In the conventional historiography, the year 1492 traditionally represents the moment when the Europeans came of age and then launched the 'Voyages of Discovery'. And their significance derives from the assumption that they served to project outwards the Western capitalist system as the Europeans 'battered down the walls' of the so-called inward-looking, backward Eastern regions, thereby transforming them into outward-looking capitalist economies.
From there, globalization is allegedly propelled forwards in a linear way by successive Western pioneers down to the end of the nineteenth century before culminating with the post -1945 era when the global economy acquired its 'thick' and fullest form under the aegis of American hegemony or the Pax Americana (e.g., Held et al. 1999). Such an analysis elevates the Westerners to the status of global history's progressive subject - past, present and future. The Eastern peoples, by contrast, are dismissed as but globalization’s passive object, simply awaiting the arrival of the Westerners who could deliver them into the bright light of (Western) 'progressive global modernity', though always under conditions, if not terms, laid down by the more advanced West.
As with the conventional analyses of globalization, the major theories of the rise of Western capitalism - including liberalism, Weberianism and Marxism - also suffer from a pervading Eurocentric bias (see Blaut 2000; Frank 1998: Ch. 1). Euro centrism effectively imposes a constructed or imaginary line of 'civilizational-apartheid' between the East and West, in which the former is separated off from the latter and is simultaneously denigrated as the West's inferior opposite Other. Simultaneously the West was inscribed with uniquely progressive characteristics that distinguished it from an East that was defined only by regressive properties.
This premise infects the major theories in that they view the rise of capitalism as occurring not merely in Europe, but that it was achieved single-handedly by Europeans. And this in turn derives from the assumption that Europe is and always has been 'unique'. Moreover, it is axiomatic that these seeds did not exist within the East or that if they did so they landed on fallow ground only to be choked during the germination process by oppressive Eastern political, ideological and social institutions.
Accordingly, the path that Eurocentric analysts have so far taken, is to scan a very narrow patch of turf - in order to select the critical progressive variables that made Europe's rise inevitable. Certainly by the end of the twentieth century (if not well before) it became apparent that the European patch had been exhaustively ploughed by generations of Eurocentric scholars. Indeed this has occurred to the extent that it is now suffering from 'intellectual-ecological breakdown', given that it has largely failed to uncover any fresh variables that can provide a new account (Blaut 2000).
In contrast to the historical Eurocentric perspective, we argued that the emergence of the global economy long predated the rise of Western capitalism. And I see the link between these two entwined processes as lying not with the 'West' but with the 'progressive East'. A panoply of pioneering Eastern capitalist agents set up a global economy after the sixth century, along the sinews of which the more advanced Eastern 'resource portfolios' (ie., technologies, ideas and institutions) diffused through Oriental globalization to be subsequently assimilated or copied by the Europeans, thereby fuelling the rise of Western capitalism.
As a result of this argument it becomes apparent that scanning only the European patch either for the causes of Europe's breakthrough or for the origins of globalization, as Frank (1998) notes, is in effect to shine the spotlight in the wrong place. For when we illuminate the much greener field of the Afro-Asian region, we rediscover or bring to light the many Eastern factors that made the rise of globalization and Western capitalism possible.
For example between roughly 650 and 1100 Islamic West Asia/North Africa had the highest levels of extensive and intensive power, though by about 1100 the leading edge of intensive global power passed to China (where it remained well into the nineteenth century). Nevertheless, West Asia/North Africa and increasingly India -maintained the leading edge of extensive power until about the fifteenth century when China once more took over in this respect, even though the former powers continued to enjoy significant levels of intensive and extensive power well into the eighteenth century. Nevertheless this picture was re-imagined by Eurocentric intellectuals in the nineteenth century, so that first Venice and later Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands and Britain were (re)presented as the leading global powers in the post-1000 period.
The claim that a global economy or globalization existed prior to 1500 is usually rebutted on six main grounds (e.g., Held et al. 1999). Refuting these in turn enables us to provide an initial justification for our claim that globalization predated 1500.
First, the world before 1500 was not segmented into isolated components. Rather, after about 500 CE Persians, Arabs, Africans, Javanese, Jews, Indians and Chinese created and maintained a global economy until about 1800, in which the major civilizations of the world were at all times interlinked (hence the term Oriental globalization). Second, the portrayal of the Eastern states as but growth-repressive oriental despotisms is incorrect given that Eastern rulers often provided a pacified environment and kept transit taxes low precisely so as to facilitate global trade. Third, in contrast to the assumption of an absence of sufficiently rational institutions to enable global capitalism, there was in fact a whole series of such institutions in place after 500 to support global trade. As Janet Abu-Lughod noted:
Distances as measured by time, were calculated in weeks and months at best, but it took years to traverse the entire [global] circuit. And yet goods were transferred, prices set, exchange rates agreed upon, contracts entered into, credit - on funds or on goods located elsewhere - extended, partnerships formed, and, obviously, records kept and agreements honored. (Abu-Lughod 1989: 8)
Fourth, contra the view of inadequate transportation to support global interactions, while transport technologies were obviously nowhere near as advanced as they are today, nevertheless they proved to be conducive for global trade. Moreover, the Eurocentric assumption that global trade affected only about 10 per cent of the world's population - and was therefore inconsequential - is based on the assumption that such trade was in luxury goods which were consumed only by the elites. But this obscures the point that the majority of global trade was actually conducted in mass-based consumer products, which affected considerably more than 10 per cent of the world's population (Chaudhuri 1978; Frank 1998).
Fifth, while the velocity of global transmissions was indeed very slow, nevertheless global flows had a major re-organizational or high (transformative) 'impact' on societies across the world. The ultimate significance of the global economy lay not in the type or quantity of trade that it supported, but that it provided a ready-made conveyor-belt along which the more advanced Eastern 'resource portfolios' diffused across to the West. Indeed, as section two of the chapter argues, the high impact propensity of Oriental globalization is confirmed by my point that it promoted the transformation of Europe from an agrarian peripheral backwater to a modern capitalist economy.
Sixth and finally, it is often asserted that a global economy could not have existed prior to 1500 (or even the nineteenth century) because not all parts of the globe were tightly interconnected. But the assumption that the whole world should be tightly linked before we can declare that it is global is problematic even for the modern period. Again as Abu-Lughod (1989: 32) points out:
No world system is global, in the sense that all parts articulate evenly with one another, regardless of whether the role they play is central or peripheral. Even today, the world, more globally integrated than ever before in history, is broken up into important subspheres or subsystems, such as the northern Atlantic system ... the Pacific rim ... China, still a system unto itself, and [so on].
Indeed the vast bulk of 'global' trade today is confined within the trilateral bloc, while economies are still primarily national in scope given that about 90 per cent of production in the major economies is for the domestic market (Weiss 1999: 63). Moreover, domestic investment by domestic capital far exceeds direct investment overseas plus foreign investment at home, with the latter being financed mainly from domestic savings (Wade 1996: 66, 86; Weiss 1999: 63). We need not conclude from this that globalization is non-existent today; merely that it is neither no less 'perfect' today than it was under its historical Oriental incarnation, nor does it have to be 'perfect' for us to accept its existence.
Overall, the Eurocentric narrative displays a strong sense of a-historicism because those who argue that globalization did not exist in any form prior to 1500 do so by analyzing the world through the presenters lens of modern globalization (e.g., high velocity or high intensity of transactions). Thus teleological scanning the past for the features of globalization’s modern format not surprisingly enables them to 'confirm' its absence prior to 1500. But a slightly looser definition reveals the presence of early and modern globalization. Thus we can say that globalization existed prior to (and indeed after) 1500 insofar as significant flows of goods, resources, currencies, capital, institutions, ideas, technologies, diseases and peoples flowed across regions to such an extent that they impacted upon, and led to the transformation of, societies across much of the globe.
We take the post-500 era as the approximate starting date of Oriental globalization. The revival of camel transport was important because it enabled the long overland routes across Central Asia to be relatively easily traversed (McNeill 1995: 314). But the key development here was the emergence of a series of interlinked 'empires' that enabled a significantly pacified environment withirl' which overland and seaborne trade could flourish (Bentley 1993: Ch. 1 and 3; Wink 1990). These comprised T'ang China (618-907), the Islamic Ummayadi Abbasid Empire in West Asia (661-1258), the Fatimids in North Africa (909-1171) and the Ummayad polity in Spain (756-1031). Moreover, the kingdom of SrIvijaya in Sumatra was also important because it constituted a vital entrep6t that connected China to the Indian Ocean between the seventh and thirteenth centuries. In short, the prosperity and commercialization of the Arab and Chinese (as well as the South Asian and North African) world acted like a huge bellows that fanned the flames of an emergent global economy (McNeill 1995: 316).
Noteworthy here is that Henry Pirenne's famous thesis - that the Islamic invasions broke the unity of Western Europe from Eastern Europe (Byzantium), and that it was only by the turn of the millennium when trade resumed - needs to be inverted:
There was a close connection between the Frankish and Arab worlds, and ... the Carolingian Renaissance, the successes of the Italian city-states, and the growth of the Hanseatic League were all enhanced rather than retarded by contacts with the Muslim East .... It seems quite certain that trade revived at many places in the late eighth and ninth centuries [in Europe] .... Contradicting Pirenne, therefore, historians now speak of the economic 'Islamization of early medieval Europe'. (Wink 1990: 35-6)
Indeed, in contrast to Pirenne (1939), without Muhammad, medieval European commercial development would have been virtually inconceivable. Thus by the eighth century, Europe had become integrated within the emergent Afro-Asian-led global economy. While there were many important groups who helped build the global economy, especially the Jews, North Africans, Indians, Chinese and Javanese, nevertheless the birth of Oriental globalization owes much to the cultures Muslims inherited.
Plus the West Asian Muslims built upon the earlier achievements of the Sassanid Persians, which stem back possibly to the third and certainly
to the fourth century. After 610, West Asia began its rise to global power with the 'revelation' of Muhammad. While previously West Asia was highly fragmented and subject to various colonizing efforts by Persia, Syria and Byzantine Egypt, and one of the most significant aspects of Islam as a result was its penchant for trade and rational capitalist activity.
Ultimately Islamic power’s, comparative advantage lay in its considerable 'extensive' power. That is, Islam at the time, was able to conquer horizontal space, realized most fully in its ability to diffuse across large parts of the globe (like we already investigated in the case of the Mughal empire in what became British India), as well as in its ability to spread capitalism. Islam's power thus spread rapidly after the seventh century with the Mediterranean becoming in effect a Muslim lake, and 'Western Europe' a promontory within the Afro-Asian-Ied global economy. Islam also spread eastwards to India, Southeast Asia and China, as well as southwards into Africa through either religious or commercial influence (and often both). Its economic reach was extraordinary for the time, constituting the pivot of world trade. And certainly by the ninth century - as various contemporary documents confirm - there was one long, continuous line of transcontinental trade pioneered by Islamic merchants, reaching from China to the Mediterranean (Abu-Lughod 1989: 62; Wink 1990; Bentley 1993).
The Islamic Ummayads, Abbasids and North African Fatimids were important in that they united various arteries of long-distance trade known in antiquity between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean (to be discussed below). The Abbasid capital, Baghdad, was linked to the all-important Persian Gulf route. The contemporary, al-Ya'qubi (c. 875), described Baghdad as the 'water-front to the world', while aI-Mansur proclaimed that 'there is no obstacle to us and China; everything on the sea can come to us on it' (cited in Rourani 1963: 64). Other Islamic ports were also important, especially Siraf on the Persian Gulf (on the coast of Iran south of Shiraz), which was the major terminus for goods from China and Southeast Asia.
The Red Sea route, guarded over by Egypt, was also of special importance, as was the overland route to China, along which caravans passed through the Iranian cities of Tabriz, Ramadan and Nishapur to Bukhara and Samarkand in Transoxiana, and then on to either China or India (see below). Ultimately, Islam constituted the bridge of the world, enabling the diffusion of global trade as well as all manner of Eastern resource portfolios into Europe between 650 and c.1800.
According to Gods Crucible (2008) by David Levering Lewis, it deserves emphasis that this immediately stands at odds with the Eurocentric assumption that Islam was a regressive religion that blocked the possibility of capitalist, let alone rational capitalist, activity. Moreover, this assumption according to Lewis, is often deployed so as to deny the existence of a robust global economy prior to 1500 (if not 1850).
Lewis also points out that Muhammad himself had been a commenda (or qiracf) trader. In his twenties he married a rich Qurayshi woman (the Quraysh had grown rich from the caravan trade as well as banking). And according to “Gods Crucible “ the Meccans - the tribe of Quraysh - caused their capital to fructify through trade and loans at interest in a way that Weber would call rational.
Also according to Rodinson, merchants of the Muslim Empire conformed perfectly to Weber's criteria for capitalist activity. They seized every and any opportunity for profit and calculated their outlays, their encashment’s and their profits in money terms. (Rodinson 1974: 14)
Indeed in spite of its violence, according to Lewis in “Gods Crucible “ there are many points in the Qur'an that suggest a clear link between rational capitalist behavior and Islam. Thus while we usually consider the Sharfa (the Islamic sacred law) as the root of despotism and economic backwardness, it was in fact created as a means to prevent the abuse of the rulers' or caliphs' power and, moreover, it set out clear provisions for contract law.
Elsewhere, according to Hodgson, Islam was 'no "monotheism of the desert", born of the Bedouins' awed wonder at the vast openness of sky and land ... Islam grew out of a long tradition of urban religion and it was as city-oriented as any variant of that tradition' (Hodgson 1993: 133).
The thrust of this claim is supported by the point that Islamic West Asia constituted the leading edge of global intensive power right down into the eleventh century. Eric Jones points out that the Abbasid Caliphate was the first region to achieve per capita economic growth - supposedly the leitmotif of modem capitalism Gones 1988: Ch. 3).
Fact is, that manufacturing existed throughout West Asia and North Africa. For example, paper manufacturing began after 751; textile-manufacturing was important and widespread, as was sugar refinement; and Islamic iron and steel production outpaced in quantity and quality that produced by the Europeans right through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries. Moreover, Islam held a comparative advantage over Europe with respect to scientific knowledge and rational thinking (see the second section below). Notable too is that the Muslims created a whole series of capitalist institutions (concerning partnerships, contract law, banking, credit and many others), upon which not only Islamic production, investment and commerce rested but also global trade. In sum the density of commercial relations within the Muslim world constituted a sort of world market ... of unprecedented dimensions. The development of exchange had made possible regional specialization in industry and agriculture .... Not only did the Muslim world know a capitalistic sector, but this sector was apparently the most extensive and highly developed in history before the [modem period]. (Rodinson 1974: 56)
Also Jewish; traders, financiers and intellectuals, were important in Baghdad until about the tenth century and subsequently in Cairo in Fatimid Egypt after 969. Their roles are described in rich detail in the contemporary Geniza papers held in Cairo (Goitein 1964).
Following Abu-Lughod's discussion in her magisterial book, Before European Hegemony (1989), there were three principal trade routes that linked up with eight regional sub-systems, which I shall discuss in turn. And while these were important in the centuries before 1000, after that date they intensified further.
The Northern route and the economic gift of the Mongol Empire A significant boost to Oriental globalization was provided by the emergence of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century. By the latter part of the thirteenth century the majority of the Eurasian landmass was held under Mongol control. The critical point is that this relatively unified territorial empire - the Pax Mongolica - provided a pacified region for capitalism to flourish. It promoted very long-distance, or global, overland trade covering the 5,000 miles between China and Europe. Institutional constraints and political costs along this route came down, not least because the Mongols proved to be receptive towards the many merchants who traversed the Empire. Indeed the famous contemporary of Marco Polo, Balducci Pegolotti, described the Silk Road as 'perfectly safe by day and night'.
The common dismissal of the Mongols as ravagers of economic progress is problematic. That they indeed engaged in brutal killing (especially in China) does not undermine the point that the Mongol Empire provided highly benign services for Europe by enabling the diffusion of trade and many advanced Eastern resource portfolios into
Europe (Fernandez-Armesto 2001: 120-31). Nevertheless, this influential trade circuit was in decline by the mid-fourteenth century. But this did not mark the end of the Eastern-led global economy, since trade was increasingly channelled through the Middle and especially Southern routes.
The Middle route: the maintenance of Islamic global extensive power According to Abu-Lughod (1989) this route began at the Mediterranean coast of Syria/Palestine, crossed... the small desert and then the Mesopotamian plain to Baghdad, before finally breaking up into a land and sea route. The land route continued across Persia to Transoxiana and then either southeastward to northern India or due eastward to Samarkand and then across the desert to China. The sea route followed the Tigris River down to the Persian Gulf from Baghdad via Basra and then passed the trading kingdoms of Oman, Sirar, Hormuz or Qais (guardians of the link between the Gulf and the Indian Ocean beyond). While this route became important after the sixth century, it became extremely influential when Baghdad was the prime Muslim centre of trade after 750. But when Baghdad was plundered by the Mongols in 1258, the route underwent a temporary decline. However, with Iraq being subsequently ruled from Persia, the Gulf route revived. This Middle route was also important because it enabled a deeply symbiotic trading relationship between the Crusader kingdoms and the Muslim merchants who brought goods from as far away as the Orient.
The chief Crusader port in West Asia - Acre - was controlled up to 1291 by the Venetians, and there they excluded their Pisan and Genoese rivals. Nevertheless, although the Venetians dominated the European trading system, they always entered the global system on terms dictated by the West Asian Muslims and especially the North Africans. When Constantinople fell to the Byzantines in 1261, the Genoese were favored over the Venetians, thereby pushing the latter to focus more on the Southern route. But with the Fall of Acre in 1291 the Venetians had no choice but to rely on the Southern route which was dominated by the Egyptians.
The Southern route: Europe's dependence on Egypt's trading hegemony, 1291-1517 This route linked the Alexandria-Cairo-Red Sea complex with the Arabian Sea and then the Indian Ocean and beyond. The fall of Baghdad in 1258 saw the capital of the Islamic world shift to AI-Qahirah - later Europeanized to Cairo - which then became the pivotal centre of global trade (though this latter process began during the Fatimid era in the tenth century). As Abu-Lughod claims, 'Whoever controlled the sea-route to Asia could set the terms of trade for a Europe now in retreat. From the thirteenth century and up to the sixteenth that power was Egypt' (Abu-Lughod 1989: 149). Between 1291 and 1517 about 80 per cent of all trade that passed to the East by sea was controlled by the Egyptians.
And despite the numerous prohibitions on trading with the 'infidel' issued by Pope Nicholas IV, the fact is that the Venetians managed to circum-
vent the ban and secured new treaties with the Sultan in 1355 and 1361. And right up until 1517, Venice survived because Egypt played such an important role within the global economy. Moreover, Venice and Genoa were not the 'pioneers' of global trade but adaptors or intermediaries, inserting themselves into the interstices of the Afro-Asian-Ied global economy and entering the global economy very much on the strict terms laid down by the West Asian Muslims and especially the Egyptians. Nevertheless, the Venetians and other Europeans accepted this dependent relationship because it was through this that they gained access to the many goods produced throughout the East.
In the mid-fifteenth century the Arab navigator, Shihab aI-DIn Ahmad Ibn Majid, sailed from West Asia to the Cape and then up the west coast of Africa and then on into the Mediterranean. And, the Chinese (Islamic) admiral, Zheng He, sailed up the east coast of Africa in the early fifteenth century, though it is also possible that Chinese sailors had made it across in the eighth century. And the Javanese had made it to Madagascar and had settled in North Africa as early as the second century. In sum, it is clear that all the Portuguese were doing was directly joining the Afro-Asian-Ied global economy that had emerged after the sixth century. For our (at times critical) evaluation of Zheng He see:
After 1517 the Islamic trading hegemony over Europe was maintained (despite Portuguese pronouncements to the contrary). For the baton of Islamic extensive power was passed from Egypt to the Ottoman Empire, which maintained its hold over the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean (see also Hodgson 1974).
Mughal India and Southeast Asia - remained strong enough to resist and dominate the European traders right up until about 1800. Nevertheless, while West Asia/North Africa remained the bridge of the world for much of the second millennium, the leading edge of global extensive power passed neither to Portugal after 1500 nor to Britain after 1600, but to Chinese between c. 1450 and 1800.
China at or near the centre of the global economy, c. 1450-1800 Before discussing China's move towards the centre of the global trading system around 1450 it is important to preface this by returning to the point made earlier: that China had come to occupy the leading edge of global intensive power by about 1100. This was the result of the 'industrial miracle' that occurred largely under the Sung dynasty. At the centre of this was an iron and steel revolution.
By 1078 the amounts of iron produced in China, as well as its cheapness, were only matched by the British as late as 1800. Significantly, Chinese iron was deployed in mass-based products, from knives to drill bits, ploughshares, chains for suspension bridges and a host of everyday items. Moreover, China's production of cast iron as well as wrought iron enabled the Chinese to produce cast iron cannon, which were far more effective than the European wrought iron cannon. In turn, all this was based on the use of blast furnaces which used piston bellows. Importantly, Chinese iron production goes back to the sixth century BCE during the Warring States period. And the double-acting piston bellows were deployed for iron production as early as the fourth century BCE. No less impressive was that as early as the second century BCE the Chinese were producing steel and by the fifth century CE steel was produced using a 'co-fusion' process whereby wrought and cast iron were melded together. Finally, the familiar claim that eighteenth-century Britain was the first country to substitute coke for charcoal in the production of iron under conditions of deforestation misses the point that this first occurred in eleventh-century China.
Also Chinese textile production was considerably superior to Europe's, and stemmed back to the fourteenth century BCE. Striking too were the transportation and energy revolutions. The former saw the creation of an extensive canal system that rested on pound-locks, while the latter inter alia led to the use of water mills which were deployed for manufacturing purposes - most notably to fuel the water-powered bellows in the furnaces (which began as early 31 CE). Last, but by no means least, almost all of the ingredients that went into making the European agricultural revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had already been invented and were in place in China by the sixth century. Accordingly, the industrial (and agricultural) miracle placed China at the centre of global production, which in turn was vital in enabling China to move to or near the centre of the global trading system by about 1450.
One of the enduring myths of Eurocentric world history is that China withdrew from international trade in 1434 into its own regressive imperial tribute system, the significance of which was that it created a vacuum into which the more pioneering Europeans poured (e.g., Landes 1998: 96).
But in fact after 1434 the Chinese economy came to occupy the leading edge of global extensive power. The conventional picture of a withdrawal errs initially because Western historians take too literal a view of both the official ban and the Chinese tribute system. The official documents are distorted by the Chinese government's attempt at being seen to maintain a Confucian (i.e., isolationist) ideal. Moreover, the withdrawal is wrongly confirmed by the existence of a regressive imperial tribute system, which was supposedly based on coercion and state administered forms of tribute rather than commercial trade. But a number of points can be marshaled to refute this superficial reading.
First, the tribute system was in fact a disguised trading system that permitted considerable amounts of Chinese foreign trade (Hamashita 1994; Deng 1997). Second, 'vassals' were keen to become part of the system because for nominal amounts of tribute offered to the emperor they could gain access to China's highly lucrative economy. So keen were they that they often fought each other to become part of the system. And how else can we explain the point that the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch repeatedly asked to join the system as vassals? Moreover, some such as Japan in 1557 - even threatened an invasion of China if they were ejected from the system.
The ban was also a myth for various reasons. First, many Chinese merchants circumvented it in all manner of ways, for example by carrying a Portuguese Cartaz which enabled them to masquerade as Portuguese shipping, or alternatively by engaging in a thriving smuggling trade (Deng 1997). Second, not all trade was banned since large amounts were officially sanctioned in three key ports: Macao, Chang-chou in Fukien Province and Su-chou in western Shensi Province (and through Amoy, Ningbo and Shanghai in Ch'ing times). But the clincher surely lies with the point that most of the world's silver was sucked into China, thereby confirming that the economy was both fully integrated within the global economy and was robust enough to enjoy a strong trade surplus. The key turning point here lay in the mid-fifteenth century when the Chinese economy was converted to a silver currency. Moreover, the high demand for Chinese exports ensured that much of the world's silver - especially that plundered in the Americas by the Europeans - was sucked into China. In turn, gold bullion spewed back outwards (having been exchanged for silver), where it was then sold in Europe only to be converted back into silver before re-entering China once more (Flynn and Ginildez 1994; Frank 1998; Pomeranz 2000).
It was China that sucked Europe and the Americas into a tight and interdependent global economic web through the strong demand that it provided for the American silver that was plundered by the Europeans. All in all, as Jacques Gernet aptly notes, 'there was a big gap between the official regulations [i.e., the ban on foreign trade] and the reality of the commercial situation; the [official] restrictions imposed on trade might lead us to suppose that China was isolated at the very time when maritime trade was most intense' (Gernet 1999: 420).
Thus while West Asia (the Ottoman and Persian empires), India and Southeast Asia all continued to play important roles in the global economy down to the nineteenth century, undoubtedly the most important role was performed by China between about 1450 and 1800. But to sum up this first section, it seems clear that globalization is not unique to, or consequential only for, the twentieth century. Moreover, not only did (Oriental) globalization begin during Europe's 'Dark Age', but its ultimate significance lay in the fact that it was the midwife, if not the mother, of the modern West.
For many theorists, globalization’s ultimate importance lies in its ability to shape and transform societies across the world - what has been referred to as 'high impact' propensity (Held et al. 1999). It is therefore incumbent on me to reveal the high impact propensity of Oriental globalization in order to secure acceptance of its robustness. The robustness of Oriental globalization is confirmed by the claim of this section: that it promoted no less than the radical transformation of Europe from a backward agrarian society lying on the margins of the Afro-Asian-Ied global economy into a modem capitalist economy. My central claim is that every major turning point in the rise of Western capitalism was informed by the assimilation of the more advanced Eastern resource portfolios, which in turn had diffused across the Afro-Asian-Ied global economy into Europe through Oriental globalization.
Most Eurocentric accounts begin with the commercial and financial revolutions that washed across Europe after about 1000. The standard view credits., the Italians as the prime agents or movers in all of this. But while the Italians were undoubtedly the prime movers within Europe, they only were so because of their privileged trading connection with West Asia and North Africa - especially Egypt (Abu-Lughod 1989: 35-8; Braudel 1992). For a significant amount of trade from the East passed across the Islamic 'bridge of the world' into Italy and thence across Europe. That is, the Italians were not pioneers, but intermediaries, of the global trade that flowed across from the East. Moreover, Italy's financial success owed much to the Islamic financial institutions that also diffused across (Hobson 2004: Ch. 6). The Italian collegantzia partnership ('invented' in the eleventh century) was in fact an exact replica of the Islamic commenda agreement that had been invented at least four centuries earlier (Udovitch 1970). But this should hardly come as a revelation given that Muhammad himself was originally a commenda merchant. Moreover, all the major 'Italian' [mancial institutions - bills of exchange, cheques, credit institutions, banks and insurance - originated many centuries earlier in Islamic West Asia before they diffused across to Europe.
Before turning to the Renaissance which is conventionally thought to have originated in Italy, the next major turning point comprises the Voyages of (Re)discovery. These allegedly represented the sign of Europe's scientific, military and nautical/navigational superiority. But virtually all of the navigational and nautical technologies/techniques deployed by Da Gama and Columbus - the square hull and stem post rudder, the lateen sail and triple mast system, the astrolabe and compass, as well as lunar cycle charts, solar calendars, latitude/longitude tables and trigonometry - were borrowed either from China or Islamic West Asia. Put simply, had it not been for the diffusion of these Eastern portfolios there might never have been a European Age of Rediscovery. For without them, the Iberians would surely have remained confined to the Islamic Mediterranean. In turn the European excursions to the East are often linked to the European military revolution (1550-1660), which is viewed as the sign of Europe's military technological genius. But this obscures the point that all of the crucial military technologies were in fact borrowed from China where the world's first military revolution occurred between 850 and c. 1290. Indeed the Chinese invented gunpowder (850), the first metal-barrelled gun (1275) and the first cannon (1288). And in all cases, there is good circumstantial evidence for their diffusion across to Europe.
As thus noted, the Voyages of Rediscovery allegedly reflected the intellectual breakthroughs associated with the so-called European Renaissance (and which would later be complemented by the European scientific revolution). Moreover, these two intellectual movements are singled out by many Eurocentric historians as constituting the vital turning points that enabled Europe's breakthrough to modern capitalism. But while many Europeans trace their modern heritage back to the Renaissance, and hence to Ancient Creece, the fact is that many of its central ideas were derived from the world of Islam, all of which were pioneered after the eighth century CE (Goody 2004).
Islamic breakthroughs in mathematics including algebra and trigonometry were vital. The former term was taken from the title of one of al-KhwarizmI's mathematical texts. And by the beginning of the tenth century all six of the classical trigonometric functions had been defined and tabulated by Muslim mathematicians. Developments in public health, hygiene and medicine were also notable. Al-RazI's medical works were translated and reprinted in Europe some 40 times between 1498-1866. And Ibn SIna's Canon of Medicine became the founding text for European medical schools between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. The Muslims developed numerous medicines and anaesthetics and pioneered the study of anatomy. They were also keen astrologers and astronomers, and their ideas were avidly borrowed by the Europeans. Ibn al-Shatir's mathematical models bore a remarkable resemblance to those used by Copernicus 150 years later. And as early as the ninth century, al-KhwarizmI calculated the circumference of the Earth to within 41 metres. Last but not least, the Baconian idea that science should be based on the experimental method had already been pioneered by the Muslims (not the Greeks).
Also behind the headlines of pioneering British inventors as we have seen lay the Chinese who had undergone their own industrial miracle during the Sung dynasty in the eleventh century. Yet claims still persist, that the British agricultural revolution was allegedly spurred on by a series of British inventions, including the curved iron moldboard plough, Jethro Tull's seed drill and horse-drawn hoe, the horse-powered threshing machine and the rotary winnowing machine. Added to this were breakthroughs in crop rotations. But in each case, these had been invented in China by the sixth century. In the case of the plough and rotary winnowing machine, Chinese models were directly brought across (either by the Jesuits, European scientists or Dutch sailors). And the remaining inventions were most likely copied from Chinese manuals that flooded Europe after 1650 (some of which were transmitted by the Jesuits).
Much the same story applies to the British industrial revolution. Thus while most history books celebrates James Watt for his pioneering skills in inventing the Steam engine, the fact is that he owed much to the Chinese. The essentials of the steam engine go back to Wang Chen's Treatise on Agriculture (1313), which in turn goes back to the Chinese invention of the water-powered bellows (31 C E). Moreover, Chinese breakthroughs in gun and cannon manufacturing were also important in enabling the later invention of the steam engine (given that the cannon or gun is in effect a one-cylinder combustion engine and all of our modern motors are descended from it). Interestingly, a further link here is that one of the major challenges confronting Watt was the need to bore an airtight cylinder: interesting because he turned to John Wilkinson for help, given that Wilkinson owned a boring mill that was designed for cannon production.
While European history books axiomatically assume that it was the British who first used coal to produce iron ore, this in fact began in eleventh-century Sung China under similar conditions of deforestation. And the famous Martin-Siemens steel process of 1863 was pre-empted by the Chinese 'co-fusion' process that was developed in the fifth century CE. Given China's substantial lead in iron and steel production, it was not surprising that British producers (including the famous Benjamin Huntsman of Sheffield) undertook detailed studies of Chinese production methods in order to develop their own steel manufacturing techniques. It is true that the European invention of the Bessemer Converter (1852) was significantly derived from the breakthroughs made by the American, William Kelly, in 1845. But what is not usually pointed out is that Kelly himself had brought over four Chinese steel experts to Kentucky from whom he learned the principles of steel production.
The other great pillar of the British industrial revolution was the development of cotton manufacturing. But while British inventors such as John Lombe are usually singled out for praise, this misses the point that some of their inventions had been pioneered in China many centuries earlier. For example, Lombe's silk machines became the model for the Derby cotton machines. But while Lombe's 'invention' is recognized as a copy of the Italian machines, what is not usually admitted is that they in turn were a direct copy of the earlier Chinese inventions that had been assimilated in the thirteenth century (Pacey 1991). Notable too is that in textiles, the Chinese had long developed machines which differed in only one detail to that of James Hargreaves' famous 'spinning jenny' and John Kay's equally famous 'flying shuttle'. All in all, therefore, it is debatable as to whether there would ever have been a British industrial revolution had it not been for the much earlier pioneering Chinese breakthroughs, the knowledge of which (if not the actual technologies) were transmitted to Britain through a host of Oriental global channels.