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The European World, 1500-1720
Week 2: Europe and the Wider World
Giorgio Riello
g.riello@warwick.ac.uk
Lecture Outline
1. Introduction
2. The “bigger picture” in 1500
3. The “bigger picture” in 1750
4a. Explanations: The old school
4b. Explanations: Some new interpretations
1. Introduction: Europe, the World
(and Those of say “No”)
What is positive about this lecture is that:
A. It is pain-free
B. it should help you at understanding the wider
context of this course
1. Introduction: Europe, the World
(and Those of say “No”)
Why should we care about the ‘Extra European’?
1. A need for a scale/unit of measure
2. Avoid Eurocentrism
3. Avoid the narrative of European Modernity
2. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1500
Europe
- A Christian society
- An Agrarian society
- A society under threat: the possible invasion by
Turkish Muslims
- Lack of tolerance: the expulsion of Jews from
Spain and Portugal
- Voyages of discovery (Columbus in 1492,
Vasco da Gama in 1498)
2. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1500
China
- An agrarian society
- A bureaucratic empire (Ming 1366-1644): role
of examination (meritocracy)
- Voyages of discovery (Zheng He between
1405-1435)
- Technical know-how: navigation, shipbuilding,
cartography superior to Muslim and Christian
worlds
2. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1500
Islamic Empires
- they comprised people of many races and
cultures, and covered three continents
- A civilization ‘in expansion’ since the 7th
century
- A civilization with three strong empires
- 1500s Safavids established control over Persia
- Mughals conquered most of India.
- Ottomans: controlled most of western Islamic world
- Late-medieval Islamic world vastly superior to
Christian world
The Islamic World in c. 1500
2. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1500
Islamic Empires
- they comprised people of many races and
cultures, and covered three continents
- A civilization ‘in expansion’ since the 7th
century
- A civilization with three strong empires
- 1500s Safavids established control over Persia
- Mughals conquered most of India.
- Ottomans: controlled most of western Islamic world
- Late-medieval Islamic world vastly superior to
Christian world
The oldest map
of America Piri
Reis
2. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1500
Conclusions
- polycentric and large parts of Eurasia
comparable
- China and India had technological advantage
- Extensive interaction and linkages formed by
trade
- Potential for development throughout the world
3. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1750
Islamic Empires
-
Problems of the nature of the state
Military factors
Social factors
Cultural factors
3. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1750
China
- 1644 Manchu invasion: Qing dynasty
(1644-1911)
- Territorial expansion, especially under
Qianlong emperor (c. 1740-70)
- Influx of silver; export of commodities
(porcelain, luxury objects, etc.)
- But no more overseas expansion
3. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1750
China
- 1644 Manchu invasion: Qing dynasty
(1644-1911)
- Territorial expansion, especially under
Qianlong emperor (c. 1740-70)
- Influx of silver; export of commodities
(porcelain, luxury objects, etc.)
- But no more overseas expansion
3. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1750
India
- Weakness of the Mughal empire: the
challenge of rival internal powers
- European (British) penetration: the East
India Company
3. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1750
Europe
- The nation states: the fiscal-military State
- The role of trade: to Asia and in the
Atlantic
- Still agrarian society
3. The ‘Bigger Picture’ in 1750
Conclusions
- A world that more connected but still
polycentric
- Ongoing contact between places that
hadn’t been linked before
- Europe and Asia largely comparable
- Differences don’t really occur until after
1750 or 1800
4A. Explanations: The Old School
Key explanations
- 1500-1700 as the era in which Western
Europe brought the world under its
influence
- See the discoveries as the beginning of
bringing the world into the orbit of
European civilisation
- Discoveries is what subjected the world to
the rule and influence of European power
4A. Explanations: The Old School
Factors supporting this explanation
- fifteenth century developments as a phase
in a continuum of medieval developments
(J.R.S. Phillips The Medieval Expansion of Europe, 2nd ed., 1998)
- Religious factors
- Commercial factors
4B. Explanations: Some New
Interpretations
1. World as a whole as the unit of analysis:
“global history”
2. Underline global developments that were
part of the lead-up to the Industrial
Revolution
3. See “the early-modern world as a
contested sphere, stressing action,
reaction, and interaction” (Robert Marks, The
Origins of the Modern World (2002)
4B. Explanations: Some New
Interpretations
4. Alfred Crosby
- Germs, Seeds, and Animals: Studies in
Ecological History (1994)
- The Columbian Exchange: Biological and
Cultural Consequences of 1492 (1972)
- Ecological Imperialism: The Biological
Expansion of Europe (1986)
Pineapples, potatoes and other plants unknown in
Europe before 1500
Smallpox victims in the Aztec Empire
4B. Explanations: Some New
Interpretations
5. Stress the accidents, conjunctures and
contingencies in the story:
– Andre Gunder Frank, ReOrient: Global Economy
in the Asian Age (1998)
•
•
Dominance of Asia
Temporary shift to Europe
- Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China,
Europe, and the Making of the Modern World
Economy (2000)
•
•
•
Accident: Coal
Conjuncture: Silver
Conjuncture: Colonies
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