Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies

The Role of Cross-Border Trade and Travel


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About the Book

While scholars have long documented the migration of people in ancient and medieval times, they have paid less attention to those who traveled across borders with some regularity. This study of early transnational relations explores the routine interaction of people across the boundaries of empires, tribal confederacies, kingdoms, and city-states, paying particular attention to the role of long-distance trade along the Silk Road and maritime trade routes. It examines the obstacles voyagers faced, including limited travel and communication capabilities, relatively poor geographical knowledge, and the dangers of a fragmented and shifting political landscape, and offers profiles of better-known transnational elites such as the Hellenic scholar Herodotus and the Venetian merchant Marco Polo, as well lesser known servants, merchants, and sailors. By revealing the important political, economic, and cultural role cross-border trade and travel played in ancient society, this work demonstrates that transnationalism is not unique to modern times. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Michael C. Howard is a professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He is editor of the series Studies in the Material Cultures of Southeast Asia and author or editor of more than 30 books.

Bibliographic Details

Michael C. Howard
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 313
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6803-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9033-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1
Introduction    3

1. Basic Features of Transnationalism in the Ancient and Medieval World      7
Societal Types      7
Contexts      8
Motivations and Personnel      11
Transportation and Communication      12

2. Ancient Empires    27
The Middle East      28
South Asia      45
The Roman Empire      50
East Asia      58

3. Medieval Empires    70
The Byzantine Empire      70
South Asia      72
The Caliphates      73
The Tang and Song Empires      76
The Mongol Empires      81
The Aztec Empire      86

4. Polities Along the Major Trade Routes      88
The Yuezhi-Kushan      88
Tamil Kingdoms      91
Malay Kingdoms      95

5. Long-distance Trade Goods      102
Obsidian      102
Beads      104
Textiles      107
Copper and Bronze      108
Gemstones      114
Incense      117
Tropical Spices      120
Tea      125

6. Long-distance Traders      128
Phoenicians      128
Greeks      130
Sogdians      132
Trans-Saharan Caravan Traders      135
Vikings      138
Nestorian Christians      142
Radhanites and Other Jewish Traders      145
Marco Polo and the Venetians      147
Gujaratis      149
Ryukyuans      151
Aztec Traders      153

7. Merchant Communities      157
The Middle East      157
South Asia      160
Melaka      162
Guangzhou      165
Western Europe      167

8. Cities      169
Mesopotamian Cities      170
Mediterranean Cities      172
South Asian Cities      188
East Asian Cities      190
Southeast Asian Cities      193
New World Cities: Teotihuacán      204

9. Soldiers      206
Mercenaries in the Ancient Mediterranean      206
The Roman Empire’s Army      213
Medieval Mercenaries in Europe      216
Chinese Imperial Armies      222
The Aztec Military      224

10. Monks and Scholars      226
Transnational Buddhists      227
Hellenic Scholars      235
Transnational Christians      239
Transnational Muslims      247

Notes      251
Bibliography      273
Index      289