The Worlds of the Fifteenth Century

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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A small amount of people in 1492 could have thought the enormous global process set in motion by the Columbus’s three ships, things such as the Atlantic Slave trade, massive growth of world population, decimation of the native’s in the Americas and the massive growing prominence of Europeans on the World stage. This excursion around the world will serve to briefly review the human saga thus far and to establish the baseline from the transformations of the centuries that follow might be followed.

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The Shapes of Human Communities

The world has contained various types of societies, such as hunter and gatherers, pastoral communities, established civilizations and empires, agriculture villages etc.. Despite millennia of agricultural advance, substantial area of the world still hosted gathering and hunting societies, known as to historians as Paleolithic peoples. These peoples were not artifacts of a bygone age. The most ancient way of life had a sizeable and variable presence in the world as of the 15th century. Australia consists of many separate groups, some still practicing hunting and gathering , they had assimilated various material items or cultural practises from outside. They had mastered and manipulated their environment. They accomplished all of this on the basis of an economy and technology rooted in the distinct paleolithic era. Although this and other gathering and hunting people persisted still in the fifteenth century, both their numbers and the area they inhabited had contracted greatly as the Agricultural revolution unfolded across the planet.

Living usually in small village based societies and organized in terms of kinship relations, such as people predominated during the fifteenth century in much of North America. Historians have largely downgraded such societies to the periphery of world history, viewing them as marginal to the cities, states of civilizations that predominate in various counts of the global past. East of the niger river lay the lands of the Igbo peoples, the dense population and extensive trading networks might well have given rise to states, declined to follow suite. They did not live in an isolated area and traded actively among themselves and with more distant peoples, such as Songhay. Across the atlantic into now New york was the Iroquois, the speaking people of that region had become fully agricultural, adopting maize and bean farming techniques. As frequent warfare erupted amongst them it triggered a political innovation around the fifteenth century; a loose alliance between the five speaking Iroquois. The league gave expression to values of limited government and personal freedom, which European colonists found attractive.

Pastoral Peoples: Central Asia and West Africa

The Pastoral peoples had influenced more dramatically and directly on the civilizations that consisted if hunter and gatherers then agricultural societies. With a ferocity that matched or exceeded that of his model, Genghis Khan, Timur’s army of pastoralists brought immense devastation yet again to Russia, Persia, and India. Conflicts among his successors prevented any lasting empire, although his descendants retained controlled areas between Persia and Afghanistan for the rest of the fifteenth century. That state had a sophisticated culture, which consisted of Persian and Turkic deas. In Africa, pastoral people stayed independent of established empires many centuries longer than Inner asia. Some had dropped out of Pastoral life and settled i towns, where they became highly respectable leaders.

Civilizations of the Fifteenth Century: Comparing China and Europe

Since the First Civilizations had emerged between 3500 and 1000 B.C.E, bith the geographic space they encompassed and the number of people they embraced had grown substantially. Although most of these people no doubt identified more with local communities than with larher civilizations.

Ming Dynasty China

The civilization had been greatly disrupted by a century of Mongol rule, and it’s population had been greatly reduced by the plague. During the Ming Dynasty which was from 1368-1644 China had recovered. During the beginning of the dynasty they wanted to eliminate of foreign rule, discouraging the use of Mongol names and dress, promoting Confucian learning and Orthodox gender roles. Politically, the Ming dynasty established the civil service examinations which had been neglected under Mongol rule and went on to create a highly centralized government. The state acted vigorously to repair the damage done by the Mongols like rebuilding canals, reservoirs, and irrigations works and also planting. China also undertook the largest and most impressive maritime expeditions the world has ever seen. After 1433, Chinese authorities simply stopped such expeditions and allowed this enormous and expensive fleet to deteriorate in port. The Chinese state quite deliberately turned it’s back on what was in their reach, a large scale empire in the Indian Ocean basin.

European Comparisons: State Building and Cultural Renewal

On the other side of Eurasian continent, similar processes of demographic recovery, political consolidation, cultural flowering, and overseas expansion were underway. In China, however this meant a unitary and centralized government that encompassed almost the whole of its civilization, while in Europe a decidedly fragmented system of many separate, independent and competitive states divided the Western civilization. A renewal cultural beginning, the renaissance paralleled the revival of all things Confucian in Ming dynasty China. Although religious themes remained prominent, Renaissance artists now included portraits and bust well-known contemporary figures, scenes from ancient mythology and descriptions of Islamic Splendor.

European Comparisons: Maritime Voyaging

The differences between Chinese and European oceangoing ventures were striking, most notably perhaps in terms of size. Motivations as well as size differentiated the two ventures. Europeans were seeking wealth, also in search of Christian converts and Christian allies to continue the crusade struggle against the Muslim powers. China, by contrast, didn’t have to look at equivalent power, and didn’t need military allies in the Indian Ocean basin, and didn’t need much of the material that region produced.

Civilizations of the Fifteenth Century: The Islamic World

Stretching across much of Afro-Asia, the enormous realm of Islam experienced a set of remarkable changes during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as we,, as the continuation of earlier patterns, The most notable changes lay in political realm, for an Islamic civilization that had been severely fragmented.

In the Islamic Heartland: The Ottoman and Safavid Empires

The Ottoman Empire was a state of enormous significance in the world of the fifteenth century and beyond. In it’s huge territory, long duration, incorporation of many diverse peoples and economic and cultural sophistication, it was on the the great empires of world empires. The Ottoman Empire also represented a new phase in the long encounter between christendom and the world of Islam. In the Crusades, Europeans had taken the aggressive initiative in that encounter. The other empire was the Safavid, composed a shia version of islam as the official religion of the state. Over time, this form of Islam gained popular support. This Shia empire also introduced a sharp divide into political and religious life of heartland Islam. The Shia/sunni has continued to divide the Islamic world into the twenty first century.

On the Frontiers of Islam:

While the Ottoman and Safavid empires brought both a new political unity and a sharp division to the heartland of Islam, two other states performed a similar role on the expanding african and Asian frontiers of the faith. In West Africa, the Songhay empire rose, it was the impressive state that operated at a crucial intersection of the trans-saharan trade routes and that derived much of the revenue from taxing that commerce. Islam was a growing faith in the society, but was limited to urban elites only. It became a major center of Islamic learning and commerce by the early sixteenth century. The Mughal empire in India had much of the same similarities. It was the creation of yet another Islamized Turkic group, which invaded India in 1526. The inclusive policies of the early Mughal emperors showed somewhat of the same fashion as Ottoman authorities provided religious autonomy for the Christian minority. These Muslim empires brought to the Islamic world a greater measure of political coherence, military power, economic prosperity, and cultural brilliance that it had known since the early centuries. Thus unlike in the Middle East and India, where Islam established in the wake of Arab of Turkic conquest in southeast ASia, and in West africa, it was introduced by traveling merchants and solidified through the activities of Sufi holy man.

Civilizations of the Fifteenth Century: The Americas

Both the Aztec and Inca empires were previously marginal peoples who had forcibly taken over and absorbed older cultures, giving them new energy and both were decimated in the sixteenth century at the hands of Spanish conquistadors and their diseases.

The Aztec Empire

It was a semi-nomadic group from north mexico who had migrated south. The Mexica later developed their military alliances with them and built their own capital city. The Aztec empire was loosely structures and unstable conquest state that often had rebellions by its peoples. The conquered peoples and cities had to provided labor for Aztec projects. Beyond tributes from conquered peoples, ordinary trade, both local and long distance, permated Aztec domains.

The Inca empire

Both the Aztec and Inca empires represent poor to rich stories in which modest and local people very quickly created by military conquest the largest states ever witnessed in their respective regions. The Incas reacted a rather more bureaucratic empire. With the emperor at top, an absolute ruler seen as divine and a descendent of a creator. It represented an especially dense and extended network of economic relationships with the “American Web”. Inca demandes on their conquered people were expressed as labor service. Both empires had gender parallelism in which it was gender complementarity, not gender equality. Men occupied the political and religious life, and their infidelity was treated lightly then women unfaithfulness.

Webs of Connections

Religion not only linked people far away from each other, but also divided them. Christianity provided as a common religion for peoples from England to Russia, Islam brought together it’s many peoples. In the Hajj, all types of peoples join as they rehearse the event that gave birth to their faith. Long-established patterns of trade among peoples occupying different environment and producing goods was certainly much in evidence during the fifteenth century. A common Islamic culture over mch of this large region likewise smoothed the passage of goods among very different peoples, as it did for the trans-Saharan trade.

A Preview of Coming Attractions: Looking Ahead to the Modern Era, 1450-2015. Over these five centuries, the previously separate worlds of Afro-Eurasian, the Americas, and the Pacific Oceania became inextricably linked, with enormous consequences for everyone involved. Global empires, global economy, global cultural exchanged, global migrations that have made thesee 500 years a unique phase. Despite their many differences, the peoples of asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, and Pacific Oceania all found themselves confronted by powerful and intrusive Europeans. The impact of that and how people responded represent critically important threads i the world history.”

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The Worlds of the Fifteenth Century. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved from