The Big and the Little
written by Isaac Asimov
published in 1944
Part 5 of the title Foundation
Set in the Foundation universe
The Foundation has expanded through the use of Scientism and economics. Three Foundation vessels have vanished near the Republic of Korell, a nation suspected of technological development. Trader Hober Mallow is sent to uncover information on their technology and hopefully find the missing ships. While at Korell, Mallow convinces Korell's leader Commdor Asper Argo to purchase Foundation technology. Mallow also discovers that Korell still maintains some relics of the Empire such as atomic hand guns. But he also notes the Republic's decrepit condition and lack of modern technology.
On return to Terminus, he is considered a traitor for not spreading Scientism to Korell, although an unlikely development clears Mallow allowing him to win an election for Mayor.
When Korell goes to war against The Foundation, Mallow does not act against the Korellians and waits until dissent from the shortage of goods supplied by the Foundation allows the Foundation to virtually win.