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Thursday, 21 May 2020

Will the coronavirus spell the end for globalization?

Will the coronavirus spell the end for globalization? Globalization and the preeminence of free trade has repeatedly come in waves since the height of the Roman Empire which should give us reason to trust that global trade for the most part will remain intact, according to this Financial Times video (watch, runtime 10:08). Following the downfall of the Roman Empire, which owed much of its success to efficient trade routes, it took several hundred years before large scale trade was carefully reinstituted by the Mongolian Empire and the Silk Road. The boom in global commerce that took place by connecting Asia to Europe eventually took a downturn after facilitating the spread of the plague to the rest of the world. But that didn’t mark an end to trade. Neither did the two world wars, the Spanish Flu or the 2008 financial crisis. Globalization will likely remain afloat post-covid, but the bigger question remains whether trade as we know it will be able to survive the threats posed by climate change and cyberwarfare.

It’s another indication that it is time to think about history in 500-year chunks. That’s the (oversimplified) takeaway from Jo Guldi and David Armitage’s The History Manifesto, which asks, “Why is 500 years better than five months or five years as a planning horizon? And why is history — especially long-term history — so essential to understanding the multiple pasts which gave rise to our conflicted present?”

You can get The History Manifesto on Amazon if you want to read it on your Kindle or read it without charge on Cambridge University’s open access website.

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