Thursday, December 9, 2010

Geography shifting big history

Several history podcasts wonder about this: how is it that the fringe region of Europe came to dominate the world in the past 500 years? A follow-up question could be: How is this domination going to shift? The answer to the second question will be highly flavored by the answer to the first. At Radio Open Source host Christopher Lydon spoke with historian Ian Morris, who has done some big history and attempts a shot at both. (feed)

Morris reduces the answer to the first question to geography: until 1500 geography was in favor of Asia and the Mediterranean. Yet, by that time, starting in China, ocean travel became possible and once that technical hurdle was taken, everybody followed and an element of geography became relevant that had been without meaning until then: the Americas were much much closer to Europe than to Asia. It allowed the Europeans to get there first and extract the wealth and get the economic and military boost that was to be had.

Those distances have by now lost their meaning again and so Europe is losing the edge. Morris tries to extrapolate the factors he sees at work in big history and predicts major changes and a reversal of the balance by 2103. I love this kind of history with broad strokes and if you do so too, you are going to love this interview. Also if you do not, it serves to tap into the logic Morris presents. A very thought-provoking podcast.

More Radio Open Source:
Kai Bird,
Amartya Sen on India,
Mustafa Barghouti,
Jackson Lears,
Two communities in one region.

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