From the 13th to 16th century, trade flourished around the world as old religions spread and new ones began to rise. For instance, despite the weakening power of the Abbasid Caliphate, Islam spread as a result of the development of new states such as the Delhi Sultunate in India. Additionally, the creation of new trade routes such as the Silk Road connected the world and promoted trade among states. Finally, the Mongols helped to strengthen both the growth of religion and trade, as their tolerant policies towards religion accompanied by protection offered along trade routes allowed trade and religion to flourish. Between the 13th and 16th century, although officials used religion as a means of exercising trade due to leaders using religious devotees and missionaries to spread goods, trade facilitated religion to a far greater extent due to the interconnectivity of states as a result of trade bringing religions together.
During this time, trade helped to promote religion due to increased connectivity as a result of trade routes, bringing religions together. In a travel journal from Ibn Battuta, he highlights that travelers pass by religious symbols such as Churches on their journey (Doc 1). The intended audience of this document would likely be individuals reading of his travels, his purpose in writing this document was likely to spread knowledge of religions such as Christianity, supporting the argument that trade helped to promote the spread of religion. Furthermore, this document strengthens the argument that the scope of the spread of religion as a result of trade extends beyond the merchants themselves, but also individuals who hear stories and read journals of the merchants, further strengthening the argument that religion spread to a great extent as a result of trade. Drawing from outside evidence, a similar example of such spread of knowledge comes from the travels of Marco Polo. Similar to Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo was a famous European traveller who frequently documented his travels for Europeans to read. Similar to Battuta, Marco Polo helped to spread the knowledge he obtained along trade routes to individuals who did not travel along them such as religion in Europe, showing that religion was promoted as a result of trade around the world. Additionally, a map shows various leaders drawn next to trade routes (Doc 3). During this time, trade cities such as Mali flourished, and leaders such as Mansa Musa travelled, spreading his wealth and religion such as through the construction of Mosques, showing the wealth gained as a result of trade being further used to extend religious influence along trade routes. Finally, an excerpt from a Turkish Adminal shows the influence of Turkish merchants on religion in China (Doc 4). The purpose of this document was to document the influence of the Turkish merchants, likely Muslim, on Chinese religious beliefs, illustrating an example of religious influence by traders. Through this religious syncretism, this document shows the spread of religions from merchants into the cities in which they traded, supporting the argument that trade helped to promote religion due to increased connectivity such as between the Turkish people and China. Looking at outside evidence, we can see another instance of such religious syncretism through the rise of Sikhism. The religion of Sikhism is a syncretic blend between Hinduism and Islam, which was created in the Delhi Sultunate when the Indian people opf the sultunate came into contact with Muslim influence. This shows the influence of travelers on the spread of religion and the syncretic blend of many religions, supporting the argument that trade helped to spread religion.
As trade helped to promote religion, the opposite is also true: religion helped to facilitate trade due to leaders using religious devotees to spread goods. However, while skeptics may argue that religion helped to facilitate trade to a greater extent, the use of missionaries by leaders to help promote trade ultimately strengthens the fact that such missionaries attempted to promote religion in the first place along such trade routes. In an account from Christian Monks, sons-in-law of Kublai Khan offer the monks goods to spread (Doc 2). The purpose of this document was to show an instance of missionaries along trade routes being used to spread trade, illustrating that religion was used to spread trade. However, as the monks held few goods because they were missionaries, as shown in the document, this document supports the argument that while religion helped to facilitate trade, such missionaries promoting trade initially intended to spread religion. Additionally, Christian devotees are used by the pope as economic representatives (Doc 5). The purpose of this document is to illustrate local devotees, rather than missionaries, being utilized to increase trade, further supporting that religion was used to spread trade because the devotion of such believers in the pope helped to influence them to improve trade in the first place. This ultimately supports the argument that religion was used, locally and through the use of missionaries, to spread trade. However, such wealth acquired only served to further the intentions of the church with money learned from people like the king, supporting the argument that while religion helped to facilitate trade, such improvements in the wealth of religion only helped to further spread religion, showing that trade ultimately helped to spread religion to a greater extent.