Economics Or Politics
In the past five hundred years mankind has climbed Mount Everest, swam the English Channel and even flown to the moon but where has mankind really been? When one looks at where mankind has been you must look at with geopolitics in mind analyzing how the location, economics, culture, and technology have affected the events of the past. By looking at this time period from a geopolitical view one will see that the last five hundred years has been a paradox marked by an incredible intellectual, economic, and technologic growth alongside conquest and domination, territorial aggrandizement, and imposition of social order through outright coercion. I will analyze the events during each period since 1500 looking at how the world has grown intellectually, economically, and technologically but also looking at how the world has experienced conquest and domination, territorial aggrandizement, and imposition of social order through outright coercion. By doing this I will show how force has been crucial for modernity and progress as well as the maintenance of world order and provide insight to where mankind might go in the future.
Starting in 1500 Europe began to branch out and explore the world via the oceans. This began the expansion of Europe to North America and was the start of colonialism; the results of the European Expansion in the Americas were on a global scale. This was the start of a global economy. At its peak colonialism stretched through out the world from the Americas to Africa and even to India. Conquest and domination enabled all of this to happen.
The expansion led to incredible economic, cultural, and eventually political for these areas as well as the rest of the world. There were incredible population growths but also great population declines. During colonialism slavery grew to epic levels. Exploitation of the new world with colonialism helped speed up the developing global economy via minerals, metals, labor, and agricultural products. Due to this influx of resources the economy of Europe boomed but so did the inflation due to the fact that the European economy became over saturated.
The world became a mixing pot of culture due the interactions of all of the different cultures. At the same time European culture and social order was imposed on the natives was through outright coercion. Colonialism was the main cause of the spread of Christianity whether conversion was voluntary or forced. Colonialism final affect was ecological. The new lands were converted to farm land and also new crops from the native land were brought back. The lands used to create the new farm lands were acquired via conquest and domination. The best example of the affects of North American expansion and Colonialism was the Columbian exchange.
The exchange of plants and animals included wheat, grapes, horse, cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, and oxen. Not one of these plants and/or animals could be found in the New World before the Columbian Exchange began. These plants and animals were all from the Old World (Europe) and were not indigenous to the New World. Old World also received many new plants and animals such as potato, corn, chocolate, tomato, many types of beans, lamas, and turkeys. New plants and animal that were introduced by Asia were silk, rice and especially spices (King).
With the introduction of the new livestock there was a massive need for feed type crops to be introduced as well because with out these crops the livestock would not thrive properly. Areas that could sustain these plants became used for mostly ranching. These areas would become based purely on ranching. The same concept was also used for the new crops that were for food such as wheat. These crops and livestock became focal point for these areas. The said areas did nothing but grow the newly introduced crop of and produce the products that it created. There were some circumstances that caused the native crops to be grown exclusively such as improper conditions (King). An example of this is how the Old World was forced to grow corn instead of wheat (even though the Europeans preferred wheat products such as bread over corn products) because the environment was not properly suited for growing wheat. (Bentley and Ziegler: Chapter 26)
While Africa introduced some plants and animals in the Columbian Exchange it was mostly noted for its slaves and the labor they provided. These slaves were brought mostly to the New World but some were brought to Europe and few were brought to Asia. These slaves were used to work the fields and do any manual labor that their owners saw fit. Many indigenous people to the New World and Asia were forced in to slavery as well. With the constantly increasing population of the New World the need for more and more slaves increased. Slavery had a great deal of economic influences during the Columbian Exchange but also had socio-cultural and ecological influence as well. (Kevin Bales 8.30.2007) Specifically the Old World mine and plantation owners in the New World would use native slaves until they died off only to replace them with African slaves. (Reilly: 49) This replacement caused a dramatic increase in slavery.
The Columbian Exchange also started a massive spread of Christianity. The Old World (Europeans) would try to get all of the new cultures that they encountered to convert and become Christians. While some efforts by the Old World were gentle and not forceful others were extremely forceful. At times if the indigenous peoples would not convert they would be killed or forced into slavery. This was a scare tactic that the Old World used to force the indigenous peoples of the area to convert. The Old World would ever enslave the people after they converted to Christianity. These methods were contested between many Christian missionaries and slave traders. An Example of this can be seen in the film The Mission by Roland JoffÃ©. The film showcases this struggle when it tries to show how a group of Spanish Jesuit missionaries try to protect a remote South American Indian tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal. (The Mission 1986)
The Columbian Exchange brought many varmint and plant (weeds) that brought great harm to the New Worlds indigenous people, plants and animals. These varmints included small animals and bugs. The varmints had no natural predators in the New World so they thrived. They destroyed a great deal of crops and also animals that the native people relied on for food. The bug would destroy crops and disease the native plants and animals as well. The non-native plants took over fields that would be used to grow crops and also many other environments that native plants would use to grow (King).
The Columbian Exchange’s varmints also brought maybe the most destructive and devastating factor, disease. These diseases/viruses include but are not limited to the bubonic plague, cholera, influenza, malaria, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, tuberculosis, typhoid, the common cold, and yellow fever. The indigenous people in the New World, Asia, and Africa had never been exposed to these diseases so their immune systems were unable to fight off the disease. While the people of Old World were not completely immune to all of the said diseases they had enough immunity to fight them off with the help of known medicine and techniques.
The indigenous peoples of the New World, Africa, and Asia could not even fight off the disease with the help of the Old Worlds known medicine and techniques. Old World diseases like Small Pox were responsible for millions of Native Americans deaths. (Reilly: 48) Small Pox was by far the greatest killer of all the diseases. (Bentley and Ziegler: Chapter 26)
The Columbian Exchange triggered a massive change in population demographics throughout the world. The diseases of the ‘Columbian Exchange’ caused a massive native die off (50-90%). This coupled with the influx of African slave caused an almost complete change in population demographics by 1750. In some cases the change in demographics was so great that the African Slaves would completely replace the total native die off. (Reilly: 48-49) The number of slaves being taken from Africa was so great that populations estimates that without slavery the population of Africa would have been double the 25 million it had reached by 1850 (BBC).
A period of Revolution, Industry, & Imperialism began in 1750. The Scientific Revolution was a period where people started to show skepticisms toward the authority of the Church and religion. It was a shift to factual knowledge of laws governing the natural world found by science from the church’s explanation of the natural world. Some areas affected by the scientific revolution were astronomy, physics, mechanics, anatomy, chemistry, medicine, Botany, and later genetics. (Bentley and Ziegler: Chapter 24) This created a shift that transferred the advantage in scientific & technological from the east to the west. These advances soon began a movement in industrialism that increased west’s advantage over the east even further. The Scientific Revolution led to the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution began in the later part of the eighteenth century and transformed world. The Industrial Revolution is the single-most important period in human history since the development of agriculture. It had two phases, the first phase took place in Britain and was centered on textiles, iron, coal, and steam power; the second phase saw industry spreading to Germany and others parts of Western Europe and across the Atlantic to North America with a focus on steel, chemicals, electricity, petroleum, advancing communication (telegraph) and transportation (railways) (Sircar). The Industrial Revolution caused a dramatic series of technological, economic, and social changes that ushered agricultural societies into industrial societies. Any nation that did not want to get left behind was forced to change. These periods were not of force in a physical sense but in a societal sense. Their advancements would enable the start of Imperialism of Europe over the world.
After the Scientific revolution a period known as the Age of Enlightenment began. The Age of Enlightenment began in the middle of the seventeenth century and lasted until the late eighteenth century. The leaders of the period were Britain & France. During this period was one that advocated reason as the primary basis of authority. Reason based on moral, social, political, and psychological ideas were used when determining human action. The era is marked politically by governmental consolidation, nation creation, greater rights for the common people, and a decline in the influence of authoritarian institutions such as the nobility and Church. This period influenced the writings and ideas forged the framework for abolition, American, French & Russian Revolutions, Continuing Scientific & Industrial Revolutions, Rise of Nationalism, Nationalist/Independence Movements in colonies, Communism, Feminism, Expansion of education, and Civil Rights & Human Rights movements (Sircar 10/8/2007). All of these movements were not perfect, an example is nationalism. Nationalism is a two sided concept with a good part and a bad part. The good part of the concept is patriotism, which is good if it is for nationalism to an extent but bad if used in an extremist manner. The bad part is hyper-nationalism which is included extremists.
A number of these movements and revolutions were via the use of force but they all for the greater good. Movements such as the feminist movement were mostly nonviolent but used force in manners such and protests. The American Revolution was one that demonstrated through war. It shaped the method in which a new democracy would be formed. This new method was crucial for the progress of the world because it allowed for colonies to revolt and become an individual self governed nation, thus maintaining world order by preventing imperialistic nations and there rulers from becoming too powerful. The French Revolution was similar to the American Revolution. The French revolted because the monarchies mismanagement of finances and to a lesser extent that poor treatment of the citizens. Some French citizens lost their lives due to the fact that they were poor and or belonged to the “wrong” group, organization, or religions, while the monarchy lived in lavish palaces. The French Revolutionist use of for was also crucial because it forced the ruling parties of the world to better manage their nations finances and to treat their citizens in a better manner. Both the French Revolution and American Revolution helped maintain World Order by preventing the World powers from becoming too powerful (the French fell under the rule of emperor Napoleon and were forced to have another revolution after which they became a democracy).
The final period in history is modern history. This period began in 1914 and has yet to end. This period has been one in which war has taken place on a global scale for the first time in world history. This was enabled by the advance made during the industrial revolution. During this time period the world grew intellectually, economically, and technologically but experienced the same conquest and domination, territorial aggrandizement, and imposition of social order through outright coercion that it did in the past. The period was marked by 3 major wars: World War One, World War Two, and the Cold War; the period was also marked with wars such the Vietnam War.
The First World War took place on the battle fields of Europe and later points all over the world. It featured a group know as the “Entente” led by France, Russia, the British Empire, and later Italy (1915) and the United States (1917) which fought and defeated the “Central Powers” led by the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Ottoman Empires. The war was fought from 1914 to 1918. The causes of the war include but are limited to economic, political, and territorial reasons. The “Central powers” use of force was done with the redemptive and purifying reasoning. They wanted all of the power and were looking to expand (territorial aggrandizement). The “Entente” fought with the intention of maintaining World order. The war left over twenty million dead and the European economy in shambles.
The Second World War began in 1939 and ended in 1945. The war was between the “Axis Powers” and the “Allied Powers”. The Axis Powers were Germany, Japan, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovak Republic, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Thailand. The Allied Powers were the Soviet Union, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom; they were known as “The Big Three.” The war was fought all over the world and feature new technology such as the atomic bomb. Germany started the war in Poland and quickly overran Western Europe in a little over 5 weeks. After that Germany bombed the United Kingdom for over 8 months inflicting heavy damage; after a long period of time Britain regrouped and eventually prevailed with the help of a German code decipher machine and due to the fact that Hitler changed what he was bombing (Dr. Anderson). During this time Germany decide to open another front to the east taking on the Soviet Union and a third front in Africa to help Italy. This stretched the Axis power’s front lines too thin; this coupled with the harsh Soviet winter slowing down supplied and the United States joining the war in 1941 eventually caused the axis powers to fall to the Allies. Hitler and the Axis powers were looking to become the ruling faction of the world. The use of force by the Allies can be viewed redemptive because the used force to maintain world order.
The final war of this period was the cold war. The Cold War was between the world two superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was a war fought without armed force but a war that was fought with economics and politics. From an economic standpoint the United States tried to increase and create more European democracies via Marshall Plan and the Soviet Union tried to promote the spread of communism via Comecon. From a political standpoint each power made actions that helped themselves and their cause, the United States formally ended war with Germany in 1951 and recognized German Federal Republic while the Soviet Union formally ended war with Germany in 1955 with German Democratic Republic. The United States and the Soviet Union also competed against each other in an arms race. These maneuvers continued until 1991 and the Cold War ended: due to the fall of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War both parties used force to advance their cause. Both nations can claim that their use of force was for the maintenance of world order; by doing this the both maintained world order.
Today wars fought by the nations of the world tend to be for mankind’s greater good. Wars such as the Iraq War or the Bosnian Crisis and fought with force to promote progress in regards to human rights. Wars and crisis such as the Korean missile crisis force is used to maintain world order and safety. Since 1500 force has been an integral part to promoting modernity and progress, and maintaining world order. While there are some points in the last 500 years where force has not been used to promote modernity and progress, and maintain world order, force for the most part can be viewed as redemptive, purifying, and even ennobling because it has caused modernity and progress, and maintaining world order for the greater good of mankind.
World history for the last five hundred years has been a paradox marked by an incredible intellectual, economic, and technologic growth during periods such as the Scientific and Industrial revolutions alongside periods that include conquest and domination, territorial aggrandizement, and imposition of social order through outright coercion such as the Colonial and Imperial periods. I have show how the world has grown intellectually, economically, and technologically and also how the world has experienced conquest and domination, territorial aggrandizement, and imposition of social order through outright coercion. No matter what kind of force mankind has used over the past five hundred years the answer remains the same. Force has been crucial for modernity and progress as well as the maintaining world order and mankind would not be as advanced and connected on a global level without it. The Cold War featured force that was political and economic and in the future we will see nations continue use these methods reducing the need for military war thus saving mankind from annihilation.