ABSTRACT

Merchants have played a vital role in all the civilizations of mankind. Yet this role has changed with the prevailing economic conditions. When the benefitcost calculus favoured conquest-as it did in the Akkadian, Assyrian, Macedonian, Roman, Mayan, and Aztec Empires-merchants played a subsidiary but vital role in economic prosperity. They were quick to take advantage of the new opportunities for trade that the expanding frontiers provided. When the calculus favoured technological innovation, as it has done since the Industrial Revolution, merchants exploited the commercial opportunities provided by new productive processes, new commodities, and new methods of transport, communication, and ways of doing business. In these periods, when the dominant dynamic strategies were either conquest

or technological change, the merchant’s role has been an important but not a leading one. In these periods, commerce has been a subsidiary and supporting dynamic strategy.