The first global trading network

Little is known about the structural patterns and dynamics of the first global trading market (FGTM), which emerged during the sixteenth century as a result of the Iberian expansion, let alone how it compares to today’s global financial markets. Here we build a representative network of the FGTM using information contained in 8725 (handwritten) Bills of Exchange from that time—which were (human) interpreted and digitalized into an online database. We show that the resulting temporal network exhibits a hierarchical, highly clustered and disassortative structure, with a power-law dependence on the connectivity that remains remarkably robust throughout the entire period investigated. Temporal analysis shows that, despite major turnovers in the number and nature of the links—suggesting fast adaptation in response to the geopolitical and financial turmoil experienced at the time—the overall characteristics of the FGTM remain robust and virtually unchanged. The methodology developed here demonstrates the possibility of building and analysing complex trading and finance networks originating from pre-statistical eras, enabling us to highlight the striking similarities between the structural patterns of financial networks separated by centuries in time.


Structural and temporal patterns of the first global trading market
Ana Sofia Ribeiro, Flávio L. Pinheiro, Francisco C. Santos, Amélia Polónia, Jorge M. Pacheco

Royal Society Open Science
Published 22 August 2018.DOI: 10.1098/rsos.180577