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"Seeds of Globalization: A Big Picture of the Deep and Accidental Roots of the Global System"

21 November2016
"Seeds of Globalization:  A Big Picture of the Deep and Accidental Roots of the Global System"

Douglas Weiner is Professor of History at the University of Arizona and a past president of the American Society for Environmental History.  He has written two books about the history of nature protection in the Soviet Union, Models of Nature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988; paperback edition, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000) and A Little Corner of Freedom: Russian Nature Protection from Stalin to Gorbachev (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

On November 9, Douglas Weiner gave a lecture entitled "Seeds of Globalization:  A Big Picture of the Deep and Accidental Roots of the Global System".

Professor Weiner explained the geopolitical, intellectual, economic and institutional predominance of (Western) European and European-derived powers during the period from1500-1990. He underlined that one of the most important history questions is the nature of superiority of certain societies whose institutions dominate in the world. The West has apparently achieved prosperity and military power through a series of lucky accidents.. Two hundred million years ago when the continents splayed up from the super continent Pangaea, mammals had already appeared and luckily, Eurasia had 13 most important mammals that were later domesticated by Neolithic humans. Plant and animal domestication increased food production, allowing for much larger populations. Domestication of the horse led to the invention of the cart, then the chariot, and later horsemanship, which was the precursor to long-distance pastoralism (herding). The second accident was that there was no other naval power in the Indian Ocean (Ottomans were principally a land empire as were the Mughals and the Safavids). Until the Portuguese, Indian Ocean trade ships (dhows) were not equipped with cannons or other firearms. The Europeans also invented the musket and the arquebus.  They invested the most in developing firearms because they were mostly engaged in fighting against walled cities (whose fortifications also improved, e.g., Italian trace) and compact armies. Unlike Chinese (and Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals, and Russians), Europeans never had to fight nomads, where firearms would have been a useless investment.

"Seeds of Globalization: A Big Picture of the Deep and Accidental Roots of the Global System"Also, Europeans received a lot of extra power from the easy conquest of the Americas. The Spanish and Portuguese enslaved Indian populations on sugar plantations and, from 1545, in silver mines at Potosí (Bolivia) and later in Zacatecas (Mexico), Guanajuato and elsewhere. Approximately 75% of silver mined in Spanish New World between 1500 and 1800 ended up in China. It was the only way Europeans could buy into Chinese trade (China abandoned paper money in late 1300s). Also Europeans were lucky to annex land with exceptional agricultural productivity. They noticed that American cotton had strong fiber and later the arrival of long-staple cotton from Americas in Liverpool promoted industrialization of textile manufacturing. But the first weaving machine came from China and the concept of a lack of inventiveness in places other than Europe is not true: Europeans had enough luck in arms trade but non-Europeans were leaders in forestry and intensive cropping, in dyeing and weaving, and in porcelain manufacturing. Indian bar iron was rated better than English iron, and China had more efficient furnaces and stoves.

Globalization itself is a series of expansions propelled by Eurasian powers, and Europeans have been very successful in developing fire arms; but this does not mean that they have a superior culture. This understanding will help us to reintegrate into the world on a more constructive basis.

 

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