How Did Europe Come to Dominate The World

Without using any racial or abstract theories, just how is it European culture predominated over he rest of the world.

I mean my understanding is that Native American culture was almost if not as, advanced as European when the Europeans came here. Certainly the Chinese culture was up there.

My theory is that Europe was so busy being invaded that they learned warfare better than other culture that were at peace more so. Therefore they could impose their culture on these peaceful peoples.

This seems more like a Great Debate than a question.

Perhaps I should just start quoting liberally from just about every history textbook ever written which usually touches on this topic.

I’ll tell you what my history teacher said was the greatest contributor to European dominance of the world… The invention of the “keel” on sailing ships. You kind of have to think about it for a second to appreciate it, but you might find it provocative. Whether that’s the right answer or not, I wouldn’t hazard to say, but it is something for debate. Enjoy.

It would be extremely impractical, if not impossible, to reply to your question in this forum. The number of circumstances surrounding the reasons for Europeans “dominating” the World are way too many and varied.

I suggest you get a copy of Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. You’ll find out many interesting facts that impacted the development of the different cultures around the World, and paved the road, so to speak, for the European domination.

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy your book.

Men will cease to commit atrocities only when they cease to believe absurdities.

This is pretty much of a WAG; I have no evidence, I don’t claim it’s true, but it’s interesting anyway. Yes, it would be better if I had a source, but if it turns into a Great Debate does it really matter? :wink:

I recall hearing the suggestion that Europe’s geography offers local cultures enough isolation to develop independently (barriers like forests, mountains, and large rivers), but not so much that they can get complacent. Adequate resources for technology are there (or were), but often not where they’re wanted, so there’s more encouragement for trade and warfare.

Many other areas are either almost completely isolated, or dominated by a single uniform culture, so they don’t get the stimulation that early Europeans did.

That gave Europeans an edge in technology that made the difference.

As I said above, WAG!

Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

“… they didn’t get the stimulation …”

Read it first, then hit Submit!

Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

Yup, read Jared Diamond’s book. Also Marvin Harris (“Who we are”, if I remember correctly.) The latter’s premise revolves around available resources for sustainable “cultural” existence, and the various forms of problem solving for given sets of circumstances.

BTW, check your assumptions & definitions:

Whaddya mean by advanced ?

So did the Chinese, Ottoman, Aztec, etc… Empires. And on a smaller scale (sometimes well into the 20th century) Lao, Tagalogs, Hausa, ad infinitum. Question of scale.

“Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

  • T.Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

If you look at the history of places, China, Africa and The Americas had their odd wars and famines etc but nothing compared to constant years of warfare which the Europeans had.

It is said that for instance, medical technology in the Inca was almost as advanced as that of Europeans at the time when they “Discovered” America.

Its pissing me off, I seem to recall reading a extremely in depth discussion of this exact topic here on the SDMB, but the search engine is monkey fucked. I just spent 45 minutes scanning all the threads with no luck. Anyone else recall the thread I’m looking for?

I’ve heard all the theories. We give them too much credit.They had a little technology, and a lot of people, for the period.They set sail, got to a place with less people(America), and settled. If they had landed in Asia, they wouldn’t have stayed. Some even landed in South Africa and settled there, but mostly Africa was too full.The rest just follows. Plus part of the settlers were arrogant Englishmen.They think everyone else is foreigners.

“If you look at the history of places, China, Africa and The Americas had their odd wars
and famines etc but nothing compared to constant years of warfare which the Europeans had.”

This is just wrong. The history of all these places are just as full of wars and atrocities as anywhere else. I can’t even begin to prove it here, though, bacause we would have to go through most of world history. Go read books (reputable books, from a university library) on China and Africa and the Americas and you will soon find that Europe does not have the exclusive SOB status it wants. A few quick examples: In the last ten years, scholors have mostly deciphered the Mayan writting system. Turns out they mostly wrote about constant warfare. The Aztecs so mistreated thier subject nations that they rose immeaditly to help Cortez. If China was so peaceful, why did they build the Wall?

I don’t mean to jump all over you, but this is a pet peeve of mine. Describing other people as “peaceful and good” is really a form of racism. It infantilizes them and goes back to the notion of the “noble savage”. Fact is, people in genral have the same capability to be SOBs, regardless of race or ethnic group.

A quick note as to the Americas. As a life long fan of Mesoamerican cultures, I understand the temptation to dress them up to being comprably advanced to the Europeans. However, this is not really true. This is fine-- a culture should be weighed on its own merits, not measured with a European yardstick. The Aztecs and especially the Mayans did have writing and some very sophisticatd mathmatics. However, they didn’t have gunpowder, the wheel, The ability to work any medal harder than silver, domesticated animals other that turkeys and dogs, ships, signifigant long distance trade (in the scope you see in Europe/Asia at the time.) As far as medicene and the Incas goes, I don’t know, but their were things living on the bottem of swamps with almost as advanced medical techniques as Europe had in the 1500s. China, on the other hand, was much more comprable to Europe,as far as the sort of arbitrary standards of “advancement” europe set go.

Hey guys, have you checked Cecil’s columns on this topic?

Before we get sidetracked with the facts of the matter I’d just like to add my WAG: could it be that European culture came to dominate the world simply because it was the most recent one? We are seeing a shift even in Europe towards more American attitudes and ways of living, perhaps the tide is turning and the next culture to be seen as standard will be North American culture?

Thanks much, Manda Jo, for saying what I was going to. It’s sort of like asking, “How did the British manage to hang on to Roarke’s Drift in South Africa when there was only a hundred of them, whilst Cetshwayo’s army numbered over 10,000 Zulu warriors?” Well…I realize it’s not “P.C.” to say this, but the British had advanced rifles, artillery, Gatling guns, cavalry, and an uncomparable navy, not to mention a fantastic amount of modern industrial output. The Zulus were pastoral people who tended cattle for a living and made whatever metal implements they had by hand. Plus, they were fighting with a somewhat more advanced version of sticks and stones; i.e., assegais and spears, which was fine if you were fighting the Swazis or the Pygmies, but it just wasn’t going to do much for you if you were up against the 99th Regiment of Foot, the 91st Highlanders, the 17th Lancers, the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers, the 60th Rifle Regiment, and the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards.

Same thing in North America: the native people here simply did not have anything in the way of weaponry, tactics, or advanced technology that was anywhere near what the Europeans had. I have no idea where you heard that they did, or that the two cultures were roughly equal, but take it from a college history major who graduated with honors: THAT idea is total politically correct bullshit that has absolutely no basis whatsoever in reality. Anybody who tells you differently is not only full of crap, you can go back and tell them that I said they’re full of crap. Look at the difference in architecture, for example: Europeans had built massive castles and huge cathedrals for centuries, while Native American peoples lived in buffalo skin tents and birchbark huts. As for the question of why the Europeans developed these things when the American, Asian, and African cultures did not, I have no idea. Ask a sociologist, if you can find one who’ll be honest with you.

The only other things that I would add are that the Europeans had something else that the Native Americans did not: the horse. There were no horses in North America prior to their being introduced by the Spanish in the 16th century; and if you have an armed body on horseback with firearms fighting an armed body on foot with bows and arrows, the outcome is already decided. Secondly, I too would strongly recommend anything written by Jared Diamond, who is an excellent author on any subject he chooses to write on.

I seem to recall hearing or seeing something in the past few months that said the Europeans could conquest like they did was due to Eurasia being oriented east-west, as opposed to the Americas’ and Africa’s north-south orientation. The Europeans could take the agriculture, clothing, building needs, etc; with them when they went out beating up on their neighbors, and not have to worry about a drastic climatic change. As opposed to the Americas, where one could be in a place with short, mild winters, move north towards, oh, Minnestoa a couple hundred miles and be in a much colder zone where their lifestyle would have to drastically change. I could be way off base with this one, but it sounds logical to me.


I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine - Kurt Vonnegut

Yes, I think it was in Natural History that it was recently suggested that part of the European advantage was the large extent of the Mediterranean climate type in the old world, compared to the new.

Other possibilities – a mindset (the Crusades may have been a factor here) along the lines that even if foreigners were dirty and disgusting, they were still worth conquering – Christianity’s solid sense of linear time and long-term purpose – a generally higher regard for the common man.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

I think a factor in the speed of development of a culture was the climate they lived in. Hunter-gatherers in a bountiful area really had no need to improve technologically.


Just one small gripe. You said:

I thought the Asians (or at least some of them) did a pretty fair job in the arcitechture department. The Taj Mahal, for example, was built in 1630 (well, started, anyway). And then there was that Chinese thing with the terra cotta soldiers (the name of which I’ve obviously forgotten). Of course, the people of these nations lived in pretty primative housing (still do).
I’m hoping you’ll clarify this for me as I always enjoy reading your posts :).

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization

It’s because Europe is downhill from Asia.

Various tribes migrated down the steppes of Asia, often being pushed by other migratory tribes behind them. They wound up in Europe, which became a sort of septic tank of cultures, languages, inventions, products, ideas and pathogens, the combination of which allowed Europeans to branch out and spread their greatest asset: disease. Nothing facilitates conquest better than the ability to visit a place once and then return five years later to find it depopulated by smallpox.

Think I’m kidding? Have you ever tried fighting uphill? With dysentery?

1-Transportation advantages. Advanced sailing ships, superior navigation techniques, horses [bred for special purposes], wheels[remember aztecs], trade routes.Later, trains et. al.
2----advanced weapons tech.
3–systematic study of tactics in formal military academies [tactics are as real as life & death, DAMMIT!]
4–playing off one faction against another, while being discounted as unimportant [this is a major factor]

This oversimplifys the issue [sp?] but it covers many of the important bases.

We have met the enemy, and He is Us.–Walt Kelly