The Renaissance in Western Europe marked the end of the Middle Ages and the start of Europe’s rise as a global power. The various States in Western Europe became more centralized, and monarchs exercised more control over their subjects. Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America and his return truly began the new age of exploration for Europe. This New World discovery greatly altered the lives of Native Americans, forcing them to live with colonists and people they had never been in contact with.
Meanwhile, Prince Henry’s expeditions opened up new opportunities for trade in Africa. Through the period of 1492-1750, many things changed but parts of life stayed the same such as the European domination and the presence of trade in Africa. New contacts among Western Europe, Africa, and the Americas, however, led to interaction that has evolved greatly over the span of time. The new contacts and increased trade directly cause the rise in power in the Middle-Class in Europe.
Throughout the feudal period, the control of the power and wealth was in the hands of the Nobles. As trade with Africa and the Americas increased, however, a new merchant class rose. As the new class became wealthier, they began to agitate for political power, sparking large battle like the 1789 French Revolution. The social changes in the Americas were unprecedented. The diseases brought over that the Europeans were so used to like measles and smallpox decimated the Native Americans because they had no previous contact with those illnesses.
One example of this is when disease infested blankets were gifted to the Aztecs by Hernan Cortez during his quest to conquer them. These tactics were then later used to take down the Incas. Native Americans were suppressed into being slaves and or servants to the Europeans. A similar trend occurred in North America. Unlike the Aztecs or Incas, North American natives were decentralized, and loosely organized by tribes. Columbus’s initial subjugation of the Haitians, forcing them to mine gold, set a precedent for future domination.
Africa was greatly affected by the slave trade. Large, constant amounts of labor were needed on the Spanish and Portuguese sugarcane plantations, and Native American populations were often unable or unwilling to work as slaves. Especially after Bartolome de las Casas’s campaign against the enslavement of Native Americans, the Europeans were desperate another source of cheap labor. Because of this, the Atlantic slave trade began, beginning a long and cruel period of time where as many as 12 million slaves for transported from Africa to the Americas.
This mass slave trade had both positive and negative effects on African society. Although slavery was cruel and abusive, the money some empires acquired from working with the Europeans enabled them to create stronger relations and improve overall. Despite the massive change taking place, there were various aspects of life that stayed the same. In Western Europe, the large gap between the rich and the poor was still present; even though a stronger and more powerful middle class had developed, the power was still in the hands of an elite tier of people.
Literally every West Europe country was controlled by a monarchy, with barely any representation. In Britain for example, only 2% of the population could vote due to restrictions and laws. In the Americas, many tribes were still able to keep their traditional way of life. Usually, tribes unsettled by the British settlers in North America migrated westward, and since the French had yet to take control of the Louisiana Territory, they were free to continue with their traditional methods. Africa was still almost completely free.
It wasn’t until the 1880’s that Africa started to become majorly colonized. Though they were less powerful than the Western Europeans, the African nations remained independent and were directly reliant on trade In conclusion; the interaction between Western Europe, Africa, and the Americas resulted in both change and continuity. A major trend that is irreversible was the newfound connection between regions. Columbus joined the New World with Europe, creating a strong relationship that still stands today. Therefore, interaction between 1492 and 1750 set a precedent for future actions.
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