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European Travel and the Spread of Western Ideology Essay

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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 t...


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..., Michael, "Machines as the Meaure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance", Cornell Univ. Press 1989.

Cipolla, Carlo M., "Guns, Sails, and Empires: Technological Innovation and the Early Phases of European Expansion, 1400-1700" Sunflower Univ. Press, 1996.

Diamond, Jared, "Guns, Germs, and Steel" W.W. Norton & Co, 1997.

Ponting, Clive. "A Green History of the World," St. Martins Press, NYC, 1991.

Pursell, Carroll W. Jr., Ch. 1 and 2 in "Early Stationary Steam Engines in America: a study in the migration of a technology" Smithsonian Inst. Press, 1969, pp. 1-27.

Schneider, Jane. Rumpelstilskin's Bargain: Folklore and the Merchant Capitalist Intensification of Linen Manufacture in Early Modern Europe. In Cloth and Human Experience, edited by Annette B. Weiner and Jane Schneider. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.


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