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Thread: Why did the West conquer the East?

  1. #1 Why did the West conquer the East? 
    Forum Professor Pendragon's Avatar
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    Probably a very controversial issue :wink:

    Why were the states of the West able to dominate the rest of the world for centuries, with their guns and ships? What enabled them to jump ahead of the rest of the world in science, economy, power? Why didn't China or India or the Arab empires colonise Europe and North-America instead of being colonised themselves?


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    If you haven't already, you should read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. His idea - that history is shaped by geography - isn't new, but he makes a very sound, and readable, argument.

    I'd add more but I'm posting from work. :wink:


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    West was more pushy.
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    It was simply one factor, social organization which led to better technologies. Europe had the best guns, and no one else did.

    In the Americas, essentially Stone Age societies were confronted with early industrial age cultures, with gunpowder and about 7,000 years ahead of them technologically. So of course they were conquered. The Ottomans and Chinese could have done the same.

    Euros conquered all because they were good at warfare, having practiced those skills for centuries among themselves, perfecting the means of war and its technologies. When the industrial revolution gave the Euros the wealth and population, they could easily win wars with less technological societies.

    Japan learned this lesson very well from the US & Euros. By 1905, the Battle of Tsushima, in which the Japanese navy annihilated the Russian Pacific fleet showed that it was technological power and social organization which created that victory. In this case, East conquered the West. And the apparent exception to the rule, that West conquered East, was done by technology and social effects.

    Japan also went on to take much of China, largely in the same way. However, I simply report the fact, altho I do decry the methods, which were not always that much different than those used by the Euros against Asia and Africa.

    It was technology. And if a nation falls too far behind in their military powers, then they can count on being pushed around by those who do have the social organization which can support & create superior military technologies. One reason Iran, of course, is going for the Bomb.
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    Steve has described very good reasons.

    I would add to this the influences of culture, politics and especially religion. Western cultures, with Christianity and Islam, are expansionist and proselytizing. In contrast the religions of Asia are internalist and do not practice religious-motivated expansionism. The religious influence very strongly pervades the Western cultures, propelling them to war often, and to dominate "lesser" cultures because they could be converted, or becuase they are viewed as less "human".

    Next, a Western capitalist culture became very dominant and perfected with the renaissance, in Venice, Holland, England and eventually all of Europe. Success in capitalism, especially before and during early industrialization, required siezure of raw materials and the labor to generate these raw materials. Capitalist motivations drove conquering the Americas, parts of Africa, the slave trade, West Indies, spice isles, China and India.
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  7. #6 Who says the west will remain on top? 
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    That the West has controlled world affairs pretty solidly since the days of the Roman Empire is pretty well established. However, in very modern times, do we see a turning of the tables???

    We have a world-wide, Islamicly fueled insurgency that is eroding away at the power of the West. The US military is being frustrated and worn out by individuals who have adapted western weapons and now refuse to use them in a western manner. Russia's military has similar problems with bands of guerillas in Chechnya. On top of that, China, a country very proud in its Eastern heritage is making an incredible re-emergance onto the world stage. You also have India, another Eastern country, making vast improvements in its military and economy. Not to mention much of the West relies on the East to keep it supplied with all the goods and services it needs to continue its road to fat, dumb happiness.

    I am merely adding food for thought, but doesn't it look like the East has adapted Western ways for its own means, and is ready to directly challenge the Western world?


    P.S. Try Victor David Hanson's Carnage and Culture for an interesting debate on the West's dominance through infantry.
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    Very interesting contributions so far

    I think that, besides geography and raw military power, the 'idea of supremacy' plays a major role here. In history in general I'm more and more becoming convinced that very much depends on the workings of the human psyche.

    Applied to this question I'd suggest that the West conquered 'the East' because the West felt confident enough to undertake such an enormous task, and because they had given themselves arguments to do so. Maybe, as silylene suggested, religion first drove Europeans to expansionism. Later this was supplemented by the idea of 'the white man's burden', the idea that Europeans for some reason should go out and 'civilize' the world.

    So Europeans had the military means for expansion, and arguments to do so. In contrast, China at some point also had the means to expand way beyond it's borders (gunpowder, seaworthy ships, manpower), but as they didn't have any arguments to do so (as far as I know) they didn't use those means.

    About US dominance during the 20th century, Donald White also argues that it's mainly the confidence and feeling of supremacy which made Americans strive for being a superpower.
    Before WW2 the US wasn't really recognised as a superpower, while around 1945 their status had become undisputable. What had changed? It's unlikely that the industrial and military potential of the US really changed so radically in less then a decade. But the mindset of the American people changed: from isolationalist to confident expansionist, assigning to themselves the burden of developping and defending democracy anywhere on earth. And, continuing the argument of Leftie, it seems US superpower can also wither away very quickly once the US people stops believing in it's 'success story' and it's self-assigned role in world politics.
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  9. #8 Re: Who says the west will remain on top? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leftie
    That the West has controlled world affairs pretty solidly since the days of the Roman Empire is pretty well established.
    Are you excepting the several hundred years that the Arabs/Turks held hegemony, and the several hundred years that the Mongols controlled "most" of the world?
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    Another possible factor could be competition between states. I'm thinking as I type, so the argument may be a bit messy :wink:

    Perhaps because of it's geography (some big islands and peninsula's, mountain ridges etc) Europe has been divided in competing states throughout history. Most of the time those states were approximately equal in size and strength, so no state could easily dominate all others. This competition between states could have led to more investments in technology, weaponry, industrial capacity etc. At the same time this competition allowed states to adopt different political and economical models (absolutism vs constitutionary monarchy, loose federations vs unitary states, laissez-faire capitalism vs state-led development etc), with the best models surviving in an evolutionary survival of the fittest.

    All this contrasts with for example China, which has to a higher degree been dominated by one government for much of history. This reduced the incentives to invest in technology, weaponry etc, and at the same time didn't allow much experimentation with different political and economical models. At the same time the relative unity of China allowed governments to effectively oppress any initiatives of exploration and expansionism (which they did: at some point exploration was illegal by law in China, with the death penalty for those who tried anyway). In a continent divided by several competing states, there could always be one or two states who approved expansionism while the others try to oppress it.

    But I guess this argument is wide open to critisism, as I can only apply it to the comparison of Europe vs China so far
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  11. #10 NOMADS, CIVILIZATION & WAR 
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    Please proceed to the following post.
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  12. #11 Why did the West conquer the East? 
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    Herme's reminder of what Leftie wrote is of primary import on the riveting issue at hand:

    Leftie wrote:
    That the West has controlled world affairs pretty solidly since the days of the Roman Empire is pretty well established.

    (Rascal: this is true, but not entirely relevant to the thread's question <'Why did the West conquer the East? Rome conquered and controlled what is now called 'Europe', Aka, Western Civilization', 'the West'>)

    Leftie's astute closure added:
    Are you excepting the several hundred years that the Arabs/Turks held hegemony, and the several hundred years that the Mongols controlled "most" of the world?

    (I <Rascal> would add that the 'horsepeople culture', including Attila the Hun sporadically dominated the world <proceeding to the Gates of Rome>, beginning as far back as 2500 B.C. With the advent of Chariot Empires and coordinated horse cavalry.)
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    The third generation of Genghis Khan, under Kublai Khan, traveled within 30 miles of Venice; conquered, East Germany, Poland, Hungary and the Slav seaboard states in 2 and one half years, between 1238 AD and 1241 AD. Made Saari - Western Russia - one of their alternate capitals, and remained in power - on the Chinese Dragonthrone - as the Yuan Dynasty, from about 1260 to 1360 AD, when Europeans began to employ Chinese gunpowder to arm Western infantry soldiers with pyrotechnically (explosive black powder) activated, tubular projectile throwers (the 3rd of 4 revolutions in warfare); effecting more swift and flatly trajectoried, longer distanced missiles; eclipsing the former dominance of the nomadic bow and arrow and it's cavalry soldiers.

    This was the general turning point - about 1400 AD from the Western defensive posture toward the East, transforming to a generally expansionist posturing toward the East.

    With the cited exception, the West certainly has planted many of its colors in formerly Eastern dominated territories ('The sun never sets on the Birtish Empire' - never entirely true, and less true now, of course), though that does not include China, Mongolia or the Ottoman Empire (for any extended period of time).

    The title and theme of this thread is very well chosen and as a student of this question - and its contingencies - I am learning much from contributors herein.

    All kudo's to Pendragon's inspiration as the author of this productively outstanding thread.

    In the following post entitled Nomads, Civilization & War, there is no Guest Commentary or accomodation for dialogue there that I know of; that is to say, anyone who may wish to make reference to it - http://forums.delphiforums.com/subedai - is opportuned to do so in the ongoing dialogue of this thread.


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  13. #12  
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    I'm gonna read that text, give me a day or two :wink:
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  14. #13 Why Did The West Conquer The East? 
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    NOMADS, CIVILIZATION & WAR
    An Abbreviated HISTORY OF THE EUROASIAN HORSEPEOPLE

    The Hinges Of History
    The Grass Routes Of World Civilization
    EuroAmerica’s Undone Homework & How It Is Done
    The Full Circle Of Consequential Warfare
    (Condensed from 415 pages)


    by K. B. Robertson, Copyright © 1994, ‘95 & 2001
    (Note: The word ‘civilization’ has two correct spellings: with a ‘z’; or an ‘s’, i.e. ‘civilisation’.)
    Formerly titled: THE ORIGINAL HOLOCAUST:
    A Generally Unrecognized Real History Of Western Civilization And The United States

    FOREWORD
    What is there in common with The Domino Theory, Genghis Khan, ‘The Original Holocaust’, The International Slave Market, The Age Of Exploration, The New England Colonization, Global Circumnavigation, The Domino Theory: Backwards, and The Vietnam War?
    QUESTION: What do these considerations have in common?
    ANSWER: More than you may realize. Much more indeed.


    http://forums.delphiforums.com/subedai
    The above location has no accomodations for Guest Commentary, corrections or contributions, therefore any such dialogue may be carried on in this thread.
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