World History from 1300 to the Present: Part 1 – Foundations of Globalism

By 1300, two potentially hostile ideologies (Islam and the Catholic/Byzantine Church) were spoiling for for zakat/tithe paying converts.  By then, the Holy Roman Empire (or “Second Reich”) had been contrived as a joint Church and State venture  to counter Islam’s alarming stomp over the foot prints of the (former) Persian and Roman Empires.  And, everywhere, hostilities were tending to be more expansive and more prolonged. For example, Ghengis Khan took his wild horde ride from the Steppes deep into Eastern Europe. And, as for duration, in retrospect, the crusades seem to be endless.

At this time patterns of thinking and settlement were changing  forever:  several universities 1. were founded as cities repopulated and new trade centers began to sprout along high traffic inland routes.
Clearly, medieval populations were in communication across the vast lands of Afro-Eurasia before the plagues.  Invasions and trade would start to purvey more culture; especially “Book” based religions. And, as a consequence, fleeing survivors (of both disease and war) opened new frontiers, putting more virgin land under cultivation. There came a time when both surpluses and hostilities were accumulating and that condition made war “necessary” and possible.
The big change was that an abundance of agricultural and mineral wealth was being generated. Soon strategies needed to be devised to retain treasures since there were no banks, yet. In the east, wealth rested within the bosoms of extended kin 2., in the west, in it was held by guilds and both sides funded their military/religious societies.  This was, also, the first time that rich subjects could gain control of power structures and that individual wealth was sufficient to be pooled and leveraged. King John’s unlikely 13th century proclamation that property rights existed was probably exacted by a (more) powerful group of interested citizens. For their part, Eastern rulers did not grant such rights; instead they bestowed beneficial entitlements in order to tie the knots that bound.

It began to matter how new wealth was gleaned -whether by collecting taxes or from importer’s profits –administrative and merchandising activities were far more lucrative than farming ever was. The flow of orders from the primordial nouveau riche forced traders to fan further down the well-worn branches of “Silk” routes in search of preciosities and quicker deliveries. By the 1400’s traders were about providing Chinese weaponry. This major breakthrough allowed in-place families and extant confederations to add overwhelming might to their granted rights or privileges. The potential for globalism really arrived when non-ballistic defenses were rendered useless by gunpowder.
Some of the permanent institutions of modernity were developed because of the wars and some because of demand.  For example, Crusaders had been provided with food and shelter by the Cistercian Monks and Knights Templar 3. since the early 1100’s. Thrree centruies later, there was a network of hostiles stepping south from Scotland to the Holy Land. In many ways it was the “hospitality industry” that spawned credit and banking. There were  evolving civic affiliations like the Hanseatic League that ran goods from Estonia to Turkey. Their standardized currencies, weights and measurements of land and sea distances were widely used until the rise of the Medici banking.
Standards improved map making and long-distance sea travel got more feasible. Even machinery was getting more sophisticated — cog movement clocks began to appear (in Churches) in the mid 1200’s. (The printing press and, later, the equipment of the industrial revolution all issued from such innovation.)

It was a period when Everyman’s conception of time and distance changed.  Everything from minutes to fathoms could be exactly measured.   And, once churches stuck the hour, the work ethic had to be coming.  The armatures of globalism were fast replacing more provincial structures — even before the New World was discovered.


  2. “Arabic silver dirham coins were being circulated throughout the Afro-Eurasian landmass, as far as sub-Saharan Africa in the south and northern Europe in the north, often in exchange for goods and slaves.” Roman K. Kovalev, Alexis C. Kaelin (2007), “Circulation of Arab Silver in Medieval Afro-Eurasia: Preliminary Observations”, History Compass 5 (2), pp. 560–80.
  3. By 1150, the Order’s original mission of guarding pilgrims had changed into a mission of guarding their valuables through an innovative way of issuing letters of credit, an early precursor of modern banking. Pilgrims would visit a Templar house in their home country, depositing their deeds and valuables. The Templars would then give them a letter which would describe their holdings. …While traveling, the pilgrims could present the letter to other Templars along the way, to “withdraw” funds from their account. This kept the pilgrims safe since they were not carrying valuables, and further increased the power of the Templars.

Author: diane e. dreyfus

on the road until they put the lid down

3 thoughts on “World History from 1300 to the Present: Part 1 – Foundations of Globalism”

  1. What a fun clear connective piece. I’ve been thinking about you and history for a week – trying to remember name of Hunter history prof. extraordinary: Dorothy H(iatt)?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s