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Europe, Europeans and the World

The construction of European identity as it relates to the world: its relations, exchanges, and "return effects".

This article is currently being written, for more articles on the same subject, please check the "To go further" section.

This article is currently being written. Check the "To go further" section for more articles on this subject.

This article is currently being written. Check the "To go further" section for more articles on this subject.

Overview of the slave trade out of Africa
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The Atlantic slave trade from Africa to the New World might well have been the largest maritime migration in history. The reason for this maritime movement was to obtain labour as the indigenous population of the New World had declined rapidly because of its lack of immunity against imported pathogens. In total about 12 million Africans were forcibly embarked and because of the high mortality aboard, about 10 million slaves were disembarked in: Brazil (45%), the British, French, Dutch, and Danish Caribbean (37%), Spanish America (11 %) and North America (4%). In spite of the growing volume of the trade and the increasing demand for slaves, the Atlantic slave trade was abolished during the first decades of the 19th century due to humanitarian pressures.

James Gillray, The Reception of the Diplomatique and his Suite, at the Court of Pekin, September 14, 1792. The ambassador of Great Britain, George Macartney, refused to bow before the Emperor Qianlong.

Beginning in the late fifteenth century, the gradual opening up of Europeans to the world prompted them to examine what form their cohabitation in distant overseas spaces would take. Subsequently, the process of colonization forced Europeans to gradually extend to the entire world the principles and practices of an international law originally forged for countries of the old continent. The development of a legal framework on the world level consequently accompanied European expansion, over both land and sea, first in America and later in Asia and Africa. The concept of limited sovereignty in particular made it possible to introduce a hierarchy between states and to legitimize colonial conquests, while imposing a uniformization of norms and practices. From the late nineteenth century onwards, however, globalization and the increasing complication of the international system called the Westphalian model into question, in order to propose other legal traditions that favoured the emergence of a “mestizo” international law.

François-Auguste Biard (1799–1882), Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies, 27 April 1848. Oil on canvas, 1849. Château de Versailles.
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The slave economy shifted at the end of the Middle Ages from the Mediterranean toward the Atlantic. Sugar plantations first appeared on the islands off the coast of Africa, and then on the islands of the Caribbean (where they would reach their peak during the eighteenth century, notably in Santo Domingo), as well as in Brazil. Other slave economies developed at the same time in the Americas, in accordance with successive cycles (coffee in Brazil, cotton in the United States, etc.). The plantation gave rise to an unequal and compartmentalized society, in which hierarchies linked to the race barrier did not prevent a certain malleability. The slave economy was a striking mix of early modern and archaic characteristics.

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This article is currently being written, for more articles on the same subject, please check the "To go further" section.

Author-s: 

This article is currently being written, for more articles on the same subject, please check the "To go further" section.

Hamburg: New tall ship port at the Asia quay around 1890-1900 (anonymous photochrom ©Library of Congress, Washington).
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Ports became one of the tools of the expansion of European influence with the great discoveries of the 15th century, the prelude to what some historians have described as the first age of globalisation. This explains why the ports of the Atlantic coast benefited from their advantageous location, promoted by states which, from Spain to the Dutch Republic, asserted their global maritime ambitions. The control of the sea lanes linking metropoles with their colonial empires also explains the creation of powerful arsenal ports and overseas naval bases. Over the centuries, the influence of commercial ports followed the evolution of the economic and political power relations of Atlantic Europe. In the 19th century, the English ports, starting with London and Liverpool, emerged as the most powerful in Europe. However, from the 1860s onwards, at the heart of the process of globalisation resulting from the industrial revolution, the most powerful port range in the world developed between Le Havre and Hamburg.

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