The History of Bartering and Trade
Think about when you were younger and traded things like stickers or baseball cards with your friends. You wanted to trade something that you didn't want or need for something you would like in a way that would be advantageous to you as well the person you were trading with. The concepts of bartering and trade go as far back as ancient times, and trade is the basis for most forms of economics. Barter and trade has certainly come a long way since the time of the Egyptians, but it's important to understand its history and how it has transformed into the system we use today.
The concept of bartering can be traced as far back as 6000 BC. In ancient times, villagers and merchants would trade a variety of goods in exchange for other goods or services. Salt, sugar, and weaponry were commonly traded items at the time. Grain, cattle, and textiles were other popular items that were traded. The first evidence of trade took place in Mesopotamia, and the idea found its way to Europe by the Middle Ages. Thanks to the use of ships, merchants were able to transport their goods across oceans in exchange for other items that could be transported back home. Everyone from peasants to kings was using the trade system as a way to obtain things they needed in exchange for something they had plenty of. It created a system that offered an advantage to both parties, making it a common way of getting things needed without the use of coins or paper money.
In the United States, trade was also a popular way to do business. The colonists would often trade things like sugar, tea, or linens to the Native Americans for tobacco, fur, or game. By trading, positive relationships and alliances were formed thanks to the sense of trust that trade creates. Trading helped open communication, and this made life easier for everyone involved. But the colonists also traded across the pond with Great Britain, and conflicts over imports like tea helped to pave the way for the American Revolution.
Money in the form of gold and silver can be traced as far back as biblical times. The Native Americans used shells and other objects called wampum to serve as their own form of currency. At one time, however, the idea of having currency was one that was reserved mostly for the truly wealthy and ruling class. Many people continued to use the barter system in order to get the things they wanted and needed until it became evident that the producers of goods had begun accepting money as the main or even only form of payment for their items. The use of standardized coins can be found during the Roman era, where official coins were minted and produced in varying denominations. This idea spread far and wide over the following centuries, making coins a common tool for making purchases.
For those without access to money, loans and credit could be given. Today, loans are still a popular option for many who don't have easy access to enough cash for what they need to buy. While trading is still done using websites and through in-person contact, money continues to rule when it comes to buying the things we want or need. With new technology, real currency is seen less frequently as it once way, as it is replaced by electronic transfers and other types of quick virtual transactions. Credit cards are now one of the most common ways people buy things, and cash is becoming less and less common as a method of payment. As society changes and adapts, the idea of using trade and money will continue to evolve along with it.
For more information about the history of trading, money, and loans, refer to the following resources:
- A History of Beaver and Other Fur Trading
- Trade Between the Romans and the Empires of Asia
- The History of Money
- The History of Bartering and Money
- From Barter to Bitcoin
- Origins of Money and Banking
- The Trade of the Middle Colonies
- Colonial Farming, Trade, and Manufacturing
- Roman Currency
- Financing Civilization
- A Brief History of Interest
- Ancient Egypt: Domestic Trade
- Barter in Prehistoric Times
- Economic History of the Fur Trade
- Legendary Coins and Currency
- The History of American Money
- Wampum History
- The Rise of Trade and Towns in the Middle Ages
- Trade in the 1600s
- British Colonial Trade Regulations