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Cultural Diffusion: Migration, Trade, and Ideas

Since the first person set out to travel to a new place cultural diffusion has been taking place. The exchange and infiltration of ideas between different cultural groups, so that any time in history when two diverse groups met there was either a willing or unwilling exchange of ideas and the culture of one group was forced into another. This created a third unique culture nor resulted from the interaction. There are many different examples of this cultural diffusion over the course of history through migration, trade and ideas.


As any one group moved around in the world, they inevitably spread their ideas to others. It could have been done on purpose but most often it is a natural byproduct of the movement of people and ideas. One great example would be manifest destiny. As the United State pushed continually west they infiltrated lands that were inhabited by indigenous people. Each of these groups were given the option of assimilating to the culture of the United States or they were ultimately destroyed. The Native American culture made some contributions to the overall culture of the United States, and the culture of these indigenous groups was irrevocably changed.


There are constant examples of how the quest for trade changed the way in which ideas were spread. Marco Polo and his famous trips to Asia changed the goods that were used and desired throughout the western world. Christopher Columbus brought European culture, ideas and disease to an entirely new land in the name of trade. Even though he was looking for a new trade route to India, he found an entire continent in the way. This was one of the most significant examples of cultural diffusion in history. There are also many examples where trade led to a benefit for both sides of the trade. As new methods of doing things and making things more efficiently are accepted by cultures, it makes production more efficient.


These are the most important messengers of cultural diffusion because ideas change everything. As we look through history there are many examples of how an idea changed the society forever. The ideas of the enlightenment changed the way the world looked at science. The ideas of individuality and personal freedom have led to political revolutions in the United States and France and beyond. Countries were formed and governments deposed simply on the power of an idea being shared from one culture to another.

Cultural diffusion is going to happen in all aspects of life as human beings living in groups are always going to be looking for better methods and ideas to help them live their lives in a more productive and fair fashion.

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