A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people, especially one who trades with foreign countries. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. In 16th-century Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: meerseniers referred to local traders such as bakers and grocers and koopman Dutch : koopman referred to merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances and offering added-value services such as credit and finance. The status of the merchant has varied during different periods of history and among different societies. In ancient Rome and Greece merchants could become wealthy, but lacked high social status. In contrast, in the Middle East, where markets were an integral part of the city, merchants enjoyed high status. In modern times, the term merchant has occasionally been used to refer to a businessperson or someone undertaking activities commercial or industrial for the purpose of generating profit, cash flow, sales, and revenue utilizing a combination of human, financial, intellectual and physical capital with a view to fueling economic development and growth. Merchants have been known for as long as humans have engaged in trade and commerce. During the European medieval period , a rapid expansion in trade and commerce led to the rise of a wealthy and powerful merchant class. The European age of discovery opened up new trading routes and gave European consumers access to a much broader range of goods. From the s, goods began to travel much further distances as they found their way into geographically dispersed market-places. Following the opening of Asia to European trade and the discovery of the New World, merchants imported goods over very long distances: calico cloth from India, porcelain, silk and tea from China, spices from India and South-East Asia and tobacco, sugar, rum and coffee from the New World. By the eighteenth century, a new type of manufacturer-merchant had started to emerge and modern business practices were becoming evident. The English term, merchant comes from the Middle English, marchant , which itself originated from the Vulgar Latin mercatant or mercatans , formed from present participle of mercatare 'to trade, to traffic or to deal in'. Elizabeth Honig has argued that concepts relating to the role of a merchant began to change in the midth century. The Dutch term, koopman , became rather more fluid during the 16th century when Antwerp was the most global market town in Europe. Two different terms, for a merchant, began to be used, meerseniers referred to local merchants including bakers, grocers, sellers of dairy products and stall-holders, while the alternate term, koopman, referred to those who traded in goods or credit on a large scale. This distinction was necessary to separate the daily trade that the general population understood from the rising ranks of traders who took up their places on a world stage and were seen as quite distant from everyday experience. However, the term 'merchant' is often used in a variety of specialised contexts such as in merchant banker , merchant navy or merchant services. Merchants have existed as long as humans have conducted business, trade or commerce. Open-air, public markets, where merchants and traders congregated, functioned in ancient Babylonia and Assyria, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, Phoenicia and Rome. These markets typically occupied a place in the town's centre. Surrounding the market, skilled artisans, such as metal-workers and leather workers, occupied premises in alley ways that led to the open market-place. These artisans may have sold wares directly from their premises, but also prepared goods for sale on market days. The Forum Boarium, one of a series of fora venalia or food markets, originated, as its name suggests, as a cattle market. The Roman forum was arguably the earliest example of a permanent retail shop-front. In antiquity, exchange involved direct selling through permanent or semi-permanent retail premises such as stall-holders at market places or shop-keepers selling from their own premises or through door-to-door direct sales via merchants or peddlers. Relationships between merchant and consumer were minimal  often playing into public concerns about the quality of produce. The Phoenicians became well known amongst contemporaries as "traders in purple" — a reference to their monopoly over the purple dye extracted from the murex shell. Phoenician merchant traders imported and exported wood, textiles, glass and produce such as wine, oil, dried fruit and nuts. Their trading necessitated a network of colonies along the Mediterranean coast, stretching from modern-day Crete through to Tangiers in present-day Morocco and northward to Sardinia. The Phoenicians' extensive trade networks necessitated considerable book-keeping and correspondence. Phoenician traders and merchants were largely responsible for spreading their alphabet around the region.
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