Trade involves the transfer of goods and services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. Economists refer to a system or network that allows trade as a market.
An early form of trade, barter, saw the direct exchange of goods and services for other goods and services, i.e. trading things without the use of money. Modern traders generally negotiate through a medium of exchange, such as money. As a result, buying can be separated from selling, or earning. The invention of money (and letter of credit, paper money, and non-physical money) greatly simplified and promoted trade. Trade between two traders is called bilateral trade, while trade involving more than two traders is called multilateral trade.
In one modern view, trade exists due to specialization and the division of labour, a predominant form of economic activity in which individuals and groups concentrate on a small aspect of production, but use their output in trades for other products and needs. Trade exists between regions because different regions may have a comparative advantage (perceived or real) in the production of some trade-able commodity—including production of natural resources scarce or limited elsewhere. For example: different regions' sizes may encourage mass production. In such circumstances, trade at market prices between locations can benefit both locations. Different types of traders may specialize in trading different kinds of goods; for example, the spice trade and grain trade have both historically been important in the development of a global, international economy.
Retail trade consists of the sale of goods or merchandise from a very fixed location (such as a department store, boutique or kiosk), online or by mail, in small or individual lots for direct consumption or use by the purchaser. Wholesale trade is traffic in goods that are sold as merchandise to retailers, or to industrial, commercial, institutional, or other professional business users, or to other wholesalers and related subordinated services.
Robert Carr Bosanquet investigated trade in the Stone Age by excavations in 1901. Trade is believed[by whom?] to have first begun in south west Asia.
Archaeological evidence of obsidian use provides data on how this material was increasingly the preferred choice rather than chert from the late Mesolithic to Neolithic, requiring exchange as deposits of obsidian are rare in the Mediterranean region.
Obsidian is thought[by whom?] to have provided the material to make cutting utensils or tools, although since other more easily obtainable materials were available, use was found[by whom?] exclusive to the higher status of the tribe using "the rich man's flint". Interestingly, Obsidian has held its value relative to flint.
Early traders traded Obsidian at distances of 900 kilometres within the Mediterranean region.
Trade in the Mediterranean during the Neolithic of Europe was greatest in this material. Networks were in existence at around 12,000 BCE Anatolia was the source primarily for trade with the Levant, Iran and Egypt according to Zarins study of 1990. Melos and Lipari sources produced among the most widespread trading in the Mediterranean region as known to archaeology.
The Sari-i-Sang mine in the mountains of Afghanistan was the largest source for trade of lapis lazuli. The material was most largely traded during the Kassite period of Babylonia beginning 1595 BCE.
Ebla was a prominent trading center during the third millennia BCE, with a network reaching into Anatolia and north Mesopotamia.
A map of the Silk Road trade route between Europe and Asia
Materials used for creating jewelry were traded with Egypt since 3000 BCE. Long-range trade routes first appeared in the 3rd millennium BCE, when Sumerians in Mesopotamia traded with the Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley. The Phoenicians were noted sea traders, traveling across the Mediterranean Sea, and as far north as Britain for sources of tin to manufacture bronze. For this purpose they established trade colonies the Greeks called emporia. Along the coast of the Mediterranean, researchers have found a positive relationship between how well-connected a coastal location was and the local prevalence of archaeological sites from the Iron Age. This suggests that a location's trade potential was an important determinant of human settlements.
From the beginning of Greek civilization until the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, a financially lucrative trade brought valuable spice to Europe from the far east, including India and China. Roman commerce allowed its empire to flourish and endure. The latter Roman Republic and the Pax Romana of the Roman empire produced a stable and secure transportation network that enabled the shipment of trade goods without fear of significant piracy, as Rome had become the sole effective sea power in the Mediterranean with the conquest of Egypt and the near east.
In ancient Greece Hermes was the god of trade (commerce) and weights and measures. In ancient Rome, Mercurius was the god of merchants, whose festival was celebrated by traders on the 25th day of the fifth month. The concept of free trade was an antithesis to the will and economic direction of the sovereigns of the ancient Greek states. Free trade between states was stifled by the need for strict internal controls (via taxation) to maintain security within the treasury of the sovereign, which nevertheless enabled the maintenance of a modicum of civility within the structures of functional community life.
The fall of the Roman empire and the succeeding Dark Ages brought instability to Western Europe and a near-collapse of the trade network in the western world. Trade, however, continued to flourish among the kingdoms of Africa, the Middle East, India, China, and Southeast Asia. Some trade did occur in the west. For instance, Radhanites were a medieval guild or group (the precise meaning of the word is lost to history) of Jewish merchants who traded between the Christians in Europe and the Muslims of the Near East.20th century
The Great Depression was a major economic recession that ran from 1929 to the late 1930s. During this period, there was a great drop in trade and other economic indicators.
The lack of free trade was considered by many as a principal cause of the depression causing stagnation and inflation. Only during World War II did the recession end in the United States. Also during the war, in 1944, 44 countries signed the Bretton Woods Agreement, intended to prevent national trade barriers, to avoid depressions. It set up rules and institutions to regulate the international political economy: the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (later divided into the World Bank $ Bank for International Settlements). These organizations became operational in 1946 after enough countries ratified the agreement. In 1947, 23 countries agreed to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to promote free trade.