| Chapter 15: European Expansion: Economic and Social Transformations
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> Chapter 15
Chapter 15: European Expansion: Economic and Social Transformations

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  • European Expansion
  • Forces Behind Expansion
  • Population increased between 1450 and 1600, and gentry needed more land
  • Merchants and shippers also had reasons to look abroad (trade, luxury goods, etc.)
  • Centralizing monarchical state also played key role
  • Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain established royal power at home and overseas
  • Religion enhanced expansion, drawing on Christian crusade tradition
  • Technological revolution also contributed to European strength
  • Arms and new weapons technology
  • Technological innovations in sailing ships gave Europeans decisive advantage
  • The Portuguese Empire
  • Several reasons account for Portugal’s overseas success
  • Long Atlantic coastline ensured emphasis on the sea
  • Feudal nobility was not powerful enough to suppress trade
  • Portugal already supplied northern Europe with subtropical produce
  • Royal policy favored expansion
  • By 1400, Portuguese were expanding into Atlantic Ocean islands
  • By last quarter of century, they had a viable imperial economy in West Africa
  • Based on sugar, black slaves, and gold
  • By 1488, Bartholomeu Dias reached southern tip of African continent
  • Vasco da Gama sailed around tip and found all-water route to East
  • Portuguese went directly to India and East Indies for spices
  • Portuguese domination made Genoese look farther to western Mediterranean
  • Christopher Columbus (Genoese sailor) thus sought westward route to East
  • The Spanish Empire
  • Spain stumbled onto its overseas empire, which was enormous and wealthy
  • Columbus was supported by Isabella, queen of Castile
  • In 1492, he landed on a Caribbean island that he named Española, or Little Spain
  • Even later, Columbus believed the West Indies were part of the East
  • Spanish and Portuguese were not first outsiders to arrive, but were the first with guns, sails, horses, and religion
  • Though they obtained no spices, Spanish were enriched from land and precious metals
  • In 1519, Hernando Cortés landed on Mexican coast and defeated native Aztecs
  • A decade later, Francisco Pizarro dominated the Incas of Peru
  • Both Spaniards exploited hostility of subject tribes to their native overlords
  • More important, however, was the effect of infectious diseases from Europe
  • Gold and silver lured Spaniards overseas, but so did the crusading spirit
  • Rewards were propagation of the faith, service to the crown, and new land
  • Encomiendas were grants of authority over natives; Estancias were remoter grants of land
  • Such relationships were major cause of decimation of native populations
  • Between 1500 and 1600, native population shrank from 20 million to 2 million
  • As royal officials gained power, Spanish America became permanently divided between privileged elite and poor masses
  • Black Slavery and the Slave Trade
  • Black slaves were brought over from West Africa
  • Trans-Saharan trade of some 10,000 slaves a year was already in place
  • But this annual traffic was dwarfed by trade between European colonies and West Africa from the early sixteenth century
  • When the Portuguese dominated Atlantic slave trade from 1450 to 1600, it never exceeded 5,000 a year
  • By end of seventeenth century, slaves shipped across the Atlantic rose to 30,000 a year; by the end of the eighteenth century, nearly 80,000
  • About 11 or 12 million blacks were exported to the New World
  • Of these, 600,000 ended up in the 13 colonies of British North America
  • Black African slavers captured victims and sold them to European companies who branded their “possessions”
  • Conditions on the slave ships were brutal
  • About 13 to 30 percent died en route to the New World
  • In Brazil and West Indies, slaves were worked to death
  • In American South, large plantations were fewer, so fewer revolts took place
  • By 1830, southern slaves rose through natural increase to over 2 million
  • What accounted for major increase in slave trade by eighteenth century?
  • New World had fields and mines to be worked, but native population had been wiped out
  • On African side, mostly men were shipped, and polygyny ensured that African women left behind continued to have children, so population didn’t diminish
  • By 1700, introduction of guns allowed west African rulers to build armies for capturing other peoples, a spiral of mounting violence
  • The Price Revolution
  • The Price Revolution
  • Linked to overseas expansion was unprecedented inflation known as “price revolution”
  • Cereal prices increased by 9 times or more during sixteenth century
  • After 1650, prices leveled off or fell
  • Like colonization, price revolution played big role in the commercial revolution
  • One major cause was population growth during the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
  • Population of Europe nearly doubled between 1460 and 1620, though causes are unclear
  • Population decline in the seventeenth century was due to food shortages
  • Second major cause was flow of silver into Europe from New World by 1552
  • Price revolution: too many people with too much money chasing too few goods
  • Consequences of price revolution were momentous
  • The Expansion of Agriculture
  • The Old Pattern of Farming
  • Landlords held properties in manors all over Europe
  • By fifteenth century, much held by peasant-tenants (copyhold)
  • Tenants had certain hereditary rights, including use of commons
  • Arable land worked in strips according to custom
  • Whole pattern of peasant tillage and rights called open-field system
  • Remained same for centuries, then challenged by incentives of price revolution
  • Enclosure
  • Open-field system used in medieval centuries prevented large-scale farming
  • In sixteenth century, English landlords began to pursue new profit possibilities
  • Two-pronged attack on open-field system emerged
  • Enclosure, fencing off the commons, became common practice
  • Landlords also changed copyhold to leasehold (not heritable and fixed)
  • Rural poverty and violence increased with mass evictions of tenant farmers
  • Without tenants, fields could be incorporated into larger, more profitable units
  • Subsistence farming gave way to commercial agriculture
  • Prosperous farmers (yeomanry) crucial to commercialization of English farming
  • Eldest son inherited entire estate (primogeniture) so lands could stay undivided
  • Rising prices forced less businesslike landlords to sell, concentrating land in hands of more productive people
  • Convertible Husbandry
  • In the Netherlands, price revolution affected agriculture as much as in England
  • Population soared, cities swelled, land reclamation soared
  • New system of convertible husbandry developed
  • This system alternated soil-depleting cereals with soil-restoring legumes/grazing
  • Land thus produced more than it did under three-field system
  • Increased productivity played key role in later industrialization of England and France
  • Agricultural Change in Eastern Europe
  • From the Elbe River to Russia, dramatic effects of price revolution were also felt
  • Baltic lands provided regular shipments of grain
  • Baltic landlords became commercial farmers producing internationally
  • Enclosure to produce surplus occurred on vast scale
  • Eastern peasants were not evicted, but their status declined to serfdom
  • The Expansion of Trade and Industry
  • The Domestic System
  • Manufacturing and trade also reorganized, along with commercial/agricultural realms
  • Basic condition of price revolution produced expansion
  • In textile industries, increasing demand promoted specialization
  • Markets shifted from local to regional or even international networks
  • Emergence of merchant-capitalist with size and range to control local producers
  • Domestic system of cottage industry emerges at this time
  • Merchant-capitalist would buy raw wool from English (enclosed fields)
  • Merchant’s agents gave wool to local villages to spin, dye, and weave
  • Many of the weavers were evicted peasants who needed the work
  • Once processed into cloth, wool was picked up and shipped to market
  • Domestic system a key step in evolution of capitalism
  • Represents a significant break with the medieval guild system
  • Countryside rather than urban location allowed avoidance of guild restrictions
  • New emphasis on division between owner and worker, not master and apprentice
  • Enclosure also capitalized industry by lowering wages of workers
  • Innovations in Business
  • Other business innovations emerged, some rooted in the Middle Ages
  • Banking operations became more sophisticated
  • Accounting methods improved, including double-entry bookkeeping
  • Shipping practices expanded to include maritime insurance
  • Joint-stock companies developed so small investors could participate in large ventures
  • Such companies accumulated huge amounts of capital for large-scale operations
  • Patterns of Commercial Development
  • Responses to the price revolution varied in different parts of Europe
  • In England and the United Provinces, large-scale commercial expansion emerged
  • New Dutch ship (fluit) handled bulky grain shipments easily from the Baltic
  • Also allowed commercial penetration of the Orient
  • Dutch challenged and displaced Portuguese in the spice trade
  • English trade continued in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
  • Seventeenth century brought foundation of colonial empire on Atlantic seaboard
  • English government was aligned with capitalist producers by end of that century
  • Navigation Act passed in 1651 allowed English shippers to carry goods anywhere
  • English displaced Dutch as leading power in international commerce after 1660
  • France expanded commercially, but not as much, due to aristocracy and guilds
  • Spain possessed silver and the makings of expansion but did not capitalize on it
  • The Growth of Capitalism
  • What Is Capitalism?
  • Capitalism is a system of private enterprise or free enterprise
  • Goods and labor are in opposite ratio to prices and wages
  • In the Middle Ages, capitalistic enterprise limited because of restricted market
  • In fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, conditions changed and incentives to invest emerged
  • The Fostering of Mercantile Capitalism
  • Several conditions sustained the incentive to invest and reinvest
  • Price revolution from a supply of commodities exceeded by demand
  • Distribution of wealth emerged and promoted investment in three ways:
  • Inflation widened the gap between rich and poor
  • Primogeniture focused wealth on eldest child, forcing younger sons into business
  • International distribution of wealth promoted investment
  • Governments also acted as giant consumers and fostered investment
  • State policies are known as mercantilism: pursuit of national wealth and power
  • Mercantilism pursued favorable balance of international payments
  • Mercantilists argued for goal of national sufficiency
  • Thomas Mun (1571–1641) wrote of consumerism, that demand can be created
  • Mercantile capitalism paved the way for the first Industrial Revolution
  • The Elite and the People
  • Traditional Popular Culture
  • Economic expansion was accompanied by social and cultural changes as well
  • Traditional medieval distinction between elite and popular created split world
  • Common people evolved a distinctive culture: a mosaic of customs
  • Ordinary people worked, played, and worshiped in local world of village/city
  • Certain occasions granted people freedom of expression
  • Carnival period preceding Lent was time of revelry, world turned “upside down”
  • Assemblies of common people for spectacle, celebration, social critique
  • One popular tradition was mockery of unusual marriages called the charivari
  • The Reform of Popular Culture
  • In the sixteenth century, elites because increasingly hostile to popular culture
  • Two reasons accounted for this:
  • First was elite’s fear of growing numbers of poor, and new waves of religiosity
  • Elites thought they would be able to reform society (especially humanists)
  • Society came to be seen as divided between godly and ungodly
  • What ensued was a wide-ranging attack on all forms of traditional popular culture
  • New bureaucratic state joined clergy in the reforming enterprise
  • In sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many behaviors that had been sins were now made crimes
  • Public brothels were shut down after centuries
  • Adultery, blasphemy, infanticide, sodomy, and witchcraft were criminalized
  • Witchcraft and the Witch Craze
  • Prosecution of witches was a key element in attack on popular culture
  • Witchcraft had always been a part of traditional village culture (black and white)
  • Medieval church developed a theology of witchcraft as conspiracy with the devil
  • Witches thought to worship Satan in blasphemous, orgiastic nocturnal meetings
  • Witches were prosecuted as early as the thirteenth century, tortured to confess
  • Growth of printed literature influenced spread of the idea that witchcraft was a diabolical plot
  • By sixteenth century, women were linked indelibly to witchcraft
  • In the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century trials, 75 percent of accused were women (usually single)
  • Perhaps 110,000 were prosecuted and 60,000 executed
  • Ancient prejudice against women played a role
  • Also social/economic pressure showing up vulnerability of poor older women
  • By 1700, the witch craze had ended, first in Holland and in Spain
  • Religious turmoil triggered an intellectual backlash and skepticism
  • “It is rating our conjectures too high to roast people alive for them” (Montaigne)
  • Also elites began associating such beliefs with the uneducated and lower classes
  • Belief in witchcraft lost appeal through social snobbery as much as through science
  • Economic and Social Transformations
  • Economic and Social Transformations
  • Transformations cited in this chapter were some of most momentous in world history
  • One small region dominated sea lanes and banking, established global hegemony
  • Overseas expansion had profound effects on New World, Africa, and Europe
  • Widespread circulation of plant and animal life brought major consequences
  • Western Europe was launched on a course of sustained economic growth
  • Traditional forms (primogeniture and holy war) grafted onto new forces
  • Mercantile capitalism provided economic thrust for European world dominance
  • Economic changes came with major shift in relations between rulers and ruled
  • Authorities became increasingly suspicious of the people
  • Two separate cultures emerged that were hostile to each other
  • Only in moments of panic and pressure (such as the witch craze) did people and rulers come together to persecute a defenseless victim



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