General History in Outline and Story
VIII . THE EXPANSION OF EUROPE OVERSEAS
49 . 'THE WORLD' BECOMES GREATER AND GREATER
While the Renaissance and the Reformation were going on, Europeans were making journeys into parts of the earth never mapped before, sending our religion teachers, trading, and forming colonies overseas in new and old countries. The age of 'colonial' empires had come. Let us take a look at the discovery of 'the World' by the men of Europe.
One of the most interesting things in learning history is to see the growth of 'the world.' At any given time 'the world,' for men, has been that part of the earth of which they had experience -- the part in which they themselves were living, the seas across which their ships went, and the countries to which they made journeys for purposes of war and trade. Outside these limits there were great stretches of land and sea about which they had little or no knowledge ; strange nations, towns, and ways of living of whose very existence they had no idea.
The Greeks and Romans had chiefly to do with the small part of the earth round the Mediterranean Sea, and this was their 'world.' Other countries were only dark uncertain lands about which there were strange stories.
In the Middle ages 'the world' became a little wider. Slowly -- by journeying, trading, fighting and the teaching of religion -- its limits were pushed further out, and Germany, Poland, Scandinavia, and Ireland were taken into it. Hard-working kings and good churchmen gave their days to the expansion of Christian Europe -- woods were cut down, towns put up, and governments formed. The countries of the North, no longer 'barbarian,' took their places in the Christian World of the Middle Ages, and all Europe but Russia was one society, united by common ideas and ways of living. Russia, however, did not come into this society till much later.
In the fourteen hundreds 'the world' was looked on, roughly, as taking in Europe and North Africa and the parts of Asia touching Europe. Men were conscious of the existence of Persia and India, but little more than that. Some, like Marco Polo made journeys to China and had the most surprising experiences. But it was hard for Christian Europe to have any certain knowledge of Asia, because all the county at the east end of the Mediterranean was in the hands of the Mohammedans, so that even trade relations were to a great degree broken off.
Though 'the world' by that time was much greater than in the days of the Greeks and Romans, to most Europeans it was still very small. And then, at the very end of the fourteen hundreds, came suddenly, one after another, the greatest and most surprising discoveries which man has ever made.
These discoveries made Europe's world greater not only by the addition of America and Africa, but we may say, by that of Asia ; because, though trade in silks and spices had been going on between Europe and Asia for hundreds of years, the distance had been bridged in stages, and the number of persons who made the complete journey was very small -- specially after the Turks had taken the country between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. But now, through the sea-journeys of Vasco Da Gama, there was a new way to Asia -- a way which was in no danger from the Turks.
And so two sailors, taking their way over the seas -- da Gama and Columbus -- put America, Africa, and Asia on the map of the world. These discoveries came very quickly after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks (1453), an event which is generally taken as the starting -point of present-day history.
It was quite impossible, after this, for the Europeans nations to go on in the old way without interesting themselves in the New and Old Worlds which had suddenly come to their knowledge. From the first their attention was turned to the new lands, and from about 1500 the history of Europe goes hand in hand with the history of America, Africa, and Asia.
It took the nations of the west of Europe a long time to get a knowledge of how to make profit out of the new parts of the earth. They took up one idea after another, learning slowly by experience the best ways of doing things, sometimes in relation to trade, sometimes to the mining of gold and silver, and sometimes to religion.
50 . THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
The outcome of the attempts of the British in these new lands was the building up of the British Empire. That Empire is chiefly based on the great additions made to the world in the 1490's -- the great age of discovery. Newfoundland was the first place in the New World to come under British rule, as the fruit of John Cabot's journey from Bristol in 1497.
At the present day, when the word 'America' is used, it is generally North America which comes to mind. But in the fifteen hundreds the opposite was true. No one gave much thought to the north ; the south got for more attention. One reason why the growth of the British Empire took place in the north was because to the Spaniards and Portuguese that part seemed of little value.
The north was very different from the south. The number of persons in North America was very small for the size of the country, and those who were there were still at a low stage of development. There were no great nations, only nomad groups of Redskins still living in their Stone Age, attacking the animals of the woods and open spaces, and fishing in the great inland waters and rivers, with little property or desire for property in our sense of the word. But even so they were men to be respected in some ways.
Lovers of war, stopped at nothing in a fight, they were well able to take care of themselves and to make serious trouble for any one attempting to take away their country. Though kind to their friends, to those who had done anything against them they were very cruel ; they would themselves undergo the greatest pain without moving a muscle, but they were equally unmoved by the pain of others, and gave the most cruel punishments. They made the European colonies in the north very unsafe, and were greatly feared by the white men attempting to make a living there. They were not going to give up their country to the 'white faces' without a fight.
The French were the first to go far into this great new land of North
America. The earliest man to make the attempt, Jacques Cartier, like Columbus, had no doubt that he was on the way to India and Cathay. When he made a landing at the place named by him Montreal (1535) it was with the idea of building a new France across the Atlantic. Another Frenchman, Champlain, went up the Saint Lawrence River and gave the town of Quebec its start (1608). A short time later, sailing in the Mayflower (1620), came a band of Puritans1, whose colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts, was the starting point of English North America.
In the South and Middle America conditions were very different. Some of the groups living there, the Aztecs and the Incas, had been at a high level of development for hundreds of years. They had complex societies and strong governments. There were very old towns and great stores of money and goods. The houses. The houses of the kings in Mexico made those of he European prices seem small and poor in comparison. In King Montezuma's house there was a room with space for three thousand persons, and in the market-place there was room for fifty thousand traders.
There were gold and jewels enough to be a great attraction to the men of Europe, and there was little to keep them from getting their desires, because the South American nations were able to do nothing against the new European guns. Unlike the Redskins of the north, they were naturally kind and peace-loving, and with the guns and gunpowder of two or three thousand men, the Spaniards had the country at their feet in a very short time.
The Spaniard Cortes overcame Mexico (1519-21). He put an end to the chief Aztec town and made a better town in its place ; the land was wasted by his armies, and the old ways of living were broken up -- all for the purpose of building up what seemed to him a better society. Then another Spaniard, Pizarro, took Peru (1531), which is south of Mexico.
The great desire of Spain was gold ; at one time Pizarro sent back gold valued at [L]3,500,000 and a great mass of silver. Not only were there great stores of gold and silver vessels and ornaments, but the Spaniards quickly made the discovery that the value of the mines, which were still far from being used up, was almost unlimited. And it was not hard to get the mines worked ; the poor Peruvians were quite unable to put up any sort of fight against their new rulers, and, not much better than slaves, they let themselves be used for the profit of the Spaniards.
But this gold, got with so little trouble and so suddenly, made Spain give up the slower and more certain ways of increasing her income, and in the end she became one of the poorest of the European nations.
Taking all the facts into account, it is not hard to see why South America had more attraction for Europeans than North America. If they went south there was little danger, little work, and a quick way to a great income. But if they went north they were faced by long hard wars against nations of expert fighters, so far from one another that it was impossible for them all to be crushed, and so fixed in their purpose of never giving in that, in the end, the newcomers were almost certain to be overcome and cruelly put to death. And with all these dangers there was no quick way of making money, no gold or silver mines, and no one to do the work but the European himself.
For this reason the Spaniards and Portuguese, who were the first in the field, made their Empires in the south and middle. To make impossible any future arguments about their rights, they took the question to Rome, and the Pope made a division of the New World in the west between them. Portugal was to have Brazil and everything east of the line eleven hundred and ten mile west of Cape Verde Islands, and Spain was to have all the rest. This decision -- one of the last acts of Rome as Ruler of the World -- was looked on by them as putting an end to the question for ever.
But while these things were going on, the other nations were doing something themselves. The British were still looking for a new way of getting to India. The Spaniards had the way by South America ; the Portuguese had the way by South Africa ; and the Spaniards and Portuguese were not at all ready to let other nations send ships by these two ways, looking on any attempts to do so as almost acts of war. What other way was there? Some men had the idea that there might be ways not only by the south-east and south-west,but by the north-east and north-west -- round the north of America and Asia in addition to round the south.
And these men were right ; there are ways by the north-east and the north-west. but, unhappily, they are so far north and so covered with ice that they are of no use for going to India or any other place. Naturally, the sailors of the fifteen hundreds had no knowledge of this fact, and frequent attempts were made to get to India by these two ways. The conditions on these journeys were very hard -- little and poor food, the most biting cold, and long months without seeing a person other than those on the ship. Death from disease or other causes was common, and there was the further danger of violent outbursts among the men. All this was undergone in the hope of getting anew sea-way for England to the countries of the East. There is no story in history more moving or more full of great acts than that of the long attempt at the discovery of the North-west Sea-way.
It was not till the present day, with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, that the old hope of a road to the East in that direction came true.
1 . The Pilgrims of Plymouth, 1620, were a mixed group seeking greater freedom. The over-religious Puritans ran from England in 1630 . One thousand people landed at Salem, Massachusetts, and more than doubled the English population of North American.
51 . 'DARKEST AFRICA' AND THE SLAVE TRADE.
Portuguese sailors were the first Europeans to go down the west side of Africa and round the Cape of Good Hope, and between 1500 and 1800 they had far more to do with Africa than any other nation. This was not only because they had made the discovery of Africa, but because they (and the Spaniards) had such bitter memories of what the Mohammedans had done to them that they were all the time looking out for a chance of damaging their power.
After the Mohammedans had been forced out of Spain, the Spanish sent an army across the sea to overcome the Mohammedans of North-west Africa, which had been part of the Roman Empire and at one time Christian ; but in these wars they made little headway.
The Portuguese, for their part, went farther and farther south on the west side of Africa in the hope of getting to the Christian country of Prester John, about which there were such strange and interesting stories. 'Prester John' was probably another name for the Christian King of Abyssinia, whose rulers had, in fact kept out the Mohammedans and others who were not Christians for hundreds of years, as Prester John himself was said to have done.
The chief reason for the interest taken by the Portuguese in Africa was probably the desire for a safe way to the gold of India. Till the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) this was the chief purpose of the British and the Dutch in attempting to get land in Africa.
But to make safe the way to India, the Portuguese had first to overcome a strong Mohammedan power in East Africa, where Arab sailors were making high profits by trading in slaves, in addition to other things, between Africa and Asia. This Arab power was quite as much hated by the Africans as any European power. It was more cruel to them and did more damage to the country and the people than any other nation.
Any Europeans attempting to send colonies to, or to overcome, or even to make journeys into, the inner parts of Africa were faced by great dangers. The black men, or Negroes, had great power in the middle of Africa. In the Sudan and in the Sahara great Negro Empires had been formed by some of them, specially those who had come in touch with the Arabs from Asia and whose blood had been mixed with that of the Arabs. Timbuctu, the name of which has become a common saying for a far-off land, was the most noted of these African Empires.
Most of those attempting journeys across North Africa to get new knowledge about the county were put to death by these war-loving nations, or by the even crueller nomad groups which went up and down the land.
Even where there had been no connection with Mohammedans or Arabs to make the Negro hard and bitter against Europeans -- even south of Lake Chad -- the dangers in the way were almost as great. There were thick woods impossible to get through, great stretches of twisted undergrowth, full of snakes and insects whose bit was poison, and wet places where disease was waiting. The air and the weather were very unhealthy -- worst of all in the low land near the rivers, almost the only way by which it was possible to get into Africa. The Africans were generally bitter against the newcomers, and even where they were ready to be friends, the living-conditions were almost impossible for Europeans. It is, then, not surprising that for three hundred years there was very little knowledge of Africa and that it was named 'the Dark Continent.'1
In fact, Africa did not become truly part of Europe's 'world' till after 1800, though between then and 1900 such great headway was made that Europe will probably have even more effect on Africa than it will ever have on Asia.
1 . The five great divisions of the world named 'continents' are : Europe, Asia, Africa, American and Australia. America is divided into two continents, North America and South America. Antarctica (South Pole) is now considered a continent. This makes seven continents.
52 . THE BRITISH AND OTHERS IN AFRICA
The British were the second nation to take an interest in Africa. The British and the Portuguese had been friends for a long time -- the great Portuguese of the fourteen hundreds, Prince Henry, 'the Navigator' ('the sailor'), was by birth half English. Englishmen went with the Portuguese sailors on some of their early journeys to the west of Africa, but when Spain took Portugal, England was free to go forward by herself.
Queen Elizabeth gave special rights to traders, and these were responsible for starting the English colony on the Gambia River. All through the sixteen and seventeen hundreds trading companies were increasing English trade and starting English colonies.
But not much came of all this at that time. The physical conditions were against the growth of English colonies in Africa like those of America ; and the strong Negro chiefs were able to keep the companies from getting control of great stretches of the country and the millions of those living in it, as they were doing at that time in India. By 1800 it did not seem as if the English would ever have much of West Africa under their rule.
Englishmen were, in fact, much more interested in trading in Africans than in ruling them. It was not for colonies but for slaves that they went to Guinea and the Niger country. The traders who had gone to West Africa for spices saw that there would be more profit in trading black men across the Atlantic. The quickest way to make money was by going into the slave trade. Sir John Hawkins, a good example of an Elizabethan seaman, is noted -- no credit to him in our eyes -- for being the first man trading in African slaves under the British flag, a business which was commonly looked upon with approval in those days.
The Mohammedans in the east of Africa had been doing a good trade in slaves for a long time. In Luther's time Charles V was sending African slaves to the Spanish colonies in South America, where the South Americans had been almost stamped out by the cruel conditions of Spanish rule, and other workers were needed to take their places. But it was not till the British had colonies in the warmer part of America that their slave-trade came to its highest development, because the Spaniards did their best to keep all the trade in slaves for the Spanish colonies to themselves. When Britain took some of the West Indies, and her American cotton fields were making a good profit, she had a great market for slaves in the English colonies, and in the seventeen hundreds about two million Negroes were shipped from Africa.
Even in the later seventeen hundreds British property in Africa was limited to a number of small colonies on the west side. Up to this time she had no more idea of building up an African Empire than she had had in the sixteen hundreds. In fact, it was more by chance than by any clear design that so much of Africa at last came under British rule.
Englishmen who were interested in the discovery of new countries, in sport, in trade, or in religion, one after another made their way into parts of Africa where white men had never been before ; some to see if the old stories about great rivers and towns were true, some to go after great animals, some to do trade in Manchester goods with the Negroes, some to put a stop to the slave trade, and some for the purpose of teaching the Word of God.
All these reasons took them farther and farther into the heart of the land. Then, if there was any trouble, and white men were put to death, the British Government saw itself forced to take things in hand, to take care of Britishers, to keep order, or to make conditions safe for trade.
And so, by degrees, much of Africa came under the British flag.
The story of South Africa is the strangest in the history of European colonies. For another hundred and fifty years almost the only development was the growth of a harbor town (Cape Town) round which a little colony was slowly formed.1. Today, little more than a hundred years later, this long-untouched land is a great dominion looking forward to an ever greater future.
1 . South Africa was an empty grass land when Dutch farmers arrived and made a country. They
discovered gold and Britain sent an army to take the land. Black Africans came to work
in the mines and soon had more people than the British.
53 . INDIA'S RAJAHS AND TRADERS
For thousands of years the chief trade between Europe and Asia, and the best trade in the world, was in the jewels and spices of India. Long before the East India Company was formed by traders of Elizabethan England, India had been undergoing attacks by Mohammedans. Coming into the country through its north-west 'doors,' time after time they overcame its armies and took off the produce of its fields and mines. One noted Afghan King took an army into India no less than seventeen times in the attempt to make the Indians Mohammedan by force. The cruel Tamerland was the first of the Moguls (or Mongols) to make war on India (1398), and when he took Delhi he made a mountain of a hundred thousand heads !
But the country was not completely overcome by the Moguls till the fifteen hundreds. Under Akbar (1556-1605) all India -- Hindu and Mohammedan -- was united under one rule, and for a time had peace and wellbeing. Akbar was one of India's wisest and kindest rulers, and the English traders were full of stories of his gold and his power. He and other Mogul Emperors of India were noted for their great houses and mosques, as the Mohammedan churches are named, and some of the most beautiful buildings in existence were put up under the rule of Shah Jeham, a son of Akbar's son. The Taj Mahal, the tomb of is dearly loved Queen, the Pearl Mosque, a beautifully ornamented temple, and his seat with its framework of solid gold were among the most talked-of things in the world.
In the seventeen hundreds, however, the great Mogul Empire was coming to an end. The English and French East India Companies gave their support to one side or the other in the fighting between Indian Rajahs, and so came to have a hand in political events in India.
By the time William of Orange became King of England, great profits were being made by Indian traders. One of those traders was Thomas Pitt, Governor of Madras, whose son's son, William Pitt, became head of the English Government and was to a great degree responsible for the growth of the British Empire in India and Canada in the seventeen hundreds.
DIVISIONS OF THE BOOK
I . -- THE FIRST STAGE
II . -- THE EARLY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE EAST
III. -- THE GREAT DAYS OF GREECE
IV . -- THE GREAT DAYS OF ROME
V . -- THE MIDDLE AGES
VI . -- THE 'NEW BIRTH' OF EUROPE
VII. -- NEW FORCES IN RELIGION AND THE GROWTH OF A NEW OUTLOOK
VIII -- THE EXPANSION OF EUROPE OVERSEAS top
IX . -- THE 'GREAT KINGS' OF EUROPE
X . -- THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
XI . -- THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND NAPOLEON
XII. -- THE BIRTH OF NEW NATIONS
XIII -- THE WORLD OF THE PRESENT DAY