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Transcript of Lecture 2
The world in 1491
The world before modernity
This was a world of very diverse political communities...
Even though most individuals in this world lived their lives very locally, with little interest in or understanding of the larger world, there was trade and communication...
In October the same year, 1492, the people on the west coats of the island Guanahani, in the Caribbean, became the first Americans to see a European person.
The person they met was Christopher Columbus, an Italian mariner.
On January 2, 1492, the Muslim Emir of Granada surrendered power to the Christian Queen Isabella of Spain, and the Muslim conquest of Europe that had begun in the 700s was over.
For 700 years, people of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths had lived together: sometimes in peace, sometimes in great tension and sometimes in outright war.
People, cultures and religions had intermingled...
But when Isabella was given the keys to the city of Granada she began a strange project: she wanted to turn her entire realm into a Christian kingdom, where everyone shared her faith and her way of life.
This was something new...most rulers before this had been happy to just tax people of a different faith more heavily, but otherwise leave them be.
Isabella banned first all subjects of the Jewish faith, and she then announced that those of Muslim faith had to either convert to Christianity or leave.
Columbus was paid by the same Isabella who drove out non-Christians from Spain, to find a route to Indonesia that didn't involve having to pass through territories still belonging to Muslim rulers.
A few months later.....
These two events both signaled that something was changing...that the times were changing.
Isabella's aspiration to rule a country where everyone shared same religion, culture, customs and language is a precursor - an early sign, or forerunner - to the notion that states should encompass groups of people who also felt united by culture and ethnicity.
What do we call a state where most of the citizens share culture and ethnicity?
And the meeting between the Taino chief and Columbus connected two previously separate halves of the world for the first time - connecting two previously separate halves of the world and creating the possibility of...?
Today we are exploring the way the world worked before the changes that this unit traces had begun.
She created the Spanish Inquisition: an organisation that identified and prosecuted those who were not "truly" Christian.
A few moths later,
But in 1492, the world was not yet modern.
Today we take the things that these two events herald for granted. Encounters between different cultures, global travel and contact, the idea that states need to be based on populations that share a sense of community and culture...
These are aspects of a modern world, and we're used to modernity by now.
("traditional", or "pre-modern")
Most of us are employed by someone to do things that they need done, and we get money in return.
Most people were farmers, cultivating the earth and rearing livestock to produce food that they would survive off.
Economic exchange happens via money, and there is a lot (A LOT!!!) of it, since most people work for money rather than grow their own food. We depend on exchange for our survival.
Economic exchange was limited, and usually took the shape of bartering (changing one goods for another goods without any money).
The labour market today is very diverse: you can (theoretically) pick between hundreds of different kinds of jobs.
Most people were farmers. Like more than 90% of the population.
We are consumers: we own lots of things and buy lots of things - mostly things that aren't really necessary for our survival. We live in a society of mass consumption.
Most people owned the clothes they wore, and perhaps a bowl and spoon, a knife and a blanket. Most people consumed only what was necessary to survive.
For most people, invention was threatening and sinful: if the divine powers hadn't presented humanity with the technology or knowledge, it wasn't the place of humanity to go looking for it.
Today we think that invention is the path to a better society: constantly figuring out new and better ways to do things.
Tradition was authority: if you wanted to know how the world worked you would read your sacred texts, or ask the religious officials of your society.
Empirical evidence is authority: we study the world to understand how it works
Religion was at the center of all cultural expression: painting, music, writing. It was also at the center of political life and all social institutions like education and social welfare. It was the framework for everything that happened in a society.
Religion is a private matter, that isn't supposed to influence the rest of society much.
We believe all humans are equal, and no one is better than anyone else.
Equality was a bad thing: some were made to rule, others to obey. Some were made to work, others to fight or think.
We value our individuality
The group was more important than the individual.
We identify with our nation
People identified with their village, and perhaps their religion.
Society before the advent of modernity was slower, more local, options for what people could do with their life were more limited.
People were generally illiterate and their life focused on creating a family, supporting it by producing food and the basic necessities, and observing their religion to secure the after life.
Each of these circles indicate a region of interconnectedness. Goods, and to some extend people, travelled and moved within the region.
And the regions overlapped with each other, so that goods (though very rarely people) from China could make their way (very slowly, and at great cost) all the way to Europe.
The Australian civilisation was only at the very periphery of this circuit of exchange, and the American civilisations were not connected to this at all. But both Australian and American cultures had their own, separate, trade networks that did not connect with those of Afro-Eurasia.
The world of 1491 was not globalised in our contemporary meaning of the word, with rapid and intense interconnectedness of the entire globe in terms of culture, economy and political life.
However, we can still talk about an early form of globalisation, or Archaic (meaning "old") globalisation, because of the way that regional connections overlapped with other to create a system that spanned large parts of the globe, even if not all of it.
Let's look at one of the most dynamic and important centers of local interconnectedness in this world...
Empires of the late 1400s:
Holy Roman Empire (not actually the Roman Empire!)
Pick one, and research it for the next 30 minutes. Create a presentation that teaches your class mates about the following:
We are going to begin this unit in 1492, with two events that show change is coming...
Most rulers had been happy to take the word of their subjects on which god they believed in.
But not Isabella
- the government of the empire
- and the culture of the empire (including religion)
- the economic base of the empire,
Welcome to Global History week 2