The Variety of the 15th Century World

The Variety of the 15th Century World

The Variety of the 15th Century World: Part I To consider various human communities in the 15th century To compare China and Europe To consider why Europe came to dominate the world Context for the 15th Century Although Columbus voyage was probably the single most

important event of the century, other processes and events occurred across the globe that were significant in their own right. Columbus heroic legacy is currently not the mainstream view: modern historians focus on the death, slavery, racism, and exploitation following his voyage. Yes, all these things occurred. But historians also need to focus as well on the things that were set in motion that ultimately resulted in a better world for the




THE FULBE: AFRICAS LAST GREAT PASTORALIST CULTURE Hunter-Gatherers : Australia and Pacific NW Paleolithic peoples (pre-agricultural or non-agricultural) persisted even into the modern era. But by 1500 these peoples way of life was about to get a lot more complicated

These folks subsisted in many areas: Australia (entire continent), much of Siberia, the arctic coastlands, parts of Africa and the Americas All these groups had interacted (some more widely than others) with settled peoples and other Paleolithic peoples around them yet retained their own ways of doing things. This was going to change in the 16th century and later. This is a snapshot of those cultures before the changes set in.

Australia Aboriginal Peoples: by 1500CE humans had been in Australia for 40,000 years. By then they had separated into 250 distinct groups Had contact with New Guineans: outside technology and ideas-outrigger canoes, fish hooks, netting technology for

fishing, artistic styles, some rituals, mythological concepts (dream time, etc.) Australia Had not adopted agriculture, although historians are not quite sure why they hadnt. New Guineans practiced intensive agriculture and Australians had certainly been exposed to it.

Climate and geography may not have made agriculture look profitable to invest in; maybe life was good enough as it was Managed environment using fire to burn off and create food areas and animal control areas: this is called firestick farming Australia Aboriginal peoples exchanged goods, traded, over long

distances within the continent. Developed sophisticated sculpture and rock painting Despite European skepticism about the humanity of the Aboriginal people, they fit all of the characteristics to be not only human but advanced as well. ABORIGINAL ROCK ART

Northwest North America: Hunter Gatherer Villagers While Australian peoples lived a rather austere life, humans on the other side of the Pacific, in todays Washington state, British Columbia Province, and Alaska (around Juneau) existed in comparative luxury

Their complex environment could be exploited for an extensive menu of food which remained relatively rich in every season of the year. NW NA The abundance of seafood (fish, shellfish) and wild crops (berries, nuts, grasses) was so consistent and plentiful that

these hunter gatherers settled down in permanent villages. They developed many characteristics of sedentary agricultural communities without being agricultural in any sense. NW NA Economic specialization occurred, social hierarchies developed, slavery

was sometimes instituted, chiefdoms were created (which never happens in hunter gatherer societies), and common food storage facilities were normal. All of this is the antithesis of roving bands of pre agricultural humans. Perhaps the point is, that given a sufficiently rich food supply in which agriculture is not needed, you will get the same economic and social structure over time as if you had agriculture. This means hierarchy,

slavery, patriarchy, and power struggles are innate in the structure of humanity! What a thought! Moving on up? Agricultural Societies in Africa and North America Agricultural village societies dominated much of North America, parts of the Amazon River basin (S.A.), Southeast

Asia, and Africa south of the equator. These societies were generally less oppressive, developed fewer class inequalities, and were not typically completely patriarchal. Two examples: Igbo of southern Nigeria (today) and the Iroquois of North America (New York)

Igbo Peoples: Stateless and loving it While other peoples in the area began to craft urban societies and small states and dabble with kingship, neighboring Igbo people in what is now Nigeria did not. Igbo lands were densely populated, considerable trade took place, and intensive agriculture was practiced. The Igbo seem to have purposefully rejected the idea of a larger

governing entity and the idea of kings. Igbo: Igbo have no kings! Obviously there must be some functional government in a society and the Igbo solved this issue in this way: Relied on titlesocieties in which men were awarded titles as a means of gratification (these would be social not political); womens associations were developed, hereditary

ritual experts to assure that things followed the proper course and as social mediators, and a balance of power between kinship lines in the society. Igbo The Igbo did not develop a state society but rather a stateless society as described in the novel Things Fall Apart.

Yoruba, Bini, and Igbo peoples traded among themselves and beyond the area as well as sharing some common artistic traditions. Oddly, all three societies shifted from a matrilineal to a patrilineal system around the same time and for reasons unclear to western historians and sociologists.

IGBO MASK ART Iroquois: Woodlands Villages After 1300 CE agricultural villages in what is now New York State underwent substantial changes: These people (Iroquois speakers-Iroquois is a language group not an ethnic group) had become fully agricultural

with maize and beans Population growth ensued, and distinct clans or tribes of people emerged-Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk etal Iroquois In this society women did the farming and in fact over time women gained political power and status as well.

Men, who no longer had to provide food, started using war as a means to establish status. This warfare was continual, devastating, and impossible to countenance as it was between the various tribes of Iroquois themselves. This state of affairs triggered the formation of the Iroquois Confederation.

Responsible Government To alleviate intertribal warfare, a council was set up of elected men to govern the external affairs of the group as well as to stop internal fighting. Oddly, any decision of this council was subject to the veto of the headwomen of each village. While warfare remained the main occupation of men, it was

now directed outward against the Iroquois Confederations neighbors. IROQUOIS WAR PARTY Iroquois Society Men and women were relatively equal in this society. This

may be due to the fact that women were economically more important than men and also had political power unlike most societies then or now. Economically, the culture was less interested in personal wealth than in personal prestige. While Iroquois valued co-operation within the group, each person maintained a large degree of personal freedom

Possible Effects Although the Iroquois backed the British in the American Revolution and came out on the short end of the deal, many American colonists believed that the government that the Rebels developed had roots in the Iroquois Confederation. The example of disparate groups joining together for common survival was certainly there as well as respect for personal freedom and individuality.

There may be some historical truth in this. Timur and the Last Gasp of Pastoral Nomads C.1400 Turkic warrior Timur (Tamerlane) tried to restore the Mongol Empire. His armies invaded and devastated Russia, Persia, and India Timor died while preparing for an invasion of China C.1405

For 100 years his successors controlled the land between Persia and Afghanistan His was the last great military success of the Central Asian Nomads The Fulbe of Africa The Fulbe are an example of African pastoralists who

remained outside the state structure until the 18th and 19th centuries. This was west Africas largest nomadic society who gradually migrated eastward after 1000CE Usually lived unobtrusively in small communities among farmers

The Fulbe Gradually over time adopted Islam as religion This began a change in which some Fulbe moved to urban areas and became versed in the Quran and respected as religious leaders From 1700-1900 religious jihads convulsed the region of the Fulbe, leading to the creation of new states ruled by them in

the name of Islam China VS. Europe By 1450 a majority of the worlds peoples lived within a complex civilizations Two of these were Ming China and Western Europe Ming China: recovery from Mongol disruptions under the

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Moved to eliminate all signs of Mongol rule Promoted Confucian learning and re-established the examination system China v. Europe Emperor Yongle (r.1402-1422) sponsored an Encyclopaedia

summarizing all the wisdom of the past in 11,000 volumes! Ming created a highly centralized government: Great power was in the hands of courtiers who were also eunuchs. There was some contention between the court eunuchs and Confucian bureaucrats as the latter did not think eunuchs should be allowed into Chinese society.

China v. Europe Under Ming: China restored abandoned land to cultivation, rebuilt and constructed new waterways and waterworks, planted many trees for erosion control and as windbreaks. During this time (1400-1500) China was, perhaps, the best governed and most prosperous civilization on earth.

EUROPE C.1500 Chinese Maritime Exploits Under the Yongle Emperor China sent out massive fleets Most likely these were done to impress and awe the barbarian surrounding China. The Chinese didnt really need anything from outside so trade was pretty much one way for them.

Chinese sailors and traders were, however, important in the Indian Ocean and South East Asian commerce and ports Chinese Maritime Exploits Zheng He: Admiral of the Great Fleet. May have sailed 80,000 miles during voyages of exploration and diplomacy In 1433 China stopped these large expeditions and even

tried to keep private persons from going to sea, making it illegal and later a capital crime. Many Confucians in government regarded the voyages as a waste of resources with no return on investment. Chinese Maritime Adventures Like most people, Chinese who saw opportunity abroad or

at sea took advantage of doing so regardless of what the government wished. Many Chinese merchants and craftsmen continued to settle in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and South East Asia without government support Europe: Nation States, Population, and

Renaissance As in China a similar process of increasing population, centralization of government and its powers, a renewal of European culture, and expansion of Europes sphere of influence and desire took place. By 1450 European population started to rise Europe centralized governments, but in smaller,

competitive, independent, and fragmented states Europe Cultural renewal was highlighted by the Renaissance, a movement towards renewing the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans that had been lost for 1000 years. Began in the commercial cities of Italy (Florence, Milan,

Venice, Genoa) Naturalism in art and perspective. First sculpting of human nudes since classical Roman times. Humanism Humanism is the study of man. The Renaissance was first and foremost about changing the focus of discussion from always

being on god to looking at human achievements and possibilities. Humanist scholars were more interested in describing the world as it is rather than exploring or searching or ideals or cosmic truths. However, Renaissance men and women did not advocate getting rid of Christianity; just including a study of humans as well as of god.

Who Made the Renaissance Moderns tend to view the past romantically We should view it practically The Renaissance was important for its ideas as well as it people but it only affected a few thousand at the time it was going on. The name Renaissance was not given to this

period until the 19th century-but the people living in the Renaissance knew something different was going on: they could feel it in the air. RENAISSANCE HUMANISM IN ART Europe Explodes into the Ocean Sea Portugal and Spain were the vanguard in European movement into

the world. Under Prince Henry, Portugal began exploring a way around Africa around 1415CE By 1498 Vasco Da Gama had successfully and forcefully made Portugals presence felt in India Columbus, sailing westward, tried to do this for Spain and instead ran into the Americas which turned out to be a pretty good deal

for Spain but not so much for the Americans PRINCE HENRY THE NAVIGATOR Chinese Sea Voyages Compared to European Sea Voyages European expeditions were small, two or three ships with several hundred men. Chinese expeditions sent hundreds of

ships with thousands of men. Europeans were seeking to convert people to Christianity, while the Chinese were not concerned with religion Europeans were seeking wealth and allies against Islam, while the Chinese were showing Chinas superiority by disdaining allies and showering wealth on those they visited

CSV and ESV The Chinese expeditions were peaceful although they could have taken over any place they visited. The Europeans started with force and violence and continued to do so successfully China had everything it needed; Europeans wanted to gain the fabulous wealth of the Orient

China ended its expeditions as too costly, while Europe escalated its explorations as wealth poured in CSV vs. ESV Chinese explorations was centrally directed and controlled while European explorations were competitive between rival powers and even private individuals.

Over all, China had no compelling reasons to seek out new lands or wealth. Europe had very good reasons, at least to them, for doing so.

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