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Chapter 18: Chinks in the Armour: Empires in the Eurasian Landmass
For nearly all of world history, the richest and most developed societies have been in Asia, and Europe was a peripheral area. It was the west that wanted the products of the east; Asia wanted little from the west so it took payment in cash. Under the Romans and later during the Islamic Empire, this trade drained the west of precious metals. It was the European conquest of the Atlantic world of the Americas that gave Europe access to phenomenal sources of gold and silver and enabled them to buy their way into the Asian trading system.
During the 16th century, the Portuguese were the only Europeans to trade ...