Impact of Middle Age Civilizations and Columbian Exchange on Modern World

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Looking back on world’s history, the 1500s were a major turning point. Civilizations in this century played a huge role in shaping the world to be what it is right now. Cultures of the Ming Empire, Ottomans and Europeans led to ascend of the predominant world cultures preceding to 1500. Even though their accomplishments weren’t permanent, it still made a huge impact. The “European Miracle” was one of Europe’s greatest peaks in its history.

In premodern times, no other civilization was more advanced than that of China. China had a substantial population, 100-130 million, which became an advantage since more people could join the army and work the fertile soil and irrigated plains that Ming China possessed. This civilization seemed more superior due to the fact that their administration was united and ran by a well-educated Confucian bureaucracy (Kennedy, 5). One of Ming China’s most distinctive features was its technological intelligence. The Ming Empire had a grand canal system, which stimulated trade and industry, resulting in printing by movable type. Paper money then started to make an appearance. Paper money started to build markets and by the eleventh century, there was an enormous iron industry in North China. In addition, the Chinese focused on overseas exploration and trade. The magnetic compass was one of China’s inventions, still used to this day. In the 1260s, Kublai Khan was determined to have his own fleet of ships. By 1420, the Ming navy was documented to have had 1,350 combat vessels, including 400 floating fortresses and 250 ships used for long-range cruising (Kennedy, 6). Although this fleet sounds massive, it did not include the many private vessels that were already trading with Korea, Japna, Southeast Asia, and East Africa.

Despite the fact that China seemed to be one of the most powerful civilizations, its glory didn’t last forever. An imperial edict outlawed seagoing ships and forbade the presence of ships with more than two masts. Within a century, the Chinese coastline and cities along the Yangtze River were being attacked by Japanese pirates. Even with these attacks, there was no rebuilding of the navy. Furthermore, a key factor in China’s decline was the sheer conservatism of the Confucian bureaucracy (Kennedy, 7). According to Confucian code, warfare and violence would only be taken into action under barbarian attacks. In addition, Ming China’s canals started to decay, their army was starved of new equipment, and the art of ironworks began to be disused. Scholars were only allowed to use printers, resulting in paper money being discontinued (Kennedy, 7). In consequence, China became less dynamic and began to decrease economically, as well.

The Mugal Empire encouraged many artistic achievements. There were many causes that led to the deterioration of the Mugal Empire. Indian traditions restricted modernization because they were not allowed to kill insects and rodents, leading to unsanitary conditions, resulting in plagues breaking out. Famine and floods also contributed.

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Another civilization that led to the rise of the dominant world cultures prior to the 1500s was the lifestyle of the Ottomans. The Ottomans were supported by the taxes that were put on the peasants and merchants (Kennedy, 14). Towns and population was increasing, cash payments were being used, and importantly, there was a nationwide peace, which was excellent for trade (Kennedy, 15). This Ottomans empire advanced to become one of the most powerful empires. It was highly centralized and was run by an education system. Also, the power wasn’t divided between rival forces, it was always under one single person. The Ottomans had a strong military, using the development of gunpowder resourcefully. However the Ottomans were unable to keep up with the rest of the empires around them - they didn’t feel the need to change (Kennedy, 16). Additionally, the Ottomans began to scorn trade, and prevented trade. They were prohibited to reveal their weapons unless on ceremonies.

The European Miracle brought revolutionary changes that were essential to the development of modern civilization. Trading was more successful and widespread due to the geography, which opened up the Columbian Exchange, making the transport of animals and goods more widespread (Kennedy, 18). Also, cultural diffusion took place, taking a big toll on civilizations that were using this trade route. Europe underground unsupervised growth, meaning that the financial developments couldn’t be restrained. Europeans began to be dependent on the market recession, leading to increased profits (Kennedy, 19). Due to these profits, Europe began to advance their scientific technologies. The telescope, compass, and barometer began to make appearances here and there. The New World also created more jobs for people to work, driving the population from all over the place to come to this civilization that seems to be thriving.

The elements that had an affect on this miracle was geography, military, and technology. Europe’s geography was much more fractured, which made it difficult to keep a unified control, but reduced the likelihood of the continent being overrun by an outside force. Since Europe was split all over the place, different climates led to different goods being produced, which led to a variety of transported goods, making Europe more economical (Kennedy, 18). Due to the new military techniques, European countries were able to acquire military superiority, having no single power be consumed by a decisive edge. Seeing that there was no one center for the production of crossbows and cannons, it became harder for countries to dominate maritime power, which resulted in a positive outcome of preventing conquest and expulsion of rival centers. Europe’s technological advances was innovative. Europe improved the design and make of the cannon so it would fit on ships and lower the expenses of the war (Kennedy, 22). As a result of the cannon being more progressive, it impacted expansion and trade by encouraging artisans and inventors to improve their ways, which then lead to experiments with gunpowder. It enhanced the amount of power and mobility of weapons (Kennedy, 24). Cannons impacted the design of naval vessels in causing them to be steadily improved in ships’ ammunition.

In the final analysis, it can be concluded that many different civilizations benefited the New World, whether it be economically, socially or geographically. But with rise comes a fall, and looking back on the world’s past events, it can be seen how Eastern powers declined and rose after 1500. The European Miracle changed many countries and how it would be run in the future. Due to the Columbian Exchange, nations were getting goods from other nations that were across the world.

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Impact of Middle Age Civilizations and Columbian Exchange on Modern World. (2023, February 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Impact of Middle Age Civilizations and Columbian Exchange on Modern World.” Edubirdie, 01 Feb. 2023,
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