Trade Routes That Shaped World History

Curvy roads in India where the old Silk Road used to pass through.
Curvy roads in India where the old Silk Road used to pass through.

Throughout human history, one of the most significant activities that humans have engaged in is trading. Trade developed because individuals did not have all the products they required to satisfy their needs. Some products were only available in a particular region and since people required them in other regions, paths were created to transport the goods. The areas where the paths passed through experienced significant development with towns being built primarily as places where traders could rest. Trade routes passed through different geographic regions such as deserts and several passed through the oceans.Trade routes that passed through deserts relied significantly on oases to provide them with water. Several trade routes significantly shaped the world's history.

The Silk Route

One of the world's most prolific trade routes was the Silk Road which encompassed both land and sea connecting the East and the West. On land, the Silk Road was made up of many interconnected routes while the maritime part of the Silk Road covered some water bodies such as the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. When the Silk Road was a popular trading route, silk was one of the most heavily traded commodities (hence the name). The Silk Road brought together traders from a variety of regions, from far East Asia to India to the Somali coast to the Arabian Peninsula. The Silk Road led to the development of various notable features such as the Great Wall of China which was built to safeguard the trade route. Several civilizations owe their establishment to the Silk Road as it financed their development. Besides silk, some of the most frequently traded items along the route included salt and gold. Animals from exotic lands were also traded along the Silk Road. One of the most significant impacts of the Silk Road was the exchange of cultural practices among various societies. Various religions such as Buddhism and Christianity spread around the world with the help of the Silk Road.

The Incense Route

Incense was one of the most precious commodities of the ancient world, and the incense route was essential as it linked regions of the world with high production of incense with the areas that consumed vast amounts of the commodity. Apart from incense, various spices and other products such as pearls were traded along the route. Gerrha was an essential trading point along the route and was reportedly established by the Babylonians. Yemen also flourished during the trade with the myrrh and frankincense trees having great prominence. The domestication of the camel significantly aided the development of the trade route. The decline of the incense route was mainly due to several factors such as the fall of the essential trade ports such as Alexandria and the development of a more efficient trade route by the sea.

The Amber Road

Amber was one of the essential items traded in antiquity mainly due to its beauty. Apart from being a decorative item, amber was highly valued for its medicinal properties. Amber was sourced from regions with rich deposits and transported to areas with a large customer base such as the Middle East. The most ancient path that made up the amber road was located in Central Europe. The road linked the Baltic coastline with the Adriatic coastline while dodging the alpine region. The path of the amber road passed through the territories of several modern day nations such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands. The rise of the Teutonic Knights reduced the prominence of the trade route as they killed all those who tried to collect or sell amber.

The Tea Horse Road

The ancient tea horse road was composed of a system of caravan paths that made their way through the mountains located in present-day China and Tibet. The regions that the route passed through included Sichuan and Yunnan, which are thought by historians to be the first regions in the world to grow tea. The route was an essential link that connected the tea growing regions with areas that consumed tea but lacked the necessary climate for it to thrive properly. Apart from tea, salt was one of the most vital items traded along the route. The trade relied heavily on horses, mules. and human porters to transport the trade commodities. Traders typically exchanged horses from Tibet for Chinese tea which earned the route its distinctive name. The horses were essential to the Chinese mainly as they were battling nomadic communities at the time.

The Trans-Saharan Trade Route

The Trans-Saharan Trade Route was one of Africa's most essential trade routes as it linked various regions of the Sahara. Camels were indispensable to the trade as they allowed the traders to cover long distances. Some of the most essential items traded along the route included gold and slaves. The slaves were mainly sourced from native communities or were usually prisoners of war. Several luxury items were also traded along the Trans-Saharan Trade Route such as ostrich feathers. The African communities involved in the trade also received guns which they used to strengthen their kingdoms. Oases were the most significant places along the trade route as they provided both the camels and the traders a place to rest after the tiring journey. Islam spread significantly along the trade route as well as Arabic culture. The decline of the trade route was due to the rise in the Trans-Atlantic trade route as well as the growth of European control in Africa.

The Historical Importance Of Trade

The growth of trade significantly influenced human development as it allowed the spread of culture between several communities. Trade permitted individuals from different communities and backgrounds to interact and exchange knowledge and ideas. Several languages spread to become the primary language of communication along the trade routes to ensure efficient communication between the traders. Religions such as Buddhism and Islam also spread following the trade routes. Trade was also crucial as it allowed individuals to earn a living from selling their excess products. The income that individuals earned was essential as it allowed them to take care of their families. Trade also strengthened several kingdoms as they got guns which they used to safeguard their domains.


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