Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 October 2020
Trading systems are never random. The lone merchant, sailing the seas in search of lucrative markets, has little hope of rising above his station. Long-distance trade depends on networks that link merchants and shippers to financiers, suppliers and clients. Merchants need to cooperate, negotiate and mediate. They need to put faith in commitments. The shape of trade networks varies depending on cultural norms and values, legal requirements and distribution of resources, but also on the personality, talent, acuity and ingenuity of the merchants themselves.