Lecture #2: “Old Worlds Collide”
I. Europe Before the Great Expansion
Columbus, on behalf of the Spanish Kingdom, began exploring in 1492, creating
the first sustained contact between Europe and America.
A. The Great Chain of Being
» All of creation was ordered hierarchical. This was a concept prevalent in
the Kingdom of Christendom, and goes back as far as Ancient Greece
» Human society, all of society, was ranked in the ‘Great Chain of Being’,
– Different levels of nobility
» Families were hierarchical too – oldest son inherited the land, etc.
» Each had masters above and servants below.
» Fundamentally different to America – ‘all men are created equal’ (as
declared in the Declaration of Independence)
B. Localism: Ties to the Land
» Societies were not only hierarchical, but also special.
» After the fall of the Roman Empire (c. 500) the slow rebuilding of Europe
was based heavily on localism
» Feudal society encouraged people to localize
» Lords in local areas forced servants to do their bidding after creating a
system of interdependence (hierarchy): e.g. local lords protected their
servants in exchange for their servitude
» Different languages and regional dialects began to form within the same
C. Religion Mirrors the Social Order
» All Europeans were meant to be Roman Catholic, with allegiance to the
Pope in Rome
» Sacred hierarchy reflected social order
» For many Europeans, religion was a very hierarchal, local experience.
II. Sources for European Expansion and Challenges to Tradition
A. Population Growth and Economic Development
» After the bubonic plague and collapse of the Roman Empire fear,
insecurity and a deep defensive quality was prevalent in Europe
» Society remained resilient; after the catastrophic plague came rapid
population growth and economic development due to the need for
society to recover
» Economic development – Venetians conducted large overseas trading,
connecting trade routes with the East B. Consolidation of European Kingdoms
» Changes in politics mirrored changes in society
» Rules or principalities (what we know now as single countries) began to
see the advantages of combining kingdoms in order to advance power
» This led to the formation of more concrete political powers
– Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain marry to form a unification
◊ Together, they tried to drive out the Muslims (they manage to do
so in 1492)
◊ After successfully eradicating Islam, they moved on to driving out
the Jews too, creating a pure, orthodox Christian society
C. Cultural Change: the Renaissance
» The Roman Empire and, before that the Ancient Greeks, were known to
be great organizers and promoters of art, culture and education.
» Growing power and stability of Europe allowed for a ‘period of rebirth’
(Renaissance) and great cultural recovery
» In this period, the first universities were founded, great classical texts
were translated, etc.
» Renaissance indicated that wh