Exam preparation materials

VII. PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER

In the context of the Age of Exploration, “exploration” has lots of connotations. Of course, the most obvious is that it involved European exploration of the Americas, and the beginnings of direct contact with Asia. But more than that, its exploration was also internal. In the Renaissance, Europe explored its own lost history. During the Protestant Reformation it explored its relationship with God. During the Scientific Revolution Europe explored the universe and the laws by which the universe functioned. During the Enlightenment it explored the rights of man and the appropriate role of government, even as its empire depended on slavery. And during the Commercial Revolution, Europe explored its potential.

Combined, these explorations were going in all directions—outward, upward, inward, backward to the past, forward to the future—and it was all going on simultaneously. If you’re confused by the developments, you should be. It’s hard to figure out which movements in which combination impacted which events. Historians haven’t sorted it out either. It’s open to debate.

What we can say is this: During the time period discussed in the chapter, Europe was where the energy was. There was so much change, for so many reasons, that the boundaries of the continent literally couldn’t contain it. Unlike China and Japan, which largely looked inward, and unlike the Islamic world, which didn’t take to the seas or radically shake up religious and social orders, Europeans were dynamic at this particular time in history. They were analyzing everything and they were full of inconsistencies. Other civilizations at other times in history had at least as much energy and unrest, but because the Europeans had the technology, the political motivation, and the financial structure, they were able to quickly explode onto the world scene. Add in the evangelical nature of Christianity (an explicit desire to convert the world) and it’s clear that the desire for expansion ran deep.

Some would say that European monarchs ruled absolutely during this time period and adopted a controlling, ethnocentric attitude with regard to the cultures they dominated. Perhaps this was precisely because Europe was in such cultural chaos itself. Who knows? We’ll leave that to your further studies. In any case, it’s hard to deny that even as Europeans explored their own history, culture, and structures to unprecedented degrees, they had little trouble marginalizing the complexities of others.

WHAT ABOUT THE NON-EUROPEAN CULTURES? WHY WAS THEIR INTERACTION WITH THE WEST SO VARIED?

There are lots of ways to answer these questions, but we’ll get you started. China and Japan were both highly organized, confident civilizations. The contingencies of Europeans on their shores were modest. Because the Japanese and Chinese wanted desperately to preserve their own cultures, and because they had the power and sophistication to keep the Europeans, for the moment, at bay, that’s precisely what they did. Why didn’t the others?

In Africa, the societies were fragmented. No centralized power existed, so the Europeans were harder to fend off. What’s more, the Europeans weren’t initially obsessed with penetrating the entire continent. Because they didn’t have to overtake entire civilizations to achieve their goals, they were able to trade goods and abduct individuals one by one, with little concern for long-term impact on the continent.

In the Americas, of course, civilizations were quickly overwhelmed by European technology and disease. And in the Ottoman Empire and Arabia, the interaction was somewhat limited because the Europeans weren’t as dependent on the overland routes in their efforts to trade with India and China. This diminished the importance of the Middle East to the Europeans. What’s more, because the Crusades ended unsuccessfully for the Europeans, trade with the Muslims was important but conquest of the region was off the radar.

FINALLY, WHAT ABOUT THE GLOBAL ECONOMY? HOW DID IT CHANGE?

In short, sailing, mercantilism, and private investment changed the global economy. In a few more words: Improvements in sailing diminished the need for the Asian land routes and connected the world like never before. Mercantilism and its dependence on the establishment of imperialism married economic and political developments. And the establishment of joint-stock companies took major economic motivation out of the hands of governments and put it into the hands of the private sector. This meant that now thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people had a direct stake in trade routes and conquest. Because the benefits of economic prosperity were diffused among a larger group of individuals than ever before, governments began to lose their grip on controlling their own economies.

IMPORTANT TERMS

Absolute Monarch

Jurisdiction

Agrarian

Left-Wing

Atheists

Mercantilism

Capitalism

Monarchy

Cash Crop

Monastic

Circumnavigate

Monk

Colonization

Monopoly

Commerce

Monotheism

Commercial

Morality

Commonwealth

Nun

Consequences

Papacy/Papal

Continuity

Parliament

Convent

Patriarch

Currency

Pope

Deists

Revolution

Demography

Right-Wing

Divine

Salvation

Divine Right

Sanctioned

Dominant

Satire

Economy

Subsistence

Hedonism

Urbanization

Hinder

Utopia/Utopian

Humanism

Vassals

Institution

Venerate

 

Vernacular

PEOPLE, PLACES, AND EVENTS

Age of Reason

Inquisition

Akbar the Great (Mughal India)

Jannissary Corps

Batavia, Indonesia

Jesuit Order

Calvin, John

Law of Heavenly Bodies

Columbian Exchange

Luther, Martin

Counter Reformation

Louis XIV (France)

Dutch East India Company

Manchu (Qing Dynasty) China

Eastern Orthodox

Peter the Great (Russia)

Edict of Nantes

Philip II of Spain

Edict of Fountainbleu

Potosi Silver Mine

Elizabeth I of England

Protestant Reformation

Encomienda System

Renaissance

English Bill of Rights

Roman Catholic Church

English Commonwealth

Scientific Methods

European Exploration

Scientific Revolution

Floating Empires

Shogun

Goa, India

Silver or Single Whip System

Gutenberg’s Printing Press

Straits of Malacca, Indonesia

Hacienda System

Suleiman the Magnificent (Ottoman)

Hapsburg Spain

Thirty Years War (1618–1648)

Henry Tudor (Henry VIII)

Tokugawa Bakufu System

Heliocentric Theory

Treaty of Westphalia (1648)

Holy Roman Empire

The Vatican

Huguenots

Zheng He (Ming, China)

Indulgences

 

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