The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715: Trade and Exploration in the Age of the Renaissance

The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715: Trade and Exploration in the Age of the Renaissance

The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715: Trade and Exploration in the Age of the Renaissance

The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715: Trade and Exploration in the Age of the Renaissance

Excerpt

One of the most striking features of the history of the last two hundred years has been the dominant influence exerted by Europeans outside Europe. The `expansion of Europe' was not, of course, deliberately planned, nor was it willingly accepted by non-Europeans, but in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it proved irresistible; so much so, that the western nations devoted much of their energy to quarrelling over the spoils. The foundations of European dominance were prepared in the fifteenth century, and firmly laid in the sixteenth and seventeenth. In those centuries sea-faring Europeans visited almost every part of the world. They met and conquered a great variety of primitive races. They met also many peoples to whom they were themselves barbarians, peoples who were wealthier, more numerous, and to all appearance more powerful than the western invaders. None of these peoples escaped European influence, whether social, religious, commercial or technical. Many of them fell under European rule; and at the same time many of the world's empty spaces were filled by people of European extraction. What were the motives which impelled European nations, from the fifteenth century onward, to embark on a career of overseas expansion? What were the social and technical abilities which gave that expansion such startling success?

In many directions the fifteenth century was for Western Europe a period of contraction, not of expansion. The Chinese Empire was by far the most powerful and most civilized State in the world at that time. It had been governed, at the height of Europe's Middle Age, by a Tartar dynasty whose dominions had included not only China proper, but Mongolia, Turkestan and part of Russia. This Tartar dynasty at one time had shown toleration, even friendliness, towards Christianity. Europeans . . .

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