The Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History
Robert Finlay, pp. 141-188
For more than a millennium Chinese porcelain was the most universally admired and most widely imitated product in the world. It conveyed Chinese culture across vast distances, penetrated societies in manifold ways, and reshaped ceramic traditions throughout the Afro-Eurasian ecumene. As the principal material vehicle for the assimilation and transmission of artistic themes and designs, porcelain provides the first and most extensive material evidence for sustained cultural encounter on a worldwide scale, perhaps even for intimations of truly global culture.
Vasco da Gama and Africa: An Era of Mutual Discovery, 1497–1800
David Northrup, pp. 189-211
On the quincentennial of Vasco da Gama’s successful voyage around Africa to India, this article explores the economic and cultural importance for Africans of new contacts with Europe. The exploration of mutual interests, characteristic of da Gama’s voyage, generally continued on the once isolated Atlantic side of the continent, where African elites sought imported goods, even as their exports consisted more and more of slaves; acquired facility in European languages; and experimented with Christianity and Western education. On the Indian Ocean side there were few long-term changes, despite early Portuguese attacks on the already prosperous, Muslim-ruled city-states of the Swahili coast.
FORUM: THREE PLENARY LECTURES FROM THE SIXTY-SIXTH ANGLO-AMERICAN CONFERENCE OF HISTORIANS ON THE THEME OF “CONNEXIONS: EUROPEAN PEOPLES AND THE NON-EUROPEAN WORLD” (LONDON, 2-4 JULY 1997)
World History and the Rise and Fall of the West
William H. McNeill, pp. 215-236
This article seeks how best to understand the history of humankind as a whole by emphasizing communications and transportation networks. It summarizes the principal consequences of major changes in the range and carrying capacity of these networks, with reflections on the role of the West in recent centuries. During these centuries Europeans enjoyed a brief experience of world dominance, thanks to an initial monopoly of modern forms of mechanically powered transport and electrical communication, only to see their dominant position decline as other peoples have caught up with them in our own time.
Hemispheric Integration, 500–1500 C.E.
Jerry H. Bentley, pp. 237-254
Scholars such as Marshall G. S. Hodgson and William H. McNeill have long emphasized the importance of cross-cultural interactions throughout world history from ancient times to the present. Yet a persistent and widespread misconception holds that the peoples of the world began to interact intensively only after 1492. This misunderstanding reflects both “modernocentrism,” an enchantment with the modern world that has hindered historians from recognizing the significance of cross-cultural interactions in earlier times, and the powerful influence of national states, which has discouraged historians from examining interactions between societies. Recent scholarship on commercial, biological, and cultural exchanges suggests, however, that during the millennium from 500 to 1500 C.E., cross-cultural interactions fostered the integration of societies throughout the Eastern Hemisphere.
Europeans in Black Africa
Terence Ranger, pp. 255-268
It is difficult to separate the idea of Europeans in Africa from that of colonialism in Africa. This conflation was a feature of the older imperial history, and it also characterizes more recent schools, such as colonial discourse historiography. Nevertheless, there were Europeans in Africa before colonization; many Europeans related to Africans in informal ways even under colonialism; and there have been many thousands of Europeans in Africa since the end of colonial rule. This article is an attempt to find ways of writing a history of whites in Africa that is not also a history of colonialism.
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