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The discovery of the Americas greatly influenced world history

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Introduction

The discovery of the Americas greatly influenced world history, and in particular the history of Europe. The development of it's lands and peoples as the beginnings of the new Atlantic World made a great impact on the world system. Of course, this is obvious considering that most countries from Western Europe were involved - "Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, France, the Dutch Republic, Russia, and Denmark."1 The shift in economic centres (particularly for Spain and Portugal), "represents one of the most profound transformations in human history."2 The questions are, what exactly was it's impact, and what effects did it have on the world system? This essay discusses the demographic and economic effects of the Americas on the world system, focussing primarily on population figures since the European settlement of the Americas and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Americas, discovered accidentally by Columbus in 1492, became an object of interest for European explorers in about 1500 when Amerigo Vespucci "concluded that the so-called Indies were not part of eastern Asia but were in fact a new continent."3 The Spanish began conquering and settling the Caribbean Islands, and soon after in 1519, Hernan Cortez commanded an expedition into the Mexican mainland, conquering the capital of Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) ...read more.

Middle

Between the middle of the fifteenth century and the end of the nineteenth century, slaves were taken from the west coast of Africa "with the full and active co-operation of African kings and merchants."11 In return for their assistance, these kings and merchants received a variety of goods - mainly beads, cowrie shells (which were used as money), textiles, brandy, horses, and most importantly, guns. So then, what did the economic benefits for Europe, provided by the slave trade, mean for the world system? In Africa, guns were introduced and this helped the kings to expand their borders and obtain more slaves for the trading. Also, slave traders actively encouraged wars in Africa, resulting in the death or enslavement of millions more Africans on that continent than ended up in the Americas. Scholars of African history believe the total number of Africans killed or abducted in Africa and the Americas could be between 50 and 100 million. Whatever the figure, the slave trade brought death and dislocation on an unimaginable scale. The extent of it's impact will never be fully known. For Spain, the introduction of the Americas into the world system meant a growth in their economic power - for a time anyway. ...read more.

Conclusion

The populations of the new world and other foreign continents were effected dramatically from disease, conquest, slavery and warfare, so much so that entire cultures disappeared and some new ones were formed. Suffice to say that the impact of the Americas on the world system was so profound for both demographic and economic reasons, that those studying world history cannot possibly deny it. 1 Peripheries, Centers, and the construction of Early modern American Empires, edited by Christine Daniels & Michael V. Kennedy, London, Routledge, 2002, p1. 2 Daniels & Kennedy, p1. 3 Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, Latin America., Accessed September 7, 2005. 4 Daniels & Kennedy, p1. 5 5 Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, Latin America., Accessed September 7, 2005. 6 A. Laugesen, The Making of the Atlantic World, slide 18, Accessed September 7, 2005. 7 Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, Latin America., Accessed September 7, 2005. 8 H. Thomas, The Slave Trade, London, Simon and Schuster, 1997 p.105 9 About.com, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Accessed September 7th 2005. 10 Annenberg: Bridging World History Online, The Americas and the Globalization of Labor: Slavery and Resistance, Accessed September 7, 2005. 11 H. Thomas, p.112 12 Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Ottoman Empire, Accessed 7th September 2005. 13 Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Ottoman Empire, Accessed 7th September 2005. 14 H. Blackwell, The Americas, London, Routledge, 2003, p.42 ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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