Unit 2 Overview: Networks of Exchange
Welcome to the second unit of AP World History! This unit covers the same time period as Unit 1 (1200-1450). However, where unit 1 discussed the political structures in the world during this time, this unit, called “Networks of Exchange,” discusses the major worldwide economic changes. The increase in global trade networks is what will mark the post-classical era. This unit covers the ways that these trade networks facilitated economic and cultural exchanges and how trade changed between the classical and post-classical eras. The curriculum focuses on the Silk Roads, Indian Ocean Trade Routes, and Trans-Saharan Trade Routes, along with their effects on culture, the environment, technology, and the global economy.
Contextualizing The Unit
Before we look at the new changes in global trade in the period 1200-1450, let’s take a quick look at the big picture. Major trade routes grew during the classical period between 600 BCE and 600 CE. These included the Silk Roads and Indian Ocean Routes. These trade routes connected empires such as the Roman Empire, Han China, and the Mauryan and Gupta Empires in India, which allowed goods and ideas to transfer between empires. After the fall of Rome and Han China, the post-classical era began and ushered in a new era of expanded trade. As empires like the Byzantine Empire, Abbasid Caliphate, and the Majapahit grew, so did trade. This unit can be contextualized by understanding the basic idea that during the post-classical era, new human connections began, and the existing connections expanded. Take a look at these two maps from the classical era and post-classical era showing this change:
Image From Freemanpedia.
Image From Freemanpedia.
Effects of Growth in Trade
As an economic activity, the expansion of trade fundamentally changed the way the global economy functioned. More than ever, empires relied on trade to grow and consolidate power along with spreading influence. In China, people began to use new financial tools, such as paper money, as a medium of exchange for goods. Many empires grew explicitly because of the increase in trade, such as the trade empires along the Swahili Coast in Africa or Southeast Asian empires. New technology such as the saddle and new boats such as Islamic dhows and Chinese junks also sped up the rate at which trade continues. Groups of traders known as caravans increased the supply of trade goods and trade cities such as Timbuktu and Samarkand grew as trade centers. These economic impacts will continue into future units as the growth of trade becomes a global trend that doesn’t stop. This time period marks the beginning of expanded connections between humans which through the years does not end. We’ll see the growth of global trade and then globalization in the 20th century, which all starts with the economic growth during the post-classical period.
Trade is not just about goods but also about ideas. As travelers moved from empire to empire, they spread cultural ideas such as religion. During this time period, trade was the primary way religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism spread. The main way this occurred was through proselytization: attempts at active conversion. Some religions, such as Judaism, do not proselytize, but many like Islam and Christianity do. Trade also facilitated the spread of technology from empires, such as the Abbasid Caliphate and Song China, renowned for their scientific and mathematical knowledge, to other areas of the world, notably Europe. The Abbasids invented trade technologies such as the astrolabe that allowed for navigation. The Chinese invented the compass and, most importantly, gunpowder, which will greatly impact militaries in the following periods. You’ll also learn about interregional travelers such as Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo and the significance of their journeys.
The environmental impacts of growing trade break down into two major categories: food and disease. Food was essential, and therefore one of the primary trade goods during this time. Specifically, bananas and citrus fruits are notable examples of foods that traveled west. Another food, Champa rice, is crucial to agricultural and population growth in China. Similarly, disease traveled along trade routes across the world. The best example of this is the Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death, which killed upwards of a third of the population of Europe, but originated in rats in the Yuan Dynasty. History recognizes the Bubonic Plague not only as an important event to the world's population at that time but leading to what would become the rise of Europe near the end of this time period. Humans also used animals like camels to aid in trade along routes, especially in Africa.
Unit 2 is incredibly useful in AP World, explaining many political, economic, and social changes that accompany the time period between 1200 and 1450. Trade is essential to everything in AP World, which is especially true for period 1. There's a common phrase in AP World: "when in doubt, trade." Remember this because trade is usually an answer to pretty much any question! In period 1, the cause and/or context for most developments often links to the growth in trade that we see in unit 2. Good luck!
1258 CE: Mongols sack Baghdad (end of the Abbasid Caliphate)
1271 – 1295 CE: Marco Polo’s Travels
1279: Peak of Mongol and Pax Mongolica on the Silk Roads
1299-1921: Ottoman Empire
1324 CE: Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage
1325 – 1349 CE: Ibn Battuta’s Travels
1347 – 1348 CE: Bubonic Plague in Europe
1405 – 1433 CE: Zheng He’s voyages
Major Trends Between 1200-1450
🎥 Watch: Unit 2 Review - Networks of Exchange
Here's a map of the Major Trade Routes to keep in mind throughout this unit!
Image credit: apworldpedia.com