Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: serialised in quotes XXXIII: How did it come about that everybody is European now?

Today all humans are, to a much greater extent than they usually want to admit European in dress, thought and taste. They may be fiercely anti-European in their rhetoric, but almost everyone on the planet views politics, medicine, war and economics through European eyes, and listens to music written in European modes with words in European languages.

How did the people of this frigid finger of Eurasia manage to break out of their remote corner of the globe and conquer the entire world? Europe’s scientists are often given much of the credit.

…before 1850 the military-industrial-scientific complex was still in its infancy; the technological fruits of the Scientific Revolution were unripe; and the technological gap between European, Asian, and African powers was small.

The world’s first commercial railroad opened for business in 1830, in Britain. By 1850, Western nations were criss-crossed by almost 40 000 kilometres of railroads—but in the whole of Asia, Africa, and Latin America there were only 4000 kilometres of tracks.

The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engines (which could be freely copied or bought). They lacked, the values, myths, judicial apparatus and socio-political structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and

 

internalised quickly.

So it is hardly coincidental that science and capitalism form the most important legacy that European imperialism has bequeathed the post-European world of the 21st century.

 

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