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A World History

 

William McNeill.

 

Introduction to Part III.  The Dominance of the West (pp. 295-298)

 

According to McNeill, Europe rose to dominance around the globe between 1500 and 1700.  By this latter date “. . . all the non-Western peoples of the earth found it necessary to do something drastic about the intrusive Europeans with their restless disturbing ways. The rise of the West to this position of dominance all round the globe is, indeed, the main theme of modern world history.”

 

“After 1700, however, the Islamic peoples together with the Hindus and Buddhists of Asia found themselves unable to stave off the Europeans. Old institutions and attitudes hallowed by centuries of religion could no longer stand up to the new power western European peoples had been able to generate. Successive demonstrations of this fact in India, the Balkans, and the Middle East caused a stunned paralysis to descend upon nearly all Moslems and most Hindus. Yet decisive breakdown of traditional ways and institutions did not occur before about 1850, when with an extraordinary suddenness the Ottoman, Mughal, Manchu, and Japanese empires within a single decade either collapsed or found themselves compelled to venture forth from the shelter of familiar ways in the hope of being able to beg, borrow, or steal from the Westerners the secrets of their strength.

This effort at conscious modernization (i.e. selective and partial Westernization still continues to command the central place in the aspirations of all the non-Western peoples of the world”

 

 

 

Introduction to Part IV. The Onset of Global Cosmopolitanism (pp. 413-415)

 

 

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Europe underwent two major changes:  1) Political Revolution (“democratic revolution”), and 2) the Industrial Revolution.

 

“During World War I and World War II these two fundamental changes flowed together. That is to say, the enhanced power of governments, sustained by democratic forms, reorganized the technical processes of industrial production to serve political ends.”

“The vastly enhanced power that thus came to Western nations made it easy for Europeans and Americans to beat down traditional obstacles to their activity that other peoples offered. . . . During the second half of the nineteenth century all important parts of the habitable earth entered into a single globe-girdling commercial net. Political and military as well as intellectual and cultural interrelationships became as inescapable as the ties of economic interchange.”

 

Even the independence of the colonies of the European powers after World War II had the effect of rooting “the traits of modernity deeper in all parts of the non-western world.”

“Such rapid and far-reaching changes in human society involved much violence and sharp political as well as ideological changes.”

 

 

 

Observations from McNeill.

 

p. 304  “Nevertheless three major consequences of the opening of the world’s oceans to European shipping affected every civilized society and transformed conditions of life for many barbarous and primitive peoples as well. These were a) the price revolution resulting from the flow of massive quantities of silver and gold from the Americas, b) the spread of American food crops, and c) the spread of diseases

 

p. 308 “No other civilization responded to the new possibilities opened by ocean travel with anything remotely resembling Euroepan venturesomeness. Toying with foreign novelties did occur, most notably in the Far East, but nothing inimical to ancient and well-established tradition ruffled the mind of Chinese mandarins for very long. Moslem and Hindu reaction was even more emphatically negative. Anything conflicting with ancient truths was simply repudiated and neglected- or not noticed at all

 

p. 325  “Thus the upshot of Europe’s long travail between 1500 and 1648 was strangely contrary to what almost all the great men of the age had desired. Instead of discovering and enforcing a universal truth, Europeans discovered that they could agree to disagree. Intellectual pluralism established itself on European soil more flagrantly than ever before. No official hierarchy of knowledge provided a complete scheme for understanding the world. . .”

 

p. 419  “But the industrial and the democratic revolutions deserve to be paired with one another all the same because both of them allowed Westerners to mobilize men and materials on an ever-increasing scale and across longer periods of time and greater distances than had ever been possible before

 

p. 512   In the course of  two world wars “invention thus became a deliberate and in some degree even a controlled process.”