas made for common use.

War and conquest altered this picture yet certain fundamental features of the economy remained constant. Until its fall, the Roman Empire retained agriculture as the basis of its economy, with probably four-fifths of the population tilling the soil. This great majority continued to be needed in food production because there were no labour-saving technological breakthroughs. The power driving agricultural and other production was almost entirely supplied by humans and animals, which set modest limits to economic growth. In some areas of Italy, such as the territory of Capena in southern Etruria, archaeologists have found traditional patterns of settlement and land division continuing from the 4th to the end of the 1st century—evidence that the Second Punic War and the following decades did not bring a complete break with the past.

Economic change came as a result of massive population shifts and the social reorganization of labour rather than technological improvement. The Second Punic War, and especially Hannibal’s persistent presence in Italy, inflicted a considerable toll, including loss of life on a staggering scale, movement of rural populations into towns, and destruction of agriculture in some regions. Although the devastation has been overestimated by some historians, partial depopulation of the Italian countryside is evident from the literary and archaeological records: immediately after the war enough land stood vacant in Apulia and Samnium to settle between 30,000 and 40,000 of Scipio’s veterans, while areas of Apulia, Bruttium, southern Campania, and south-central Etruria have yielded no artifacts indicating settlement in the postwar period.

Populations have been known to show great resilience in recovering from wars, but the Italian population was given no peace after 201. In subsequent decades Rome’s annual war effort required a military mobilization unmatched in history for its duration and the proportion of the population involved. During the 150 years after Hannibal’s surrender, the Romans regularly fielded armies of more than 100,000 men, requiring on average about 13 percent of the adult male citizens each year. The attested casualties from 200 to 150 add up to nearly 100,000. The levy took Roman peasants away from their land. Many never returned. Others, perhaps 25,000, were moved in the years before 173 from peninsular Italy to the colonies of the Po valley. Still others, in unknown but considerable numbers, migrated to the cities. By the later 2nd century some Roman leaders perceived the countryside to be depopulated.

To replace the peasants on the land of central and southern Italy, slaves were imported in vast numbers. Slavery was well established as a form of agricultural labour before the Punic Wars (slaves must have produced much of the food during the peak mobilization of citizens from 218 to 201). The scale of slavery, however, increased in the 2nd and 1st centuries as a result of conquests. Enslavement was a common fate for the defeated in ancient warfare: the Romans enslaved 5,000 Macedonians in 197 5,000 Histri in 177 150,000 Epirotes in 167 50,000 Carthaginians in 146 and in 174 an unspecified number of Sardinians, but so many that “Sardinian” became a byword for “cheap” slave. These are only a few examples for which the sources happen to give numbers. More slaves flooded into Italy after Rome destabilized the eastern Mediterranean in 167 and gave pirates and bandits the opportunity to carry off local peoples of Anatolia and sell them on the block at Delos by the thousands. By the end of the republic Italy was a thoroughgoing slave society with well over one million slaves, according to the best estimates. No census figures give numbers of slaves, but slaveholding was more widespread and on a larger scale than in the antebellum American South, where slaves made up about one-third of the population. In effect, Roman soldiers fought in order to capture their own replacements on the land in Italy, although the shift from free to servile labour was only a partial one.

The influx of slaves was accompanied by changes in patterns of landownership, as more Italian land came to be concentrated in fewer hands. One of the punishments meted out to disloyal allies after the Second Punic War was confiscation of all or part of their territories. Most of the ager Campanus and part of the Tarentines’ lands—perhaps two million acres in total—became Roman ager publicus (public land), subject to rent. Some of this property remained in the hands of local peoples, but large tracts in excess of the 500-iugera limit were occupied by wealthy Romans, who were legally possessores (i.e., in possession of the land, although not its owners) and as such paid a nominal rent to the Roman state. The trend toward concentration continued during the 2nd century, propelled by conquests abroad. On the one side, subsistence farmers were always vulnerable in years of poor harvests that could lead to debt and ultimately to the loss of their plots. The vulnerability was exacerbated by army service, which took peasants away from their farms for years at a time. On the other side, the elite orders were enriched by the booty from the eastern kingdoms on a scale previously unimaginable. Some of the vast new wealth was spent on public works and on new forms of luxury and part was invested to secure future income. Land was the preferred form of investment for senators and other honourable men: farming was regarded as safer and more prestigious than manufacture or trade. For senators, the opportunities for trade were limited by the Claudian law of 218 prohibiting them from owning large ships. Wealthy Romans thus used the proceeds of war to buy out their smaller neighbours. As a result of this process of acquisition, most senatorial estates consisted of scattered small farms. The notorious latifundia, the extensive consolidated estates, were not widespread. Given the dispersion of the property, the new landlord was typically absentee. He could leave the working of the farms in the hands of the previous peasant owners as tenants, or he could import slaves.

The best insights into the mentality of the estate-owning class of this period come from Cato’s De agricultura. Although based on Greek handbooks discussing estate management, it reflects the assumptions and thinking of a 2nd-century senator. Cato envisaged a medium-sized, 200-iugera farm with a permanent staff of 11 slaves. As with other Roman enterprises, management of the farm was left to a slave bailiff, who was helped by his slave wife. While Cato, like the later agricultural writers Varro and Lucius Junius Columella, assumed the economic advantage of a slave work force, historians today debate whether estates worked by slaves were indeed more profitable than smaller peasant farms. Cato had his slaves use much the same technology as the peasants, although a larger estate could afford large processing implements, such as grape and olive crushers, which peasants might have to share or do without. Nor did Cato bring to bear any innovative management advice his suggestions aimed to maximize profits by such commonsense means as keeping the slave work force occupied all year round and buying cheap and selling dear. Nevertheless, larger estates had one significant advantage in that the slave labour could be bought and sold and thus more easily matched to labour needs than was possible on small plots worked by peasant families.

Cato’s farm was a model representing one aspect of the reality of the Italian countryside. Archaeologists have discovered the villas characteristic of the Catonian estate beginning to appear in Campania in the 2nd century and later in other areas. The emergence of slave agriculture did not exclude the continuing existence in the area of peasants as owners of marginal land or as casual day labourers or both. The larger estates and the remaining peasants formed a symbiotic relationship, mentioned by Cato: the estate required extra hands to help during peak seasons, while the peasants needed the extra wages from day labour to supplement the meagre production of their plots. Yet in many areas of Italy the villa system made no inroads during the republic, and traditional peasant farming continued. Other areas, however, underwent a drastic change: the desolation left by the Second Punic War in the central and southern regions opened the way for wealthy Romans to acquire vast tracts of depopulated land to convert to grazing. This form of extensive agriculture produced cattle, sheep, and goats, herded by slaves. These were the true latifundia, decried as wastelands by Roman imperial authors such as the elder Pliny.

The marketplace took on a new importance as both the Catonian estate and the latifundium aimed primarily to produce goods to sell for a profit. In this sense, they represented a change from peasant agriculture, which aimed above all to feed the peasant’s family. The buyers of the new commodities were the growing cities—another facet of the complex economic transformation. Rome was swelled by migrants from the countryside and became the largest city of preindustrial Europe, with a population of about one million in the imperial era other Italian cities grew to a lesser extent.

The mass of consumers created new, more diverse demands for foodstuffs from the countryside and also for manufactured goods. The market was bipolar, with the poor of the cities able to buy only basic foodstuffs and a few plain manufactured items and the rich demanding increasingly extravagant luxury goods. The limitations of the poor are reflected in the declining quality of humble temple offerings. The craftsmen and traders produced mainly for the rich minority. The trading and artisanal enterprises in Rome were largely worked by slaves and freedmen imported to Rome by the wealthy. Although honourable, freeborn Romans considered it beneath their dignity to participate directly in these businesses, they willingly shared in the profits through ownership of these slaves and through collection of rents on the shops of humbler men. Thus, manufacturing and trading were generally small-scale operations, organized on the basis of household or family. Roman law did not recognize business corporations with the exception of publican companies holding state contracts nor were there guilds of the medieval type to organize or control production. Unlike some later medieval cities, Rome did not produce for export to support itself its revenues came from booty, provincial taxes, and the surplus brought from the countryside to the city by aristocratic Roman landlords. Indeed, after 167 provincial revenues were sufficient to allow for the abolition of direct taxes on Roman citizens.

Building projects were the largest enterprises in Rome and offered freeborn immigrants jobs as day labourers. In addition to the private building needed to house the growing population, the early and middle 2nd century witnessed public building on a new scale and in new shapes. The leading senatorial families gained publicity by sponsoring major new buildings named after themselves in the Forum and elsewhere. The Basilica Porcia (built during Marcus Porcius Cato’s censorship of 184), the Basilica Aemilia et Fulvia (179), and the Basilica Sempronia (170–169) were constructed out of the traditional tufa blocks but in a Hellenized style.

New infrastructures were required to bring the necessities of life to the growing population. The Porticus Aemilia (193), a warehouse of 300,000 square feet on the banks of the Tiber, illustrates how the new needs were met with a major new building technology, concrete construction. Around 200 bc in central Italy it was discovered that a wet mixture of crushed stone, lime, and sand (especially a volcanic sand called pozzolana) would set into a material of great strength. This construction technique had great advantages of economy and flexibility over the traditional cut-stone technique: the materials were more readily available, the concrete could be molded into desired shapes, and the molds could be reused for repetitive production. The Porticus Aemilia, for example, consisted of a series of roughly identical arches and vaults—the shapes so characteristic of later Roman architecture. The new technology also permitted improvements in the construction of the aqueducts needed to increase the city’s water supply.

The economic development outside of Rome encompassed some fairly large-scale manufacturing enterprises and export trade. At Puteoli on the Bay of Naples the ironworks industry was organized on a scale well beyond that of the household, and its goods were shipped beyond the area. Puteoli flourished during the republic as a port city, handling imports destined for Rome as well as exports of manufactured goods and processed agricultural products. In their search for markets, the large Italian landowners exported wine and olive oil to Cisalpine Gaul and more distant locations. Dressel I amphoras, the three-foot pottery jars carrying these products, have been found in substantial quantities in Africa and Gaul. Yet the magnitude of the economic development should not be exaggerated: the ironworks industry was exceptional, and most pottery production continued to be for local use.

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