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Current time:0:00Total duration:9:36

Video transcript

in this video I want to start to answer the question of how did the environment and how did political factors impact trade and that is a really big question that we're not going to answer in one video but I want to use a specific example to illustrate the role of environment and the role of politics in shaping trade so I want to start in burka which is roughly here in present-day Sweden and the reason I start here is that in the late 1800s a team of archaeologists working in this site uncovered a woman's gray of among other things and found in that gray of the ring that we see in the photo here and they've dated this grave and the ring they found in it - somewhere in the ninth century so somewhere in between the years 800 and 900 or so and we can see in our bigger timeline that that falls right into what's called the Viking Age and the Vikings were were people living in Scandinavia in this region shaded in red they weren't a single political entity there were a lot of smaller more independent communities but they shared a lot of cultural characteristics so back to our ring firstly it's made of silver secondly the the bead that's set into it is made of a really high-quality glass and that's of a higher quality than anything that archaeologists have found in Scandinavia from this time period so those two facts would indicate that the ring is probably from somewhere else there's an inscription on the ring it's kind of hard to see but if you look closely you can sort of make it out and linguists and archaeologists who have looked at this are fairly certain that this is a form of old Arabic script and they think it says something along the lines of - or for Allah and I mentioned that the Vikings shared a lot of cultural characteristics and one of those characteristics was that they all spoke Norse languages so an Arabic inscription on the ring implies really strongly that the ring did not come from Scandinavia so that should raise the question for you of where did this ring come from and how did it end up in burka so the first factor we can look at to try and figure out where this ring came from and how it got here is to look at the medical context the political context at any given time is going to determine where and what goods are traded so think about it like this if there are two groups of people and they have a relatively good political relationship it's more likely that they're going to trade with each other too so if we look at the political situation broadly speaking during the Viking Age we have three major empires the first in purple we have the Byzantine Empire which was what was left of the Roman Empire at this time we have in yellow the abasa della fete and this is an Islamic empire that was founded in about 750 and then we have in blue the Carolingian Empire in Europe and that's named after Charlemagne who in Latin is careless Magnus so Carolyn Jian comes from that and I should point out on the timeline the Carolingian Empire does continue after Charlemagne's death it just becomes a little bit more fractured politically empires tend to have large cities they can support larger concentrations of people which means larger concentrations of wealth which in turn means that there is more demand so cities become attractive to traders because you have a lot of customers in one spot and those Imperial cities especially tend to concentrate a lot of wealth if they are the seat of government too so I'm going to pull our cities onto the map and as we look around here we can see a Aachen is the capital of the Carolingian Empire which is actually geographically quite close to the Vikings we have Constantinople is the Byzantine capital and then we have Baghdad which is the ambassador and when we look at those three empires in those three cities specifically only one of them speaks Arabic and writes Arabic and that would be the Ambassador fate so that would mean that the most likely place of origin for this ring was somewhere in the abasa della fete and yellow down here so we want to think about why would the Vikings be trading with the empire that's farthest away from that well part of the answer is political so if we look at the relationship between the Vikings and the Carolingians for example one of Charlemagne's big projects as the ruler of the care when Empire was to wage war against and try to convert the pagans who were living on the northeastern edge of his empire so there's this ongoing conflict between Charlemagne and and non-christians including the Vikings and that tends to hurt the the potential economic relationships that they could have and you actually see the Vikings raid the coast of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century as well so the Vikings are trading with the Byzantines and with the Ambassador what they're engaging in is what we call long-distance trade so when we talk about long-distance trade what we usually see our luxury goods and luxury goods are goods that are rare and expensive and so in all of these empires what we see is is the political context the fact that they have large powerful empires makes it likely that they have more advanced technology which means that they're able to produce higher-quality more technologically advanced goods but then we have to ask what are the Vikings have that they would be trading with these more advanced empires well one thing we can point out here is that the Vikings in Scandinavia are in a very different climate than we have down in the Byzantine Empire in the abasa della fate and to a certain extent different than even what the Carolingians have although we pointed out some of the political issues prevented more trade from occurring between them and the point we would make about the different climates is that climates determine what resources are available so if we look at what the Vikings are trading we see things that are somewhat unique to their climate and when we talk about the Viking traders a lot of what they're doing is actually coming across the Baltic Sea into this region here the Baltic region we'd call that and they are obtaining goods such as timber and specifically the timber they want are from pine trees and pines in the Baltic tend to grow very tall and straight and that makes them really attractive for building material also it's much colder in this climate and animals for burying mammals especially will tend to grow nicer thicker coats if they live in cold climates and that makes them more attractive that and as potential clothing items another resource we see frequently in the Baltic region is amber and that is a dried tree resin and that can be polished and shaped into stones for for jewelry for decoration as well the Vikings also do engage in in the slave trade they'll kidnap and take people from this region and then trade them as slaves with these Imperial capitals that is not something that's necessarily influenced by the environment but it is also part of this trade some of the some of the most popular items that the Vikings are trading for are things like fabrics especially silk which is produced in these empires I also mentioned glass earlier we saw the glass inset in the ring they also are making glass vessels like drinking glasses you can see a picture of one here and that is going to be of a much better quality than anything that the Vikings are able to produce so that that glass becomes an attractive technology there's a lot of silver coming out of especially the abbasid caliphate and one of the reasons that they know this trade was occurring more broadly is that in the baltic region and along some of the travel routes between the baltic and the ambassador caliphate archaeologists have found hordes or large collections of silver Abbasid coins and so we see here both silver and glass the elements of that ring that we discovered are are things that are being traded for by the Vikings coming from this region so we see the climate impacting to a certain extent what goods exist in different regions so there's an environmental impact there we also see geography or environment affecting the transportation of goods so what I'm going to do next is pull in the commonly used trade routes at this time and this helps us to understand how these goods actually move between these places so we see that the major trade routes between the the Baltic region and the Byzantines and the Ambassador follow major river systems and the Vikings are able to take advantage of these river systems in part because of the technology that they possess so again we see the environment playing a role in trade in determining what routes are our convenient to transport goods and one other point I would make about these routes that develop is we see these cities of Novgorod of Kiev and a vulgar that pop up along these trade routes and these these cities sort of grow because the trade routes exist this these cities themselves become centers of trade over time so to come back to our ring that we started the video with hopefully this is looking less like an anomalous a strange find and more like the natural result of the the existing trade networks that were in place because of the environmental because of the political conditions at this time