Abstract

The search for powerful drugs has caused people and commodities to move around the globe for many centuries, as it still does, for it profits both states of bodily well-being and the pocketbook. For thousands of years, medicinals had been among the valuables traded throughout the Old World of Eurasia and Africa. When European merchant venturers went in search of Asian sources of wealth such as spices, and in working their way along the African coast bumped into lands to the west that were eventually recognised to be a New World, sustained interaction between the hemispheres was initiated for the first time. The continuing search for beneficial substances played its part in the new global commerce, and prospecting for spices and medicines brought Europeans into conversations with other peoples of the Atlantic rim, from whom they learned a very great deal. As they entered into medical exchanges, other kinds of innovations, such as new surgical practices and fresh information about the natural world, emerged as well. In connecting the circuits of exchange that enabled Atlantic commerce, then, European ships moved not only people and goods but knowledge from place to place.

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