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Theme 3: Trade, Craftsmanship and Industry

This guide outlines resources for Theme Three of the Honors College Program Guide

By Prof. Steven J. Fritts

Honors Program Council, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
Our world is a global marketplace where goods and services are bartered, bought, sold, and traded. Exchanges occur between friends and strangers, in souks and contemporary open-air malls, across borders, and on global computer networks. What vestiges of trade, crafts, and industry remain that our ancestors would recognize? To what extent has quality craftsmanship remained a constant from one generation to the next? As society progresses and needs grow, how do artisans and craftspeople respond? To what degree is industry connected to and still primarily driven by craftsmanship? To what extent has efficiency become the goal of the contemporary world? How can craftsmanship and efficiency work in tandem to produce quality products and a thriving global economy? Answers to these questions help us consider practices we have inherited and how they have shaped our world, as well as the legacies we will leave to future generations.
Since they lacked many natural resources, Ancient civilizations used the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, Indus, and Yellow Rivers to practice bartering and develop trade routes to gain items they needed to sustain their society.
After 1,000 B.C.E., Mesopotamians used camels to trade over land. From the 1st Century B.C.E. to the 13th Century, the Silk Road connected China to the Roman Empire. That connection helped spread knowledge, technology, religion, the arts, and, unfortunately, the Black Death throughout the world. Pathways such as the Spice Route and the Via Salaria also helped global culture and trade spread. Today, digitally-monitored land and sea routes produce data to improve the efficiency and speed with which nations and companies can trade with one another. Data itself, along with stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency, even professional sports draft processes, have become tradable commodities. The evolution of trade is coupled with a return to bartering through sites like eBay, Craigslist, BabysitterExchange, and SwapThing.
Throughout history, artisans’ works of mastery, more masterpieces of the soul than simply works, reflect centuries of tradition as well as impetus for trade. We see craftsmanship in the fragrance houses of France established by Marie Antoinette. When he bought the House of Lubin, Gilles Thevenin found a vial of and recipe for the last perfume worn by the French queen before she faced the guillotine. Marie Antionette’s legacy can be seen as well in haute couture in the queen’s Marchande du Mode, Marie-Jeanne “Rose” Bertain, whose vision of haute couture for her more than 1,500 wealthy clients created international fashion trends. The skill of Goorin Brothers milliners, the artistry of meat cutters, and the mastery of craft brewers have left legacies of beauty and excellence. Craftsmanship can be found, too, in the simplicity of a computer program, the complexity of a cathedral, and the beauty of a bespoke suit. Mastery of crafts is exhibited as well in the detail of cobblers’ work, the creativity of graphic novels, and the grace of professional athletes. Craftspeople have left legacies that have inspired generations. Are the care and artistry with which they have operated being lost to automation and a contemporary desire for efficiency, low cost, and mass production? What effects has the rise of industry had on
Industry and manufacturing were born of necessity and ingenuity. Demands for mass-produced, affordable products grew. Industry rose to meet the needs of consumers. The rise of power and transportation industries, for instance, fueled the economy. New trade routes were developed with the advent of railroads, aviation, and over-the-road trucking. However, creating railroad engines, tracks on which trains could run, and towns along routes led to the loss of 6,600,000 trees by 1890 which, in turn, affected the lives of millions in both positive and negative ways. Economies flourished and markets rose and fell. Understanding the legacies of trade, craftsmanship, and industry allows us to consider their impact on future generations. Are we experiencing a new industrial revolution? How will trade through hyper-loops, space travel, and new disciplines of craftsmanship and industry shape the future and affect our legacies?

Reading Resources

Lacroix, C., Tétart-Vittu, F., Trubert-Tollu, C., Martin-Hattemberg, J., & Olivieri, F. (2017).. London, England: Thames and Hudson.
The House of Worth is a detailed examination of the birth and evolution of high fashion from the era of Marie
Antoinette to the mid-20th Century.
Liu and Shaffer examined the history of the Silk Roads trading routes and their impact on the lands, communications, religions, arts, and economies of people who lived along the routes.
Public Affairs.
Morris presented a detailed history of the first American Industrial Revolution and its
impact on trade, the economy, and living conditions for people affected by its reach.
McKibben, B. (2006). . New York, NY: Random House.
McKibben explored the assumption that, with the vast amount of information that is bombarding us with the advent of technology, we are better informed than past generations.
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