History 1500 Essay

This essay has a total of 2033 words and 9 pages.


History 1500





After 1500 there were many signs that a new age of world history was beginning, for
example the discovery of America and the first European enterprises in Asia. This ³new
age² was dominated by the astonishing success of one civilization among many, that of
Europe. There was more and more continuous interconnection between events in all
countries, but it is to be explained by European efforts. Europeans eventually became
³masters of the globe² and they used their mastery to make the world one. That resulted in
a unity of world history that can be detected until today. Politics, empire-building, and
military expansion were only a tiny part of what was going on. Besides the economic
integration of the globe there was a much more important process going on: The spreading
of assumptions and ideas. The result was to be ³One World². The age of independent
civilizations has come to a close.

The history of the centuries since 1500 can be described as a series of wars and violent
struggles. Obviously men in different countries did not like another much more than their
predecessors did. However, they were much more alike than their ancestors were, which was
an outcome of what we now call modernization. One could also say that the world was
Europeanized, for modernization was a matter of ideas and techniques which have an
European origin. It was with the modernization of Europe that the unification of world
history began. A great change in Europe was the starting-point of modern history.

There was a continuing economic predominance of agriculture. Agricultural progress
increasingly took two main forms: Orientation towards the market, and technical
innovation. They were interconnected. A large population in the neighborhood meant a
market and therefore an incentive. Even in the fifteenth century the inhabitants of so
called ³low countries² were already leaders in the techniques of intensive cultivation.
Better drainage opened the way to better pasture and to a larger animal population.
Agricultural improvement favored the reorganization of land in bigger farms, the reduction
of the number of small holders, the employment of wage labor, and high capital investment
in buildings, drainage and machinery.

In the late sixteenth century one response to the pressure of expanding population upon
slowly growing resources had been the promoting of emigration. By 1800, Europeans had made
a large contribution to the peopling of new lands overseas. It was already discernible in
the sixteenth century when there began the long expansion of world commerce which was to
last until 1930. It started by carrying further the shift of economic gravity from
southern to north-western Europe, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, which has
already been remarked. One contribution to this was made by political troubles and wars
such as ruined Italy in the early sixteenth century. The great commercial success story of
the sixteenth century was Antwerp¹s, though it collapsed after a few decades in political
and economic disaster. In the seventeenth century Amsterdam and London surpassed it. In
each case an important trade based on a well-populated hinterland provided profits for
diversification int!

o manufacturing industry, services, and banking. The Bank of Amsterdam and The Bank of
England were already international economic forces in the in the seventeenth century.
About them clustered other banks and merchant houses undertaking operations of credit and
finance. Interest rates came down and the bill of exchange, a medieval invention,
underwent an enormous extension of use and became the primary financial instrument of
international trade.

This was the beginning of the increasing use of paper, instead of bullion. In the
eighteenth century came the first European paper currencies and the invention of the
check. Joint stock companies generated another form of negotiable security, their own
shares. Quotation of these in London coffee-houses in the seventeenth century was
overtaken by the foundation of the London Stock Exchange. By 1800 similar institutions
existed in many other countries. It was also the time of some spectacular disastrous
investment projects, one of which was the great English South Sea Bubble. But all the time
the world was growing more commercial, more used to the idea of employing money to make
money, and was supplying itself with the apparatus of modern capitalism.

One effect quickly appeared in the much greater attention paid to commercial questions in
diplomatic negotiation from the later seventeenth century and in the fact that countries
were prepared to fight over them. The English and Dutch went to war over trade in 1652.
This opened a long era during which they, the French and Spanish, fought again and again
over quarrels in which questions of trade were important. Governments not only looked
after their merchants by going to war to uphold their interests, but also intervened in
other ways in the working of the commercial economy. One advantage they could offer were
monopoly privileges to a company under a charter; this made the raising of capital easier
by offering some security for a return. Such activities closely involved government and
therefore the concerns of businessmen shaped both, policy and law.

The most impressive structural development in European commerce was the sudden new
importance to it of overseas trade from the second half of the seventeenth century
onwards. This was part of the shift of economic activity from Mediterranean to northern
Europe. By the late seventeenth century. Rising populations and some assurance of adequate
transport (water was always cheaper than land carriage) slowly built up an international
trade in cereals. Shipbuilding itself promoted the movement of such commodities as pitch,
flax or timber. More than European consumption was involved; all this took place in a
setting of growing colonial empires. By the eighteenth century there were already present
an oceanic economy and an international trading community which does busin!

ess -- and fights and intrigues for it -- around the globe. In this economy an important
Continues for 5 more pages >>




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