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Discussion III: Contact, Commerce, and Colonization (Chapter 12)

Chapter 12:  Contact, Commerce, and Colonization, 1450-1600


Note:  The publisher (Norton) has provided a chapter outline that you might find helpful:


Where do you see the important trade centers at the beginning of this chapter?

How would you describe the position of Europe, in regard to global influence, around 1450?

In what ways do you see China developing a new relationship with the rest of the world in this era?

How did silver become increasingly important to the world economy?

Explain the relationship between China, the Philippines, and the Americas in this era.

Explain how India was central (quite literally) to trade in this era.

Why is the port city of Melaka (also called Malacca) especially important for understanding this era?

How did the Ottoman Empire gain power in this era?  Explain how they impacted world events.

How would you explain the growing importance of Spain and Portugal in this era?

Explain how innovations, such as the caravel, improved the prospects for long distance travel.

Why did Africa become a key area of interest to powerful governments in Europe and Asia?

Explain how the relationship between slavery and sugar cultivation shaped world history in this era.

How could a small country like Portugal become so powerful in coastal Africa and the Indian Ocean?

What do historians mean by the Atlantic World?  How did Atlantic trade impact global relations?

Explain how exploitation of the Americas led to violent rivalries among European powers?

In what ways was Columbus significant…or perhaps not so significant?

Describe the early interactions between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Why would they have so much trouble understanding each other?

What motivated the Spanish to gain power in the Americas?  How did they succeed?

Describe the people known as the Aztecs.  Why do the authors emphasize their history in the 1400s?

Explain the significance of Cortes and Moctezuma.  How is Doña Marina important to this account?

Describe the economic, political, and cultural significance of New Spain.

(This vast colony is also important to the history of California.)

What do you find remarkable about the Incas?  How did Pizzaro’s conquest change the dynamics of South America and other parts of the world?

Explain the significance of the Columbian Exchange.  (We could call it the Atlantic Exchange.)

Explain how the Spanish tapped into previously existing commercial systems in the Americas.

Describe the influence of the Portuguese in Brazil and West Africa.

Explain the growth of the slave trade in the Atlantic.  Describe the impact of the slave trade on Africa.

Comment:  “Africa supplied five times as many people to the Americas as Europe (1492-1820).”

Explain how the changing global dynamics would influence events in Europe.

Explain the significance of the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation.

How would you explain the impact of “religious warfare” in Europe in the 1500s?

How would you explain the prosperity and stability of several Asian empires in the 1500s?

Why is the Mughal Empire so remarkable?  (The Taj Mahal is their most famous structure.)

Why was the Ming Dynasty so important to the development of China?

What similarities do you see between the Ming Dynasty and the Mughal Dynasty?

Looking at the chapter as a whole, what do you see as the fundamental changes in global interaction?  How would these changes impact the average person?

Thinking question:  Do you tend to see history from a particular perspective?  Does this chapter change how you see global relationships in the early modern era?

Last Updated on October 20, 2019

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