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Globalization: Japan, Africa, And Brazil

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Between the 15th and 19th centuries, the globe was constantly changing. Military, religious and trade expeditions, and perpetually improving transportation technologies expedited the processes of economic, cultural and technological interaction. Japan, Brazil, the West Indies and West Africa were influenced more than most places, and their experiences varied. Some places, like Japan benefited greatly, while others, like West Africa and the West Indies, enjoyed technological and economic advantages but suffered culturally. Finally, Brazil gained almost nothing from its interaction with other communities.

Japan was greatly affected by the interactions it had with its Asian neighbors and travelers from far off lands such as Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and England. Prior to 1400, Japan had lost its imperial structure, and existed as a fragmented amalgamation of loosely tied territories ruled by warlords called daimyos. Therefore, Japan’s economic interaction began over a short distance, between the capital cities of Edo and Kyoto (Edo being the shogun’s administrative capital and Kyoto the imperial capital) (Woy 552). The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History explains that because the shoguns required the daimyos to frequently venture to Edo, the roads and maritime routes were well maintained and constantly utilized. Soon, “commercial traffic developed along these roads” and rice was developed as currency used in transactions between shoguns and daimyos (Woy 552). Economic interaction with European traders was less lucrative. The Earth and Its Peoples states that, “Aside from the brief boom in porcelain exports n the seventeenth century, few Japanese goods went to Europe, and not much from Europe found a market in Japan (Woy 553). The technological impacts of foreign interaction were vast. The Earth and Its Peoples asserts that, “Within thirty years of the arrival of the first Portuguese in 1543, the daimyo were fighting with Western-style firearms, copied and improved upon by Japanese armorers” (Woy 553). Foreign cultures also greatly affected the Japanese. Christian missionaries from the Iberian Peninsula looked at Japan as a gold mine for potential converts, especially after several largely unsuccessful missions to India. The Earth and Its Peoples declares that “By 1580 more than 100,000 Japanese had become Christians…by the early seventeenth century there were some 300,000 Japanese Christians and a few newly ordained Japanese priests” (Woy 554). Overall, branching out and interacting with new communities was a great experience for the Japanese. They expanded commerce and trade between most of the main islands, gained important military technology from the Portuguese, and were exposed to Western religions that interested a great number of Japanese people. Brazil’s foreign encounters would not be nearly as pleasant.

Brazil did most of its interactions with the Portuguese. Before Europe’s arrival in the Americas, Brazil was inhabited by semi-nomadic natives, commonly referred to as “Amerindians.” After Portuguese explorers discovered the area, they began to colonize it. From that point on, interaction was mostly detrimental to Brazil’s economy and culture. Admittedly, Portugal essentially created and then greatly expanded Brazil’s economy. However, it was not a diverse economy, but one that relied almost entirely on sugar. As The Earth and Its Peoples states, “By the seventeenth century, sugar dominated the Brazilian economy” (Woy 482). With a growing sugar empire came a burgeoning slave trade, “The sugar plantations of colonial Brazil always depended on slave labor. At first the Portuguese sugar planters enslaved Amerindians captured in war or seized from their villages” (Woy 482). Also, the Portuguese monopoly on almost all profitable enterprises in Brazil led to a currency shortage for all others. Thankfully, as The Earth and Its Peoples notes, “At the end of the seventeenth century the discovery of gold in Brazil helped overcome this large region’s currency shortageвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Woy 483). However, this discovery merely meant that there was now more bullion for the Europeans to hoard. Cultural interactions with the Portuguese yielded mixed results. On the one hand, religious missions were wildly successful. The Earth and Its Peoples asserts that “In Brazil the Catholic Church became the primary agent for the introduction and transmission of Christian belief as well as European language and culture. It undertook the conversion of Amerindians, ministered to the spiritual needs of European settlers, and promoted intellectual lifeвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Woy 478). The missionary efforts of the 1500s clearly left a lasting impression, as today, more than 500 years later, Brazil possesses the largest Catholic population in the world. However, the positive cultural influences are greatly outweighed by the atrocities of the slave trade. The slave-dependant economy that Portugal installed tore families, tribes, and Brazilian culture apart. As The Earth and Its Peoples attests, it ravaged the Amerindian population, “Thousands of Amerindian slaves died during the epidemics that raged across Brazil in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” (Woy 482). Overall, Brazil’s interaction with other cultures, Portugal specifically, was a negative experience that exploited Brazil’s economy and resources and irreparably devastated the native population.

The West Indies experienced the economic benefits of interaction with the European superpowers. Like Brazil, the West Indies had a plantation-driven economy, mostly sugar cane. At first, England chose to cultivate tobacco in its West Indian colonies, but later turned to sugar cane as its principle cash crop. Business boomed and, as The Earth and Its Peoples attests, “By 1700 the West Indies had surpassed Brazil as the world’s principal source of sugar” (Woy 502). The need for labor at West Indian plantations was vast however, and the influx of African slaves grew exponentially. Labor was not cheap, but sugar cane was a lucrative business and “Rising sugar prices helped the West Indian planters afford the higher cost of African slaves” (Woy 503). Through all of the economic success, West Indian culture suffered. The Earth and Its Peoples explains, “Conditions for slaves were worst on the sugar plantations of Brazil and the Caribbean, where harsh discipline, brutal punishments, and backbreaking labor were common” (Woy 487). Also, settlers harassed and even



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