Robert W. Strayer
Ways of the World: A Brief Global
History with Sources
The Worlds of the Fifteenth Century
Copyright © 2013 by Bedford/St. Martin’s
I. The Shapes of Human Communities
A. Paleolithic Persistence: Australia and North America
1. Gatherers and hunters have a history, too: While non-literate and non-urban, these societies did change over time; we just don’t have written records of it. 2. Manipulation of the environment and trade: In Australia, aboriginal peoples manipulated the environment and engaged in relatively long-distance trade networks, indicating a certain degree of complexity.
3. “Complex” or “affluent” gatherers and hunters: In the Pacific Northwest, the abundance of food sources allowed for permanent settlements of large houses, social stratification and complexity, and extensive food storage. B. Agricultural Village Societies: The Igbo and the Iroquois 1. Egalitarian kinship societies without state systems: These societies had histories and a certain degree of social and economic sophistication, but they did not have larger political systems. Instead they relied on kinship.
2. “The Igbo have no king” but they did trade: The West African Igbo of present day Nigeria did not have kings or a state like their neighbors, but they did engage in trade with nearby kingdoms.
3. Great Law of Peace of the Five Nations: In what is now central New York state, history developed in a complex manner. With a major agricultural shift, the Iroquois-speaking people became more productive and populations grew. The growing populations created conflict and frequent warfare until sometime in the fifteenth century when an alliance was formed and a truce established. This Great Law of Peace put an end to the bloodshed and allowed the development of limited government, social equality, and personal freedom.
I. The Shape of Human Communities
C. Pastoral Peoples: Central Asia and West Africa
1. Timur/Tamerlame (d. 1405): This was the last great Central Asian leader of warrior nomads. His armies attacked and plundered parts of Russia, Persia, and India, but he died before invading China. His descendants maintained control of an important central asian region. Yet in the coming centuries, most of the Turkic nomads would face imperial expansion from Russia and China.
2. Samarkand: This was the most important city of the Timur’s descendants. Here Persian and Turkic cultures blended in a sophisticated elite culture. 3. Fulbe: These people from the upper reaches of the Senegal River were nomadic cattle herders who traveled among settled societies. While they paid rent to these settled community for grazing rights, they held the farmers’ way of life in contempt. Later they would convert to Islam, lead a series of jihads, and establish their own states.
II. Civilization of the Fifteenth Century: Comparing China and Europe A. Ming Dynasty China
1. Emperor Yongle (r. 1402–1422): This emperor sponsored a number of important projects to get China back on track after the Mongols, including public works, building a new capital complete with new temples and courts, overseas missions, and the writing of an enormous Encyclopedia.
2. Confucianism and anti-Mongol policies: In a move to wipe out the Mongol legacy and rebuild the Chinese state system, Yongle and others promoted Confucianism and the exam system as a form of re-sinicizing China.
3. Economic boom: As the Ming repaired infrastructure and fields damaged by the Mongols, the state set in motion substantial economic growth. 4. Zheng He’s voyages (1405–1433): One of the most remarkable moments in the Ming Dynasty were the massive fleets sponsored by Yongle and commanded by Admiral Zheng He. For several decades, hundreds of ships with 27,000 men sailed the China seas and the Indian Ocean, demonstrating Chinese power. However, this was not a mission to colonize or conqueror, but rather a trade mission that encouraged the expansion...
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