Posts Tagged ‘Why Did Europe Conquer The World’

Why Europe conquered the world

By Jonathan Power

February 21st 2017

Eleven hundred years ago Europe was a backwater. There were no grand cities, apart from Cordoba in Spain which was Muslim. The Middle East was much further ahead, still absorbing the intellectual delights and challenges of Greek science, medicine and architecture which Europeans were largely ignorant of. In southern China agriculture advanced and trade in tea, porcelain and silk flourished.

By 1914 it was a totally different world. The Europeans ruled 84% of the globe and they had colonies everywhere. How was it that Europe and its offspring, the United States, became the dominant dynamic force in the world, and still are today in most things?

If I walk round my university town and stop the first ten students I meet and ask them why this was so they would probably say because of the Industrial Revolution. But in 1800 when the Industrial Revolution was only just beginning Europeans already ruled 35% of the world and had armed ships on every ocean and colonies on every continent.

If they didn’t say that, they might say it was the way the Europeans spread their fatal diseases, smallpox and measles, to which they had gained a good deal of immunity, and this enabled them to lay low native peoples. But in fact all the major Middle Eastern and Asian civilizations had this same advantage. In Africa it was local diseases that attacked the Europeans more than vice versa.

Maybe one of the ten students would say it was because the Europeans were ahead in the development of gunpowder technology. After all the military revolution preceded the Industrial Revolution. But I doubt that, even though on the right track, this one student could explain why. Read the rest of this entry »

Power grows out of the barrel of a gun – but then…

By Jonathan Power

Why do major powers arise? At a time when we talk about the rise of China and India, the said weakening of the US and the European Union, and the thwarted ambitions of Russia, it is a good time to ponder this question.

Between 1492 and 1914 the Europeans conquered 84% of the globe. The puzzle is why did they rise to the top when for centuries the Chinese, Japanese, Ottomans and South Asians were far more advanced?

The short answer, as Mao Zedong once said, is that “Power grows out of the barrel of a gun”.

Europeans were at the forefront of gunpowder technology for 200+ years.

This may seem odd since firearms and gunpowder originated in China and the rocket in India. Yet by the late 17th century Chinese, Japanese and Ottoman military technology was lagging behind Europe’s.

War was what monarchs did in Europe. Read the rest of this entry »


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