Given The Relative Weakness Of The 16th Century Europe, How Do We Account For The Fact That European Nations Came To Dominate Most Of The World By The End Of The 19th Century?

1181 words - 5 pages

Given the relative weakness of the 16th century Europe, how do we account for the fact that European nations came to dominate most of the world by the end of the 19th century?

In the 16th century, majority of the population in Europe was living in poverty. Europe paled in comparison to the great empires of the Ming, Ottoman and Mughal. Though Portuguese and Spanish represented Europe civilization to set sail and explore new lands in search of new settlements and viable trade routes, the Chinese empire lead an expedition of a massive scale larger than ever known earlier than that time with a different motive. Such expeditions imply these major empires could be suitable candidates for world ...view middle of the document...

None of these empires ever took the threat of expanding Europe seriously and instead were more indulged in securing their familiar worlds. Ming China with its abundance of resources was too arrogant due to their achievements in textile and culture. Consequently, all suffered under the inefficiencies of the monarchial leadership and complacency. Lacking foundational system of governing and widespread corruption, their expansion ventures failed and isolation behaviour brought about only ignorance and vulnerability to European exploitation later on. Hence by the 1500s, Europe was the only active expansionist and potential player in world politics.
Lacking competition, Europe underwent a different course. The 16th century Renaissance created intense probing and marked the beginning of capitalism. The social re-awakening lead to Reformation in which the Protestants challenged the Catholic Church, causing a shift in cultural patterns not found in other civilizations. Subsequently, the Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment and French Revolution rejuvenated the status quo in politics and technological advancements, which were not found elsewhere. Most importantly in the 16th century, the main contribution to Europe’s success was the emergence of an efficient nation-state organization. It originated from the French revolution (1789), partly inspired by the American Revolution. The earlier social reforms and new ideas of enlightenment weakened the powers of Catholic Church, aristocracy and monarchy. The ineffective monarchial organization gave way to rights and liberal movements which paved the way for the Nation-State model. Europe had developed a system to manage itself which granted it political strength.
With a new, efficient management, Europe’s social and economical order improved together. Newly learned technologies from China and Islamic Worlds and the Scientific Revolution laid foundation to making faster ocean-going ships and improvements in weaponry. European States recognize the lucrative profits of overseas trade from the Spanish and Portuguese achievements as means to become rich and rapidly adopted their capitalistic tactics, thus grew in importance in international trade. With extensive colonization in Africa and America made possible via efficient government, Europe had carved out own trading routes without relying on the other empires. Atlantic Slave Trade grew in importance, providing the needed manpower and markets for agricultural production and subsequently, the factory production. Europe re-shaped the world using its combined domineering commercial and political power that no other civilization could pre-empt or stop.
The geography of Europe was congested with several nation-states that were in constant rivalry. Hence, with strong desires to establish more colonies, increased trade revenue and resources would propagate more funds for supporting war and territorial expansion against...

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