Key Concept 3.1. Expansion and Intensification of Communication and Exchange NetworksAlthough Afro-Eurasia and the Americas remained separate from one another, this era witnessed a deepening and widening of old and new networks of human interaction within and across regions. The results were unprecedented concentrations of wealth and the intensification of cross-cultural exchanges. Innovations in transportation, state policies, and mercantile practices contributed to the expansion and development of commercial networks, which in turn served as conduits for cultural, technological, and biological diffusion within and between various societies. Pastoral or nomadic groups played a key role in creating and sustaining these networks. Expanding networks fostered greater interregional borrowing, while at the same time sustaining regional diversity. The prophet Muhammad promoted Islam, a new major monotheistic religion at the start of this period. It spread quickly through practices of trade, warfare, and diffusion characteristic of this period.
1. Improved transportation technologies and commercial practices led to an increased volume of trade, and expanded the geographical range of existing and newly active trade networks.

  • New trade routes centering on Mesoamerica and the Andes developed.
  • The growth of interregional trade in luxury goods (silk and cotton textiles, porcelain, spices, precious metals and gems, slaves, exotic animals)
Commerce was encouraged by significant innovations in previously existing transportation and commercial technologies, including more sophisticated
caravan organization (Caravanserai, Camel saddles);
use of the
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The expansion of empiresfacilitated Trans-Eurasian trade and communication as new peoples were drawn into their conquerors’ economies and trade networks
  • Required examples of empires:
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.Early African Civilization Freemanpedia.jpg
Medieval Japan Freemanpedia.png
Medieval Europe Freemanpedia.png

2. The movement of peoples caused environmental and linguistic effects.
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Some migrations had a significant environmental impact. Required examples of migration and their environmental impact:
  • The migration of Bantu-speaking peoples who facilitated transmission of iron technologies and agricultural techniques in Sub-Saharan Africa (Click here to follow the Migrations)
  • The maritime migrations of the Polynesian peoples who cultivated transplanted foods and domesticated animals as they moved to new islands Polynesian Migrations

Post Classical Migrations FREEMANPEDIA 2013.png


Some migrations and commercial contacts led to the diffusion oflanguages (spread of Bantu languages including Swahili, Spread of Turkicand Arabic languages) throughout a new region or the emergence of new languages.

3. Cross-cultural exchanges were fostered by the intensification of existing, or the creation of new, networks of trade and communication.

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Increased cross-cultural interactions resulted in the diffusion of literary, artistic, and cultural traditions (Neoconfucianism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia, Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia, Islam in Sub-saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, Toltec/Mexica and Inca traditions in Mesoamerica and Andean America).

Increased cross-cultural interactions also resulted in the diffusion of scientific and technological traditions (Greek and Indian mathematics on Muslim scholars, return of Greek science and philosophy to Western Europe via Muslim al-Andalus in Iberia, Spread of printing andgunpowder technologies from East Asia into the Islamic empires and Western Europe).
4. There was continued diffusion of crops and pathogens throughout the Eastern Hemisphere along the trade routes.
  • New foods and agricultural techniques (Bananas in Africa, New rice varieties in East Asia, Spread of Cotton, sugar, and citrus throughout Dar-al-Islam and the Mediterranean basin)were adopted in populated areas.
The spread of epidemic diseases, including the Black Death, followed the well established paths of trade and military conquest.



Key Concept 3.2. Continuity and Innovation of State Forms and Their Interactions

State formation in this era demonstrated remarkable continuity, innovation and diversity in various regions. In Afro-Eurasia, some states attempted, with differing degrees of success, to preserve or revive imperial structures, while smaller, less centralized states continued to develop. The expansion of Islam introduced a new concept — the Caliphate — to Afro-Eurasian statecraft. Pastoral peoples in Eurasia built powerful and distinctive empires that integrated people and institutions from both the pastoral and agrarian worlds. In the Americas, powerful states developed in both Mesoamerica and the Andean region.
1. Empires collapsed and were reconstituted; in some regions new state forms emerged.
  • Following the collapse of empires, most reconstituted governments, including the Byzantine Empire and the Chinese dynasties — Sui, Tang, and Song — combined traditional sources of power and legitimacy (Patriarchy, Religion, Land-owning elites) with innovations (New methods of taxation, Tributary systems, Adaptation of Religious Institutions) better suited to the current circumstances.
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In some places, new forms of governance emerged, including those developed in various Islamic states (Abassids, Muslim Iberia, Dehli Sultanates), the Mongol Khanates, city-states (Italian Peninsula, East Africa, Southeast Asia, Americas), and decentralized government (feudalism) in Europe and Japan.
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The Crash Course Video above has a misleading title. It spends waaaay more time on the Islamic empires and China than Europe.)


2. Interregional contacts and conflicts between states and empires encouraged significant technological and cultural transfers.
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Key Concept 3.3. Increased Economic Productive Capacity and Its Consequences

Changes in trade networks resulted from and stimulated increasing productive capacity, with important implications for social and gender structures and environmental processes. Productivity rose in both agriculture and industry. Rising productivity supported population growth and urbanization but also strained environmental resources and at times caused dramatic demographic swings. Shifts in production and the increased volume of trade also stimulated new labor practices, including adaptation of existing patterns of free and coerced labor. Social and gender structures evolved in response to these changes.
1. Innovations stimulated agricultural and industrial production in many regions.
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  • In response to increasing demand in Afro-Eurasia for foreign luxury goods, crops were transported from their indigenous homelands to equivalent climates in other regions.
  • Chinese, Persian, and Indian artisans and merchants expanded their production of textiles and porcelains for export; industrial production of iron and steel expanded in China.

2. The fate of cities varied greatly, with periods of significant decline, and with periods of increased urbanization buoyed by rising productivity and expanding trade networks.
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  • While cities in general continued to play the roles they had played in the past as governmental, religious, and commercial centers, many older cities declined at the same time that numerous new cities emerged to take on these established roles.
  • Students should be able to explain the cultural, religious, commercial and governmental function of at least two major cities.

3. Despite significant continuities in social structures and in methods of production, there were also some important changes in labor management and in the effect of religious conversion on gender relations and family life.
  • As in the previous period, there were many forms of labor organization. Required examples of forms oflabor organization
    • Free peasant agriculture
    • Nomadic pastoralism
    • Craft production and guild organization
    • Various forms of coerced and unfree labor
    • Government-imposed labor taxes
    • Military obligations

  • As in the previous period, social structures were shaped largely by class and caste hierarchies. Patriarchy persisted; however, in some areas,women exercised more power and influence, most notably among the Mongols and in West Africa, Japan, and Southeast Asia.
  • New forms of coerced labor appeared, including serfdom in Europe and Japanand the elaboration of the //mit’a in the Incan Empire//.
  • Free peasants resisted attempts to raise dues and taxes by staging revolts. The demand for slaves for both military and domestic purposes increased, particularly in central Eurasia, parts of Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean.
    • Teach one illustrative example of regions where free peasants revolted either from the list below or an example of your choice:
      • China
      • The Byzantine Empire

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The diffusion of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Neoconfucianism often led to significant changes in gender relations and family structurePost Classical Diffusion of Religion.jpg