Andreas Ramos, March 2022
A year ago, I began looking into a certain topic in current events. To see how it could develop in the future, I began looking at its past. That led further back, on and on, to Europe in the mid-1400s. To understand that, I had to look at the history of Europe, and, to understand the history of Europe, I began to look at the history and development of China.
The following outline of global history is based on my notes from Origins of the Modern World by Robert Marks, 2019, The Great Divergence by Kenneth Pomeranz, 2021, Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not by Prassannan Parthasarthi, 2011, Maps of Time by David Christian, 2011, and ReOrient by Andre Frank, 1998.
I've also read the standard histories of the world, including A Short History of Europe by Simon Jenkins, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Paul Kennedy, and On China by Henry Kissinger (several hundred pages are a history of China).
Additional current books on China include The Long Game by Rush Doshi, and Has China Won? by Kishore Mahbubani. Several more books were not helpful, such as histories of the world by A. J. Toynbee and Oswald Spengler, which are obsolete today. The histories by Jenkins, Kennedy, and Kissinger are significant but they are Eurocentric and no longer relevant (see more on this below).
Theories of History
The idea of history itself has a history. History started as stories of the gods (Isis, Zeus, and so on). Later, history turned into stories of gods and humans. By the 1300s, history became origin stories of kings: how they came to power and the wars they won. In the 1700s, philosophers and scientists began discovering laws of nature so historians also looked for the laws of history to explain events. For example, Hegel and Marx wrote speculative histories. In the 20th century, Dilthey, Croce, and others looked at the assumptions of historians. Here's a short list of the types of histories:
- Teleological: History as the will of the gods.
- Origins Narratives: History as the account (narrative) of the origins of a people.
- Essentialism: A people (a race, a culture, a nation) has an essential nature that leads it to victory or subjugation.
- Great Men: History is created by great men, such as Ceasar, Mohammed, Napolean, or Mao.
- Dialectical Idealism: Per Hegel, history is the resolution of conflicts in ideas.
- Dialectical Materialism: Per Marx, history is the conflicts between social classes, based on the means of production.
- Modernization Theory: As societies become complex, social classes demand more control so democracy arises.
- Scientific History: Before Darwin, history was the will of gods. After Darwin, historians tried to identify laws or reasons for history. However, scientific history turned out to be a secularized form of teleological history (secularized Christianity). For example, Hegel and Marx.
- Triumphant History: Euro-centric history argues the rise of the Western Europe was inevitable, due to its special qualities of democracy, rationalism, industrialization, capitalism, and so on (examples are Toynbee and Spengler). As you'll see below, none of these qualities explain European history.
- Pessimistic: In contrast, Joseph-Marie de Maistre, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Jacob Burckhardt rejected the Enlightenment and its account of the progress of history.
- Analytical History: In the 1900s, Wilhelm Dilthey and Benedetto Croce try to understand or uncover the methods, assumptions, or biases of history. This started the history of history.
Looking at the rise and fall of civilizations, we see several forces. Contingencies, conjunctures, and accidents are large-scale, long-term forces or patterns that affect history. It may well be additional forces, but the point is history has more than kings and heros. Let's look at three of these:
Contingencies, Conjunctures, and Accidents
Along with a society’s internal cultural development (religion, science, ideas, and so on), there are external contingencies, conjunctures, and accidents:
- Contingencies are a lucky combination of factors. Spain and Portugal became major powers due to several independent factors: They wanted to reach China and India, but Islam blocked their access, so they developed ships that could navigate across oceans which led to the discovery of the Americas. In an unlucky combination, European diseases killed 90% of the natives of the New World and Africa had a large supply of slaves.
- Conjunctures are the coincidence of several factors that together create new situations. For example, the Ming Dynasty decided taxes could be paid in silver, which created a strong demand for silver in China. Spain discovered a vast silver deposit at Potosi. These two unrelated issues (Chinese tax policy and Spanish silver) combined to create the first phase of economic globalization.
- Accidents are unpredictable events beyond human control. The Black Death (the 1350s) killed tens of millions. The weather of the 1700s was cold than usual, which reduced harvests, which resulted in famine and death. Another accident is the location (or lack) of natural resources. The UK cut down all of its forests for shipbuilding and heat, so it began to use coal, which was plentiful. However, UK coal mines tended to flood, so they developed steam-powered pumps to clear the mines. The pumps were powered with coal. Thus industrialization started in the UK. There are also Kondratieff Cycles of long-term social growth, peak, collapse which happen over ~50-60 years, but it's not clear why this happens.
These factors mean the Rise of the West was not due to traits of Europeans (Greek democracy, Christianity, rationality, scientific outlook, and so on), inevitabilty, or leadership by great men. Men can influence (such as Martin Luther) or lead (such as Napolean) but the deep factors are beyond their control (or even their awareness). These men can only play the cards they’ve been dealt.
In the following, we'll look at the impact of these forces on global history. If any of these forces had been different, global history would have taken a different path.
Up to 1400s: The Agrarian World
- Until the 1400s, the world was agrarian. Cultures and civilizations were stable over tens of centuries, such as Sumer (2,000 years), Egypt (3,800 years), India (3,000 years), and China (3,500 years).
- Aristocrats, priests, and military leaders were at the top. Merchants' bureaucracy managed agricultural collection, storage, distribution, trade, lending, and banking, and often, taxation. 90% of the population were farmers who raised crops and animals. Societies were limited by the amount of farm production, based on limits in the amount (or lack) of water, land, fertilizer, and the seasons. To increase agricultural production, the military seized new land.
- In an accident (unforeseen external factors), North Europe and North America experienced a period of global cooling, known as The Little Ice Age, from 1650 to 1850. Crops were reduced or failed, which led to massive starvation, famine, and death.
- The agrarian world’s production was limited by the amount of nitrogen in the soil. Low harvests are due to low nitrogen. In 1909, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch in Germany discovered how to extract nitrogen from the air. Cheap plentiful fertilizer allowed the world population to go from 1.6 billion to 6.2 billion. 60% of the world’s population depends on the Haber-Bosch process.
- China and India had large populations, were peaceful, and developed extensive canals for transportation, long-distance markets (a thousand miles or more), trading, and high-quality products (textiles, porcelain, spices, and more). The Arab world traded with China and India.
- Europe, at the far western end of the Asian continent, was fragmented in hundreds of principalities in ceaseless local wars for plunder. The Islamic empires blocked Europe’s access to India and China.
- Up to the 1400s, half of the world economy was China and India. Their quality of life (production, income, food, luxury items, social systems, etc.) was slightly better than in Europe. Europe had no significant importance or advantage. Up to the 1400s, there was nothing to indicate the tremendous changes that were about to happen in the 1600s to late 1800s.
Summary: The agrarian world was complex and stable. Several random events and coincidences changed the agrarian world and created the modern world. If these hadn’t happened, the world today would probably still resemble the early 1400s.
Note: This brief summary skips over the details. Modern historians show in great detail how these cultures functioned, based on tax rolls, census, merchant inventories and prices, and more. See for example The Great Divergence by Kenneth Pomeranz.
1400-2020: The Modern Period
The rise of European nations, endless warfare, capitalism, industrialization, and more disrupted the system of the agrarian world of kings, priests, and traditional militaries. Traditional structures were unable to cope with these sudden large changes. Traditional systems collapsed and were replaced by the modern international system of nations.
The Ming Dynasty and the Rise of Europe
- The Ming emperor died in China in 1398 AD. His son had died earlier, so his grandson was appointed emperor but was soon replaced by the Yongle Emperor (a nephew) in 1402.
- China’s economy had been based on paper money, which led to inflation and counterfeiting. Yongle changed tax policy to allow payment of taxes with silver.
- The Mongols were a threat in the north, so Yongle moved the capital from Nanjing (in the south) to Beijing (in the north) in 1421.
- Yongle did not see anything of interest in India or Africa, so he abandoned exploration of the Indian Ocean in the early 1600s and gave up control of the oceans.
- The Indian Ocean (between India, the Arab world, and Africa) had been open for peaceful trade for more than a thousand years. There were no military navy, armed convoys, or fortified trade cities.
- In 1453, the Islamic empire and the Ottoman captured Constantinople. West Europe was blocked from the wealth and products of China and India. Europeans had to find another way to East Asia.
- Europe in the 1400s was made up of 500+ principalities, duchies, bishoprics, kingdoms, and city-states which fought each other in endless wars. They developed castles, siege towers, suits of armor, crossbows, longbows, gunpowder, mortars, and cannons.
- Since the Muslims controlled the Mediterranean Sea, the Portuguese looked to reach China by sailing around Africa. Voyages by Henry the Navigator, Bartholomeu Dias, and Vasco da Gama discovered gold and slaves in Africa. Due to their experience in European wars, their ocean-sailing ships had cannons. In 1498, they finally sailed into the Indian Ocean, where they found unprotected cities and ships. Portuguese quickly captured Hormuz (Iran), Calicut (India), Malacca (Malaysia), and Goa (India). Portugal’s navy controlled the Indian Ocean for most of the 1600s, demanding taxes (protection racket), treaties, and goods.
Summary: Note the accident of history. The Ming grandson became emperor, but his nephew seized power. He was a strong leader with a successful military career, so he was able to make deep changes in China, including the withdrawal from the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, which made it possible for Portugal to invade and seize the Indian Ocean a hundred years later. Decisions made by the Ming emperor in the early 1400s set the path for the next 600 years of Europe's development.
Conquest of the New World
- Spain also wanted to reach China in the late 1400s, so Columbus set sail in 1492.
- Hernando de Cortez and 600 men destroyed the Aztec army of 250,000 in 1521. Francisco Pizarro and 177 men defeated the Inca army of 50,000 in 1532. They had steel swords, steel armor, horses, cannons, wagons on wheels, horses, and war dogs.
- How could such a small army defeat far larger armies? The answer is contingencies. The Aztec controlled 489 regional tribes by violence, terror, and human sacrifice. Many of these tribes joined Cortez to attack the Aztecs. His 600 soldiers gained 200,000 allied soldiers. In another contingency, the natives of the New World had been isolated from the Old World for 15,000 years. They had never been exposed to Old World diseases such as smallpox, chickenpox, the common flu, whooping cough, bubonic plague, cholera, measles, diphtheria, yellow fever, and malaria. Even the common flu, which is minor for us, killed New World natives in a single day. Villages and cities died in a day. The survivors were deeply demoralized. 80-90% of ~40-90 million natives died in a few decades, leaving the Americas empty for Europeans.
China, Spain, Silver, Slaves, and Global Trade
- In 1545, Spain found silver at Potosi (Peru), which produced eighty million pounds of silver (today, ~US$320B). They also found 360,000 pounds of gold (today ~US$8B). 60% of all silver in the world came from Potosi. Spain sent 75% of that silver to China to buy products.
- With so much silver and gold, Spain tried to seize all of Europe in war. These wars bankrupted Spain several times.
- Spain set up a port in Manila (Philippines) and thus set up the first global empire. Spanish galleons sailed from Spain to Mexico, took silver to Manila, and sailed back to Spain with Chinese goods, such as porcelain, silk, and spices.
- Spain's invasion of the New World introduced new food, such as corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, chili, tomatoes, and more. Better food meant more people. Global population doubled in the 1800s.
Disease and African Slaves
- When European diseases wiped out the natives of the Americas, there was no workforce for the plantations. The Portuguese had set up plantations on African islands, where they learned to buy and manage slaves.
- To solve the New World labor shortage, Europeans began importing African slaves. Over twelve million Africans were brought to the New World in the 1600s, which was more than the number of European immigrants (of the twelve million Africans, 400,000 slaves came to North America).
- The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) gave England the right to sell African slaves to Spanish colonies in return for silver, which they used to buy tea from China.
- The origin of slavery in the New World was the accident of European diseases.
The Atlantic Trade Triangle
- To increase the sale of finished products to the colonies, Britain forbade the establishment or development of industry or production in the colonies. Colonies would only produce raw materials, ship them to the mother country, and buy finished materials in return.
- The North American British colonies produced cotton, sugar, timber, cod, rum and sent these to England.
- The English wove cotton into textile and clothes, which were sent to Africa and exchanged for slaves. The slave colonies were not allowed to weave cotton, so the British also sold textiles and clothes for the slaves.
- British took slaves from Africa to the New World, where they produced more cotton, sugar, food, and timber, which was then sent to the UK. This cycle was repeated over and over.
Cotton and Textiles
- In the late 1600s, English clothing was made of wool and linen, which were rough. Calico cotton textile from India was softer, colorful, higher quality, and, most of all, cheap. Calico became very popular in England.
- In a conjuncture (a combination of factors), early 1700s England had a large number of craftsmen in weaving, a strong central government that could impose taxes, and the need to prevent money from leaving the country. This combination allowed the British government to protect its internal textile industry by imposing taxes (tariffs) on Indian textiles.
- In 1793 Eli Whitney in the US invented the cotton gin that used cheaper short-thread American cotton. Huge cotton plantations arose which had tens of thousands of slaves. Cotton was shipped to the UK, which could now compete against Indian cotton. In the early 1800s, English developed steam-powered cotton mills, so production increased from eleven million yards in 1820 to 730 million yards (66X) by 1840.
- The UK realized it didn’t need to protect its cotton industry anymore so it abandoned mercantilism, tariffs, and bans and began to push for free trade (which was now to its advantage).
Peace of Westphalia and the Rise of Nations
- In the 1500s, Europe was made up of 500+ principalities, duchies, bishoprics, kingdoms, and city-states constantly at war with each other. European wars often killed 30-50% of the population.
- In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia ended the war between the Spanish Empire against the rest of Europe. The treaty created a balance of power based on an idea of Europe as independant nations under international law. Nations had sovereignty, which meant each nation decided its religion (Catholic, Protestant, Calvinist) and its ruler (previously, the Catholic Church appointed the ruler). Each nation decided its internal affairs and other nations respected these choices and borders.
- To finance wars, European kings raised taxes (food, materials, money) from peasants, landowners, and merchants. Over time, these groups organized and pushed back against the kings. This led to parliaments and assemblies where they negotiated over taxes. Merchants also offered to lend money, which created banks and long-term loans. State bureaucracies were created to manage taxes, national budgets, bonds, and the national debt, which allowed European nations to wage war.
- In 1661, Jean-Baptist Colbert, Minister of Finance in France, developed the idea of mercantilism. European countries needed gold and silver to pay for wars. Colbert proposed a country should export (to earn gold and silver), but not import (to prevent loss of gold and silver). This could be done with duties (taxes, tariffs) on imports. Colonies could only trade with their mother country and be forbidden to trade with other countries. This started trade protectionism.
Summary: The concept of European nations is a social system to finance and wage war. A country first develops economic growth (agriculture, population, production, wealth, taxes, banks, bonds, loans, debt) to develop a military (military leadership, strategy, tactics, logistics, weapons, men). However, a strong country has only a short period of advantage. Its threat motivates other countries to build their economies and military, which starts a new round of loans and weapons. Too much spending on war reduces investment in the economic base, which reduces the ability to maintain the military. By 1930, only the US and the USSR had the infrastructure to build and manage global military force. Due to too much military spending in a weak economy, the USSR collapsed in 1990. The US is the only nation at the moment based on an infrastructure (production, military, and financing) for global power.
European Merchants and Global Trade
- For 1,500 years, India and China's internal markets had allowed merchants to produce and ship products, grain, and more to markets, often a thousand miles away, via nationwide network of roads, inland canals, and ocean shipping. Their financial systems included insurance, stock markets, futures, and shares. Most of the world’s largest cities were in Asia.
- European global conquest was started not by countries, but by its merchants. The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC, Holland), the East India Company (EIC, England), and the Compagnie Française des Indes Occidentales (France) raised money by selling stock, built ships, and sailed to the Far East. Based on their history and experience of war, these ships were armed for combat. They saw trade and war as the same thing.
- The Dutch VOC captured Java (1619), set up colonies in Taiwan (1624), and took Malacca from the Portuguese (1641).
- The English East India Company focused on trade and set up colonies in North America and Bengal. In the late 1700s, England won a series of wars around the world against the French (the first world war). India was in a period of decline which allowed 2,000 British soldiers to defeat the Indians at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Within fifty years, the UK controlled India.
- In 1700, China, India, and Europe each had ~23% of global GDP. India fell to 15% by 1820 and 10% by 1890. China reached 33% of the global GDP by 1820, just before the British showed up, and fell to 13% by 1890.
- The UK deliberately deindustrialized India throughout the 1800s. To prevent competition, they imposed treaties and laws at gunpoint to destroy internal markets and local production. India’s industries were shut down and people became farmers to raise cash crops (not food) for export, which turned India into rural society. India was forced to produce raw materials (cotton, rubber, etc.) for export to the mother country and import finished products (clothes, etc.). India had been one of the world’s largest economies and became one of the poorest.
- Over the course of the 1800s, the UK took ~$45T in value from India (about 15X the UK’s current GDP, per the London Review of Books, March 2022).
- As an accident of history, El Niño weather cycles created droughts in 1876, 1889, and 1896 in Asia, North Africa, and Brazil. The combination of deindustrialization and El Niño droughts created famines. 30-50 million died. The UK continued to export grain from India, even as ten million died of hunger.
Tea and Opium
- In another conjunction, the English became obsessed with tea in the late 1700s. The British spent up to 5% of their income on tea.
- In contrast, China had no need for British products. Whatever the British had, the Chinese could make it better and cheaper.
- In 1773, the UK set up an opium monopoly in Bengal and obligated farmers to grow opium. The British sent free pipes to China and offer opium at low prices to new users
- In 1834, the British now encouraged free trade, so they opened the opium market in China to merchants.
- China tried to stop this. In the First Opium War (1839-42), the East India Company secretly developed steam-powered light steel gunboats for the rivers of China. These gunboats were only 180 feet long, 30 feet wide, and could sail in five feet of water. British gunboats easily destroyed Chinese ships, bombarded cities, and blocked harbors and crucial waterways. China lost and paid a ~$21 million indemnity to the UK for the lost opium. The UK also got Hong Kong and the right to impose tariffs in China, and other port cities. In the Second Opium War (1858-60), the UK forced China to legalize opium. 10% of the population of China became addicted to opium. In 1880, the UK shipped 6,500 tons of opium to China (about ~$160B per year in today’s value). 66% of the UK's foreign trade was opium. The opium trade paid the UK’s annual budget. If there had not been opium, there would not have been a British Empire.
Impact of the West on China
- The West invaded China and introduced new weapons (armed ships, steel weapons), ideas (nations, international law), industrialization, opium, and Western culture. New food (corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.) led to population explosions. The new large cities had factories. Chinese migrated to large cities. Imperial China's authorities could not handle these new situations. Rebellions erupted everywhere, which created chaos and stress.
- By the late 1800s, Chinese intellectuals asked themselves, how could the English take over China? Some thought China's traditional imperial system was weak and should be restored. Foreigners should be expelled. Others thought China's imperial system was worthless. China should modernize with Western ideas (STEM, Marx, the concept of nations, etc.). The New Culture Movement (1916) began to build a new Chinese identity through modern ideas in philosophy, literature, poetry, and the arts.
- European imperialists set an open-door policy for China: Every European country should have equal access to loot China for trade.
- In 1911, the Chinese imperial court collapsed. It had a corrupt weak government and military. It was the end of the Qing Dynasty and the end of classical imperial China.
The 1830s: Industrialization and Empires
- Many history books set the start of Europe’s rise with industrialization in Manchester in the UK in the 1830s. However, we now see the previous two hundred years had created the conditions that allowed the rise of industrialization. If Islam had not blocked Europe from Asia in the 1400s, Portugal and Spain would not have tried to sail to India and China (they would have continued caravan trade on the Silk Road). Europe’s endless local wars developed the military skills that allowed Europeans to capture the Americas, Africa, and Asia. They used a slave workforce to extract raw materials (gold, silver, cotton, rubber etc.). The mother countries used these resources for production. They shipped finished products back to captive colonies. Without the system of mother countries and colonies, industrial production would have been worthless.
- The UK's strong central government was constantly at war. The UK built a global empire on naval control of the sea and the telegraph. They realized the value of industrialization enabled better warfare: steel rifles, cannons, and battleships. Industrialized warfare allowed 8,000 British with machine guns to fight 52,000 Sudanese. Twenty British died. Ten thousand Sudanese died.
- In contrast, China, India, and the countries of Southeast Asia were not based on invasions and perpetual war. Their empires had large, well-developed stable agrarian economies that had lasted millenia. They didn’t need the decisive military advantage of industrialization. The other countries of East Asia were the same: Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, etc. have co-existed for centuries.
- The European Enlightenment and scientific revolution had little practical effect. Early inventions were made by mechanics and tinkerers in small workshops without scientific training or methods. Science was mostly used by philosophers to argue against the Catholic Church.
- In a contingency, the UK developed industrialization and luckily, had large deposits of coal. If the UK had not had coal, industrialization would not have grown quickly.
- France, the US, Germany, Russia, and Japan continued their agrarian society into the 1850s. They only begin to industrialize in 1860-1870. Other countries (Holland, Spain, China) did not have coal deposits so they didn't industrialize.
- Industrialization created new problems, such as boom/bust economic cycles (laissez-faire economics led companies to overproduce, which led to a crash). Conflicts between factory owners and the workers (strikes and revolts). The creation of a new class of managers (the middle class between the owners and workers). Traditional villages disappeared. Large cities were created. Global migration of tens of millions fleeing farms and seeking factory jobs. 500 million Chinese moved from rural villages to large cities.
- The European mother countries grew and reached the limits of their raw resources. To grow further, they began to attack each other to seize each others' agriculture and resources. The industrial boom/bust cycle caused the 1930s Great Depression. The economic chaos allowed nationalist politicians (Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo Japan) to seize power. This led to the two World Wars in 1916-45. In the 1900s, 200 million died in wars, famines, civil wars, and proxy wars. European empires collapsed. Colonies became independent. The USSR and China had revolutions.
- After the world wars, the US and the USSR led decolonization. To manage the new world economy, the US created the World Bank, IMF, NATO, SEATO, and CENTO (for the Middle East, 1955-79).
- The US switched from wartime industrialization to consumer production: cars, houses, TV, refrigerators, washing machines, and more, which as made possible with home loans, consumer credit, and credit cards. By the 2000s, 70% of the US GDP was consumer goods.
- Industrialized capitalism continues to have problems. Starting in 1970, the US economy has crashed roughly every ten years (1980, 1992, 2000, 2008).
- In the 1990s, the US returned to 1800s imperialist colonialism. The US invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya to extract their natural resources (oil) and turn their populations into consumers for US production. The US hopes Russia will collapse so it too can become a market for US products. The US has kept Mexico, Central America, and South America in perpetual colonial conditions for resource extraction and a market for products.
The Center of the World: Rise of the East
- In the 21st century, the center of the global economy will shift from West Europe to East Asia quite simply because East Asia has nearly four billion people (China (1.4B), India (1.4B), Pakistan (221m), Japan (125m), Korea (75m), and Southeast Asia (660m ) (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). China’s Belt and Road Project will add Africa (1.2B) and the Middle East (400m).
- Asian ideas of international relations, culture, and development will replace Western ideas.
- South America must either industrialize or remain forever a source of food and raw materials for the US.
The Near Future
- In the 1990s, Francis Fukujama announced the end of history and the US won. Will the current Western neo-liberal system of nations, sovereignty, and international laws, led by the US, last forever?
- Plutocrats have power (but no theory of power). A global network of plutocrats and oligarchs use the state, laws, military, police, and surveillance to protect their interests and wealth. They use mass media to stupefy mass society. They install and support small fascist autocrats to block communist, socialist, or Islamic movements.
- There can be improvements in industrialization, such as AI, nanotechnology, IoT, and so on. But these are not fundamental changes that introduced major new factors, such as what happened with the Agricultural Revolution or the Industrial Revolution.
- There will be no more discoveries of new continents or natural resources. The planet and oceans has been mapped in detail.
Future Contingencies, Conjunctures, Accidents
Combinations of factors create new situations.
- Industrialization combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI) will result in more production, higher efficiency, lower production costs, and faster growth. China, Japan, and the US race to develop AI.
- Fusion will offer unlimited cheap safe energy. Fusion will replace current forms of energy production, including oil, gas, and coal.
- China’s Belt and Road Project will tie six billion people together in a single vast market.
- Colonization of the Solar System. Large space habitats with billions of people, mining of the asteroids, and unlimited solar energy. There may well be more people in space than on Earth by 2200.
Accidents of history are unpredictable and beyond human control.
- Global Warming: Nobody realized industrialization could cause global warming. Global warming must stop or there will be a severe impact on society. This will require countries to work together.
- Pandemic: A pandemic worse than COVID is possible (and likely).
- Solar cycles: The heat from the sun could cool down, causing global crop failure and famine.
- Asteroids: A city-sized asteroid could destroy a region or continent .
Summary of this Outline of Global History
My goal is a general outline of history to understand where we are today, how we got here, and could happen next. To write a general outline of history, many major issues have been simplified often into short sentences. This is a very short summary of very complex history.
As you can see, many ideas about history or "that's why the world is this way" are wrong. Modernization theory, the key idea of Western international development since the 1960s, is based on a misunderstanding of how industrialization happened in Europe. Essentialism is also not an explanation. European imperialism and racism is not in the nature of Europeans; they became that way due to a combination of events. The position of the West towards the rest of the world (and many ideas in the rest of the world towards the West) is based on not knowing their history. By understanding what really happened, we can move forward.
If you want to read more, see Origins of the Modern World by Robert Marks and Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not by Prassannan Parthasarthi. I also recommend Has China Won? by Kishore Mahbubani.
Read this carefully a few times. Think about the implications. Let me know what you think of this. Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org