short paper

 

As
history progressed from a hunter-gatherer era into an agrarian era,
communication between societies became more complex and diverse. Prior to the
middle of the fifteenth century, this communication was separated until the
growth of maritime opportunities. Additionally, hierarchies took a more central
role in society. While nomadic peoples still existed, more stable agrarian
societies grew. Trade of people, things, and ideas were expanding. In Stephen
Morillo’s Frameworks of World History,
the study of these encounters are termed networks, and the frame of the world
parts of a house. The networks represent the intricate parts of the house that
establish the house as sustainable by incorporating a useable system (i.e.
electricity and water). During the Late Agrarian Era (more commonly termed the
Early Modern era), the emergence of a truly global network in the
fourteenth-sixteenth centuries fueled the political-military expansion of
empires. Morillo points out that the “…continued growth of maritime networks
creates the beginning of the first truly global network.”[1] Examples of these networks
can be seen through the undertaking of multiple societies and cultures. The
expansion of seafaring exploits led to discovery of new places, such as Columbus
and Cortés in their travel to the New World. Additionally, the growth and power
in Asia of some nations, such as Portugal, led to many conquests and increase
in power as well as eventual defeat and loss of power. And other missions
displayed the importance of not only primary centers of a country, but also
secondary cities, exemplified by Suakin, Sudan. 

When
Columbus entered the Americas, the effects reached far beyond the physical ones,
causing disease to extinguish a large part of the indigenous population. “The
impact was also and at least as importantly cultural, and it operated in both
directions.”[2]
While economic possibilities were considered when pursuing the conquest of the
islands in the Americas, pursuits extended beyond economic potential. “The
first fifty years of Spanish conquests in the Americas had produced meagre
benefits, insufficient even to cover the military costs.”[3] If economic gains were meagre,
then what could be the additional reason for further pursuance? The fourteenth
through sixteenth centuries were a time where conquests moved beyond economy
and military might. Religion and culture rose to equal importance.[4] Indigenous peoples welcomed
the visitors, not anticipating the resulting outcome. Cultural frame played an
important role for Columbus and those in Europe who invested into his travel. Either
the indigenous peoples were innocent and their lands a Paradise or the peoples
were barbaric and the lands a wilderness.[5] This new network
discovered by Columbus led to more resources for European countries, which led
to additional land and power. As Morillo points out, the “…positive and
negative images of native peoples said more about European attempts to make the
New World meaningful for themselves than they did about the realities of native
American societies.”[6] In Indigenous Assistance in the Establishment of Portuguese Power in Asia
in the Sixteenth Century, G.V. Scammell points out that Spain used similar
tactics that Portugal had used in Asia. After the conquest of the Americas by
Spain, indigenous peoples were persuaded to assimilate to more European
behaviors and beliefs.

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Cortés,
another adventurer from Spain, took advantage of a situation in Mexico, which
was important in conquests at that time, and proved beneficial for both Cortés
and the indigenous people of Tlaxcala. 
The “use of cochineal for dying was restricted to ceremonial robes among
the elites of the Aztec Empire.”[7] Cortés allied himself with
the peoples of Tlaxcala, who were at odds with the Aztec Empire. “Then the
Tlaxcallans, allying themselves with Hernán Cortés and his band of adventurers,
overthrew the Aztecs in 1519; this victory brought them not independence but a
privileged position in the new Spanish Empire in Mexico.”[8] This arrangement worked
well for both the Tlaxcallans and Cortés, which in turn benefitted Spain in the
form of tribute. Obtaining assistance from those who know the land and those
who live there gave an incredible advantage to Cortés, whose numbers were small
in comparison to those he wished to conquer.

As
noted earlier, Portugal had been employing this tactic in Asia. Maritime
improvements had led to a greater presence by Portugal in Asia, and allowed for
societies to establish rules on who could navigate within certain waters.
Scammell notes that freedom “…to navigate the Indian Ocean, maintained João de
Barros, the chronicler of Portuguese triumphs, was properly denied by his
compatriots to those ignorant of Christianity and Roman Law.”[9] A determination to prevail
is seen by Portugal as its maritime strength was a fraction of that in Asia. The
importance of Henry the Navigator’s exploits was his preparation (utilizing
cartography provided by Italy), his maritime organization, and his success in
Asia. Portugal was “…small, poor, and isolated on the southwestern-most corner
of the Iberian Peninsula…”[10] Economically, Henry
“returned an almost immediate profit on the investment in terms of gold and
slaves…”[11]
Portugal did utilize the assistance of indigenous peoples. One example is that
of Alfonso de Albuquerque, who captured “Goa, the future capital of the Estado
de India-who there pressed into service all from local dancing girls and
musicians to war elephants and mercenaries.”[12] The aim of Portugal’s
conquests was not solely economic. In the sixteenth century, Portugal engaged
in its first international conquest in Morocco. Its aim was “…to establish an
overseas presence in order to further trade, proselytize for the Catholic
faith, and promote exploration. A similar grand strategy influenced all
Portuguese maritime expeditions.”[13] After this conquest, the
exploration of African islands led to colonization. Morocco was not an economic
gain for Portugal, but served as an important “link in the chain connecting
Portugal to its Eastern Empire.”[14] Portugal did not invest
significantly in Morocco which led to more defeat in that area. However, they
did have success in India, and “defeated Ottoman squadrons at Diu in 1538 and
at Ormuz in 1507 and 1554.”[15] The imbalance of
investments in Morocco and India could be seen in the results of conflict.
Portugal was successful far away, but not successful in areas closer to home.

The
secondary cities around the coast of Africa were home to multiple outposts.
Portugal had influence in the Azores Islands, the Canaries, Madeira, the Cape
Verde Islands, the mouth of the Senegal River, and they[16] “sent back the first
shipments of gold and slaves to Portugal” These outposts were significant in
their ability to provide resources for Portugal between the country and its
outlying territories in India. Unfortunately, these areas were not
significantly maintained by Portugal. Sebastian I was killed when he returned
to the region of Tangier 1578, which led to the acquisition of Portugal by
Philip II of Spain.

Secondary
cities were important acquisitions for conquest by a country and reinforced the
strength of the primary center in which they represented. Secondary cities were
“…the webs of commercial ties that linked small cities to other small cities,
to larger cities, and to the great world cities that formed the centers of
gravity of regional and eventually global trade systems.”[17] One example of a
secondary city is Suakin, in Sudan. While some secondary cities were ruled, or
at least influenced, by their primary centers, Suakin is an example of a
secondary city that was independent of its primary center. Geographically, it
was an island, which may have been part of the reason why it could maintain its
independence. It is important to note that Suakin’s role was primarily
economic, with commitment “…to the practice of commercial capitalism…”[18] Evidence of its independence
was its mainland neighbors, Ethiopia and Sinnar. They “were autarchic agrarian
economies in which trade of any sort played a subordinate role.”[19] The location of Suakin to
its primary center was of importance politically as well. “Favorable geographic
locations for major trade routes were likely to have corresponding strategic
advantages from political-administrative and military perspectives. While the
city itself relied on economics, overall, the network went beyond trade,
viewing these cities as extensions of power and political advantage. Suakin was
unique as its hierarchal structure was patriarchal rather than a complex
political hierarchy. Although it was independently ruled, it did maintain a
certain level of assimilation due to immigration. Diplomacy was a much larger
factor in how these societies worked with one another. “These imperial
connections also made possible new forms of travel such as diplomacy and
pilgrimage, in which city-states such as Suakin were destined to figure
prominently.”[20]
The ability for Suakin to act independently and diplomatically with others as
its own entity separate from its primary center is key in Suakin’s importance
in global communication.

Regarding
its role with Egypt, the city of Aydh?b was defeated by Suakin in 1426. Suakin
struck a fatal blow on the city.

The lord of
Suakin, aided by Turks armed with firearms and bows, inflicted on them [the
people of ‘Aydh?b] a heavy defeat, so that in one encounter over 4,000 were
killed out of these rascals who go naked. One thousand were taken back to
Suakin and slaughtered there by [Suakinese] women and children.[21]

Although Suakin
was an island, separated by culture and water from its primary center in Egypt,
it was a force to be reckoned with militarily. Later, in the sixteenth century,
political currents “…were destined to strip the Hadaraba of their modestly
imperial ambitions and reduce Suakin to the status of a tributary city-state
again.”[22] When the Ottomon Empire
overtook the area, it included Suakin. The role of a secondary city in the
overall hierarchy of a society was a of source of contention. Morillo points
out that there was pressure “due to their prosperity and the demands placed on
them by their intensive localized role in a hierarchy. Put another way, this
was a tension between economic and political roles…between egalitarian
participation in a hierarchy.”[23] In this way, secondary
cities were vital to the success of the primary center, if properly aligned
with their primary cities.

            As shown above, networks grew, which
led to the complex changes within hierarchies. Maritime improvements were crucial
in these developments. Seafaring adventures called Columbus to find a route to
India. Instead, he found a New World in which many resources, including gold
and slavery, were exploited. Economy did not play a major role, as it
bankrupted Spain. The acquisition of land and the assimilation of indigenous
peoples to the approved religion proved to be equally important. Cortés
utilized diplomacy and the strengths of indigenous peoples and their disputes
with others within the hierarchy, used commonly in Portugal’s pursuits in Asia,
to gain power in Mexico. This arrangement not only benefitted the primary power
center, it also included benefits for those being exploited. In Portugal, its
inferior size, location, and economy did not keep those determined to gain more
from increasing its maritime presence. Portugal had success on the coast of
Africa, which was significant in its dealings with India. The use of the
African coast was to spread the Catholic faith as much as it was to
economically sustain its missions to the East. As the coast of Africa exemplifies,
as well as the island city of Suakin, secondary cities proved important to the
primary centers that they represented and supported. Without these extended
networks, the military-political expansion of empires would not have been
possible. If Columbus had not attempted to find a different route to India, the
resources and land acquisition of the New World would not have occurred to further
Spain’s agenda. Without the exploitation of indigenous peoples by Cortés, the profiteering
of Mexico may not have benefitted Spain, as the use of the African coast cities
to Portugal. Suakin assisted the primary centers in Egypt, yet kept its
autonomy, while still representing the culture of its primary center.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Hall,
Kenneth R. Secondary cities and urban networking in the
Indian Ocean Realm, c. 1400-1800. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008.

 

Scammell, G.
V. “Indigenous Assistance in the Establishment of Portuguese Power in Asia
in the Sixteenth Century.” Modern
Asian Studies14, no. 01 (1980):
1. doi:10.1017/s0026749x00012130.

 

Kelly
DeVries. “Warfare and the International State System.” In: European Warfare,
1350-1750. Ed. Frank Tallett and D.J.B. Trim (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2010).

 

Stephen
Morillo, Frameworks of World History: Networks, Hierarchies, Culture, Volume
I and II (Oxford UP, 2013).

 

 

[1]
Stephen Morillo. Frameworks of World
History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 421.

[2]
Ibid., 531.

[3]
Kelly DeVries. “Warfare and the International State System.” In: European Warfare, 1350-1750. Ed. Frank
Tallett and D.J.B. Trim (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

[4]
Ibid.

[5]
Stephen Morillo. Frameworks of World
History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 532.

[6]
Ibid., 532.

[7]
Ibid., 455.

[8]
Ibid., 455.

[9]
G.V. Scammell. “Indigenous Assistance in the Establishment of Portuguese Power
in Asia in the Sixteenth Century.” Modern
Asian Studies 14, no. 01 (1980): 1. Doi:10.1017/s0026749x00012130, 1

[10]
Stephen Morillo. Frameworks of World
History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 444.

[11]
Ibid., 444.

[12]
G.V. Scammell. “Indigenous Assistance in the Establishment of Portuguese Power
in Asia in the Sixteenth Century.” Modern
Asian Studies 14, no. 01 (1980): 1. Doi:10.1017/s0026749x00012130, 2.

[13]
Kelly DeVries. “Warfare and the International State System.” In: European Warfare, 1350-1750. Ed. Frank
Tallett and D.J.B. Trim (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

[14]
Ibid.,

[15]
Ibid.,

[16]
Ibid.,

[17]
Kenneth R. Hall, ed. Secondary Cities and
Urban Networking in the Indian Ocean Realm, c. 1400-1800. Rowman and
Littlefield, 2008.

[18]
Ibid.,

[19]
Ibid.,

[20]
Ibid.,

[21]
Ibid.,

[22]
Ibid.,

[23] Stephen
Morillo. Frameworks of World History.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 253.

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