Throughout history people have traded things they have surplus of, for things they lack. This act of trade eventually evolved the creation of currencies which could then be used as a unit of value to easily facilitate trading of different items across the borders of foreign nations. Professional traders were born out of this new cultural development and they often fared treacherous paths, across dangerous terrain to reach their destinations for trade. This practice proved quite profitable and often, quite invaluable to the people involved, in fact, some communities came to rely on traveling traders to the point where governments became involved. This began the age of Merchants and it changed life on Earth forever.
Merchant Empire of the West
During the 18th and 19th centuries, when traversing the wide expanse of ocean on perilous journeys often taking months to complete was the only way to get from most countries to any other, many daring merchants earned fortunes by transporting rare items from exotic countries to their homeland. Items like furs and spices were rare in western Europe but high in demand, traders able to make the dangerous voyages were rewarded lavishly and soon the lords and noblemen eventually became interested in this as a possible profitable business opportunity. Huge fleets were built for this purpose and many wealthy noblemen emerged from these ventures.
Merchant Empire of the East
The Chinese have always held trade highly in their culture and during many empires, trading guilds flourished and achieved great heights and fame as merchant guilds. Due to the fall of the empire in certain eras, these guilds suffered but were always able to make a come back when the economy changed to favor their growth. Even today, we still see production and trading to be an integral part of Chinese culture and they lead the world in production vs cost efficiency. Trade profits have always played an integral part of war funding, with the states of a Guild’s trading ventures often influencing the survival of some governments.
People all over the world have different needs, often times these needs cannot be met with the resources directly available in an affordable manner. In this situation, trade is very useful or even necessary and a country’s ability to trade often decides its economic future. History has shown many countries rising above their economic situation because of the discovery of a resource in demand by other countries.