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A Short History
by Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Petersson
Princeton University Press © 2005
200 pages
world, and the Islamic and European empires expanded simultaneously in Eurasia and the
Americas. Crops and technologies mo...
protective tariffs, although they tended to be more politically modern than Britain itself.
Beyond Europe, Japan led moder...
The World Split in Two
The two nineteenth-century ideologies of free trade and Marxism developed into the
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Summary - Globalization - A Short History


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Book Summary of Globalization - A Short History
by Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Petersson, Princeton University Press © 2005, 200 pages

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Summary - Globalization - A Short History

  1. 1. Globalization A Short History by Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Petersson Princeton University Press © 2005 200 pages The Roots of “Globalization” The word “globalization” actually describes a number of processes that are neither simultaneous nor always moving in the same direction. These processes affect different parts of the world differently. Globalization goes back much farther than the creation of the Internet and the development of modern trade relationships; it goes back to the barbarians. The Mongol Empire united the world for several consequential decades during the thirteenth century. Another phase of globalization began in the late eighteenth century and continued through the nineteenth, with the development of imperialism, the so-called industrial revolution and the spread of free trade. That phase came to a crisis in a shocking series of disruptions during the early twentieth century. Between 1945 and the mid-1970s, the main global orders of Soviet communism and U.S. capitalism emerged and coalesced into blocs. Although people speak of today’s new global order as unprecedented, it has historical precedents. Networks that transcended national boundaries have existed throughout history. In fact, the nineteenth and twentieth century nation-states were something of an aberration in that historic pattern. Imperial Integration The Mongol empire tied together the Orthodox and Latin Christian worlds, the Islamic world and China. However, because the Mongol Empire lacked a common ideology, among other essentials, it failed to integrate the smaller entities within it and fell apart rapidly. Empires that endure share these four characteristics: 1. Political structures – The government is a hierarchy, usually monarchic, with military power that the empire can project over long distances and a common ideology, including the belief that the center of the empire is the center of the civilized world. 2. Religious ecumenes – Usually, the geographic spread of religion is greater than the empire’s political or military extent. A religious movement can embrace numerous political entities, and its source of unity goes beyond mere shared belief. For a religion to provide a basis for political stability, believers must make pilgrimages to holy sites, and abide by certain rituals and life rules. 3. Trade – Routes such as the silk road linking China with the Mediterranean, the shipping lanes between Arabia and India, and the caravan routes between the Near East and North Africa enabled the spread of people, goods and ideas. 4. Migration – The peace the Mongols established, although brief, was significant. Among other things, mobility through the empire spread bubonic plague and facilitated the travels of European missionaries to East Asia. The Beginning of the Modern Era The modern era does not begin with the Mongols, but rather in the late fifteenth century, when the Portuguese – after the voyages of Vasco da Gama – established an unprecedented European presence in Asia and opened the Pacifi c to Europe. Trade spread European military technology, including fi rearms and artillery expertise, throughout the
  2. 2. world, and the Islamic and European empires expanded simultaneously in Eurasia and the Americas. Crops and technologies moved back and forth between Europe and the Americas. Europeans brought horses and guns to the New World, making the Plains buffalo culture of the Sioux, Kiowa and other tribes possible. Diseases also moved from the Old to the New World, and may have been the most effective weapon the Europeans deployed against the native population. Meanwhile, plants such as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers traveled to Europe. During this period, integration was strengthening, but usually within already existing empires, religious ecumenes and trading networks. The world had numerous “centers” in addition to Western Europe, such as the Ottoman Empire and China, which were autonomous and self- contained. Only the Europeans aggressively sent travelers to learn about the other centers. The Sultan and the Chinese court had little interest in events in Europe or elsewhere. 1750 to 1880: The Expansion of Trade Revolutions in the Americas did not break the New World’s connections with the Old World but rather reshaped them. For example, the colonies that revolted against Spain sought new links with Britain. The revolutionaries of Britain’s North American colonies did not terminate relations with Britain but instead developed a “special relationship” that continues today. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, navies and merchant marines became essential components of the modern state. Some of the best minds applied themselves to naval and merchant marine affairs, such as managing the British East India Company and the British Royal Navy. Naval organizations became centers of creativity, innovation and technology. Shipping became a major sector of the economy. Advances in shipping encouraged the development of a nascent global economy. As people migrated and settled in frontier areas, they established new economic enterprises and imported goods from home. Perhaps no indicator of global economic integration was clearer than the linking of the world’s economic cycles. The great depression of 1873 was worldwide. The So-Called Industrial Revolution The term “Industrial Revolution” is one of the most controversial in modern historical studies. It may not have been a revolution at all. When it began, Britain was already an important center of economic innovation, and its textile sector was already global. Furthermore, the Industrial Revolution was not a single global process but instead many processes. It did not proceed by imitation but rather through creative adaptation, as each country developed its own patterns and models of industrialization. If it was a revolution, it was a slow-moving one. Decades passed before industrial production became the norm and affected every aspect of life. Yet industrialization had an undeniable impact, especially in the transportation and military sectors. Using steamships on existing sailing-ship trading networks reduced costs. Throughout the world, demand grew for Western goods, especially the heavy artillery produced by European arms manufacturers. These weapons gave colonial rulers an insuperable advantage over indigenous people. Rail development, often encouraged for military purposes, helped integrate the remotest regions – although by the midnineteenth century, the telegraph cable became even more powerful than the railroad as a force for global integration. Free Trade and Marxist Utopians The nineteenth century gave rise to two great, utopian political ideologies: free trade liberalism and Marxism. Free traders envisioned a world of prosperity and peace that would arrive when states stopped intervening in agreements between individuals. Marxists, too, believed that the state’s withering would mark the achievement of the communist dream. The free traders achieved an important part of their objective when Britain abolished tariffs in 1846. By 1870, enough states had followed that all of Western Europe was one large free- trade zone, although non-European empires did not join this movement except under duress. Even within the British Empire, Canada and Australia retained common and
  3. 3. protective tariffs, although they tended to be more politically modern than Britain itself. Beyond Europe, Japan led modernization. Although it was not a democracy, Japan was, by the 1880s, a constitutional state. The United States remained in the shadow of Great Britain throughout the nineteenth century. Its slavery and civil strife made it anything but a model for global emulation. World Culture The invention of the printing press in the 1400s made possible an information revolution in which ideas spread with unprecedented facility and with a speed that increased over the centuries. In 1851, Paul Julius Reuter founded the fi rst news agency, and within 10 years his network spanned six continents. By the 1870s, Egypt, China and Japan all had the beginings of a modern press. From 1880 onward, the spread of literacy made information and ideas accessible throughout the world. Journalism emerged as a profession, and educated classes everywhere were able to read reports of world events in their own languages. An international agreement in 1884 established a worldwide system of time-keeping, with the zero meridian passing through Greenwich, England, and numerous time zones. Pocket watches became commonplace. A worldwide network of weather stations enabled people to see climate linkages. Global environmental awareness made its fi rst appearance during the turn of the century “timber famine,” when people began to criticize economies based on environmental exploitation and degradation. Public attitudes toward time and distance changed. Steamship travel became not only an indulgence of the elite but an economic necessity for ordinary people, including Chinese economic migrants among others. The bicycle, the automobile and, eventually, the airplane seemed to shrink the globe. Indeed, people begin to think of the globe as their “frame of reference”. World Economy Labor, capital and goods fl owed among continents. British citizens invested in foreign securities, exporting capital to meet the demand for European industrial products, technology and labor. Between 1870 and 1914, trading networks and the multilateral settlement of trade and payment balances consolidated. States undertook initiatives to support the infrastructure of transportation and communication, such as rail, post and telegraph. The gold standard removed most currency and infl ation risk, and in turn dictated decisions about economic policy. Although global developments scarcely affected some remote enclaves, in others, such as Argentina, exports became the foundation of the entire economic structure. Globalization – although no one called it that – became a contentious political issue. To be a serious player in the world, a state had to project its power globally. Distance was no longer a barrier. The European powers partitioned Africa without consulting the Africans and might well have done the same in China if the complexity of European interests there hadn’t made achieving a neat division impossible. World War I would never have happened without globalization. It affected people everywhere and ultimately ended Europe’s world domination. However, microbes may have been an even more dramatic manifestation of globalization than the war, trade or politics. The great infl uenza epidemic of 1918 killed more people than the world war. After World War I, the great powers attempted to build a new political order. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s 14-point plan for peace did not seem impossible initially. However, suspicion and hostility among the nations killed it. Efforts to reconstruct the prewar global economy also encountered opposition in such forms as demand stagnation, government control of economies and the collapse of the gold standard. The 1929 Wall Street crash and the ensuing Great Depression turned people against globalization and in favor of regionalism.
  4. 4. The World Split in Two The two nineteenth-century ideologies of free trade and Marxism developed into the twentieth-century division of the world into the Soviet bloc, essentially a zone of military security; and the Western bloc, which aimed to contain communism and to build a global capitalist economy. This required economic and political coordination. Neither bloc could achieve military supremacy over the other, and ultimately, the Cold War forced the West, at least, to recognize the two blocs’ mutual dependence. About The Authors Jürgen Osterhammel is a professor of modern and contemporary history at the University of Konstanz, where Niels P. Peterson is a lecturer in history.