6.1 European Colonization in the Americas
European settlers in North America were a diverse group with a wide array of motives. Many Spaniards came as part of a broader search for “God, Gold, and Glory.” French settlers also hoped to find wealth, although they were more likely than other Europeans to cooperate with rather than exploit Indigenous peoples, whom they saw as economic allies. The Virginia Company of England founded Jamestown in an effort to gain wealth, while English Puritans founded communities they hoped would earn profits while also promoting their religious ideology. Native peoples responded to European colonization in a variety of ways. In Mexico, the Aztecs fought the Spanish and were destroyed, while the Tlaxcalans, who collaborated with the Spanish against the Aztecs, enjoyed greater status and economic opportunities in the Spanish Empire as a result.
6.2 The Rise of a Global Economy
The Seven Years’ War (1754–1763) established a new balance of power in Europe in which Britain emerged as the dominant empire. The French surrendered their imperial possessions in North America and India to Britain, while the Spanish surrendered Florida and the French gave control of the Louisiana Territory to Spain. The Peace of Hubertusburg guaranteed Prussian control of Silesia and confirmed Prussia’s status as a major force in Europe.
The British East India Company provided the British with a strong basis of military and economic power in south Asia; it and Britain both benefited economically from their colonial control of India. In China, the Qing dynasty’s leaders completed new trade treaties with foreign nations, including the Treaty of Kyakhta (1727) with Russia, and improved trading relationships with Japan, the nations of Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. Under the Canton system, China increased its trade with Europe and improved its economy, while rejecting most European trade goods and insisting on payment in silver, acquiring a very favorable balance of trade.
European colonialism did not go unopposed. In Africa, the Ndongo battled the Portuguese, the Khoisan and Xhosa fought the Dutch, and the Asante opposed British expansion. In both India and China, people took up arms against Britain. Ironically, some of the strongest opposition to the role of Great Britain came from its own colonies in North America, where economic dissatisfaction led to a declaration of independence.
6.3 Capitalism and the First Industrial Revolution
Mechanization and industrialization, motivated and enabled by capitalism, created tremendous wealth for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century business owners and middle-class professionals, but their profits often came at a high cost to workers. The production of goods shifted from the handiwork of highly skilled middle-class artisans to mechanized production done by low-paid unskilled laborers. Workers did enjoy access to new consumer goods made cheaper by industrialization, but to afford those goods they had to work long hours, in difficult and often dangerous conditions. Perhaps most importantly, workers lost control over their working conditions.
Karl Marx and his followers responded to the worst excesses of capitalism by proposing a new theory that became known as Marxism. Marx argued that the bourgeoisie, members of a social class that owned the means of production, were primarily motivated by the desire to exploit labor and keep the excess value wage earners produced in order to buy political influence. Eventually the capitalist system would collapse and workers reclaim control of society. Marx argued that the struggle between classes was the root of all historical conflicts. He predicted that society would eventually replace current economic systems with socialism, a system in which the public, not private companies or individuals, owns the means of production.