Friday, July 15, 2011

how the world has changed from 1500 to 1900

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Throughout the years from 1500 to the early twentieth century the world saw many examples of European expansion. Many European countries shared the same motives for expansion while others were interested in it for different reasons. The main motive for expansion shared by most European countries was economic prosperity.

Great Britain, the Netherlands and Spain were the main leaders in the expansion of European trade. Each country was able to establish itself as a power in the world trade market for different reasons. Spain’s main motive for expansion initially was to increase its influence throughout the world, which they inherently succeeded in by their conquests in the Americas. They came to the Americas for both economic and “religious” reasons but mainly for the large amounts of natural resources and the large amounts of silver and gold. When the Spanish established themselves as the leaders of the gold and silver trade, their influence in trade increased.

Great Britain and the Netherlands were more interested in expanding their trade opportunities as well as the goods they traded with. One of the main goods that Great Britain and the Netherlands were interested in was spices. During the 1700’s the British began to set up colonies in India and other parts of Asia and the Netherlands colonized many islands in the West Indies. These areas were hot spots for the spice trade in addition to other goods like silk and herbal teas which were much desired by many Europeans.

Once these countries established themselves economically, they developed patterns of trade that were mutually beneficial. For example the Spanish used the gold and silver they got from South America and traded it for manufactured goods from well established industrial countries like Great Britain, the Netherlands and France. This pattern benefited the Spanish in that they were able to easily receive manufactured goods without having to compete in the industrial race that swept across Europe during the 1800’s and it benefited the British, Dutch and French in that they were able to receive large amounts of gold and silver in exchange for manufactured goods that were relatively inexpensive to produce; hence, the mutually beneficial trade patterns that enabled European powers like Great Britain, the Netherlands and Spain to emerge as leaders of world trade and advance themselves economically.

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Another motive for expansion for countries like Spain, Portugal and France was to spread Catholicism. Portugal was one of the first countries to spread Catholicism. In the 1400’s, under the leadership of Prince Henry the Navigator, Portugese explorers began to look for a new Christian kingdom that could be an ally against the Muslims. These Portugese explorers made their way south along the west coast of Africa; but, rather than succeeding in expanding Catholicism they discovered new trade opportunities. The slave trade is one example of this.

Through the establishment of colonies, countries like Spain and France were able to succeed, to a degree, in the expansion of Catholicism. However, this motive was clouded in many colonies by the obsession for economic advancement by the colonial powers.

During the 1700’s and 1800’s many European countries began to setup colonies in Africa, Asia, the Americas as well as the West Indies. This shifted the motive for European expansion to be virtually completely based on economic advancement. With the establishment of Europe as the source of economic and military power, many Europeans began to feel that they were superior to other people throughout the world. This belief was reflected through literature like “The White Man’s Burden” among other writings. As a result, many countries tried to justify colonialism by saying that they were attempting to civilize or “Europeanize” the natives in their colonial countries. However, most colonial governments were extremely oppressive in issues of human rights as well as politically. In many of the colonies, there were revolts against the government. Some were peaceful and others involved violence.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, European expansion was supported by many different motives like economic prosperity, expansion of trade and the spread Christianity. However, by the end of the nineteenth century the sole motive was economic prosperity. This became the focus of virtually all European countries at the end of the eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth centuries with the industrial revolution.

There was a tremendous movement in the 1800’s in Europe that revolved around the manufacturing and exporting of goods from textiles to clothes made in large factories by usually underpaid, overworked laborers. As a result of the industrial revolution, European countries sought to expand their empires and colonize areas of Africa, Asia and the Americas that were rich in natural resources and raw materials. As a result this would boost their profits and give them much easier and cheaper access to the materials they needed to manufacture goods.

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