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How did the Western countries become so powerful?

Discussion in 'World History' started by King of England, Nov 12, 2001.

  1. King of England

    King of England Tired Young Man

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    I'd like to ask a question.

    Why are many Western/European countries richer and more powerful than a good portion of the rest of the world?

    If the answer has to do with industrialization, then how did they get to that stage?

    :cool:
     
  2. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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    There are probably many answers to that, but the best ones in my mind are colonization and empires, free market economies and non-interference from government in most of societies affairs.
     
  3. PinkyGen

    PinkyGen Paper copying intern

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    I suggest reading an interesting book called Guns Germs and Steel by Jaired Diamond (a thread exists about in the history forum.)

    Basically, Diamond argues that their are geographical reasons why Western Europe got ahead. He looks at factors such as food production, quality of food production, domesticatable animals, geographic barriers and such. A good read, though the analysis in spanning some 10,000 years makes some errors.
     
  4. Vrylakas

    Vrylakas The Verbose Lord

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    A whole series of reasons, in no particular order:

    1. Separation of church and state (from the conflict between the Holy Roman Empire and the Church over who had pre-eminent power in the physical world). Kicking the clergy out of government was the best thing Western Civilization ever did for itself.

    2. Competition: Europe is a peninsula with lots of peoples packed into it, which has always fostered competition (sometimes violent). European history in the last 3 centuries has been dominated by attempts to control or moderate the violent competition between countries and peoples, channeling their competition into economic avenues. Exhibit A: The EU.

    3. Exploration and Colonialism: Not in the way many think though. When the Turks conquered Constantinople, unlike the earlier Moslem empire they cut all the ancient East-West trade routes. This kicked off the European Age of Exploration, as Europeans (the Portuguese first) went looking for an alternate route by sea to the East. Contrary to popular opinion, the colonies more often cost more than they paid back, in terms of supporting vast military forces over seas. However, this exploration and exposure to foreign cultures deeply enriched the Europeans' cultural awareness and more importantly forced them to develop sophisticated and standardized systems and technologies to deal with ocean navigation, fortification, supplying armies spread all over the world, communications, raising $$$ to support all this, etc. etc. etc. These all taught Europeans powerful lessons about social and political organization on a mass-scale.

    4. Science: Philosophical gifts from the Classical world and the old Islamic scholars were consulted and mined for solutions to the problems of exploration and colonies I mention above. For as much as the church railed against Science, it stuck around because it consistently provided answers for pressing technical problems. The resulting growth of science would give the Western world its greatest asset:

    5. Intellectual curiosity: A unique feature of Western Civilization is an interest in the rest of the universe. The Islamic scholars of ancient Baghdad made great innovations to technical science but never once showed any interest in the world outside of Dar al-Islam; Chinese scholars refused to study any aspect of any civilization aside from their own until the 20th century; etc. To this day, science in the developing world is usually seen as a technical tool for making cars, medicines and bombs. In any Western university you'll find study programs or departments for things that have nothing to do with Western Civilization: Japanese studies, Islamic studies, Eastern Philosophies, Mayan studies, Eastern African studies, ancient Chinese art studies, etc. Western scholars have re-discovered the histories of many non-Western societies - Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Moche, ancient Dilmun, etc. This is an intangible aspect of the West, but I think the most important - a basic objective interest in the world around us.

    6. Middle Class Pre-Eminence: The much-maligned bourgeoisie have given the West a powerful work ethic and productivity threshold that is unmatched. It isn't so much that we work harder as that we expect adequate compensation for our labor. Exactly what constitutes adequate compensation has been a long contentious issue in the West, but that compensation is not doubted. This is tied to:

    7. Property Rights: When the western half of the Roman Empire collapsed, all notions of value and exchange for barter collapsed with it. ("Exactly how many pieces of your gold equals one of my cows again?") The only thing of solid, durable value left was land (because it produced food). Feudalism developed over centuries when islands of land owners were able to support small populations here and there. However, over time these landowners became too powerful and a powerful political drive of the early modern era was land reform - how to wrestle some of that land away from the magnates. The bourgeoisie played a critical role in redefining property rights (for land owners and non-land owners alike) which secured all legal notions of ownership. This includes investments, etc. This was a revolution in economic and political relations, tied to:

    8. Citizenship: In European feudal society people were represented to all political and clerical authorities through groups. Everyone belonged to a group, and only groups had rights and responsibilities within the feudal system, and each group often had their own laws. The medieval church was fully integrated into this world and organized along similar lines; you can't talk to God. You must go through a priest, who can intercede up the chain of communication (deacons, bishops, archbishops, Pope) straight up to God, who was the Lord - the top of the feudal social pyramid. The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century challenged that notion and said that each individual human has a direct relationship with God, and was responsible for all communications with God him/herself. This powerful notion eventually crept into the political sphere, where each individual would have a direct relationship with their government - as citizens (instead of subjects).

    9. Christianity: It's not so much that Christianity itself had any particular quality that made it an asset (although as a moral force it was extremely helpful), but it did a few important things: A. When all civilization collapsed in the 6th century in western Europe, the only organization that survived and persisted everywhere, carrying on the Roman concepts of law and social organization, was the church. It was the thin thread by which civilization in western Europe hung for several centuries. B. It provided the basis for a common European culture and civilization. For all the differences and all the conflicts, the reality that the basic Christian precepts are known and respected from Moscow to Lisbon, from Rome to Oslo, has provided a commoninity of experience that has held Europe together culturally.

    10. Rule of Law: A saving grace for Western Civilization has been the inability of any political group to completely dominate society. The resulting necessity of a reliance on the rule of law (rather than the whims of a leader) has created a bsis for social, political and economic equality unparalleled.

    The West's great assets of capitalism, Democracy and superior technology all flow from these developments. As with every great civilization, the West did not "invent" or develop these things all by itself in a vaccuum; it learned and borrowed from the successes and failures of other civilizations.
     
  5. Tariq

    Tariq Chieftain

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    Applied Science = Technology!!!
     
  6. Achinz

    Achinz Hermit of Huangshan

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    Guns, germs and steel.

    Read Diamond's book ;)
     
  7. VoodooAce

    VoodooAce Chieftain

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    Nationalism leading to competition.....

    Only answer I can think of after pondering through lunch.....

    I think that most of the other reasons put forth here beg the question, "yeah, but why? how did it reach that point?"

    Nationalism and competition amongst a very diverse and relatively tightly packed population.
     
  8. sonorakitch

    sonorakitch Overseas hunter

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    Land, Luck, and Genetics.

    ~Chris
     
  9. Malys Faisent

    Malys Faisent Croissant King

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    I think Vrylakas' comments beg some discussion.

    Separation of Church and State.
    This is untrue, the combination of Church and State was what allowed groups of people to coalesce to form goverments. It helped foster communication between these nascent states, a form of conflict mediation. It facilitated the expansion of Western European idealogy as well, converting the heathen for their own good (ie. taking their land and their wealth). Only recently has the separation of Church and State been in place, and its benefits or hinderances (from the point of 'Statehood') have not fully been explored.

    Competition
    This exists everywhere, not just in Europe. The main difference is that no group became dominant over the whole of Europe for any signifigant length of time, unlike China or during the heights of Islam. New World peoples were at least as competitive as Europeans, and more ethnically diverse, they just had less to work with as Europe imported almost all of its beginning technologies.

    Exploration and Colonialism
    I don't think your logic follows, Europeans had already learned about social and political organization well before they'd reached this stage of their development...in fact they forced their social and political systems on the people and places that they colonized, rather than bringing any of their ideas back to Europe. Other peoples had already gone through great lengths in exploring and colonizing the world by the time the Eurpeans got around to it. What European exploration and colonialism did was extend the European culture...by forcibly removing indigenous populations, this had happened many, many times in history by different groups, it just so happens that the European phase is the latest and greatest...exploration and colonialism is exactly why European dominance is what it is in the modern world.

    Science
    The Europeans had more developed and applied sciences by the age of exploration, this is definitely true.

    Intellectual Curiousity
    This is blantantly false, Europeans are not any more intellectually curious than any other peoples. However, Europeans received the fruits of other peoples intellectual curiousity and applied them during the latter parts of the Middle Ages and from that point forward. Your statements are very euro-centric, which is understandable based on current observations. Current European culture is interested in other cultures, just as many current mid-east and far east cultures are not. (the New World cultures having ceased to exist once they came in contact with European and African cultures can be divided as North African {either Mid-East or European depending on view} and sub saharan {still dealing with their own population explosions and the effects of European colonialism}) This doesn't mean Europeans are more intelligent, more able to apply science, or more interested in the world around them than other peoples. Islamic and Chinese scholars had limits within their faith and cultures (by then again, so did Europeans); however, they were certainly interested in the world and peoples around them, the difference is that beyond a certain point of expansion, both of your examples stopped expanding for various reasons, Europeans did not...Europeans are only recently interested in the cultures of those that they've displaced. Cortez wasn't interested in the Aztec excepting the amount of tribute they could pay...similarly with any other encounter between Europeans and indigenous peoples until very recently. Do you seriously believe that Europeans of the late middle ages and into the Renaissance had schools for the study of Islam much less schools for the study of say the Prussians within France?

    Middle Class Pre-eminence
    Interesting point, I think that this is a strong arguement. I don't know about your work ethic statements. The entrenched middle class didn't have to work as hard as the lower classes, so the idea was if you could work your way up to the middle class you didn't require a work ethic...The middle class definitely helped stabilize nations and helped them expand by getting resources out of the hands of a small number of people and into the hands of a larger number of people...leading to your point about land ownership, which is true, but it applied to more than just the ownership of land. The middle class helped finance and organize many things that wouldn't have happened on a state level.

    Citizenship
    Chinese considered themselves citizens in BC. They had rigorous tests to become state-appointed officials and had a much more developed idea of 'citizenship' over Europeans until the revolutions of the late 1700's. However, Europeans did see the rise of the Nation-States; peoples began to identify with England or France as opposed to their local town...this didn't change the way they conducted their lives politically.

    Christainity
    Gets back to what I said about the Separation of Church and State. Christianity did preserve some of what existed in classical times, but a good deal more of it was re-imported from elsewhere...Christianity served as a way to bind the different political organizations of Europe together more than it did in improving the lives of the average person through the preservation of knowledge.

    Rule of Law

    Muhahahaha!!!

    The absence of Rule of Law is more the point. Law using societies; the Muslims and Chinese, stopped expanding well before they reached the limits of their power...the inability of any ruler to dominate Europe was because there weren't any effective laws to govern the Europeans...The Romans had them, the English and French didn't, until it was too difficult (ie Nationstates had evolved) for them to conquer each other! The French later dominated and ruled over a good deal of Europe because of one man (Napolean) and the Germans by the same token (Hitler). Because there were no laws governing the situation, the Europeans were able to kill, plunder, etc. on all the other nations that they encountered that couldn't stand up to them militarily. European law is a modern invention, unlike places like the Middle East and China that have been governed by law for centuries.

    The dominance of European culture in modern times is the result of aggression, expansion, thievery and murder...on top of this, in modern times we have developed effective ways of governing our people as well as effective economies...but these are modern inventions...Europeans had already set the stage to dominate the world by the industrial age, everything that came during and after the industrial age was a solidifying of European dominance that had already started...
     
  10. Sayhueque

    Sayhueque Chieftain

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    Materialism. Simple.
     
  11. Vrylakas

    Vrylakas The Verbose Lord

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    Greetings Malys Faisent!

    You wrote:

    I think Vrylakas' comments beg some discussion.

    Separation of Church and State.
    This is untrue, the combination of Church and State was what allowed groups of people to coalesce to form goverments. It helped foster communication between these nascent states, a form of conflict mediation. It facilitated the expansion of Western European idealogy as well, converting the heathen for their own good (ie. taking their land and their wealth). Only recently has the separation of Church and State been in place, and its benefits or hinderances (from the point of 'Statehood') have not fully been explored.


    Hmmm, good point but we're talking about different time periods. You're refering to the so-called Dark Ages, when "the church" was the sole remaining representative of anything resembling civilization. However, I put "the church" here in quotation marks because it was really a thin string of autonomous organizations operating on a general set of agreed principals, but with little (if any) inter-church communication or management. There were proto-Popes in Rome (and the Patriarch in Constantinople) but they had almost no ability to even know what was going on outside their immediate environments and almost no ability to impose authority. In short, there really wasn't any Church (capital "C") until a true hierarchy and structure began to develop in the 10th-12th centuries - long after Charlemagne and his Merovignon successors had laid the foundations for Western European polities in the 9th-10th centuries.

    By separation of church and state I was refering to the struggles between the Popes and the Holy Roman Emperors in the 13th-15th centuries over who had final authority in the physical world. The importance of the victory of secular authority over religious was that it created a compartimentalization of society in Christendom, nicely following Jesus' advice, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's". Societies bound by religious political authority ("theocracies" in modern parlance) have historically been allergic to technological or social innovation, resulting over time in their overall backwardness and weakness vis-a-vis less religiously-bound societies. The West was able to sort this out only very painfully - after settling it in the 15th century it was re-ignited in the 16th through the Protestant Reformation and the long bloody religious wars that only ended with the end of the 30 Years War in 1648 - but the West learned that religion and politics do not mix.

    Competition
    This exists everywhere, not just in Europe. The main difference is that no group became dominant over the whole of Europe for any signifigant length of time, unlike China or during the heights of Islam. New World peoples were at least as competitive as Europeans, and more ethnically diverse, they just had less to work with as Europe imported almost all of its beginning technologies.


    This is a bit simplistic, no? Yes, competition exists everywhere, including in the animal kingdom - but in Europe it was particularly intense. As I implied (if not outright mentioned), Europe is a peninsula and despite repeated attempts by several throughout European history, no one has ever been able to completely dominate the whole Continent for long. This competition gave rise to unique features in European society very early - one example being feudalism. The European, specifically the Norman type of feudalism, was unknown anywhere else in the world and had a strange effect of fostering larger-scale cooperation while at the same time rewarding localism (among the Germans, for instance). An effect of European feudalism was an early European resolution of the problems of local power versus regional and state power, paving the way for the nation-state. China and Russia, for instance, still struggle with balancing these two factors and lean towards an imperial paradigm that has not served either well recently.

    Exploration and Colonialism
    I don't think your logic follows, Europeans had already learned about social and political organization well before they'd reached this stage of their development...in fact they forced their social and political systems on the people and places that they colonized, rather than bringing any of their ideas back to Europe. Other peoples had already gone through great lengths in exploring and colonizing the world by the time the Eurpeans got around to it. What European exploration and colonialism did was extend the European culture...by forcibly removing indigenous populations, this had happened many, many times in history by different groups, it just so happens that the European phase is the latest and greatest...exploration and colonialism is exactly why European dominance is what it is in the modern world.


    Of course Europeans didn't show up in future colonial areas tabula rasa, but administering these far-flung areas around the globe were beyond their - or anyone else's, for that matter - experience and forced them to develop further their communications and political systems to meet the new needs.

    Let me give you a more current example of this phenomenon: In 1978 Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope as John Paul II, and he immediately made it known he wanted to visit communist Poland. The Polish communists said essentially that he could visit Poland, but they would have nothing to do with any arrangements. The Polish Church therefore was forced to recruit volunteers off the street to arrange audiences, bathrooms, security, coordination of events, press coverage, emergency services, transportation, etc. etc. etc. By the next year when he showed up in Poland, all these things had been organized and put in place by people on a national scale who learned as they went how to do such things. This very same group of people came in very handy a year later when the initial Solidarity strikes broke out in 1981 in Gdansk, and the communists discovered the unpleasant reality that by forcing volunteers to organize things on a national scale for the Pope's visit they'd inadvertantly trained Poles how to organize national protests and communications under communist rule. The results show in how Solidarnosc grew in just a few months to 10 million members, two-thirds of the whole Polish workforce at the time.

    Most heavily impacted by colonialism were the European militaries, especially the navies. The ability to project power around the globe was an immense undertaking that required a re-organization of the Western militaries, in terms of their actual organization, their strategies and tactics, their funding, their appearance - just about everything. The British empire fielded the greatest numbers of soldiers and ships around the world in its history while fighting the American Revolution and the residual wars that caused (India, West Indies, Gibraltar, etc.) The logistics of coordinating and financing that kind of world-wide operation required unparalleled political and economic structures - structures that, not co-incidentally, no other civilization would devlop until they adapted to the Western economic and political models. Yes, you are right that many empires and peoples in history have conquered other peoples and sometimes wiped them out, but the European variety of colonialism was different in two ways: 1. Distance, 2. Scale. The Mayans, the Chinese, the Zulu, the Khmers, the Moguls never conquered or established colonies halfway around the world. They were usually operating in their own basic "neighborhoods". The very transformation of Medieval Europe to the early modern era took place through the excruciating crucible of overseas imperialism and colonialism.

    Science
    The Europeans had more developed and applied sciences by the age of exploration, this is definitely true.


    And long thereafter.

    Malys-Faisen, I have to chop up my reply because it's too big for the Forum Post size. This is Part I.
     
  12. Vrylakas

    Vrylakas The Verbose Lord

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    Reply to Malys-Faisen, Part II:

    Intellectual Curiousity
    This is blantantly false, Europeans are not any more intellectually curious than any other peoples. However, Europeans received the fruits of other peoples intellectual curiousity and applied them during the latter parts of the Middle Ages and from that point forward. Your statements are very euro-centric, which is understandable based on current observations. Current European culture is interested in other cultures, just as many current mid-east and far east cultures are not. (the New World cultures having ceased to exist once they came in contact with European and African cultures can be divided as North African {either Mid-East or European depending on view} and sub saharan {still dealing with their own population explosions and the effects of European colonialism}) This doesn't mean Europeans are more intelligent, more able to apply science, or more interested in the world around them than other peoples. Islamic and Chinese scholars had limits within their faith and cultures (by then again, so did Europeans); however, they were certainly interested in the world and peoples around them, the difference is that beyond a certain point of expansion, both of your examples stopped expanding for various reasons, Europeans did not...Europeans are only recently interested in the cultures of those that they've displaced. Cortez wasn't interested in the Aztec excepting the amount of tribute they could pay...similarly with any other encounter between Europeans and indigenous peoples until very recently. Do you seriously believe that Europeans of the late middle ages and into the Renaissance had schools for the study of Islam much less schools for the study of say the Prussians within France?


    I think you've misunderstood my point. I was not saying that Europeans are any more intelligent or intellectually curious (as individuals) than other peoples, but that as a group the West has shown a powerful interest in the rest of the world that has been largely absent from other civilizations. Intellectual curiosity is a human trait, but not all societies encourage it and most try to channel it towards their own narrow ends. It is no mistake that science as an all-encompassing study originated in the West. The West has developed (through means that I described in my original post) an interest in study for its own sake, not merely to achieve technical advance. Colonialism played a role in this because Westerners were confronted with other cultures and innovations that defied their own beliefs about themselves and Christendom. Already in the 17th century European universities began offering courses in subjects like Egyptian engineering, Islamic philosophy, and ancient Chinese Confucian text translation that had nothing to do with enriching the West militarily, economically or politically. To directly answer your last question, yes, the West did have university courses dealing with Islam very early on. Do you believe that there were no professors of Prussian history in France in 1900? (There were.)

    The West did indeed incorporate technologies and innovations created by other peoples - all great civilizations do - but even here there is an example of my point. The re-discovery of Classical texts from the Moslems in the early Renaissance was an intellectual boon for Christendom, but it only whet their appetites. The Moslems only preserved and translated Greco-Roman-Persian Classical texts dealing with technology, military science, governance or architecture - in short, they only kept the texts that helped Islam improve itself materially. They discarded Classical poetry, dialogue or what we would call "non-fiction" as the mere works of barbarians unfit for Islamic ears. The West would have to re-discover that part of its heritage through archaeology and luck. In contrast, only a few centuries later Western scholars would be eagerly reading Islamic poetry and stories. Rejecting the "Other" is a natural human social characteristic, but one the West has overcome somewhat, much to its benefit.

    Yes, you are right that in many cases the typical superiority complex that imperial, conquering peoples have did forestall the West's interest in their conquered peoples - I never implied that Westerners weren't human - but it usually caught up sooner or later. And of course we're talking about the West in general, not every single member of the West. Cortes was a classical adventurer along the lines of Homer or Jason and the Argonauts. Within a few decades of Cortes' conquests, however, there were Westerners wandering the Central American jungles looking for remnants of the ancient civilizations - not for Cortes' lost cities of gold. Perhaps Knight-Dragon could help me out on this one but when about did China first establish some sort of study programs dedicated to understanding the Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese (Yuan-Nam!) cultures, all ultimately creatures of Sinic civilization? I'll bet it didn't happen til the 20 century, despite nearly 2000 years of mutual history. Is there anywhere in the Islamic world today a study center for Hungarian, Serbian or Bulgarian cultural studies, all once centuries-long subject peoples of Islamic imperialism?

    Middle Class Pre-eminence
    Interesting point, I think that this is a strong arguement. I don't know about your work ethic statements. The entrenched middle class didn't have to work as hard as the lower classes, so the idea was if you could work your way up to the middle class you didn't require a work ethic...The middle class definitely helped stabilize nations and helped them expand by getting resources out of the hands of a small number of people and into the hands of a larger number of people...leading to your point about land ownership, which is true, but it applied to more than just the ownership of land. The middle class helped finance and organize many things that wouldn't have happened on a state level.


    Indeed, the Middle Class - essentially the merchant class - was able to respond creatively to the fiscal challenges of overseas adventures and earned themselves increasingly powerful voices in legal and political matters. The impact of their concepts of ownership - and I mentioned land because that was about the only important thing one could own in even the late Medieval period - revolutionized Western society. Medieval jurists wrote the word "property" and meant exclusively by that "land"; 19th and 20th century lawyers use that word in a wider context.

    Citizenship
    Chinese considered themselves citizens in BC. They had rigorous tests to become state-appointed officials and had a much more developed idea of 'citizenship' over Europeans until the revolutions of the late 1700's. However, Europeans did see the rise of the Nation-States; peoples began to identify with England or France as opposed to their local town...this didn't change the way they conducted their lives politically.


    Don't get hung up on a word. A citizen has a direct relationship with their government, and furthermore has inalienable rights vis-a-vis that government. In any legal relationship both parties must have clearly-defined rights and responsibilities - Rousseau's Social Contract - and that is what is meant by a citizen having a direct relationship with a government. I also didn't say that citizenship has always been a part of Western society; it certainly is today however. None of the attributes I describe sprang instantly and complete the moment the West was cast when the western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in the late 5th century... They developed over time, to differeing degrees throughout the West. For example, the Enlightenment was a product of late Renaissance thinkers from France, the Germanies, England, etc. but its political and social ideals found their first practical expression - in twisted form - in a backward colony of England, far from their European birthplace, in 1776.

    And Europeans didn't "see the rise of the nation-state"; after the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia it was a gradual but conscious creation, step-by-step, until the 20th century. And it did radically change the way they conducted themselves politically. The average Englishman of 1632, compared to one of 1732 and then 1832 each saw a drastic difference in their own political involvement with both local and national affairs. This gradual devolution of power into individuals (within a defined but widening franchise) is the essence of citizenship. This never happened in B.C. China.

    End of Part II, Part III a comin'!
     
  13. Vrylakas

    Vrylakas The Verbose Lord

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    Reply to Malys-Faisen, Part III (Final One!)

    Christainity
    Gets back to what I said about the Separation of Church and State. Christianity did preserve some of what existed in classical times, but a good deal more of it was re-imported from elsewhere...Christianity served as a way to bind the different political organizations of Europe together more than it did in improving the lives of the average person through the preservation of knowledge.


    But again, we were talking about two different time periods. With my "Separation of Church and State" clause I was talking about Friedrich Barbarossa's time; with the Christianity clause I was working in the earlier Medieval period when all forms of civilizational authority in the West had collapsed; (Pope Stephen & Charlemagne). Remember, we're talking the difference of half a millennium or more.

    And the church didn't so much bind as provide a common intellectual and moral ground on which the various centripital forces of Medieval Europe could meet and coalesce. Late Medieval Popes would wield power through armies and wealth, but early Medieval bishops of Rome were at the mercy of the local warlords and had little power outside of moral persuasion even among other churches.

    Rule of Law

    Muhahahaha!!!


    Always happy to amuse others. ;)

    The absence of Rule of Law is more the point. Law using societies; the Muslims and Chinese, stopped expanding well before they reached the limits of their power...the inability of any ruler to dominate Europe was because there weren't any effective laws to govern the Europeans...The Romans had them, the English and French didn't, until it was too difficult (ie Nationstates had evolved) for them to conquer each other! The French later dominated and ruled over a good deal of Europe because of one man (Napolean) and the Germans by the same token (Hitler). Because there were no laws governing the situation, the Europeans were able to kill, plunder, etc. on all the other nations that they encountered that couldn't stand up to them militarily. European law is a modern invention, unlike places like the Middle East and China that have been governed by law for centuries.

    Europe itself is a modern invention; the name "Europe" was only used in common parlance by Europeans in the late 17th century and officially in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1714. The term "The West" is even newer. Prior to the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries that shattered it, Europe thought of itself as Christendom. This also represents Europe's final disillusionment with religious authority in politics.

    Aside from that, European legal development is a bit older than the 18th century.... It has been a work in progress since, as I mentioned earlier, the Normans first developed their own unique feudal concepts in the 11th century. To say that modern law only developed in modern times is a bit disingenious. Of course it did! But did no law exist in Europe prior to, say, 1700? I think it did. Codified law stretches back to Sumeria, Egypt, China, and all the early civilizations but there's a difference between Rule of Law and merely having laws. Rule of Law refers to the supremacy of the law over everyone - EVERYONE - in a given society - from the leader (President, Prime Minister, King, etc.) all the way down to the citizens. In contrast, in ancient China or Mogul India an ordinary person had no rights vis-a-vis the Emperor's or Mogul's needs and desires. Today in France or Canada an average citizen can legally challenge their respective governments through peaceful means. To use a Jeffersonian phrase, it is government through the consent of the governed.

    The Chinese and Moslems stopped expanding when their armies wouldn't carry them any farther. My ancestors in Poland spent many centuries fighting off Islamic invasions, as indeed by the 17th century Poland was the only Eastern Central European state not conquered by the Ottomans. The older Arab Islamic empire similarly only stopped when its military limits had been reached; in Europe's case that meant the Pyrenees in Iberia and the combination of Khazaria and Byzantium in the east. The various Chinese states expanded and contracted according to military expediency. I'm not sure I understand your point about your claim of a lack of laws being connected to the lack of a single political leadership. We're talking a civilization, not a country. China can be confused that way because it is uniquely both a civilization and a country, but the West is a civilization. Is this what you are refering to? Civilizations share common social, political, etc. things and beliefs but are rarely ruled in common under a single political roof. There are specifically Western concepts of law - some discussed here - that developed throughout Europe and its progeny although rarely was there ever a single unform way of application throughout the West. Is this what you mean?

    The dominance of European culture in modern times is the result of aggression, expansion, thievery and murder...on top of this, in modern times we have developed effective ways of governing our people as well as effective economies...but these are modern inventions...Europeans had already set the stage to dominate the world by the industrial age, everything that came during and after the industrial age was a solidifying of European dominance that had already started...

    Far too simplistic. How then do you explain the failure of earlier aggression, thievery and murder on the part of, say, the Chinese, the Moslems, the Mongols, the Aztecs, the Iroquois, the Assyrians, the Zulu, etc., etc., etc., to develop into world-wide empires or systems? What magically transformed the European experience into such a success? What then made the Europeans more aggressive or murderous than anyone else? Were they? I can't imagine the Mongols were any less ruthless, for one. The early Islamic conquests overran and destroyed - steamrollered! - many cultures and peoples. What happened with the Europeans? Were the Europeans just a particularly evil people, and if so, why? Had the Europeans succumbed to either Islamic or Mongol conquest (as they very nearly did on both accounts) would Europeans have been just another forgotten civilization? Effective governance and economies are not just modern European inventions - their seeds lie in the full experience of European history. They didn't just suddenly spring forth in the 18th or 19th century out of the blue.

    If the question is why did Europeans dominate the world, the answer is because they could, through their civilization's superior adaptive skills which led to the reasons I've listed in my original post. They were not the first to try, nor will they probably be the last. Take a look through history and count how many rulers declared themselves rulers of the world. There's quite a few. (This is a basic civilizational issue the West is currently having with the Islamic world; that the Quran says they should be ruling the world...) Europe came closest to succeeding, though still not quite completely. In the process Europe created a world standard of politics, law, diplomacy, economics, trade, lingua franca, etc. that provides the forum on which most peoples of the world meet today. Reminds me of that scene in Monty Python's The Life of Brian where the Jewish revolutionaries have a rousing meeting decrying Roman rule, only to come to the reluctant conclusion by the end that the Romans have actually provided many civilizational and technical benefits for the Jews.

    Thanks for the debate, Malys Faisent; I sometimes wondered whether anyone ever read these posts! While I do take exception to your charge that I am Euro-centric in my views - my formal education forcibly spanned beyond Europe's history and I've always maintained a active interest in non-European histories, especially Islamic - your points are well taken and appreciated.

    Keep it comin'!
     
  14. Knight-Dragon

    Knight-Dragon Unhidden Dragon Retired Moderator

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    "Perhaps Knight-Dragon could help me out on this one but when about did China first establish some sort of study programs dedicated to understanding the Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese (Yuan-Nam!) cultures, all ultimately creatures of Sinic civilization? I'll bet it didn't happen till the 20 century, despite nearly 2000 years of mutual history. Is there anywhere in the Islamic world today a study center for Hungarian, Serbian or Bulgarian cultural studies, all once centuries-long subject peoples of Islamic imperialism?"

    I am flattered that Vrylakas actually thought I am some kinda expert of Chinese expert. :) Well just for the information, I don't have any formal education in Chinese, not even in the Chinese language for all I am Chinese. But I read a lot of history books (in my youth, *sigh* seems like so long ago) incl Chinese history.

    I can confirm the Chinese don't have any formal institutions to study foreign cultures. The Han had the Han-lin Academy which studied Confucian classics and churned out scholars to administrate the empire. Thru out history, Chinese imperial dynasties usually had an Imperial University but the scholars here studied more on ancient Chinese classics, arts, language, ethnics and so on. Not much on technical stuff or foreign cultures.

    Except maybe at the govt agency responsible for nomadic affairs i.e. the powerful barbarian nomadic hordes to the north of the Great Wall, then they would have specialists to deal with all the different tribes of the north. Other than that, Chinese officials wouldn't give much thought to foreign cultures. Cos in the Chinese scheme of things, there's no foreign culture, only barbarian ppl who still hadn't received the 'benefit' of imperial rule.

    The Chinese did meticulously record stuff about the foreign stuff they came into contact with (as with most things) esp those foreign tributary missions fr far away lands. That's how we knew about some forgotten city-states and countries in SE Asia and elsewhere. But recording isn't studying. ;)

    Anyway a comparison betw Imperial China and Europe is inapt. One was a continental empire while the other was made up of a myriad of states. A closer comparison would be betw China and Rome. I don't think the Romans 'studied' all those peoples they conquered or fought with, except for some recording. Much like the way the Chinese way of recording stuff.

    BTW, Vietnam is Yue Nan. This is a very ancient name. First use was for the state of Yue during the Warring States period (5th century BC to 221 BC) on the mouth of the Yangzi. Driven south to Fukien where they still maintained an independent state in early Han times. Then after dissolution of Qin, there's Nan Yue, a state founded by a Qin general across N Vietnam, Guangxi and Guangdong which eventually joined the Han empire. Then after end of the Han, N Vietnam broke off and never rejoined China and was hence called Yue Nan (nan meaning south).
     
  15. Malys Faisent

    Malys Faisent Croissant King

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    Hey, Vrylakas I'll get back to you in a bit, watching the kids today (sigh, the wife had to work). I'll come back and edit this with a proper response later...good to have these kind of discussions though...

    :goodjob:
     
  16. Vrylakas

    Vrylakas The Verbose Lord

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    Thanks Knight-Dragon! I knew I could count on you for some good input here! And you said something in one of my threads to the effect that "when it comes to China, I'm king!"... I told you I'd take you at your word....

    ;)

    Yes, as I suspected the Chinese empires only studied those "barbarians" whom they absolutely had to. This is typical of imperial approaches, that those outside the imperial borders are not worthy of study. Your comparison to Rome is apt; the Romans similarly only studied the civilizations they were either going to conquer or had conquered. The old Islamic empire was similar. That was my point in my original post, that the West's intellectual curiosity was unique.

    As for Vietnam; I told you my Chinese history has holes in it... I briefly recall reading about Chinese attempts to incorporate the future Vietnamese lands, eventually giving them their current name (in convoluted form).

    Thanks again!
     
  17. Knight-Dragon

    Knight-Dragon Unhidden Dragon Retired Moderator

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    Just remember there was a unique phase in Chinese history when they absolutely adored foreign culture and foreignness itself basically. This started during the earlier part of the Tang but it didn't last long. This phase was completely killed off after the Mongols occupied China and the Chinese turned xenophobic. During this space in time, the Chinese were absolutely absorbed with the outside.
    What I know - some monks spent decades travelling to the West (India in this case) to study Buddhism which had taken root in China over the last couple of centuries. Also foreign culture took hold in the imperial capital at Chang'an - Persian and Indian esp. There were large nos of foreigners in Chang'an and also Guangzhou, the southern seaport city. In a special mention, Chinese cooking took a foreign turn and became spicier from this time onwards. And a Persian sport, polo, became a aristocratic favourite.
    But all these were not 'scientific studying' of foreign cultures. More like absorbing it. ;)

    Also earlier during the Han, the Wudi emperor was particularly absorbed with the outside too, specifically to look for nomadic allies against the Hsiung-nu confederation in the steppes. He sent an envoy to seek the Yueh-Chih (Kushans) who had been driven to the west by the Hsiung-nu. The fellow (forgotten his name) got captured by the Hsiung-nu, spent yrs in captivity and even married a Hun, then escaped and found the Yueh-Chih. The military alliance talks fell thru but the envoy managed to return to China and with a lot of foreign info.
    Based on this new info (particularly about the 'blood-sweating' heavenly horses of Ferghana), the Han forcibly broke thru into modern Xinjiang and further west. Bascially this was the beginning of the Silk Road. And the beginning of the seeping of some foreign ideas into China. In particular, Buddhism.
     
  18. Malys Faisent

    Malys Faisent Croissant King

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    Where to begin :)

    I think that my main point is that most of what you discuss, V are things that are what I feel as the result of Western European dominance, not things that I feel are the cause. You do make some points that I agree with, namely that Europe was never fully controlled by any one group and that the competition between the different governments and peoples furthered the progress of what we'd call science and technology (for example, gunpowder...European nations that didn't keep up with cannons and muskets were eventually forced to).

    Back to your posts:

    Separation of Church and State

    Now that you've clarified I think we see pretty eye to eye on this. It seems to me that what you are getting at was that the State uses Religion for its purposes, rather than vice versa. At first I thought you meant that the modern 'Separation of Church and State' (no official State religion, laws not officially based on religious creed) was what you were trying to imply. To say that the various European states didn't use religion during their rise is, of course, false, but equally false is to say that European dominance was caused by the religion entirely.

    Competition

    Competition by itself doesn't give rise to dominance, which is the point that I was making, though I don't really think that it needed to be made. :) What European competition allowed was innovation, if one nation adopted a better technology, social system, or military strategy their neighbors were influenced to do the same, else they suffered in some way. Without the import of the technology to help fuel this innovation the European states would have been similar to the Aztec, lots of competition without any result (in a world dominance sense that is...) As far as Feudalism goes, I'd hesitate to say that it only evolved in Europe...certainly Japan had a feudal period.

    Colonization

    I think we are debating the same side of the coin here. Basically, my answer to King of England would be that the fact that Europeans were able to colonize and administer their colonies is exactly why they are dominant today. There were other periods of colonization by other peoples, the Bantu, the Polynesians, the Chinese, the entire New World peoples, but these all lacked one thing that the European waves of colonization had...political unity. When Hawaii was colonized it developed independantly, while when the Norse colonized Iceland they remained tied back to their homeland. I had thought you meant that Europeans brought back cultural ideas from other nations, not developed them internally, and because of this they were able to rise to dominance.

    More later...end part 1.
     
  19. CurtSibling

    CurtSibling ENEMY ACEā„¢ SLeague Staff

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    I think Vrylakas summed this whole thread up!

    And in superb fashion!

    Top class...:goodjob:
     
  20. Vrylakas

    Vrylakas The Verbose Lord

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    Malys Faisent wrote:

    I think that my main point is that most of what you discuss, V are things that are what I feel as the result of Western European dominance, not things that I feel are the cause. You do make some points that I agree with, namely that Europe was never fully controlled by any one group and that the competition between the different governments and peoples furthered the progress of what we'd call science and technology (for example, gunpowder...European nations that didn't keep up with cannons and muskets were eventually forced to).

    Some observations:

    1. There never has been one Europe, or one West. The definition of what is Europe has changed over time. In the 9th century Scandinavia, Spain, Sicily and Rus were not considered part of Europe; a few centuries later Syria, the Anatolian Coast and Palestine were a part of Europe; in 1600 the Holy Roman Empire was in disarray while France, Spain, Venetia and Poland-Lithuania stomped the Continent; a century later newly-risen Russia and Prussia were the giants, etc. Prague in 1450 was an imperial European capital, while Prague in 1950 was a backward Eastern European capital (while Vienna, several kilometers east of Prague, became a Western European city after 1955). There was never a single Europe to conspire for or coordinate the explorations and imperial conquests. Bulgaria, Spain and Finland are integral to modern Europe but you must ask what commoninity binds such diverse cultures together?

    2. Europe's history, from inception in the 6th century A.D. until now spans 1500 years. But for the length of this history, Europe's dominance of the world is very recent. Ancient Egypt dominated the eastern Mediterranean for 4000 years; Europe's pre-dominance in the world begins in the 1500s and lasts so far a measely 500 years. For as much as Europeans resent the Americans for their youthful culture and recent origins, Asia and North Africa similarly looks at upstart Europe. Example: modern armchair historians like to equate the Crusades with later European imperialism, but there were very different motives behind these two historical epochs, centuries apart.

    3. My original questions stand; what did the Europeans do in essence that was different than what was done before them? The scale is certainly different, but not the actions. When the Portuguese sailed around Africa in the 15th century they had slightly better cannon than the Arabs, but Portugal (and every other European state of the time) were economically and politically far less developed than many contemporary states. In terms of land armies the Ottoman armies had no parallel in organization or tactics in Europe (which explains why they ruled almost one-third of Europe by 1500). What was different?

    Back to your posts:

    Separation of Church and State

    Now that you've clarified I think we see pretty eye to eye on this. It seems to me that what you are getting at was that the State uses Religion for its purposes, rather than vice versa. At first I thought you meant that the modern 'Separation of Church and State' (no official State religion, laws not officially based on religious creed) was what you were trying to imply. To say that the various European states didn't use religion during their rise is, of course, false, but equally false is to say that European dominance was caused by the religion entirely.


    You're still confusing many issues. State religion means when a state officially upholds one particular religion above others, and the clergy of that religion are infused into the state apparatus. State and church merge. The 12th century Popes were attempting to seize secular power, to become emperors themselves. The common comparison of course is modern Iran. Buddhism has played a powerful cultural and political role in India, China, Japan, etc., and Christianity has played an equally important role in European history. However, an important distinction for Europe's concept of religion was the separation of clergy from government; never 100% (%&^*! Jesuits!) but a break nonetheless.

    Competition

    Competition by itself doesn't give rise to dominance, which is the point that I was making, though I don't really think that it needed to be made. What European competition allowed was innovation, if one nation adopted a better technology, social system, or military strategy their neighbors were influenced to do the same, else they suffered in some way. Without the import of the technology to help fuel this innovation the European states would have been similar to the Aztec, lots of competition without any result (in a world dominance sense that is...)


    That's just my point. The competition had conditioned European societies to respond to certain phenomena aggressively and efficiently. It forced Europe to develop more efficient political and military structures. "The import of technology"? Some technology was indeed imported in trickles, but not enough to explain the sudden burst of Europe onto the world in 1500. The seeds of what you would see in 1800 already existed in 1500. A classic question for historians is how 200 Spanish adventurers managed to conquer the Aztec empire, some 10 million strong; the answer is not in the Spaniards' higher technology but in their superior discipline and military organization.

    As far as Feudalism goes, I'd hesitate to say that it only evolved in Europe...certainly Japan had a feudal period.

    Feudalism is a term used to explain social relations throughout the whole world between the collapse of the Classical world and the rise of modern times. However, feudalism in Europe - again a Norman invention - was unique in its all-encompassing structure. Japanese feudalism was based on the necessity to maintain effective military control over a given territory; Norman feudalism was as much an economic and social structure as a military, designed to foster $$$ development. The result is the relatively quick development of towns (royal, oppida, craft or "croft") throughout Europe in medieval times. Where do you think all the money came from to finance all the art, scholarly work and technological development that fueled the Renaissance? In the 9th century Europe was utterly broke and impoverished, but within a century that began to change. Why?

    Colonization

    I think we are debating the same side of the coin here. Basically, my answer to King of England would be that the fact that Europeans were able to colonize and administer their colonies is exactly why they are dominant today. There were other periods of colonization by other peoples, the Bantu, the Polynesians, the Chinese, the entire New World peoples, but these all lacked one thing that the European waves of colonization had...political unity. When Hawaii was colonized it developed independantly, while when the Norse colonized Iceland they remained tied back to their homeland.


    There was no European coherence. The Great Powers of each age competed intensely for resources and real estate. The European advantage was superior organization and bureaucratic discipline. The Spanish-Aztec example is extreme, but the Europeans were almost always outnumbered in their confrontations with non-European societies. As I discuss in my History of Firearms quiz thread, firearms really didn't provide much of a technological advantage until the 19th century. The Hawaii and Iceland examples really don't apply because they weren't the same type of colonies that the English, Dutch, French, etc. were establishing later.

    I had thought you meant that Europeans brought back cultural ideas from other nations, not developed them internally, and because of this they were able to rise to dominance.

    No, my point was that the experience of mounting exploratory missions, establishing and maintaining colonies, then as borders expanded managing all the technical aspects of maintaining huge military forces all over the globe forced the Europeans to develop political and economic infrastructures heretofore unheard of. Example: When the Dutch East India Company virtually collapsed into bankruptcy in the 17th century, the traditional methods of raising money for supporting the new Dutch imperianum's ambitions clearly wouldn't work. The answer? The Dutch developed the concept of the public company, the stock exchange and a securities market to finance their colonial adventures in Nieuw Amsterdam, Indonesia, St. Estatus, etc. This superior way of financing caught on across Europe and long after the Dutch navy fell into decline, Amsterdam continued to be a major financial center. At the heighth of the Spanish empire Philip II had to constantly find new ways to fend off bankruptcy, supporting his wars and the pillaging of the silver mines in Peru; a century + later Willem van Oranje has riches at his finger tips that the greatest Holy Roman Emperors could only dream of. THIS is the kind of infrastructural development and adaptability that made Europeans invincible. Their willingness to flexibly adapt to new technologies and concepts gave them a powerful advantage.

    Waitin' for Part II. Sorry for being late a couple days.
     

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