Key Concept 4.1 Globalizing Networks of Communication and Exchange
The interconnection of the Eastern and Western hemispheres made possible by transoceanic voyaging marked a key transformation of this period. Technological innovations helped to make transoceanic connections possible. Changing patterns of long-distance trade included the global circulation of some commodities and the formation of new regional markets and financial centers. Increased trans-regional and global trade networks facilitated the spread of religion and other elements of culture as well as the migration of large numbers of people. Germs carried to the Americas ravaged the indigenous peoples, while the global exchange of crops and animals altered agriculture, diets, and populations around the planet.
1. In the context of the new global circulation of goods, there was an intensification of all existing regional trade networks that brought prosperity and economic disruption to the merchants and governments in the trading regions of the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Sahara, and overland Eurasia. 2. European technological developments in cartography and navigation built on previous knowledge developed in the classical, Islamic, and Asian worlds, and included the production of new tools (astrolabe, new maps), innovations in ship designs (caravels), and an improved understanding of global wind and currents patterns — all of which made transoceanic travel and trade possible.
3. Remarkable new transoceanic maritime reconnaissance occurred in this period.
4. The new global circulation of goods was facilitated by royal chartered European monopoly companies that took silver from Spanish colonies in the Americas to purchase Asian goods for the Atlantic markets, but regional markets continued to flourish in Afro-Eurasia by using established commercial practices and new transoceanic shipping services developed by European merchants.
European merchants’ role in Asian trade was characterized mostly by transporting goods from one Asian country to another market in Asia or the Indian Ocean region.
Influenced by mercantilism, joint-stock companies were new methods used by European rulers to control their domestic and colonial economies and by European merchants to compete against one another in global trade.
The Atlantic system involved the movement of goods, wealth, and free and unfree laborers, and the mixing of African, American, and European cultures and peoples.
5. The new connections between the Eastern and Western hemispheres resulted in the Columbian Exchange.
European colonization of the Americas led to the spread of diseases— including smallpox, measles, and influenza — that were endemic in the Eastern Hemisphere among Amerindian populations and the unintentional transfer of vermin, including mosquitoes and rats.
American foods (potatoes, maize, manioc) became staple crops in various parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Cash crops (sugar, tobacco) were grown primarily on plantations with coerced labor and were exported mostly to Europe and the Middle East in this period.
Afro-Eurasian fruit trees, grains, sugar, and domesticated animals (horses, cattle, pigs) were brought by Europeans to the Americas, while other foods were brought by African slaves (okra, rice)
European colonization and the introduction of European agriculture and settlements practices in the Americas often affected the physical environment through deforestation and soil depletion.
6. The increase in interactions between newly connected hemispheres and intensification of connections within hemispheres expanded the spread and reform of existing religions and created syncretic belief systems and practices.