Sunday, April 17, 2005

Globalisation Part IV: Age of Western Expansion

The First Imperial Age was a time of relatively balanced world powers across the Old World. Both Asian and European empires were more or less equal politically. The East still had the advantage in technology and education, but Western Civilization was rapidly emerging out of the Medieval period and further stimulated by the Rennaissance. These two things were dwarfed by what would happen soon, permanent European colonisation of the Americas. Competition for trade routes was so fierce that many nations on the western edge of Europe were looking for new ways to the East. After Columbus found the islands in the Carribean, the Europeans had their chance for world dominance.

Seeking economic, political, and religious benefits in the New World, Spain started to colonize massive tracts of land, it was rewarded with a rich supply of gold, silver, and other precious metals. Soon Portugal, France, and Great Britain also began their colonial exploits. This period marks the rise of a whole new monumental set of trade routes between the Old and New World. Unlike the older ones, these were almost all over the seas. Thus the quest for total control over the oceans also became important. As the Western European nations found much greater wealth in the New Trade, the Old Trade became less and less valuable. While the quest to find a navigable Nortwest Passage through the Americas and to the Orient existed for a long time, it eventually became more or less symbolic. Power no longer meant control over the trade with the East, it meant establishing distant colonies to obtain raw materials, building up a large maritime trading fleet that could cross vast oceans, and recruiting massive new militaries to fight over the colonies and maritime trade. The Middle Eastern and Oriental nations did not have these three things, therefore they became less important on a global level.

In short what happened was that the great superpowers of the previous two ages were surpassed by Western Europe. The old powers got their power from control over the Mediterranean Sea and Old Trade routes. In my opinion, these nations simply became stagnant. There were no more great economic advances happening here, the best possible situation had already been reached. On the other hand, the great new ocean became the Atlantic and the New Trade was over this ocean. This area gave Western Europeans plenty of space to expand and develop in. It is during this age that West stared to rise to its dominance.

No comments: