The period leading up to the first International Age of recorded history is one marked by the rise and fall of several powers, major climatic disturbances, and population movements across Egypt and the Near East. However, alongside these dramatic developments was the punctuated yet continuous growth of a dynamic network of trade. How were its links fostered and maintained across geopolitical, cultural and social borders, despite the impending challenges? This question is one of the central aims of a Macquarie University Research Fellowship that investigates ‘The Ties that Bind: Negotiating Foreign Relations in the Second Millennium BC’. As an introduction to the project, the seminar presents an overview of Egypt’s role in the Middle Bronze Age trade network, and how ‘The Ties that Bind’ emerged from a research programme interested in the links between cultural encounters and socio-cultural transformations.