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European Travel And The Spread Of Western Ideology

1185 words - 5 pages

European Travel and the Spread of Western Ideology

Humans began their existence as travelers, slowly making their way across the earth hunting and gathering. This travel was quite slow and gradual, and could be termed a period of “human expansion”, as traveling groups rarely encountered other humans. It really wasn’t until the sixteenth century that a new kind of travel developed, a kind that was more global, occurred rapidly, and was filled with many encounters with other civilizations. This sort of travel signified not simply the spreading of humans across the earth, but more the spreading of ideas among people. And during this particular period, the travelers were predominantly European, and so it was Europeans who, believing in their own superiority, most imposed their ideas on others. Overall, therefore, human travel could more accurately be termed European: its effect was to increase both the power and scope of European ideas. These ideas, in turn, affected many different civilizations, changing the thinking, and actions, of people all over the world, and therefore changing their impact on the world.

While many civilizations have traveled at various points, it was the Europeans who, beginning in the sixteenth century, began to travel the most. “It was the Europeans who went out to the peoples of Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and never the reverse” (Adas, p. 2). As soon as European ships could be built that were large enough to endure long voyages, the Europeans set out in them, realizing that this was advantageous: “the relative advantage of Europeans was on the seas” (Cippola, 138). Through this, they visited many foreign countries, and were usually the ones doing the conquering. Other people were unprepared for these ambitious foreigners, and, for various reasons, had trouble getting rid of them. As a result, “it took only a few decades for the Europeans to establish their absolute predominance over the Oceans” (Cippola, 140).

The Europeans had a huge effect on the local peoples in the various regions that they visited. For one thing, they brought with them many germs. As Diamond noted, “the importance of lethal microbes in history is well illustrated by Europeans’ conquest and depopulation of the New World” (210). The microbes killed Aztecs, Inca, and the populations of many Indian towns in the Mississippi. Additionally, “Eurasian germs played a key role in decimating native peoples in many other parts of the world, including Pacific Islanders, Aboriginal Australians, and the Khoisan peoples of Southern Africa… the Indian population of Hispaniola… Fiji” (Diamond, 213). Because of this, “European immigrants came to supplant… much of the native population of the Americas and some other parts of the world.” (Diamond, 214). So, it came to be true that, if in nothing else, the Europeans certainly came to outnumber many of the native peoples in many of the areas that they occupied. This gave them added power over them, if only...

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