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A Fascinating Map of Medieval Trade Routes

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Globalization is so well established in today’s world that we don’t think twice about where our bananas or socks come from.

Long before fleets of container ships criss-crossed the world’s oceans, camel caravans and single-sail cogs transported regional goods across the world.

Connecting the World

Today’s interactive map, by Martin Jan Månsson, is a comprehensive snapshot of the world’s trade networks through the 11th and 12th centuries, which helped to connect kingdoms and merchants throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe.

A confluence of interesting factors helped bring these markets together to encourage commercial activity:

Crusading’s Commercial Corollary

The First Crusade kicked off in 1096, sparking a trend that would have an undeniable economic and cultural impact on Europe and the Middle East.

European fighters arriving in the Middle East came into contact with civilizations that were, in many ways, more advanced than their own. Merchants in the area had already been been trading with places further east, and demand for “exotic” goods shot up when crusaders returned to Europe with items both plundered and purchased.

The maritime infrastructure used to deliver all those soldiers laid the groundwork for moving goods between ports along the Mediterranean. Some ports, such as Alexandria, had separate ports for Muslim and Christian ships, which helped create a more stable pipeline of trade.

The Growing Influence of Cities

The dissolution of the Byzantine Empire and the Italian Kingdom left a vacuum that allowed Italian coastal cities to claim prominent roles in regional trade. The port cities of Venice and Genoa were transporting crusading soldiers to the front lines, so becoming hubs of trade in the Mediterranean was a natural evolution. Their geographic locations were also ideal entry points for goods moving along inland European trade routes.

In the 10th century, word of Ghana’s abundant gold supply spread to Middle East and actually triggered a rush by Muslim merchants to build connections in the region. A lucrative gold export industry encouraged the growth of cities to the south of the Sahara Desert, which formed critical links between Africa and the Mediterranean trade network.

Flying Cash

While Italian cities were cementing their role in Western trade, the Song Dynasty introduced an innovation that has important implications today: paper currency.

Paper notes, known as flying cash, backed only by the government’s word, helped eliminate the need for heavy coinage and allowed trade to flourish in China. Later on, Marco Polo would famously deliver this idea back to Europe.

The Silk Road

“The Silk Road” is a catch-all term for the many overland and maritime routes linking East Asia with Europe and the Middle East. Cities and towns along busy Silk Road routes thrived, and during the 12th century, Merv (in present day Turkmenistan) was actually the largest city in the world until it was decimated in 1221 by the Mongol Empire.

Trade routes like the Silk Road made the movement of physical goods possible, but perhaps more importantly, they facilitated cross-cultural exchange of ideas, religion, technology, and more.

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Misc

The Top 25 Nationalities of U.S. Immigrants

Mexico is the largest source of immigrants to the U.S., with almost 11 million immigrants.

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Bar chart showing the top 25 nationalities of US Immigrants.

The Top 25 Nationalities of U.S. Immigrants

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The United States is home to more than 46 million immigrants, constituting approximately 14% of its total population.

This graphic displays the top 25 countries of origin for U.S. immigrants, based on 2022 estimates. The data is sourced from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), which analyzed information from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey.

In this context, “immigrants” refer to individuals residing in the United States who were not U.S. citizens at birth.

Mexico Emerges as a Leading Source of Immigration

Mexico stands out as the largest contributor to U.S. immigration due to its geographical proximity and historical ties.

Various economic factors, including wage disparities and employment opportunities, motivate many Mexicans to seek better prospects north of the border.

CountryRegion# of Immigrants
🇲🇽 MexicoLatin America
& Caribbean
10,678,502
🇮🇳 IndiaAsia2,839,618
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia2,217,894
🇵🇭 PhilippinesAsia1,982,333
🇸🇻 El SalvadorLatin America
& Caribbean
1,407,622
🇻🇳 VietnamAsia1,331,192
🇨🇺 CubaLatin America
& Caribbean
1,312,510
🇩🇴 Dominican RepublicLatin America
& Caribbean
1,279,900
🇬🇹 GuatemalaLatin America
& Caribbean
1,148,543
🇰🇷 KoreaAsia1,045,100
🇨🇴 ColombiaLatin America
& Caribbean
928,053
🇭🇳 HondurasLatin America
& Caribbean
843,774
🇨🇦 CanadaNorthern America821,322
🇯🇲 JamaicaLatin America
& Caribbean
804,775
🇭🇹 HaitiLatin America
& Caribbean
730,780
🇬🇧 United KingdomEurope676,652
🇻🇪 VenezuelaLatin America
& Caribbean
667,664
🇧🇷 BrazilLatin America
& Caribbean
618,525
🇩🇪 GermanyEurope537,484
🇪🇨 EcuadorLatin America
& Caribbean
518,287
🇵🇪 PeruLatin America
& Caribbean
471,988
🇳🇬 NigeriaAfrica448,405
🇺🇦 UkraineEurope427,163
🇮🇷 IranMiddle East407,283
🇵🇰 PakistanAsia399,086
Rest of World11,637,634
Total46,182,089

Mexicans are followed in this ranking by Indians, Chinese, and Filipinos, though most immigrants on this list come from countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

On the other hand, only three European countries are among the top sources of U.S. immigrants: the UK, Germany, and Ukraine.

Immigration continues to be a significant factor contributing to the overall growth of the U.S. population. Overall population growth has decelerated over the past decade primarily due to declining birth rates.

Between 2021 and 2022, the increase in the immigrant population accounted for 65% of the total population growth in the U.S., representing 912,000 individuals out of nearly 1.4 million.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Visualized: Why Do People Immigrate to the U.S.? This visualization shows the different reasons cited by new arrivals to America in 2021.

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