Pacific Trade Network

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Adapted from the essay "How the Henua Saved Civilization".

The medieval and early-modern trade network of the Pacific Ocean, with some important hubs at Wa'ab, Fiji, and Henua, played a great role in shaping the modern character of both Oceania and the Americas.

Around the year 1000, Henua sailors reached the coast of South America, a perilous journey that ranks as one of their nation's great achievements. But the voyage was much more than a daring feat. Geopolitically, it connected the trade networks of Polynesia with those of the Americas. The result was a series of links in an unbroken commercial chain stretching from Southeast Asia to South America.

By 1400, Henua had a permanent trade connection with South America to the west and Mangareva (the Gambiers) to the east. Just like *here*, the sweet potato and the Quichua word for it, kumara, spread from America to Polynesia via Henua. *There*, with the trade more permanent, something else moved in the other direction, unappealing at first but a savior in the long run: disease. Some Eurasian diseases slowly and gradually made their way along the chain, exposing the Americans to them early on, in the late medieval period. This resulted in some epidemics, but in the end the result was an American population that by 1500 had immunity to many European diseases.

Obviously, new strains brought by the colonists did take their toll: the trickle of Polynesian traders coming to South America was nothing compared to the flood of germ-ridden colonists now arriving up and down the continents. But the Pacific trade gave the American immune systems just enough of a boost to ensure the permanent survival of Native societies in such places as the Great Lakes, the Andes, Mejico, and the Paraguayan plains.

Historians speculate that if the brave Henua seafarers had not journeyed to South America, or if the wise Henua rulers had allowed trade to lapse at this crucial hub, the Americans would have not been exposed to foreign diseases, and would have been decimated at the first arrival of Europeans. And have the Americans given the Henua so much as a thank-you?

(BK)

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