Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Atlantic ocean worlds

Theme from the prof was that colonialism is a negotiated process as much as it's an imposed one. The conquerors needed stability. They didn't want to just plunder the riches - they wanted an ongoing relationship with these rich lands. So they needed a system that would keep on giving. If colonies are a source of wealth (rather than a place of expansion) you have to work with the pre-existing societies and turn their social organisation into one which supports your purpose. They did this by deposing some leaders, imposing others, and largely leaving the lower levels of society alone. This led me to think about corporate takeovers: much the same thing, only the executions at the top usually come with a payoff.

Another form of amalgamation addressed by Prof was the Baroque 'mixed marriage' between Europeans and native people or Africans. I think he means between white men and non-white women (not vice versa), but we're left to guess at the power differential and how far these are marriages as I'd want 'marriage' to be. Is this marriage and are these children simply an extension of the ownership principle? Lovely romantic image used in the lecture. I wonder how it felt to be that wife?

New facts: 

  • There was a ship building boom in the wake of 1492 - Europeans using 'brazilwood'. Ships became easier to build and longer lasting - a virtuous cycle making more exploration more possible. The wood was also used as textile dye - why the rich clothing of the Renaissance was red.
  • Access to american commodities shifted the global markets. What had been a European trade deficit with the east (we wanted their silks and spices; they weren't fussed about what we had to offer) moved to a trade surplus. 
  • Early 1500s Spain had a vigorous internal debate about the ethics & legality of enslaving indigenous people. See Bartolome de las Casas who argued that Indians had souls! If Indians have souls then the conquerers need to fulfil god's purpose by bringing the gospel to them. 
  • 6.5m people move to the Americas. Most of them don't have a choice. I read this stark list of slave trade facts. You should too. 

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