Globalization is best defined as the global interaction of distant people influenced by
cultural exchange. Globalization can be traced back to the early 500’s and is still dominant in
today’s society. Early civilizations were never isolated from their neighbors, leaving a door open
for cross-cultural exchanges. Through empire expansion, trade, revolutions, ideologies, and
technology, globalization has played a major role in history and also in shaping the world today,
making it one of history’s most significant phenomena.
The expansion of large empires, like the Arab Empire, which covered a mass amount of
territory from Spain to India, can be viewed as the first glimpse at globalization. Through
empire expansion people were often integrated in cross-cultural society with religion playing a
key role. The Arab Empire can be credited with the spread of Islam to Africa and southern
Europe, Buddhism which originated in India spread to Asia, Christianity became dominant in
Europe and in some parts of Russia, and Hinduism became popular in Southeast Asia. All four
religions would have not had the global impact without the expansion of large empires.
However, empire expansion had only a minimal effect on globalization.
The use of trade in the early 500’s was the beginning of a global phenomenon. The Silk
Roads expanded across Europe and Asia for centuries. Through the Silk Trade, consumers were
offered a variety of goods that were not available in their native country (Strayer, 319).
Merchants who traveled the Silk Roads found themselves engaging in more cross-cultural
exchanges than that of goods. The spread of Buddhism from India to Asia is in large part due to
the merchants spreading their religious views while on trading goods on the Silk Roads. During
the 15th century, Europeans saw an opportunity of wealth in Africa and Asia, in particular
the goods offered- gold, silk, and spices (Strayer, 575). Europe powerhouses: Great Britain,
Spain and France proceeded to monopolize the Indian Ocean and Americas for trade and
empire expansion. As a result the Columbian exchange was formed, forcing four continents
into an interconnecting world. The Columbian exchange was the first trade route forcing
interaction between different civilization. The trade route, expanding across the Atlantic Ocean,
allowed empire powerhouses like Great Britain to colonize civilizations in the Americas,
influencing the natives in European ways; in particular, this was done with the Native Americans
in North America. The Europeans influenced the dress, weaponry, language, and even cooking
utensils of the Native Americans. As the trade routes expanded and the world continued to
populate, a new type of “good” was offered, slaves. The slave trade which transported
millions of Africans to different parts of the world was also part of the cross-cultural exchanges.
Many Africans enslaved would try to keep their heritage and culture by singing songs,