For Teachers: Lessons

Rethinking the rise of the West: Global Commodities

Konstantin Georgidis, Canterbury School, Ft. Myers, Florida



The period 1500-1800 is frequently represented as an era of increasing European global domination. Attention to the conquest of the Americas, the Enlightenment, the Atlantic slave trade, and expansion into Asia and Africa typically reinforce this interpretation. However, recent analyses of this period do not place Europeans at the center of world affairs: they emphasize the importance of large, centralized states in China, West Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and India. Historians now claim that Europeans served not as dominators, but as intermediaries for commercial goods — including silver, slaves, and manufactured goods — between these various regions. Indeed, they argue that Europeans did not dominate global trade and politics until about 1800.