Cultural exchange refers to the exchange of values, ideologies, beliefs and interests between two or more ethnic groups. Cultural exchange is inevitable in any circumstance that involves human interaction.
De Vries (1979) argues that, in the sixteenth century, which is also termed as the golden age, the human activity that people consider having played the biggest part in enhancing cultural exchange is trade (p.12). This happened through the human contacts that people had established in the leading trade routes in the sixteenth century. This paper, therefore, keenly examines the activities of the principal trade routes in the sixteenth century and the cultural exchange that took place.
The trade routes provide an unduobtable evidence of human achievement in an effort to expand and change for the better. Regardless of the commodities of a given trade route, there were traces of the cultural interactions that people had left even years after the trade network declined (Bentley et al., 2008, p.17). The main trade routes that were in existence in the 16th century include the Tran-Saharan gold trade network that linked the north and western African to Europe and Asia.
This trade route majorly involved itself in the trading of gold, which was mainly from West Africa. Cultural beliefs introduced by the interactions that arose from this trade include the exchange of religious beliefs. This is evident based on the spread of Islam. Traders mostly from Arabic countries utilized the opportunity that they encountered to spread their religious faith to the people with whom they traded (Sanders et al., 2006, p.26).
People also exchanged cultural values in bulk during trading activities in the sixteenth century. They embedded some of these values in the religious faith transferring others through other means. For instance, certain communities influenced the manner in which other communities they traded with conducted their rituals, as well as how they generally behaved.
For instance, the communities to whom the Islam religion was in touch with adopted the life styles of the Arabs (Van Tielhof, 2002, p.39). Henceforth, they conducted marriages and other cultural celebrations according to the Islamic values.
Other prominent trade routes were the spice routes that majorly connected Europe with Asia and Africa. The commodities that people traded included exotic spices majorly from Asian civilizations and North Africa. These trade routes necessitated the spread of art and other cultural artifacts.
ome of these artifacts were used as a medium of exchange between the traders while others were items of trade. In these trade routes also, the desire to communicate while trading led to the development of languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Swahili (Pirenne, 2006, p.72).
The later acted as a trading language, which incorporated African words with clear Arabic words to make the trading activities more effective. With this development also came the birth of the Swahili culture, which drew aspects from both the Arabic culture and the East African culture.
The Silk Road is another extremely influential trade route that contributed to the exchange of cultural values in the sixteenth century. The trade route exists even today even though it has suffered political instability experienced in some countries along the route. The commodities of this trade route included artifacts, slaves, minerals and salt (Clark, 1999, p.45).
However, this trade route was not extremely active in the sixteenth century considering that it had reached its apex during the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century. Buddhism spread because of this trade through either written or oral works. There was also an evident exchange of Ideologies between the communities that existed during the time of this trading activity.
The principal trading activity that people considered having contributed immensely to cultural exchange was the Middle Passage also known as the Atlantic slave trade. This trade route “connected the west coast of Africa to the Americas and Europe” (Aksel, 1941, p.97).
The leading commodity involved in this trade was slaves. Millions of Africans had to abandon their cultures by force following the introduction of new ways of living in America, the Caribbean islands and in Europe where they were then slaves working in plantations and homes.
Cultural aspects such as religious beliefs, language, art cultural beliefs among others were a result exchanged between the people who were involved in the trade. For people to agree upon the transactions, there was the need to devise a language that would facilitate the trade. The Creole English is an example of the language devised to enable the trading in the Atlantic slave trade (Aksel, 1941, p.28). Intermarriages that either came during that period or afterwards involved communities. Further, it encouraged cultural exchange.
By considering the manner in which traders interacted in the trade routes that existed in the sixteenth century and the nature of the circumstances during the period, it becomes clear that trade played a significant part in enhancing cultural exchange between people of diverse ethnicities. People adopted new ways of living and new religions because of the interactions they made while trading.
Aksel, C. (1941). “Dutch Trade to the Baltic about 1600.” Journal of culture, 23(1), 1-100.
The journal article describes the Dutch trade of 1600 and compares it to other major trade activities of the period. The trade activities described in this article contributed to the birth of new cultural activities that came as a way of facilitating the trade. The article is relevant in this study in that it explains how the integration of some cultural values led to the emergence of new cultures which is highlighted in the study.
Bentley, J., Ziegler, H., & Streets, H. (2008). Traditions and encounters: A brief global history.
New York: McGraw Hill.
This book gives an account of how different traditions were passed from one society to the other through human interactions. Trading activities form part of these interactions. The book is important in this study in that it portrays the ways in which different people from different ethnic entities adopted new cultures through trade encounters.
Clark, S. (1999). Trade and Empire. London: Zed Books.
Clark examines how trading activities in the 16th century influenced in the strengthening of existing kingdoms. The book gives details of the spread of forms of government such as democracy to different regions. The form of government and leadership ideologies as elaborated in this book are cultural aspects. This book is used is relevant in this study since it shows how cultural values passed from one society to the next via trade help build the empires.
De Vries, J, (1976). “The Economy of Europe in an Age of Crisis, 1600-1750.” Journal of Economics, 34(4), 12.
The journal article analyses how the different trading activities in which European nations were involved in the 16th and 17th Century contributed to the shaping of the counties economies. Rather than the physical trading commodities, the trades enabled the exchange of ideologies in either written form or oral, which helped in the governance of the nations. The article is important in this study since it considers trade as being the major thing that necessitated these beneficial interactions
Pirenne, H. (1987). “The Place of trade in the Cultural History of Medieval Europe.” Economic History Review, 2(1), 72.
Pirenne Henri in this article analyses the role played by trade in the Medieval Europe. It is through trade activities that inter-marriages occurred, languages, art and religious beliefs spread. In this study, the article helps strengthening the claim that trade was among the major interactions that enhanced cultural exchange in Europe and other parts of the world.
Sanders, T., Nelson, S., Morillo, S., & Ellenberger, N. (2006). Encounters in world history: Sources and themes from the global post volume one: to 1500. New York: McGraw Hill.
This book gives an evaluation of how various interactions led to the spread of some cultures. One of the major ways in which people interacted as portrayed in this book was through trade. The book is important in that it shows the ways in which trade enabled the exchange of cultural values.
Van Tielhof, M. (2002). The ‘Mother of all Trades’: The Baltic Grain Trade from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century. Leiden: Brill.
The book describes the Baltic grain trade of the sixteenth century and provides a proof why people consider it the most important trade involving the Netherlands. This trade had other added benefits such as the adoption of beneficial cultural values from other societies that practiced them. The book is important in this study since it helps in the understanding of how cultural values are passed through trading interactions.