The first sustained "global" interactions had major consequences for both hemispheres.
Key Concept 4.1 — The interconnection of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, made possible by transoceanic voyaging, transformed trade and religion and had a significant economic, cultural, social, and demographic impact on the world.
Existing regional patterns of trade intensified in the context of the new global circulation of goods. The intensification of trade brought prosperity and economic disruption to the merchants and governments in the trading regions of the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Sahara, and overland Eurasia.
European technological developments in cartography and navigation built on previous knowledge developed in the Classical, Islamic, and Asian worlds. The developments included the production of new tools, innovations in ship designs (like caravels, carracks, and fluyts), and an improved understanding of global wind and currents patterns—all of which made transoceanic travel and trade possible.
Remarkable new transoceanic maritime reconnaissance occurred in this period. Portuguese development of maritime technology and navigational skills led to increased travel to and trade with West Africa and resulted in the construction of a global trading-post empire. Spanish sponsorship of the first Columbian and subsequent voyages across the Atlantic and Pacific dramatically increased European interest in transoceanic travel and trade. Northern Atlantic crossings for fishing and for the purpose of settlement continued and spurred European searches for multiple routes to Asia.
The new global circulation of goods was facilitated by chartered European monopoly companies and the flow of silver from Spanish colonies in the Americas to purchase Asian goods for the Atlantic markets. Regional markets continued to flourish in Afro–Eurasia by using established commercial practices and new transoceanic shipping services developed by European merchants. European merchants’ role in Asian trade was characterized mostly by transporting goods from one Asian country to another market in Asia or the Indian Ocean region. Commercialization and the creation of a global economy were intimately connected to new global circulation of silver from the Americas. Mercantilist policies and practices were used by European rulers to expand and control their economies and claim overseas territories, and joint-stock companies, influenced by these mercantilist principles, were used by rulers and merchants to finance exploration and compete against one another in global trade. The Atlantic system involved the movement of goods, wealth, and free and unfree laborers and the mixing of African, American, and European cultures and peoples. As merchants’ profits increased and governments collected more taxes, funding for the visual and performing arts, even for popular audiences, increased along with an expansion of literacy and increased focus on innovation and scientific inquiry.
The new connections between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres resulted in the Columbian Exchange. European colonization of the Americas led to the spread of diseases, including smallpox, measles, and influenza. These were endemic in the Eastern Hemisphere and spread among Amerindian populations. American foods (like maize, potatoes, and manioc) became staple crops in various parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Cash crops (like sugar and tobacco) were grown primarily on plantations with coerced labor and were exported mostly to Europe and the Middle East in this period. Afro–Eurasian fruit trees, grains, sugar, and domesticated animals (like horses, pigs, and cattle) were brought by Europeans to the Americas, while other foods were brought by African slaves (like okra and rice). Populations in Afro–Eurasia benefited nutritionally from the increased diversity of American food crops. European colonization and the introduction of European agriculture and settlement practices in the Americas often affected the physical environment through deforestation and soil depletion. The increase in interactions between newly connected hemispheres and intensification of connections within hemispheres expanded the spread and reform of existing religions and contributed to both religious conflicts and the creation of syncretic belief systems and practices:
the importance of Sufism for the further spread of Islam in Afro– Eurasia
the intensification of Sunni-Shi'a split by the political rivalries between the Ottoman and the Safavid empires
the role of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations in spreading Christianity outside of Europe
the development of Vodun and other syncretic religions in the Americas as a result of interactions between Christianity and African religions
the development of Sikhism in the context of interactions between Hinduism and Islam
the development and spread of new Buddhist schools and practices in Northeast and Southeast Asia.
Lecture on Columbian Exchange:
Lecture on changing trade routes & mercantilism:
Lectures on Renaissance & Reformation:
Lecture on cultural theme in Latin America:
Lecture on biological diffusion and Africa:
Lecture on African religious CCOT:
Key Concept 4.2 — Although the world's productive systems continued to be heavily centered on agriculture, major changes occurred in agricultural labor, the systems and locations of manufacturing, gender and social structures, and environmental processes.
Beginning in the 14th century, there was a decrease in mean temperatures, often referred to as the Little Ice Age, around the world that lasted until the 19th century, contributing to changes in agricultural practices and the contraction of settlement in parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Traditional peasant agriculture increased and changed, plantations expanded, and demand for labor increased. These changes both fed and responded to growing global demand for raw materials and finished products. Peasant and artisan labor intensified in many regions. Slavery in Africa continued both the traditional incorporation of mainly female slaves into households and the export of slaves to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. The growth of the plantation economy increased the demand for slaves in the Americas. Colonial economies in the Americas depended on a range of coerced labor (chattel slavery, indentured servitude, encomienda and hacienda systems, Spanish adaptation of the Incan mit’a).
As social and political elites changed, they also restructured ethnic, racial, and gender hierarchies. Both imperial conquests and widening global economic opportunities contributed to the formation of new political and economic elites (Manchus in China, Creole elites in Spanish America, European gentry, urban commercial entrepreneurs in all major port cities in the world). The power of existing political and economic elites (zamindars in the Mughal Empire, European nobility, Japanese daimyo) fluctuated as they confronted new challenges to their ability to affect the policies of the increasingly powerful monarchs and leaders. Some notable gender and family restructuring occurred (demographic changes in Africa that resulted from the slave trades, smaller size of European families, and the dependence of European men on Southeast Asian women for conducting trade Southeast Asia).
Lecture on African slavery & slave trade:
Lecture on social theme in Latin America:
Lecture on social theme in Russia:
Key Concept 4.3 — Empires expanded around the world, presenting new challenges in the incorporation of diverse populations and in the effective administration of new coerced labor systems.
Rulers used a variety of methods to legitimize and consolidate their power. Rulers continued to use religious ideas, art, and monumental architecture to legitimize their rule. Religious ideas included European notions of divine right, Safavid use of Shiism, the Mexica/Aztec practice of human sacrifice, Songhay's promotion of Islam, Chinese emperors’ public performance of Confucian rituals, etc. Art and monumental architecture included Ottoman miniature painting, Qing imperial portraits, Mughal mausolea (like the Taj Mahal) and mosques, European palaces like Versailles, etc. Many states adopted practices to accommodate the different ethnic and religious diversity of their subjects or to utilize the economic, political, and military contributions of different ethnic or religious groups (the Spanish creation of a separate República de Indios, or the Spanish and Portuguese creation of new racial classifications in the Americas). Recruitment and use of bureaucratic elites, as well as the development of military professionals, became more common among rulers who wanted to maintain centralized control over their populations and resources (think Ottoman devshirme, Chinese examination system, or salaried samurai). Rulers used tribute collection and taxed farming to generate revenue for territorial expansion.
Imperial expansion relied on the increased use of gunpowder, cannons, and armed trade to establish large empires in both hemispheres. Europeans established new trading-post empires in Africa and Asia, which proved profitable for the rulers and merchants involved in new global trade networks, but the impact of these empires was limited by the authority of local states, including the Ashanti and Mughal empires. Land empires—including the Manchu, Mughal, Ottoman, and Russian—expanded dramatically in size. European states established new maritime empires in the Americas, including the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and British. But there were significant challenges to state consolidation and expansion:
Competition over trade routes (Omani-European rivalry in the Indian Ocean, pirates in the Caribbean)
State rivalries (Thirty Years War, the Ottoman-Safavid conflict)
Local resistance (food riots, samurai revolts, peasant uprisings)
Lecture on progression of Western European maritime empires:
Lecture on Imperialism in Latin America:
Lecture on Western European political changes:
Lecture on Islamic gunpowder empires:
Lecture on Social theme for Ottomans & Mughals:
Lecture on Russian imperialism - Ivan III & Ivan IV:
Lecture on Russian imperialism - Peter & Catherine (The Greats)
Lecture on East Asia in the age of gunpowder empires: