Early Modern Period



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1450-1750

Early Modern Period

Major Developments

I. Questions of Periodization

A. Major points

1. Shift in power to the West

a. Rise of the West with fall of China and India creates imbalance in power that favors Europeans for next 200 years

2. World becomes smaller – almost all civilizations touched by trade

3. New Empires – Spain, Portugal, England, France, Netherlands, Ottoman, Russian, Mughal, Ming

4. Age of Gunpowder

B. Changes at end of Postclassical Era

1. Independent societies (Aztecs, Incas) falling apart

2. Arab power declining

3. New invasions – Mongols

4. Ottoman Empire gains power

a. Europeans threatened by new force to East

5. Chinese flirt with trade, but Ming bureaucrats pull back

6. Europe enters age of exploration

C. Western Europe

1. Unusual agricultural civilization

2. New view of family – nuclear

a. Love toward spouse

b. Affection toward children

3. Return to rational thought

4. Stable political structures

a. Absolute monarchy

b. Parliamentary monarchies

5. Religious reformers

a. Reform the Church

b. Protestant Reformation

D. Effects of Global Economy

1. By 1750, almost everyone knows everyone

2. Food exchange – new staple crops to Africa (corn), Europe (potato)

3. Unequal relationships – master, slave, owners, workforce

4. Slaves and serfs

5. Diseases

E. Themes

1. Declining emphasis of nomads

2. Direct relationships – ambassadors replace intermediaries (Nomads)

3. Gender relations remain patriarchal

4. Labor relations change – master/slave – abuse of indigenous peoples

5. A few commercial leaders get rich

6. Environmental changes

a. food, animal, disease exhange

7. Native vegetation

a. Deforestation for staple crops

b. Grazing land for newly introduced beasts of burden

8. Centralization of governments

a. Modern government

1. bureaucracies

2. agencies

3. admiralties

4. treasuries

5. general staff

6. state banks

9. Nation-states began to emerge

a. solid political units with fixed borders

b. sense of national unity

c. populations relatively homogenous – language/ethnicity

F. Larger Trends

1. Americas overwhelmed by outsiders

2. Three trends

a. Western expansion

b. Globalization of trade

c. Gunpowder

3. Reactions

a. Embrace by choice

b. Embrace by force

c. Choose to remain independent, involve in trade on own terms

G. Why 1450 and 1750

1. 1450

a. End of the Middle Ages

b. Beginning of the Northern Renaissance – away from Italian city-states

c. English evicted from France

d. Unified France began to exercise its power

e. Globalization of trade begins

f. Direct contact between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa/Americas

g. End of the Byzantine Empire

h. Ottoman Turks rise to power

II. Changes in Trade

A. European Exploration

1. Before late 15th century

a. Trade restricted to land travel

b. Ships used on Mediterranean and Indian Ocean

i. But…linked to land routes

2. Causes of exploration – interrelated factors converging on one continent at the same time

a. Success of Hanseatic League

b. Crusades spawned new, efficient trade routes

c. Apply new technologies

i. Sternpost rudder – improved steering - Invented in China – Han Dynasty

ii. Lateen sails – sail in any direction regardless of wind

iii. Astrolabe – measured distance of sun/stars above horizon – latitude

iv. Magnetic Compass – Chinese – direction without sight of land

a. Lodestone from Chinese – magnetic – always points north

v. Three-Masted Caravels – larger sails, large cargo rooms w/ more provisions

a. Large ships can crest large waves without capsizing

vi. Better knowledge of stars

a. Gained from Arabs

vii. Sextant – able to journey further without getting lost

viii. Gunpowder – 1500s and 1600s – huge gunships

a. Sailors equipped with muskets, pistols, small artillery

b. Gunpowder weapons at sea

c. Explorers/conquerors could use against less technologically advanced nations

d. Economic goals

i. Fiercely competitive about trade routes

ii. Newly wealthy

iii. Access to luxury goods

a. Silk, metal goods, spices, fruit, jewels, precious metals

iv. Need a direct route

a. Tired of Middle East being middlemen

b. Gain access, increase profits

e. Political goals

i. Increasingly organized under strong leaders

f. New ideology

i. Renaissance thinking looked externally not internally

ii. Renaissance thinking led to belief that man could affect destiny

g. European visitors to Mongol court learned of Asian technology

i. printing press

ii. gunpowder

iii. magnetic compass

h. Marco Polo stories

i. Rise of nation-states

i. encouraged economic development

ii. created rivalry between nations for new territories and new wealth

j. Renaissance ideals

i. Sense of curiosity and adventure

k. precedent of Italian merchants making money – Venice – want to get a piece of the action

3. Early Exploring Nations – Iberian wave

a. Why Portugal?

i. Location

a. Coast of Africa – strategic

b. On Europe’s Atlantic frontier

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