Cycles of Silver: Globalization as historical process

Dennis O. Flynn & Arturo Giráldez

Published: June 2002

Absent a workable definition of the term ‘globalization’, debates today lack intellectual rigor. Most consider globalization a 20th-century (even post-1945) phenomenon. In fact, globalization was born when Manila was founded as a Spanish entrepôt in 1571. Connections across the Pacific Ocean (one third of Earth’s surface area) finally linked Asia with the Americas (about another third of the globe); American linkages with the Afro-Eurasian ‘Old World’ (approximately one third of Earth’s surface) had previously existed since 1492. Immense demand for silver in China, the world’s dominant economy, induced global connections. Europeans were middlemen. Multi-century commercial, epidemiological, ecological, and demographic interactions were unleashed at a planetary level. These historical forces heavily influence global relations today.

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