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After 1500 there were many signs that a new age of world
history was beginning, for example the discovery of America and the
first European enterprises in Africa. This “new age” was dominated by
the astonishing success of one civilization among many, that of
Europe. There was more and more continuous interconnection between
events in all countries, but it is to be explained by European
efforts. Europeans eventually became “masters of the globe” and they
used their mastery to make the world one. That resulted in a unity of
world history that can be detected until today. Politics,
empire-building, and military expansion were only a tiny part of what
was going on. Besides the economic integration of the globe there was
a much more important process going on: The spreading of assumptions
and ideas. The result was to be “One World.” The age of independent
civilizations has come to a close.
The history of the centuries since 1500 can be described as a
series of wars and violent struggles. Obviously men in different
countries did not like another much more than their predecessors did.
However, they were much more alike than their ancestors were, which
was an outcome of what we now call modernization. One could also say
that the world was Europeanized, for modernization was a matter of
ideas and techniques which have an European origin. It was with the
modernization of Europe that the unification of world history began. A
great change in Europe was the starting-point of modern history.
There was a continuing economic predominance of agriculture.
Agricultural progress increasingly took two main forms: Orientation
towards the market, and technical innovation. They were
interconnected. A large population in the neighborhood meant a market
and therefore an incentive. Even in the fifteenth century the
inhabitants of so called |low countriesX were already leaders in the
techniques of intensive cultivation. Better drainage opened the way to
better pasture and to a larger animal population. Agricultural
improvement favored the reorganization of land in bigger farms, the
reduction of the number of small holders, the employment of wage
labor, and high capital investment in buildings, drainage and
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