WORKING FOR A LIVING
Sell & Trade
A merchant’s happiness hangs upon chance, winds, and waves – Old Turkish Proverb
Can you imagine a world without merchants, where we are left to our own devices to acquire goods and services without middlemen? Sounds like a harsh place to be. The sale and trade of goods defines much of the development and history of the world.
The earliest merchants, including those in Europe, Asia and Africa, opened up new worlds for themselves and their nearest neighbors by trading with them. Tools, metals baskets, pottery, food, clothes and hides were all commonly exchanged. Just as importantly, intangibles like ideas, songs and medical procedures were also exchanged. Merchants who set up permanent shop in a town and traded in volume contributed to the growth of their town.
The rise of merchant capitalism in Europe in the Middle Ages is a prime example of how merchants created large-scale growth in society.
The Middle Ages brought the rise of the merchant class in Europe. The growth in trade went hand-in-hand with the growth of the town in which the trade occurred.
During this time, town populations began to grow exponentially, new trade routes were formed and the ability to transport on water became highly advanced. By the 15th century, merchants were the elite class of many towns and their guilds controlled the town government. Merchants almost always supported their king, as they needed stability for trade. In exchange, the king would encourage growth and trade. The merchant guild controlled trade within the town, regulating everything from prices and quality to licenses and business practices. Guilds were all-powerful and if a merchant was kicked out of one, he would likely not be able to earn a living again.
The success of merchants brought a higher standard of living to the towns. The quality of streets were very important to merchants and with the cooperation of the king, they would try to make sure that streets were in proper working order and construction would never take too long. Sanitation was always a concern and where merchants had their way, trash would be picked up on a regular basis. Merchants also had a high interest in making sure law-enforcement in town was of the highest caliber it could be, thereby improving safety for all citizens.
In other parts of the world, as far away as India, advanced forms of trade were taking place long before.
Destined for Trade
With much of its borders washing up against the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, it’s pretty easy to see that India was always destined for maritime trade.
In the Vedas, India’s ancient Hindu text dating back to 1500 BC, passages suggest Indians had full knowledge of sea routes and merchants traveled extensively using the sea for gain. India’s fantastic literary history is also filled with tales of grand sea voyages by merchants and explorers. Plus, one of the oldest law books in the world created by Indians, Manu Smriti, shows that law governed all the particulars of sea borne travel, as well as inland and overland commerce. Evidence suggests that Indians engaged in trade not only with other parts of India, but also with much of Western Asia, Egypt and Crete. They would frequently depart from the port of Mahabalapuram, carrying exotic spices like cinnamon and pepper to places like Thailand and Cambodia. As a peaceful civilization, Indians never used violence to spread their influence throughout the world of trade.
The cultural influences left by India throughout much of Asia shows that beyond a doubt, they were the center of civilization for a long period of time. Like Indians, another awesome force of merchants was to be found far away in Turkey.
Labyrinth of Deals
Originally constructed in 1464 under the orders of Mehmed II “the Conqueror”, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey is one of the largest covered markets in the world.
The bazaar originally consisted of two typical 15th century buildings that were covered with domes. As time went by, new additions were added to the bazaar on the surrounding streets, turning it into a major trading center for merchants. In the past, strict business ethics were followed, and the quality of crafts was of the highest standard. During its time the bazaar has suffered destruction from fires and earthquakes. Even though it has undergone extensive repairs, it is not as grand as it used to be.
For centuries, bargain hunters have had nearly 4500 shops from which to choose, housed in what seems like a complicated labyrinth. In addition, there are dozens of cafes, a number of mosques, a police station and interesting sights like tapestries and fountains. Among the thousands of items you can purchase there, are gold, precious stones, furniture, rugs, leather and clothes. Merchants there are part of a very old tradition of bargaining, so they will expect that you will be trying to get the best deal.
The Grand Bazaar is still open today and each year, it receives millions of visitors who come to soak up its history and purchase goods from its merchants.
Ancient merchants faced a great ordeal in finding or creating a sellable product. They struggled to be fairly treated and receive a reasonable price for their goods. But throughout history they have slowly, but surely risen through the ranks to become pillars of civilization. Without them, we would not be where we are now. Today, a merchant with a great product can go onto to become highly successful and sometimes they can do it practically overnight.
In fact, the great merchants of our time are the most successful people in the world and they are generally treated with respect and dignity. Being a merchant is still a hard living, but the payoff is worth more now than it ever was.