Empire in Asia

A New Global History

The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715

Book Cover

Book Title

The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715: Trade and Exploration in the Age of Renaissance. New York , Harper & Row, 1966. Third ed., rev.

Author

Parry, J.H.

Synopsis

"The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715" lays out the developments that were occurring in the European states, which made them persist in participating in the ensuing trade and expeditions planned to broaden their knowledge of the wider world beyond the European continent. The book asks the following questions: What were the motives which impelled European nations, from the fifteenth century onward, to embark on a career of overseas expansion? What were the social and technical abilities which gave that expansion such startling success?

J.H. Parry conveys this pre-colonial history in an easy-to-read style, which would serve as a potentially interesting read. However, a word of caution to readers would be the insufficient details that could be found in this book. In this way, the book should serve readers the purpose of gleaning a broader overview of the period, and may provide a brief introductory text to the topic.

Scope (Topics Covered, Time Period)

The focus is largely on the gradual establishment of old colonialism and the age of discovery. The scope includes the different motives for Europeans to explore beyond the known geographical boundaries at that time, such as "Christians and Spices", "The New World" and "The Silver Empire", "The Struggle for Eastern Trade" and the gradual development of the "Trade and Dominion in the East". In this sense, the book offers a brief overview of the reasons for European arrival in Asia.

Argument (Methodology, Significance)

Trade forms the basis of the argument. The 'expansion of Europe' was deemed to be unplanned but while it is not willingly accepted by non-Europeans, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it proved such an irresistible idea such that Western nations were dedicating most of their energy in quarrelling over the potential fruits of labor.
The introduction is titled "The Bounds of Christendom, 1415" Parry argues that in many ways, the fifteenth century was for Western Europe a period of contraction, not of expansion. Arguably, when the Chinese Empire was by far the most powerful and most civilized State in the world, it had been governed by a Tartar dynasty whose dominions not only China proper, but Mongolis, Turkestan and part of Russia. Yet in the fourteenth century, when the rule of the Tartar Khans had been overthrown by the Mings, Christians could no longer be tolerated within the Chinese empire. Buddhism and Islam also divided Central Asia, excluding Christianity. Parry thus asserts that military and religious rivalry between Christendom and Islam had been a constant feature of European politics throughout the Middle Ages.

Despite the failures and defeats and the final collapse of the crusading movement in the Near East, the idea of a Crusade were sustained in European countries which were in contact with Muslims. In those countries, crusading was in the blood of most men; whether it was those of gentle birth and adventurous impulses. If the strength of the European crusaders was inadequate, then alliances might be sought with other Christian princes, who were perhaps somewhere in East Africa or Asia. Acquiring Ceuta was seen as an important milestone because of the decision not to raze it to the ground; instead a Portuguese garrison was set up. A European state was undertaking, as a State, the defense and administration of an overseas possession in Muslim territory. It was seen as strategic for crusading purposes. However, the crusading movement passed from its medieval to its modern phase: from a war against Islam in the Mediterranean basin to a general struggle to carry the Christian faith and European commerce and arms around the world.


Annotated by Michelle Djong