When Did Globalization Begin?

While some historians trace the history of globalization back to classical antiquity, most agree that modern globalization begins with industrial and imperial developments in Western civilization and their subsequent worldwide impact. Both of these components are intrinsically connected to the expansive character of 19th century capitalism.

The first glimpses of globalization occur in the ancient world, where thriving trade networks developed in the Mediterranean world and in the Indus River Valley. By the Islamic golden age, these markets were integrated, and cosmopolitanism was enhanced not only through trade, particularly by Jews and Muslims, but through the pilgrimage-oriented faith of Islam itself. By the early modern period, trade, exploration and colonialism brought new sources of raw materials and burgeoning markets for European states. It also saw the rise of capitalism and the advent of a powerful European merchant class.

By the 19th century, European conquest and imperialism interwove Western economies with others worldwide more deeply than ever before, leading to a more recognizable regional separation between industrial and agrarian economies, while the world economy itself became almost completely devoted to capital accumulation. While the process of globalization lagged after World War I, it rebounded in the decades following WWII, largely due to significant reductions in shipping or transportation costs, the elimination of many tariffs, more consistent support of intellectual property rights across international boundaries and the creation and sustenance of specialized subsidies for both small businesses and global corporations, just to name a few.

By the 20th century, advances in communication and social media technologies contributed to increased capabilities in crossing cultural and linguistic barriers, another boon for globally integrated business.