Introduction If there is one substance that is impossible to separate from the course of human history, it is water. From a purely economic perspective its value is immeasurable, as over two- thirds of the earth is covered by it. Aside from our bodies requiring water to survive, we need water as a resource to clean ourselves and our belongings, irrigate the crops we eat, transport ourselves and the goods we consume, generate the electricity we demand, and as a medium to enjoy some of our favorite leisure activities like swimming, sailing, and surfi ng. However, water is just as important on social and political levels as it is on an individual basis. Th e world’s seas and waterways have served an ever-evolving importance to the de- velopment of civilizations around the world, activities surrounding resource acquisition (fi sh, energy, minerals) as well as the transportation of people, energy, commodities, and manufactured goods. Refl ecting the title of this work, there are approximately  entries covering the oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, and waterways. Each entry outlines important geographical and geological features, and unites the historical signifi cance of the body of water to the economic development of the region. Whenever an important resource was discovered, or an important new product or agricultural commodity became popular, it resulted in the development of lucrative new trade routes that trading companies, often backed by navies, went to great extents to control and extend their power. A detailed approach to all the important explorations undertaken through history, which is covered extensively by many other sources, was beyond the scope of this work. Rather, the approach throughout this work is to focus on the evolving motivations, and the risk-reward dynamics, behind the eff orts of nations and business interests to embark on exploratory missions to discover valuable new imports, and to establish new or alter- native trade routes such as the coveted Northwest Passage.
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