The Continuity of Man's Desires

Over the course of history, empires have been built, war has been fought, and great trade has been made. Over the course of history, billions and billions of men have graced the Earth each creating his own life, his own story. History is a multifaceted compilation of man’s role on earth.

Like Jared Diamond noted in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, history is like an onion. It consists of layers upon layers of stories. To get to the core of history, one must peel off its layers, and delve deeply into it. A complex web of interactions across the globe has created the world’s history. History is so deep that it is impossible for one to understand it in its entirety. However, certain themes in history have persisted over the course of time.

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The desire for power and lust for luxury has driven man’s actions, and thus, the course of history, for tens of thousands of years. The passage of time has brought the rise and fall of hundreds of empires. Empires have been founded in locations spanning the entire globe. From the reign of the Romans, to the Ottoman Empire, to the European colonization of the Americas, the quest for territory and power has been a recurring theme in the history of the world. Many empires in history have been built in order to fulfill the ruling elites’ desire for power, wealth, and land.

The Mongols used a ruthless military to immensely expand their empire, killing thousands of people in the process. Europeans enslaved their fellow human beings in their American colonies as means of asserting their dominance and expanding their wealth. Empires have risen in different locations, at different periods in time, but for a strikingly similar reason: greed. Over the course of history, greed has trumped morality in the foundation of great empires. Over the course of history, greed has been the primary driving force for expansionism. Many empires have sought to expand in order to gain wealth.

Spain expanded their reign into the Americas. One of the primary reasons for seeking new territories in the Americas was to take advantage of the abundance of gold and silver present there. The United States exploited Native American lands as means of expanding their empire. American rulers coined the term “Manifest Destiny” in an attempt to justify their greed for land. Long-distance trade has shaped the world’s history.

From trade, not only goods, but culture, religion, and ideas have been spread. Trade has taken many forms over the course of history. Trade has been made on land, like in the Silk Roads. It has been facilitated by shipbuilding technology, demonstrated through Indian Ocean trade, beginning in the ninth century. Nowadays, trade is made by land, by sea, and by air.

Although the means of going about trade and the items traded have differed over history, the motivation for trade remains consistent. People have always been drawn to luxury. Whether it be Chinese silk, Indian spices, or Swiss chocolate, over the course of history, people have always had a desire for fine goods. History is continually expanding and building on itself. It is far too vast for anyone to understand it in its entirety. However, certain themes have persisted in history since the birth of humanity.

Although we cannot comprehend all of history, patterns of greed, demonstrated through the desire for power and luxury, can account for many of the actions that have driven and defined the world’s history.