What Does Economic Mean in World History?

The Definition of Economic in World History

When we talk about economics, we often think of it as the study of money and finance. However, in world history, the term “economic” takes on a broader meaning. It refers to the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services by human societies throughout time.

The economic activities of different societies have been shaped by a range of factors including geographic location, available resources, technological advancements, cultural traditions and beliefs, political systems, and trade relationships with other societies.

The Importance of Economics in World History

Economics has played a significant role in shaping human history. The level of economic development has been closely linked to the level of social and political organization within a society. For example, the emergence of agriculture allowed for permanent settlements and the growth of civilizations while advancements in transportation and communication technology have facilitated global economic integration.

Economic systems have also influenced the development of political systems throughout history. The rise of capitalism during the Industrial Revolution led to new ideas about individual rights and freedoms that have since become central to democratic political systems.

Economic Systems Throughout History

Primitive Societies

In early human history, economies were based on hunting-gathering or subsistence farming. These societies had little surplus production beyond what was necessary for immediate survival.

  • Hunter-gatherer societies: Nomadic groups that relied on hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants for food.
  • Agricultural societies: Settled communities that cultivated crops for food storage and trade.


Feudalism emerged in Medieval Europe as a response to the need for security and protection in a time of political instability. Landowners provided protection to peasants in exchange for labor and tribute.


Mercantilism was an economic policy that dominated Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries. It focused on accumulating wealth through trade and colonization. The state controlled trade and encouraged exports while limiting imports.


Capitalism emerged during the Industrial Revolution as a response to new technologies that allowed for mass production of goods. It is characterized by private ownership of the means of production, competition, and profit motive.


Socialism emerged as a response to the negative effects of capitalism including inequality, poverty, and exploitation. It advocates for collective ownership of the means of production and distribution based on need rather than profit.

The Future of Economics

The future of economics is uncertain but certain trends are emerging. Environmental sustainability is becoming an increasingly important consideration as global climate change threatens economic stability. Digital technology is also transforming economic systems with the rise of e-commerce and automation.

Overall, economics has played a pivotal role in shaping world history and will continue to do so in the future. Understanding economic systems throughout history can help us better understand our present-day economy and make informed decisions about its future direction.