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Crash Course in Early Western Civ.


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Crash Course in Early Western Civ.

  1. 1. The World as it was prior to 1492: A Crash-course in Early Western Civilization
  2. 2. Judaism and Christianity Judaism has its roots in ancient Mesopotamia and emphasizes belief in one god (monotheism) and the rule of law. Christianity split off from Judaism about 2000 years ago and became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 300s. Until Islam came along 300 years later, it was the dominant religion of the Mediterranean region. It remains the dominant religion of Europe.
  3. 3. Why it matters to us... Christianity, as the dominant religion of Europe, became the dominant religion of the Americas. The idea that no one is above the law is a common and often repeated theme in Western World and US History.
  4. 4. Greek Democracy Ancient Greece was divided into independent city- states. One of these was Athens, where a form of government called “democracy” was practiced. All citizens periodically met to decide the great matters of state. Citizenship was limited to adult males who had completed required military training. This was about 20% of the population.
  5. 5. Why this matters to us: The idea of a democratic government, or a government where the citizens have political authority, survives to this day and is one of the foundational ideas of the United States government.
  6. 6. Roman Republicanism Ancient Rome was ruled as a Republic for approximately 500 years. Three consuls were elected by the people. The consuls appointed advisers called Senators. While Senators were unelected and appointed for life, consuls were limited to one-year terms.
  7. 7. Why it matters to us... A republican form of government is basically what we have. The people have representatives who decide things for us (supposedly).
  8. 8. Africa In the west, a succession of powerful empires (Ghana, Mali, Songhai) brought political stability. Trade routes across the Sahara Desert flourished. In the east, coastal cities grew as sea trade with India, Arabia and Persia flourished.
  9. 9. Asia  Trade between the Mediterranean Sea and East Asia was carried out via the Silk Road, a network of land routes connecting the Middle East to China.  Central Asia in general and China in particular flourished culturally and politically from the wealth brought by trade.
  10. 10. Europe  Southeastern Europe was dominated by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, which would survive until 1453.  Western Europe was fractured after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476. Armed landlords protected and provided for landless peasants in exchange for loyalty in an arrangement known as “Feudalism.”
  11. 11. Religion in Asia and Africa  West Africa to East Asia was united under Islam. Islam required travel and therefore encouraged trade. .
  12. 12. Religion in Europe  The Christian Church divided in 1054 into Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic) factions.
  13. 13. Religion in Europe Western Europe was a collection of squabbling Landlords and Armed thugs in a state of near constant warfare.  In an attempt to unite Europe under his leadership, in 1095, Pope Urban II called for a Crusade (Holy War) against the Muslims controlling the Holy Land.
  14. 14. The Renaissance With all this disposable wealth, the Italian city- states paid for a revival of art, architecture, literature and drama called the “Renaissance.” Some of the greatest art and artists emerged in this period. New scholarship also emerged (despite heavy censorship by the Church) that formed the foundation of modern science.
  15. 15. While Italy thrived... If a nation could find an all-water route through or around Africa, that nation could become fantastically wealthy by underselling the Italians. Problem: No one in Europe had the knowledge or the technology needed. Solution: Prince Henry II of Portugal starts a school of navigation and sponsors voyages of exploration along the African coast. Portugal also began trading with West Africa.
  16. 16. Portugal's Payoff... Portugal developed the caravel, a small seaworthy ship that could navigate rivers, carry large cargoes and sail against the wind. By 1488, Bartolomeo Diaz had found the Cape of Good Hope. By 1497, Vasco de Gama had made it all the way to India and back with a 400% profit.
  17. 17. Meanwhile, in Spain... An Italian sailor named Christopher Columbus was pitching a radical idea to the King and Queen of Spain. Sail west to get east.