And, assuming we have reasonable solutions for these issues — how should we proceed when comparing pre-modern, and in particular medieval societies, without two of the tools that serve to check uncontrolled and impressionistic comparisons and ideological bias — reliable quantification and accepted theoretical models for conceptualizing whole societies as social formations, models which could offer sets of accepted priorities and focus attention on crucial dimensions and their articulation?
This volume seeks to make a contribution to these thorny issues. The chapters attempt to explore differences, and perhaps explain divergences in historical trajectories, by focusing on institutions. Some of the advantages of the focus on institutions would be familiar to any practitioner of the craft of history.
This works against the tendency to explain far-reaching divergences through momentary historical conjunctures, fateful decisions or momentous interventions. A recent upsurge of studies of the invention of almost anything tends to suggest that some originary moment can be located, a foundational act of far-reaching consequences. We may find reaching an accepted working definition of institutions quite difficult, but framing comparisons in relation to institutions still suggests a useful perspective, if not a shared, theoretically tight framework if there can be one.
Perhaps also for this reason, contributions to the volume tend to avoid comparing whole societies and committing themselves to some overarching view of the social whole.
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If this is not to be done impressionistically, or worse — if whole civilizations are not to be reduced to a single iconic institution, modelling a whole society or a social formation would require, I think, the adoption of a shared theoretical approach. Instead, the chapters often opt for mid-level comparisons, using a particular institution or an important element of institutionalization processes as a point of entry into more complex configurations: The act and processes of codification, the extraction and distribution of revenues in medieval polities, or the ways some special places — palaces — become foci of processes of institutionalization.
Here, a modicum of abstraction is not necessarily the precondition for engaging with historical comparisons but its outcome. Institutions Institutions have no generally accepted definition across disciplines and theoretical orientations. Paris: Albin Michel, , 63— This misses the provocation of her original question: We need not be convinced that thinking happens in and through signs, that culture — and specifically language — mediates and shapes, to an extent, thought. But how do institutions think? Can the New Institutionalist Economy help out? New institutionalist accounts of economic history are hence to a large extent about the discovery of the social and cultural conditions of economic action and therefore also the half-hearted, reluctant recognition of politics — and about their elimination at the same time.
London: I. Tauris, , 3—34, here pp. And as with the earlier discovery of Tradition and Culture, what is recognized as resisting neat conceptualization and the forced transformation of pre-existing social practices can easily become itself mystified, a master key to open every door. The challenge of institutionalist accounts of economic history is salutary, but it can hardly be expected to provide us with good concepts to work with.
This amounts to almost everything Weber hoped to write about in what came to be Economy and Society. They also adopted much of Western culture. Many Iberian settlers arrived, and many of them intermarried with the Amerindians resulting in a so-called Mestizo population, which became the majority of the population of Spain's American empires. The Dutch, English, and French all established colonies in the Caribbean and each established a small South American colony.
The French established two large colonies in North America, Louisiana in the center of the continent and New France in the northeast of the continent. The French were not as intrusive as the Iberians were and had relatively good relations with the Amerindians, although there were areas of relatively heavy settlement like New Orleans and Quebec. Many French missionaries were successful in converting Amerindians to Catholicism.
This colony was eventually conquered by the nearby Dutch colony of New Netherland including New Amsterdam. New Netherland itself was eventually conquered by England and renamed New York.
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Although England's American empire began in what is today Canada , they soon focused their attention to the south, where they established thirteen colonies on North America's Atlantic coast. The English were unique in that rather than attempting to convert the Amerindians, they simply settled their colonies with Englishmen and pushed the Amerindians off their lands. In the Americas, it seems that only the most remote peoples managed to stave off complete assimilation by Western and Western-fashioned governments.
These include some of the northern peoples i. Of these, the Quechua people , Aymara people , and Maya people are the most numerous- at around 10—11 million, 2 million, and 7 million, respectively. Bolivia is the only American country with a majority Amerindian population. It involved the transfer of goods unique to one hemisphere to another.
Westerners brought cattle , horses , and sheep to the New World, and from the New World Europeans received tobacco , potatoes , and bananas. Other items becoming important in global trade were the sugarcane and cotton crops of the Americas, and the gold and silver brought from the Americas not only to Europe but elsewhere in the Old World.
Much of the land of the Americas was uncultivated, and Western powers were determined to make use of it.
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At the same time, tribal West African rulers were eager to trade their prisoners of war, and even members of their own tribes as slaves to the West. The West began purchasing slaves in large numbers and sending them to the Americas. This slavery was unique in world history for several reasons.
Firstly, since only black Africans were enslaved, a racial component entered into Western slavery which had not existed in any other society to the extent it did in the West. Unlike in some other cultures, slaves in the West were used primarily as field workers. Many Westerners did eventually come to question the morality of slavery. This early anti-slavery movement, mostly among clergy and political thinkers, was countered by pro-slavery forces by the introduction of the idea that blacks were inferior to European whites, mostly because they were non-Christians, and therefore it was acceptable to treat them without dignity.
They also converted to Christianity. After trading with African rulers for some time, Westerners began establishing colonies in Africa. They also established relations with the Kingdom of Kongo in central Africa before, and eventually the Kongolese converted to Catholicism. The Dutch established colonies in modern-day South Africa , which attracted many Dutch settlers.
Western powers also established colonies in West Africa. However, most of the continent remained unknown to Westerners and their colonies were restricted to Africa's coasts.
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Westerners also expanded in Asia. During this time, the Dutch began their colonisation of the Indonesian archipelago, which became the Dutch East Indies in the early 19th century, and gained port cities in Sri Lanka and Malaysia and India. Spain conquered the Philippines and converted the inhabitants to Catholicism. Missionaries from Iberia including some from Italy and France gained many converts in Japan until Christianity was outlawed by Japan's emperor.
Some Chinese also became Christian, although most did not. Most of India was divided up between England and France. As Western powers expanded they competed for land and resources. In the Caribbean , pirates attacked each other and the navies and colonial cities of countries, in hopes of stealing gold and other valuables from a ship or city.
This was sometimes supported by governments. Between and , the three Anglo-Dutch wars were fought, of which the last two were won by the Dutch. It involved several powers fighting on several continents. In Europe Prussia defeated Austria. When the war ended in , New France and eastern Louisiana were ceded to England, while western Louisiana was given to Spain. France's lands in India were ceded to England. Prussia was given rule over more territory in what is today Germany.
The Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon had been the first documented Westerner to land in Australia in    Another Dutchman, Abel Tasman later touched mainland Australia, and mapped Tasmania and New Zealand for the first time, in the s. The English navigator James Cook became first to map the east coast of Australia in Cook's extraordinary seamanship greatly expanded European awareness of far shores and oceans: his first voyage reported favourably on the prospects of colonisation of Australia; his second voyage ventured almost to Antarctica disproving long held European hopes of an undiscovered Great Southern Continent ; and his third voyage explored the Pacific coasts of North America and Siberia and brought him to Hawaii , where an ill-advised return after a lengthy stay saw him clubbed to death by natives.
Europe's period of expansion in early modern times greatly changed the world. New crops from the Americas improved European diets. This, combined with an improved economy thanks to Europe's new network of colonies, led to a demographic revolution in the West, with infant mortality dropping, and Europeans getting married younger and having more children. The West became more sophisticated economically, adopting Mercantilism , in which companies were state-owned and colonies existed for the good of the mother country. The West in the early modern era went through great changes as the traditional balance between monarchy, nobility and clergy shifted.
With the feudal system all but gone, nobles lost their traditional source of power. Meanwhile, in Protestant countries, the church was now often headed by a monarch , while in Catholic countries, conflicts between monarchs and the Church rarely occurred and monarchs were able to wield greater power than they ever had in Western history. At the opening of the 15th century, tensions were still going on between Islam and Christianity.
Europe, dominated by Christians, remained under threat from the Muslim Ottoman Turks. The Turks had migrated from central to western Asia and converted to Islam years earlier.
Their capture of Constantinople in , thus extinguishing the Eastern Roman Empire , was a crowning achievement for the new Ottoman Empire. Under the leadership of the Spanish, a Christian coalition destroyed the Ottoman navy at the battle of Lepanto in ending their naval control of the Mediterranean. However, the Ottoman threat to Europe was not ended until a Polish led coalition defeated the Ottoman at the Battle of Vienna in The 16th century is often called Spain's Siglo de Oro golden century.
From its colonies in the Americas it gained large quantities of gold and silver, which helped make Spain the richest and most powerful country in the world. His attempt to unite these lands was thwarted by the divisions caused by the Reformation and ambitions of local rulers and rival rulers from other countries. Another great monarch was Philip II — , whose reign was marked by several Reformation conflicts, like the loss of the Netherlands and the Spanish Armada.
These events and an excess of spending would lead to a great decline in Spanish power and influence by the 17th century. After Spain began to decline in the 17th century, the Dutch, by virtue of its sailing ships, became the greatest world power, leading the 17th century to be called the Dutch Golden Age. The Dutch followed Portugal and Spain in establishing an overseas colonial empire — often under the corporate colonialism model of the East India and West India Companies.
After the Anglo-Dutch Wars, France and England emerged as the two greatest powers in the 18th century. Louis XIV became king of France in His reign was one of the most opulent in European history.
He built a large palace in the town of Versailles.