Part Four The Early Modern World 1450-1750 Chapter 14: Empires and Encounters



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III. Persistence and Change in Afro-Asian Cultural Traditions

A. African religious elements accompanied slaves to the Americas

1. development of Africanized forms of Christianity in the Americas, with divination, dream interpretation, visions, spirit possession

2. Europeans often tried to suppress African elements as sorcery

3. persistence of syncretic religions (Vodou, Santeria, Candomble, Macumba)

B. Expansion and Renewal in the Islamic World

1. continued spread of Islam depended not on conquest but on wandering holy men, scholars, and traders

2. the syncretism of Islamization was increasingly offensive to orthodox Muslims

a. helped provoke movements of religious renewal in the eighteenth century

b. series of jihads in West Africa (eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries) attacked corrupt Islamic practices

c. growing tension between localized and “pure” Islam

3. the most well-known Islamic renewal movement of the period was Wahhabism

a. developed in the Arabian Peninsula in mid-eighteenth century

b. founder Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792) was a theologian

c. aimed to restore absolute monotheism, end veneration of saints

d. aimed to restore strict adherence to the sharia (Islamic law)

e. movement developed a political element when Abd al-Wahhab allied with Muhammad Ibn Saud; led to creation of a state

f. the state was “purified”

g. the political power of the Wahhabis was broken in 1818, but the movement remained influential in Islamic world

h. reform movements persisted and became associated with resisting Western cultural intrusion

C. China: New Directions in an Old Tradition

1. Chinese and Indian cultural/religious change wasn’t as dramatic as what occurred in Europe

a. Confucian and Hindu cultures didn’t spread widely in early modern period

b. but neither remained static

2. Ming and Qing dynasty China still operated within a Confucian framework

a. addition of Buddhist and Daoist thought led to creation of Neo-Confucianism

b. both dynasties embraced the Confucian tradition

3. considerable amount of debate and new thinking in China

a. Wang Yangmin (1472–1529): anyone can achieve a virtuous life by introspection, without Confucian education

b. Chinese Buddhists also tried to make religion more accessible to commoners—withdrawal from the world not necessary for enlightenment

c. similarity to Martin Luther’s argument that individuals could seek salvation without help from a priestly hierarchy

d. kaozheng (“research based on evidence”) was a new direction in Chinese elite culture

4. lively popular culture among the less well educated

a. production of plays, paintings, and literature

b. great age of novels, such as Cao Xueqin’s The Dream of the Red Chamber (mid-eighteenth century)

D. India: Bridging the Hindu/Muslim Divide

1. several movements brought Hindus and Muslims together in new forms of religious expression

2. bhakti movement was especially important

a. devotional Hinduism

b. effort to achieve union with the divine through songs, prayers, dances, poetry, and rituals

c. appealed especially to women

d. often set aside caste distinctions

e. much common ground with Sufism, helped to blur the line between Islam and Hinduism in India

f. Mirabai (1498–1547) is one of the best-loved bhakti poets

3. growth of Sikhism, a religion that blended Islam and Hinduism

a. founder Guru Nanak (1469–1539) had been part of the bhakti movement; came to believe that Islam and Hinduism were one

b. Nanak and his successors set aside caste distinctions and proclaimed essential equality of men and women

c. gradually developed as a new religion of the Punjab

d. evolved into a militant community in response to hostility

IV. A New Way of Thinking: The Birth of Modern Science

A. The Scientific Revolution was an intellectual and cultural transformation that occurred between the mid-sixteenth century and the early eighteenth century.

1. was based on careful observations, controlled experiments, and formulation of general laws to explain the world

2. creators of the movement saw themselves as making a radical departure

3. Scientific Revolution was vastly significant

a. fundamentally altered ideas about the place of humankind within the cosmos

b. challenged the teachings and authority of the Church

c. challenged ancient social hierarchies and political systems

d. also used to legitimize racial and gender inequality

e. by the twentieth century, science had become the chief symbol of modernity around the world

B. The Question of Origins: Why Europe?

1. the Islamic world was the most scientifically advanced realm in period 800–1400

2. China’s technological accomplishments and economic growth were unmatched for several centuries after the millennium

3. but European conditions were uniquely favorable to rise of science

a. evolution of a legal system that guaranteed some independence for a variety of institutions by twelfth/thirteenth centuries

b. idea of the “corporation”—collective group treated as a legal unit with certain rights

c. autonomy of emerging universities

4. in the Islamic world, science remained mostly outside of the system of higher education

5. Chinese authorities did not permit independent institutions of higher learning

a. Chinese education focused on preparing for civil service exams

b. emphasis was on classical Confucian texts

6. Western Europe could draw on the knowledge of other cultures

7. sixteenth–eighteenth centuries: Europeans were at the center of a massive new information exchange

a. tidal wave of knowledge shook up old ways of thinking

b. explosion of uncertainty and skepticism allowed modern science to emerge

C. Science as Cultural Revolution

1. dominant educated-European view of the world before the Scientific Revolution

a. derived from Aristotle and Ptolemy

b. earth is stationary, at the center of the universe

c. a universe of divine purpose

2. initial breakthrough was by Nicolaus Copernicus

a. On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543)

b. promoted the view that the earth and the planets revolved around the sun

3. other scientists built on Copernicus’s insight

a. some argued that there were other inhabited worlds

b. Johannes Kepler demonstrated elliptical orbits of the planets

c. Galileo Galilei developed an improved telescope

4. Sir Isaac Newton was the apogee of the Scientific Revolution

a. formulated laws of motion and mechanics

b. central concept: universal gravitation

c. natural laws govern both the micro- and the macrocosm

5. by Newton’s death, educated Europeans had a fundamentally different view of the physical universe

a. not propelled by angels and spirits but functioned according to mathematical principles

b. the “machine of the universe” is self-regulating

c. knowledge of the universe can be obtained through reason

6. the human body also became less mysterious

7. Catholic Church strenuously opposed much of this thinking

a. burning of Giordano Bruno in 1600 for proclaiming an infinite universe

b. Galileo was forced to renounce his belief that the earth moved around an orbit and rotated on its axis

c. but no early scientists rejected Christianity

D. Science and Enlightenment

1. the Scientific Revolution gradually reached a wider European audience

2. scientific approach to knowledge was applied to human affairs

a. Adam Smith (1723–1790) formulated economic laws

b. people believed that scientific development would bring “enlightenment” to humankind

3. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) defined Enlightenment as a “daring to know”

4. Enlightenment thinkers believed that knowledge could transform human society

a. tended to be satirical, critical, and hostile to established authorities

b. attacked arbitrary government, divine right, and aristocratic privilege

c. John Locke (1632–1704) articulated ideas of constitutional government

d. many writers advocated education for women

5. much Enlightenment thought attacked established religion

a. in his Treatise on Toleration, Voltaire (1694–1778) attacked the narrow particularism of organized religion

b. many thinkers were deists—belief in a remote deity who created the world but doesn’t intervene

c. some were pantheists—equated God and nature

d. some even regarded religion as a fraud

6. Enlightenment thought was influenced by growing global awareness

7. central theme of Enlightenment: the idea of progress

8. some thinkers reacted against too much reliance on human reason

a. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) argued for immersion in nature rather than book learning

b. the Romantic movement appealed to emotion and imagination

c. religious awakenings made an immense emotional appeal

E. Looking Ahead: Science in the Nineteenth Century

1. modern science was cumulative and self-critical

2. in the nineteenth century, science was applied to new sorts of inquiry; in some ways, it undermined Enlightenment assumptions

3. Charles Darwin (1809–1882) argued that all of life was in flux

4. Karl Marx (1818–1883) presented human history as a process of change and struggle

5. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) cast doubt on human rationality

F. European Science beyond the West

1. science became the most widely desired product of European culture

2. Chinese had selective interest in Jesuits’ teaching

a. most interested in astronomy and mathematics

b. European science had substantial impact on the Chinese kaozheng movement

3. Japan kept up some European contact via trade with the Dutch

a. import of Western books allowed, starting in 1720

b. a small group of Japanese scholars was interested in Western texts, anatomical studies in particular

4. Ottoman Empire chose not to translate major European scientific works

a. Ottoman scholars were only interested in ideas of practical utility (e.g., maps, calendars)

b. Islamic educational system was conservative, made it hard for theoretical science to do well

V. Reflections: Cultural Borrowing and Its Hazards

A. Ideas shape peoples’ mental or cultural worlds and influence behavior.

B. The development of early modern ideas took place in an environment of great cultural borrowing.

1. borrowing was selective

2. borrowing sometimes caused serious conflict

3. foreign ideas and practices were often “domesticated”



Key Terms

bhakti: Hindu devotional movement that flourished in the early modern era, emphasizing music, dance, poetry, and rituals as means by which to achieve direct union with the divine. (pron. BAHK-tee)

Catholic Counter-Reformation: An internal reform of the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century; thanks especially to the work of the Council of Trent (1545–1563), Catholic leaders clarified doctrine, corrected abuses and corruption, and put a new emphasis on education and accountability.

Condorcet and the idea of progress: The Marquis de Condorcet (1743–1794) was a French philosopher and political scientist who argued that human affairs were moving into an era of near-infinite improvability, with slavery, racism, tyranny, and other human trials swept away by the triumph of reason. (pron. kahn-dor-SAY)

Copernicus, Nicolaus: Polish mathematician and astronomer (1473–1543) who was the first to argue for the existence of a heliocentric cosmos.

Council of Trent: The main instrument of the Catholic Counter-Reformation (1545–1563), at which the Catholic Church clarified doctrine and corrected abuses.

Darwin, Charles: Highly influential English biologist (1809–1882) whose theory of natural selection continues to be seen by many as a threat to revealed religious truth.

deism: Belief in a divine being who created the cosmos but who does not intervene directly in human affairs.

Edict of Nantes: 1598 edict issued by French king Henry IV that granted considerable religious toleration to French Protestants and ended the French Wars of Religion. (pron. nahnt)

European Enlightenment: European intellectual movement of the eighteenth century that applied the lessons of the Scientific Revolution to human affairs and was noted for its commitment to open-mindedness and inquiry and the belief that knowledge could transform human society.

Freud, Sigmund: Austrian doctor and the father of modern psychoanalysis (1856–1939); his theories about the operation of the human mind and emotions remain influential today.

Galilei, Galileo: Italian astronomer (1564–1642) who further developed the ideas of Copernicus and whose work was eventually suppressed by the Catholic Church.

huacas: Local gods of the Andes. (pron. HWA-kaws)

Huguenots: The Protestant minority in France. (pron. HUGH-ghe-noes)

Jesuits in China: Series of Jesuit missionaries in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who, inspired by the work of Matteo Ricci, made extraordinary efforts to understand and become a part of Chinese culture in their efforts to convert the Chinese elite, although with limited success.

kaozheng: Literally, “research based on evidence”; Chinese intellectual movement whose practitioners emphasized the importance of evidence and analysis, applied especially to historical documents. (pron. kow-jung)

Luther, Martin: German priest and theologian (1483–1546) who inaugurated the Protestant Reformation movement in Europe.

Marx, Karl: German philosopher (1818–1883) whose view of human history as a class struggle formed the basis of socialism.

Mirabai: One of India’s most beloved bhakti poets (1498–1547), she helped break down the barriers of caste and tradition. (pron. MIR-ah-bye)

Nanak, Guru: The founder of Sikhism (1469–1539). (pron. NAH-nahk)

Newton, Isaac: English natural scientist (1643–1727) whose formulation of the laws of motion and mechanics is regarded as the culmination of the Scientific Revolution.

Ninety-five Theses: List of ninety-five debating points about the abuses of the Church, posted by Martin Luther on the door of a church in Wittenberg in 1517; the Church’s strong reaction eventually drove Luther to separate from Catholic Christianity.

Protestant Reformation: Massive schism within Christianity that had its formal beginning in 1517 with the German priest Martin Luther; while the leaders of the movement claimed that they sought to “reform” a Church that had fallen from biblical practice, in reality the movement was radically innovative in its challenge to Church authority and its endorsement of salvation “by faith alone.”

Ricci, Matteo: The most famous Jesuit missionary in China in the early modern period; active in China from 1582 to 1610. (pron. maht-TAY-oh REE-chee)

Scientific Revolution: Great European intellectual and cultural transformation that was based on the principles of the scientific method.

Sikhism: Religious tradition of northern India founded by Guru Nanak ca. 1500; combines elements of Hinduism and Islam and proclaims the brotherhood of all humans and the equality of men and women. (pron. SEEK-ism)

Society of Jesus: Also called “Jesuits,” this Catholic religious society was founded to encourage the renewal of Catholicism through education and preaching; it soon became a leading Catholic missionary order beyond the borders of Europe.

Taki Onqoy: Literally, “dancing sickness”; a religious revival movement in central Peru in the 1560s whose members preached the imminent destruction of Christianity and of the Europeans in favor of a renewed Andean golden age. (pron. TAH-kee OHN-koy)

Thirty Years’ War: Highly destructive war (1618–1648) that eventually included most of Europe; fought for the most part between Protestants and Catholics, the conflict ended with the Peace of Westphalia (1648).

Voltaire: Pen name of the French philosopher François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), whose work is often taken as a model of Enlightenment questioning of traditional values and attitudes; noted for his deism and his criticism of traditional religion. (pron. vol-TARE)

Wahhabi Islam: Major Islamic movement led by the Muslim theologian Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792) that advocated an austere lifestyle and strict adherence to the sharia (Islamic law). (pron. wah-HAB-ee)

Wang Yangmin: Prominent Chinese philosopher (1472–1529) who argued that it was possible to achieve a virtuous life by introspection, without the extensive education of traditional Confucianism. (pron. wahng yahng-min)

Margin Review Questions



1. In what ways did the Protestant Reformation transform European society, culture, and politics?

2. How was European imperial expansion related to the spread of Christianity?

3. In what ways was European Christianity assimilated into the Native American cultures of Spanish America?

4. Why were missionary efforts to spread Christianity so much less successful in China than in Spanish America?

5. What accounts for the continued spread of Islam in the early modern era and for the emergence of reform or renewal movements within the Islamic world?

6. In what ways did Asian cultural changes in the early modern era parallel those of Europe, and in what ways were they different?

7. Why did the Scientific Revolution occur in Europe rather than in China or the Islamic world?

8. What was revolutionary about the Scientific Revolution?

9. In what ways did the Enlightenment challenge older patterns of European thinking?

10. How did nineteenth-century developments in the sciences challenge the faith of the Enlightenment?

12. In what ways was European science received in the major civilizations of Asia in the early modern era?

Big Picture Questions

1. Why did Christianity take hold in some places more than in others?

2. In what ways was the missionary message of Christianity shaped by the cultures of Asian and American peoples?

3. Compare the processes by which Christianity and Islam became world religions.

4. In what ways did the spread of Christianity, Islam, and modern science give rise to culturally based conflicts?



5. Based on Chapters 13 through 16, how does the history of Islam in the early modern era challenge a Eurocentric understanding of those centuries?


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