HIS102Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Smallpox, Syphilis
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Lecture 2: 09/16/10
Why did Europeans find North America and not Asia, etc.?
In the 1400s, the largest and most powerful country is China – India was also
rich and enterprising
- China made the decision not to venture abroad in the 15th century (policy) –
the Chinese had the capacity, but not the will
- India is geographically remote from North America
- Muslim countries were well organized but preoccupied with war (war in the
Balkans, with Egypt, etc.)
oNo country has a maritime capacity like Europe
15th century Europe, a continent that has descended after the Roman Empire—
Europe was less advanced in the 1400s as they were a 1000 years earlier
Christendom sprouts in 15th century Europe—it is a concept, not an actual system of
- The notion that there is a society that exists beyond national borders.
Christianity creates a bond between countries; acts as a glue between states;
At this point in time, European societies were expanding to the north, west and
east. Although Europe was Christianized between the 5th and 10th century, Germany,
France, Italy, Balkans, England were the states that recognized Christianity as their
religion—some European states were not Christian (the Slovaks, the Polish)
- The Christian states began to convert these non-Christian states – subjugate
them even: the Heathens were exterminated, non-Christian lands were
“terra nullins” (belong to no one)
This practice—the colonization of non-Christian states and forced conversion—in
eastern Europe provided Europeans with doctrines and procedures of how to
colonize larger areas.
In Spain, the Christian kingdom was expanding while the Muslim kingdom was
receding—after decades of war, the Spaniards generated a military class (religious
militarism) and when the wars came to an end, the Spaniards were left with a large
group of young men born and trained in warfare (was was their industry)
- The Spanish monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand commissioned an Italian
(Columbus) to sale the ocean—he was convinced that if one were to sale east
on the Atlantic ocean, one would eventually encounter land, i.e. China
- The illusion of Chinese wealth was very attractive and would be attractive to
Europe for the following 300 years
Many centuries before this, the Norse Vikings travelled across the Atlantic Ocean,
settling in Iceland, Greenland (at the end of the 10th century), and finally reaching
Labrador. They eventually abandoned their colonies (due to war with natives, and
impracticality) but continued to travel across. The problem with Greenland and
Iceland is that they are not economically viable. The Norse fisherman headed
consistently west and found more and more fish.
Columbus was not travelling in the dark, he expected to find land—which he did.
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