|Adas, Michael, ed. Technology and European Overseas Enterprise: Diffusion, Adaption and Adoption. An Expanding World, the European Impact on World History, 1450-1800. Vol. 7. A.J.R. Russell-Wood, General Editor. Aldershot, Great Britain and Brookfield, Vermont: Variorum Publishing, 1996. xxvi, 433 pp., illus., hdb. ISBN 0860785254.
This is the seventh volume in a series on European expansion. There are 18 chapters, each of which has been previously published. The acknowledgements page lists the copyright holders. The pages of the volume are numbered consecutively, but each article carries, in addition, the pagination of its original publication. Some of the articles have illustrations; two of the articles, the first in section one and two, are in French, while the rest are in English. Most footnotes appear on the same page, making an easy reference, while the index makes looking up a specific topic quite simple. The volume is divided into three sections: one on institutions and technology of conquest, one on technology transfer exchange, and one on melding and competition of European and indigenous technologies. There is one article on the Middle East, six on Asia, three on Africa, two general, and six on the Western Hemisphere.
The first section deals with the impact of firearms in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, showing the use of firearms by both locals and Europeans. In the Middle East, Central Europe and Russia, Ottoman firearms played an important role, being modified to cope with the European arms. Portuguese naval power in the Indian Ocean in the 1500s led Asian rulers to hire Europeans to forge European weapons for use against the western invaders. It is now thought that the Europeans had less technological edge than has been previously believed. Firearms played a role in Japanís civil wars, but the suppression of guns by the Tokugawa regime left Japan vulnerable to Westerners in the nineteenth century. In the Americas, isolated islands in the Pacific, and interior regions, Western firearms were superior, particularly in their psychological impact.
The use of the horse and dog was also an important factor in European domination of local peoples. The importation of European diseases had a devastating effect on populations. One of these was syphilis. Native Americans have been blamed for infecting Europeans, who then brought the disease back to Europe. There is now evidence that syphilis was active in the port cities around the Mediterranean in Roman times. The form that Amerindians contracted was a mild skin rash. The life styles which the Europeans introduced, the urban areas, and the wearing of more clothing, changed the mild form of syphilis into the European killer-disease.
Verlinden opens the second section with accounts of Mediterranean and medieval European precedents for exploring and colonization. He refers to the navigational and military technology transfer from the Mediterranean world to the islands off Africa, and then to the New World. Slave plantations and sugar-cane production moved to the Caribbean, while joint stock companies and trading empires expanded into the Indian Ocean, East and West Africa, and the Pacific. Despite European technology, local patterns of farming, mining and manufacturing persisted. The article on the slave trade and slave plantations shows some stagnation in technology in the Caribbean, while in Europe and West Africa, the slave trade began to introduce various technical improvements.
The two articles on gold mining and silver mining are most interesting. The gold mining article, by the general editor of this series, shows the influence of mining techniques on other aspects of society in Portuguese America. The other article compares the introduction of European silver mining techniques to Mexico and Peru. The article on the textile industry in part of Mexico reveals the continued use of local technology until the mass importation of European cotton cloth. Decline in local production was evident by the mid-1700s. For woolen goods, the decline was delayed until the early 1800s. Urban manufacturing destroyed the early Mexican industry, along with restrictions on local production under Spanish rule. This article is supported by one in section three on cotton textiles, showing the continuous use of local techniques in handicrafts with some merging of techniques introduced by the Spanish to colonial Mexico. The article on Chinese silk manufacturing had some very interesting comparative illustrations.
Section three has two articles on iron production in West Africa. This production was of high quality and African smiths were able to compete with European imports, making changes in their refining and forging techniques. African smithing declined more because of the depletion of resources of firewood and charcoal than because of European imports. The article on Indian textiles showed the early heavy reliance of the English East India Company on handicraft production, and also the connection between textile production and food prices. Not until the nineteenth century was there a serious threat to local textile production in India from imports. The final article deals with China and Western technology in the late 1700s when European opinion began to develop against China. Although the Chinese were interested in what the West had to offer, they denied this in public. The Europeans took this view as resistance to progress and made the assumption that the Chinese were inferior.
This is a well-produced volume, examining topics on a global view, showing cross-cultural European activities beyond Europe. It was technological change which made it possible for Europeans to span the world, coming into contact with new mining, manufacturing and agricultural technologies, which in turn enabled them to exploit human and natural resources around the world. This is an extremely valuable addition to the expansion literature for the serious student of the subject. It also reads well for the general reader who is interested in technology and the interplay of cultures.
Mary Emily Miller
The University of Delaware.