The World around 1550-1650

European States

Conquest of Central and South America completed but Spain wasted the chance. In 1588: the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English and that was part of the rise of England. English sailors were fighting willingly while Spanish sailors were conscripts and scared to climb the rope ladders to trim the sails. England was more egalitarian than Spain and had less social injustice than Spain. Armies whose officers are willing to risk their lives will always defeat armies whose officer’s stay out of harms way.

There was stability in protestant England under Elizabeth I (1559-1603) - Shakespeare (1564 -1616). She was succeeded by James I (IV as king of Scotland) 1603-1625. First successful English settlement in America: 1607 Jamestown. However, Cromwell (1597-1658).

Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). devastated large regions of Europe (Germany and others). It was a continuous war in contrast to the 100 year war (1337 to 1453) between England and France in a dispute over the French throne

France was torn by religious wars. Charles IX (1560 –1574) allowed the massacre of all Huguenot leaders who gathered in Paris for the royal wedding at the instigation of his mother Catherine de' Medici. This event is known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (1572).

Henry IV (1589 –1610) was the first French monarch of the House of Bourbon. Protestant but became Catholic upon ascent to the throne. Popular king. He displayed an unusual religious tolerance for the time. Notably, he enacted the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which guaranteed religious liberties to Protestants. But that was rolled back by Louis XIII (1610 –1643) (Of “Three Musketeers” fame).

Why did science adavnce with all this political turmoil?

While Europe was torn by nearly continuous warfare science was doing well.

Some historians made the a posteriori argument that competition between the warring states encouraged development of science.

Competition was certainly good for the development of weapons, in particular the perfection of firearms. But for science one could make the opposite argument as well. A better argument: The European states that emerged from the barbarian states did not try thought control! (That was a Persian invention adopted by the Romans and then the Ottomans.)

Or we can make a negative argument. Since the European states were so much at war with each other, they had no time to worry about the consequences of scientific discovery. Keep in mind, military funding of basic science is a post WW II phenomenon.

Far East

Japan was centralized in 1582 under the shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He adopted western firearms (from the Portuguese) and took Korea away from China. After the first shogun Japan enters a period of isolation.

In China, the Ming dynasty ruled. Its founder had decreed (circa 1370) that people need not travel more 8 miles from home. Travelling more than 35 miles without permission resulted in whipping ([MORR], p. 405). He and his successors discouraged commerce as “corrupting stable relationships.” But commerce flourished anyway. Still there was bureaucratic inertia (p. 441). Around 1570 there were some reforms around 1570 (Great Wall was reinforced then). Curfew was common in China – keeping everybody safe in their homes.

Ming dynasty fell in 1644 (fall of Beijing to rebel forces). Eventually leaders of the Jurchen tribe (Manchu) took over, Qing dynasty (1644-1912). They integrated with the Han Chinese. The imperial examinations continued and Han civil servants administered the empire alongside Manchu ones.

Middle East

From around 1500 to 1900 a single empire kept the Middle East in the Dark Ages. Ottoman rulers gave a lot of power to religious authorities (Muslim AND Christian) as part of a divide and conquer policy. And the religious authorities kept tight control of any intellectual activity. As a result the Middle East missed both the Renaissance and the Industrial revolution.

The Key Factor for Europe's Success

Gibbon - Chapter 9 (p. 208) starts with "The government and religion of Persia have deserved some notice from their connection with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire." Then (ten lines down) he states "The most civilized nations of modern Europe issued from the woods of Germany, and in the rude institutions of these barbarians we may still distinguish the original principles of our laws and manners." He points out that the climate of northern Europe was very cold, both Rhine and Danube would solidly freeze.

[MORR] calls this the “advantage of backwardness” but not any backwardness will do!

We look at old societies as all having social inequality but the degree and nature of inequality varies. The Byzantines were astounded by the freedom of western European women even though with modern standards they were not free.

Gibbon’s argument boils down to the relative freedom of western Europeans compared to other populations. [MORR] (pp. 466- ) details that argument. Spain suppressed its merchants the most. But the Dutch and British merchants had more independence. (See Figure 9.3 in [MORR])

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