Paragraph on Commerce as a Means of Spreading Civilization

Outline:

  • The spread of ancient Egyptian Egean civilization by commerce.
  • The East India Company and India.
  • The opening up of Africa and Japan.
  • The evils connected with spread of civilization by trade.
  • Missions, and sometimes conquest, less objectionable.

Civilization has been carried from one country to another by conquest and religious missions, but perhaps mostly by commerce. In ancient times, it was, probably, Egyptian traders that brought civilization flourished 2000 years before Christ. Probably, trade, through the Phoenicians carried that civilization to Greece, and to all the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. It was not only Roman arms, but also Roman commerce, that civilized many barbarian nations under Roman sway; later, it was not only the military power, but also the commerce of the Arabs that brought eastern civilization to many lands, and to Europe.

In more modern times, it was trade which led to Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English to India and the East. The English came at first to India simply as traders, and it was their East India Company that introduced western civilization into India, Burma, Ceylon and the East Indies.

The opening up of Africa in the 19th Century was due mainly to these forces; missionary effort, represented by Livingstone and Maffat; exploration, represented by Henry Stanley; and commerce, represented by merchants who went to Africa to make money by trading with the natives. Big trading companies were formed by Cecil Rhodes and other; and their operations helped to familiarize the Africans with the civilization of Europe. An entrance for the western civilization into Japan, also was first found by commerce. America was the first western country to make a trade treaty with Japan; and European traders soon followed.

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Civilization, whether it was Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Arabic, or modern European, has no doubt been blessing to the savage and backward races it has reached. But it has many times brought a cource with it when it has introduced to savages the vices as well as the culture of the more civilized races. And this is the chief drawback connected with the spread of civilization by commerce; for traders do not act from philanthropic motives, but go to foreign lands simply to make money.

This is why the spread of civilization by missionary effort, or even in some cases by conquest, has been better than the spread of civilization by trade. Zealous missionaries whether of Buddhism, Islam or Christianity, have had a more truly civilizing effect on savage races than traders. And when the ancient Roman subdued a barbarous race, and admitted them to Roman citizenship. They probably did them less harm than some unscrupulous traders would have done.

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