Nayan Chanda’s Book On The History Of Trade

Lynne Kiesling

Last week’s Economist had a writeup and synopsis about Nayan Chanda’s new book, Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization. I have not yet read the book, but given that he starts from the premise that globalization started the moment that humans left Africa, I am certainly intrigued. The rise of long-distance trade and technologies and institutions that enabled impersonal exchange was just the beginning of the long, unusual, compounding of economic growth that we have enjoyed for centuries.

Human history ever since has been a process of growing interconnectedness.

Mr Chanda organises his argument around what he takes to be the four groups that have done most to bring about this interconnectedness: traders, preachers, adventurers and warriors. Though the motives of these groups—to profit, convert, learn or conquer—have usually been selfish, the overall effect of their actions has been to draw us all closer together.

This is promising. One thing that anti-trade and anti-globalization folks consistently get wrong is the perception that trade is antagonistic, that you getting more means I get less, and that is how the poor stay poor. At least in the Economist article Chanda’s argument highlights the amount of cooperation, of shared meaning, of shared beliefs that are created through trade.

2 thoughts on “Nayan Chanda’s Book On The History Of Trade

  1. Somewhere around here I’ve got a monograph on the obsidian trade in antiquity. From something like 10,000 years ago on obsidian was traded over truly remarkable distances.

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