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American History at a Glance cover
  • ISBN: 9780062732927
  • ISBN10: 0062732927

American History at a Glance

by Marshall Smelser

  • List Price: $15.99
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Edition: 5
  • Publisher: Harpercollins
  • Publish date: 07/01/1995
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Chapter One The Opening of a New World The European discovery of America was not an accident which occurred outside of the main current of human affairs. It was the logical result of a series of happenings which began centuries before. The leading Continental powers that participated in the exploration and occupation of the New World were England, France, Holland, Spain, and Portugal. England was to prove the most successful. Their activities were complicated and shaped by the fact that the "New World" was itself an old world, home to somewhere between 50 and 100 million people with greatly varying traditions, languages, and economies. For them, this unsought-contact would transform their familiar lands into a truly new world. The Background of European Expansion The Crusades had taken Europeans to lands on the western edge of Asia and had introduced them to previously unknown material goods. This contact encouraged a trade in Asian wares. Europeans especially sought spices and fine fabrics to relieve the sameness of coarse foods and clothing then in common use. Nevertheless, the difficulties of overland shipment from distant places, trade monopolies, and the numerous times such goods changed hands, kept supplies limited and prices high. It was almost inevitable that Europeans would some day look for an all-water route to the sources of the Asiatic trade. As European business activity increased and profits accumulated in the hands of merchants and bankers, they invested the surplus in new businesses and credit became more available. Without this credit and "investment capital," new overseas ventures could hardly have been undertaken. The growth of seagoing traderequired geographical knowledge, ships, and seamanship. These were steadily improved during the late Middle Ages. From ancient geography and from astronomy, men knew the shape and approximate size of the earth, and they had h
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