Essay on History

1591 Words Nov 13th, 2015 7 Pages

Early Modern Empires (1500-1800)

Before we learn about the unlikely and apparently rapid rise of The West during the 19th and 20th centuries, it’s important to understand the powerful empires of the early modern world between 1500 and 1800. Some readers may be surprised to learn about the wealth, thriving global trade, and dominant manufacturing production in Asia that held sway until at least the end of the 18th century. Throughout much of this era, Europe was, in contrast to Asia, an unimpressive backwater of small countries and kingdoms. But Europe’s “discovery” of the Americas and an ocean route to Asia, just before the year 1500, changed all that. The West gradually worked its way into the global
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The Inca in South America controlled an empire that stretched 2500 miles. The empire of Mali controlled much of West Africa. Across the deserts of North Africa, caravans of up to 25,000 camels traded enslaved Africans and gold for Indian textiles (Marks 55). No European nation at the time surpassed these empires’ wealth and territory.
In the 15th century, empires outside Europe—in China, Mexico, and the Middle East—were also far more urbanized than Europe. Ninety-nine percent of humans throughout the world lived in rural areas, so urban living was unusual. But dense cities were a clear indication of an empire’s power, wealth, technology, industry and potential for trade. And Europe lagged behind. Both Istanbul and Beijing, for example, had populations of around 700,000 in 1500, whereas only 125,000 lived in Paris (Frank 12). Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztec Empire in central Mexico, had a population of over 250,000 people, while fewer than 100,000 lived in London (Marks 74). China had the most impressive cities of all—nine out of the ten largest cities in the world were found there (26). In 1492, few would have looked at the cities of the world and believed that Europe would come to dominate global trade centuries later.

Europe was not even dominant on its own doorstep. The Ottoman Empire continued to expand its imperial rule in the early modern era, at Europe’s expense. The vast and

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