Humanity is defined by its horizons—horizons, with their waves and crests, that are sometimes perceived and at other times only imagined, sometimes earthbound, at other times the stuff of dreams. These horizons give each one of us a sense of the scale, and limitations, of our needs and abilities. One horizon we accept; the other remains ever beyond our reach. One is sterile while the other is fertile; one is real while the other remains an ideal. Both are relative to the moment and to our state of mind. These encircling horizons define people and things, opportunities and obstacles.
The boundaries of these horizons can be pushed back by our intelligence. All it takes is the creative impulse, which is expressed in acts of daring or enterprise. Necessary, too, is that immediate grasp of reality which demonstrates not only what is possible but also how much effort is required to obtain a desired outcome. Thus individuals create their own horizons, which lie at the point where necessity ends and ambition begins.
This book takes as its point of departure those horizons that determined the advance of the individual and the group. This expansion, made possible by the new forms of trade and methods of finance, gave rise to new markets and increased exploitation of resources, opportunities as varied as the spheres of influence created by geographical diversity. As generation succeeded generation, the map of economic relationships reflects this effort of the will to extend the world beyond its originally perceived limits.
Traders now had to take into account new realities that were foreign to their natural horizons. They had thus to overcome two interdependent components in their fear of the unknown and the need to overcome it: time