In the last post, we traced the origins of colonialism, first with the Portuguese mapping a route around the tip of Africa to Asia, rapidly followed by the Spanish discovering and colonizing America. Drawn to the east by trade, and to the west by the appetite for land and resources, Europeans spread across the globe.
In this part, I want to cover what went down within Europe over the same time period.
On the political side, European supremacy was contested by a shifting cast of major powers, alongside a multitude of smaller political entities. In the 1600s and 1700s, conflicts within Europe were increasingly mirrored by wars in the colonies in America and Asia.
To compress the story into a single blog post, and at the risk of committing the sin of teleology, I’m going to emphasise a single cultural development that seems crucial as a precursor to the Industrial Revolution: the so-called ‘scientific revolution.’ This was the transformation of the natural sciences, over a century or so, from a medieval framework into more or less the form we know today.
As I noted in a previous post, the IR was in large part a technological phenomenon. The rapid technological change that took place is inexplicable without the knowledge and the techniques that were introduced by the scientific revolution. Continue reading