The Early, "Slow" Days
The globalization of markets is generally understood to be a recent phenomenon, triggered by the
economic development explosion after World War II; however, while international trade has
certainly increased dramatically in the second half of the last century, nations have engaged in
international trade for eons. However, before the twentieth century and the advent of modern
transportation, trade between nations had always relied on courageous traders who ventured in
faraway places in the hope of earning a living. They were responsible for determining what
goods they should take along as payment for the goods they hoped to bring back, negotiating
with foreigners with whom they did not share a language, and arranging for the transportation
and safekeeping of the goods while in transit. They were exposed to the risks of international
travel, of market preferences, and of political instability. They were mostly adventurers and
Can these early traders be considered to have been the first involved in international logistics?
Undoubtedly. The word "logistics" comes from the Greek
, which translates as "the art of
calculating" using concrete items, in contrast with
, which was the art of calculating
using abstract concepts. The latter eventually evolved into the modern concepts of arithmetic and
algebra. The first gave birth to the modern term of "logistics," which has evolved into the art and
science of determining eminently concrete aspects of business management, from transportation
and packaging to warehousing and inventory management.
The first international traders were involved in logistics; they calculated how much their ships—
or beasts—could carry, how much food to bring along, and how best to package the goods while
in transit, decisions that parallel exactly what a modern logistics manager does. They had to
decide which payment method was most appropriate, just as a modern exporter must determine
what is the best way of ensuring it will get paid. While many aspects of international logistics
have changed, the main concerns of people involved in this field remain similar; they have to
ensure that goods manufactured in one part of the world arrive safely to their destination.
However, the modern interpretation of the term "logistics" has its origins in the military, where it
was used to describe the activities related to the procurement of ammunitions and essential
supplies to troops located at the front. It gave birth to the title of
Maréchal des Logis
French military, which is given to a sergeant in charge of a unit's supplies and housing.