The history of globalization: 5 Centuries in 3 phases (2/3)

Our previous post was related to the phase one of the history of globalization. Let´s move on, and share thoughts about the second one.

The second phase of globalization covers the period of intensive internationalization of transportation systems, communications, commerce, science, and many other human activities that unfolded between the middle of the 19th century and the collapse of this second phase, that resulted from the outbreak of war in August of 1914.

During the second half of the 19th century, the Western world experienced a dramatic intensification of international connectivity due to four advancing technologies: trains, steamships, the telegraph, and the postal system. These developments transformed people’s expectations of what was possible in much the same way that today electronic communications have shaped our own expectations of what the 21st century has to offer us. As early as the 1830s, the arrival of a letter from far away could inspire a sense of wonder in the recipient. By the 1860s, transatlantic telegraphy provoked utopian expressions of joy in the expectation that instant communications would put an end to the scourge of war.

The period 1880 to 1914 saw a level of global economic integration that matched or even exceeded that of the global economy today. The investment capital that flowed around the world, much of it originating in London, contributed to the economic development of the former colonies of the global British Empire (The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). Small and remote British possessions around the world, such as the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, and Hong Kong, would eventually turn into so-called offshore tax havens, serving a global economic elite. Many of these subordinate microstates remain under British control to this day.

Other European colonial empires established their own international trade routes with their colonies in Africa, whose liberations would not come until the last decades of the 20th century. In fact, the oppression and exploitation of colonized populations has always been an integral part of the global system. Raw materials and more exotic goods flowed from the colonies across the seas to Europe. At the turn of the 20th century, an affluent inhabitant of London had access to many products of foreign origin years before the fateful events of August 1914 profoundly disrupted this world of unprecedented global connectivity.

The second half of the 19th century also saw an extraordinary proliferation of transnational organizations, many of which aimed at improving the world in one way or another by promulgating humanitarian ideals or a belief in the value of knowledge to human affairs. We may call these organizations and their global campaigns or movements the idealistic internationalisms. The Swiss businessman and social activist Henri Dunant founded the Red Cross in 1863. The Salvation Army, a Christian international charitable organization, was established in 1865. And the world’s only surviving language movement of this era, Esperanto, appeared in 1887. Surrounded by Poland’s language barriers and ethnic conflicts, Ludwig Zamenhof invented the artificial language known as Esperanto in the hope of making peace among the warring factions. The French nobleman Pierre de Coubertin, an admirer of the British sport system, founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894 with the goal of establishing better international relations among the competing nations. The Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel began awarding the Nobel Prizes in 1901 to scientists from any country. The professed internationalist and openly racist Lord Baden-Powell established the Scouting Movement in 1908.

It is worth noting that all of these second phase international organizations, with the partial exception of Esperanto, have enjoyed enormously successful global careers over the past century or more. They were and they remain today exemplars of second phase globalization. Having demonstrated their usefulness, or at least their widespread appeal to the global community, these global organizations testify to the enduring stature of venerable movements that have always claimed to represent the highest aspirations of mankind. Perhaps some of these humanitarian activists realized at the time that without the practical internationalism of the Universal Postal Union, established in 1874, as well as the services of the transatlantic steamship companies, their idealistic projects would have faced insuperable obstacles.

Source: Hoberman, University of Austin Texas,

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Una respuesta a The history of globalization: 5 Centuries in 3 phases (2/3)

  1. scott dijo:

    Well crafted and more insightful content on globalization


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