25. Attractants
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25 Attractants [I was] leading a life of the utmost joy and happiness until one day a group of merchants came by, showing signs of travel. . . . So I felt a longing for travel and trade, and I resolved to undertake another voyage. . . . I found a large ship. —Sindbad the Sailor, in The Arabian Nights (ca. AD 900) As mentioned in the previous chapter, “pull” factors are of­ ten the other side of the “push” coin: positive expectations of attaining free­ dom, security, power, or position to replace depression or oppression. Pull factors are attractants that draw migrants from home—for example, the “God, gold, and glory” of early modern European imperialism. Many but not all of these pull factors are economic : natural resource procurement; trade; acquisition of new land to farm, graze, timber, or mine, or from which to exact tribute through conquest or intimidation ; and obtaining of training and/or employment. Some occupational categories involved peripatetic lifeways—for example, pastoral nomads, sea nomads , some mendicant and thieving castes, tinkers and Travelers, performers, military personnel, and many masons and miners, and, of course, sailors and merchants. The Ameri­ can his­ tori­ cal ethnographer Mary W. Helms examined in considerable detail the many motives that prompted travel in the Old World, in­ clud­ ing such categories as “adventure, curiosity, self-­ realization, fame and ­ prestige, and free­ dom from social constraints. . . . pilgrimage to holy places to seek personal or family help, curing, exile or penance, acquisition of ritual or other highly valued goods [such as saints’ relics], and official government business,” plus fellowship (socializing, exchanging news), popu­larity (as from storytelling), gaining songs and/or ritual knowledge, scholarly or religious study at libraries , and espionage.1 Better Barter: Resource Acquisition and Trade The Bible speaks of “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters” (Psalms 107:23; circa 1000 BC). Human acquisitiveness seems almost boundless, and since at least the Neolithic the quest for material gain has Attractants / 267 no doubt been the most frequently impelling reason for long-­ distance journeying , as modern gold rushes to California, Australia, and the Klondike exemplify. “Greed,” wrote the chronicler of the sea Tony Meisel, “can overcome an awful lot of fear and discomfort, danger and privation.”2 Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator had put it somewhat more quaintly half a millennium earlier: “You cannot find a peril so great that the hope of reward will not be greater . . . in honour and profit.” Even earlier, in the fourteenth century, the Chinese Wang Li wrote, “By the time of [Kublai Khan] . . . for people in search of fame and wealth . . . a journey of ten thousand li constituted just a neighborly jaunt.”3 The quest for items of symbolic value—as of power and prestige—may op­ erate as effectively as that for items of mundane commercial value. According to the Cambridge cultural geographer Robin A. Donkin, “Second in order of importance [after subsistence] . . . are what people crave: the rare and the exotic. These fuel the imagination . . . and draw men to the ends of the earth, of­ ten with great profit, always at great personal risk. . . . The further away and more mysterious [these exotica were,] the richer they were deemed to be.”4 Young Norsemen, for example, seem to have gone over the sea to raid Irish monasteries at least in part to obtain exotic baubles to use back home as bride prices.5 Competitiveness plays a role. One theory concerning the rapid migration of carriers of Lapita culture into west­ ern Oceania during the sec­ ond and first millennia BC is that these probable proto-­ Polynesians were involved in competition to discover and to appropriate occurrences of previously unowned, high-­ value raw materials. Generally in history, these kinds of acquisitions were accomplished by more or less legitimate exploration, extraction, and trade, but piracy and other brigandry were sometimes practiced as the quicker road to riches. Maritime trade already had a long history of interlinking the lands of the Old World by the time King David composed the psalm quoted above. Written rec­ ords of such trade date from at least 3100 BC, when Egypt sent forty ships to Byblos in search of cedar wood and came to record imports of cedar, fir, pine, juniper, resin, and wheat. Other products that the early Egyptians sought by sea voyages (especially, from Punt) include gold, ivory, fine and aromatic woods, incense, slaves, and monkeys and baboons—items that remained popu­ lar for thousands...


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