Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Atlantic Connection: A History of the Atlantic World, 1450-1900

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Atlantic Connection: A History of the Atlantic World, 1450-1900

Article excerpt

The Atlantic Connection: A History of the Atlantic World, 1450-1900. By Anna Suranyi. (New York: Routledge, 2015, Pp. xii, 229, $39.95, paper.)

From 1492 to 1504, the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus made four transatlantic crossings that initiated European exploration and colonization of the Western Hemisphere. In The Atlantic Connection: A History of the Atlantic World, 1450-1900, historian Anna Suranyi explains how the earth became transformed in the aftermath of Columbus' voyages. Social, cultural, political, and economic networks began connecting the perimeters of the continents that frame the Atlantic Ocean, including Europe, Africa, and North and South America, together with the Caribbean islands. While recounting an interlocked story of Europe, Africa, and the Americas, Suranyi aptly maintains a focus on the historical context and creative process by which Europeans dominated the Atlantic world.

Suranyi presents her survey of the Atlantic world in five parts. The first part describes the populations of the Atlantic perimeter before 1492 along with the connections that were present in Eurasia and Africa prior to Columbus' historic landfall in the Western Hemisphere. Suranyi also examines Portuguese overseas expansion, at the same time laying out the various factors that motivated Europeans to traverse the Atlantic Ocean. The second part of the book deals with Columbus and the resultant Columbian Exchange, a term coined by historian Alfred W. Crosby in the early 1970s to illustrate the swapping of living organisms between the Old World and the New World. Suranyi rightly conveys how the dissemination of plants, animals, and diseases profoundly altered earth's environment. "The most significant consequence of Columbus' voyages was a pattern of exploitation and conquest for subsequent colonizers from Europe," Suranyi argues before assessing the early settlements by Europeans in the Western Hemisphere (47).

The book's third part describes the growth of European empires as well as the responses of adaption and resistance by Native American peoples. Stressing colonial overseas trade and the enslavement of Africans and their descendants in the Western Hemisphere as the two principle sources of European imperial wealth, Suranyi asserts that the expansion of capitalism improved opportunities for widespread investment in agriculture and fostered the commodification of people in order to boost production for burgeoning global markets of lucrative slave-cultivated crops like cocoa, coffee, cotton, indigo, rice, rum, tobacco, and sugar. …

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