In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, European mastery of certain technological innovation (compass, astrolabe, ship-building) allowed Europeans to sail the open oceans, without having to follow coastlines. It was not long before Europeans had ventured far, far abroad. European contact with non-European societies took many different forms. In Central and South America, the European presence meant the extermination of native societies; while in China, Europeans traded with a much more advanced society. True, it was not long before Europeans were able to dominate much of the world, largely with the help of gunpowder. The European age of exploration and expansion also fueled the dynamic economy of Europe and promoted the evolution of capitalism.
Suddenly, in the fifteenth century, Europe
was confronted by the stark fact that it was not the only civilization
in the world. In fact, some societies, such as in China, had reached intellectual
and economic heights that were unimaginable to the Europeans. For the first
time the western church also had to acknowledge the existence of other
religions. However, the adjustment required by Europe and the church did
not come easily, and in many cases a very crude chauvinistic attitude developed.
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