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Overseas Shipping In The 15th Century

Aug 6, 2008
Isaac Asimov wrote a story in 1942 titled Foundation that introduced a fictional science known as Psycho-History and a character whose name was Dr. Hari Seldon. Dr. Seldon was a mathematician who claimed that he could predict the history of mankind by analyzing past human behavior and converting it into mathematical equations to determine what would come next.

The story became a book, then a series, then a phenomenon in the world of science fiction. It may seem pretty far-fetched, but the actions of the past are often repeated again and again, making them predictable. Overseas shipping in the 15th Century was motivated by the same forces that make it a billion dollar industry today and the actions of our predecessors often mirror those of our contemporaries.

During the early days of the 15th Century, most of the sailors that engaged in overseas shipping believed that the world was flat and were careful not to venture too far out into the open ocean.

However, social and economic factors in Europe, combined with an increase in the number of sailing ships and merchants competing for profits, forced overseas shipping companies to expand their areas of operation. The Mediterranean, Southern Europe and the north coast of Africa at that point had been fairly well traveled and overland trade routes had been opened to Asia and the countries of the Balkans and Scandinavia. Simply put, overseas shipping companies were running out of places to go.

In the middle of the 15th Century, the belief that the world was round began to become more popular but superstitious sailors still baulked at the idea of going past their boundaries. Many believed that they would fall off the edge if they sailed too far. What happened next could have been predicted by Dr. Seldon's psycho-history. In modern economic terms it would be described as supply exceeding demand, creating a need for a new market.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus, an Italian adventurer sailing under the flag of Spain, took three ships and crossed the unknown waters of the Atlantic Ocean, opening up a new overseas shipping route that would lead to higher profits for the merchants of Europe. He also opened a door for the depressed and persecuted people of the monarchies of Spain, France and England to get a fresh start.

The social decline in Europe that preceded Columbus voyage could also have been predicted if anyone had bothered to look back in history. Overseas shipping has been the cause of the rise and fall of civilizations for thousands of years. When trade reaches a point of saturation the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. New markets create new opportunities and Europe no longer had new markets to open. This caused governments to tighten their grip on their own people and demand higher taxes that lowered the standard of living and created animosity and paranoia.

One of the mathematical equations that may have been presented by psycho-historians is that a society cannot feed on itself. Without trade and the overseas shipping of manufactured goods and agricultural products a nation will eventually consume itself. History has shown us that closed doors don't keep the enemy out, they trap those unfortunate enough to be inside.
About the Author
Nir Dotan is a writer and promoter of
Overseas Shipping services,

Local as well as International Moving.
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