World After 1500

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After 1500 there were many signs that a new age of world
history was beginning, for example the discovery of America and the first European enterprises in Asia. This "new age" was dominated by the astonishing success of one civilization among many, that of Europe. There was more and more continuous interconnection between events in all countries, but it is to be explained by European efforts. Europeans eventually became "masters of the globe" and they used their mastery to make the world one. That resulted in a unity of world history that can be detected until today. Politics,

empire-building, and military expansion were only a tiny part of what was going on. Besides the economic integration of the globe there was a much more important process going on: The spreading of assumptions and ideas. The result was to be "One World." The age of independent civilizations has come to a close.

The history of the centuries since 1500 can be described as a series of wars and violent struggles. Obviously men in different countries did not like another much more than their predecessors did. However, they were much more alike than their ancestors were, which was an outcome of what we now call modernization. One could also say that the world was Europeanized, for modernization was a matter of ideas and techniques which have a European origin. It was with the modernization of Europe that the unification of world history began. A great change in Europe was the starting-point of modern history. There was a continuing economic predominance of agriculture. Agricultural progress increasingly took two main forms: Orientation towards the market, and technical innovation. They were

interconnected. A large population in the neighborhood meant a market and therefore an incentive. Even in the fifteenth century the inhabitants of so called ³low countries² were already leaders in the techniques of intensive cultivation. Better drainage opened the way to better pasture and to a larger animal population. Agricultural improvement favored the reorganization of land in bigger farms, the reduction of the number of small holders, the employment of wage labor, and high capital investment in buildings, drainage and machinery.

In the late sixteenth century one response to the pressure of expanding population upon slowly growing resources had been the promoting of emigration. By 1800, Europeans had made a large contribution to the peopling of new lands overseas. It was already discernible in the sixteenth century when there began the long expansion of world commerce which was to last until 1930. It started by carrying further the shift of economic gravity from southern to north-western Europe, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, which has already been remarked. One contribution to this was made by political troubles and wars such as ruined Italy in the early sixteenth century. The great commercial success story of the sixteenth century was Antwerp's, though it collapsed after a few decades in political and economic disaster. In the seventeenth century Amsterdam and London surpassed it. In each case an important trade based on a well-populated hinterland provided profits for diversification into manufacturing industry, services, and banking. The Bank of Amsterdam and The Bank of England were already international economic forces in the in the seventeenth century. About them clustered other banks and merchant houses undertaking operations of credit and finance. Interest rates came down and the bill of exchange, a medieval invention, underwent an enormous extension of use and became the primary financial instrument of international trade.

This was the beginning of the increasing use of paper, instead of bullion. In the eighteenth century came the first European paper currencies and the invention of the check. Joint stock companies generated another form of negotiable...
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