Why did Western Europe prevail over China at the end of the fifteenth century? Answer this question by discussing technological advancements, the role of plagues and changes in temperature, and the careers of Hongwu, Yongle, and Zheng He. How did Western European monarchs achieve power? What was the Italian Renaissance about and describe the Age of Discovery up until 1500.

QUESTION

Why did Western Europe prevail over China at the end of the fifteenth century? Answer this question by discussing technological advancements, the role of plagues and changes in temperature, and the careers of Hongwu, Yongle, and Zheng He. How did Western European monarchs achieve power? What was the Italian Renaissance about and describe the Age of Discovery up until 1500.

ANSWER

Western Europe’s Ascendancy: Exploring Factors of Dominance over China in the 15th Century

Introduction

In the fifteenth century, Western Europe witnessed a remarkable rise in power, gradually surpassing China. This essay examines the reasons behind Western Europe’s triumph, focusing on technological advancements, the impact of plagues and climate changes, and the roles of prominent figures like Hongwu, Yongle, and Zheng He. Additionally, we delve into the ascent of Western European monarchs to power, the significance of the Italian Renaissance, and the notable developments of the Age of Discovery up until 1500.

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Why did Western Europe prevail over China at the end of the fifteenth century? Answer this question by discussing technological advancements, the role of plagues and changes in temperature, and the careers of Hongwu, Yongle, and Zheng He. How did Western European monarchs achieve power? What was the Italian Renaissance about and describe the Age of Discovery up until 1500.
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Technological Advancements

Western Europe’s edge over China was partially attributed to its technological advancements. While China enjoyed early innovations such as gunpowder, paper, and the compass, Europe, particularly during the Renaissance, experienced a rapid expansion of knowledge. The printing press, developed by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century, revolutionized communication and facilitated the dissemination of ideas, enhancing European scientific and intellectual progress.

Furthermore, Europe benefited from the development of superior shipbuilding techniques, particularly the caravel, a versatile vessel capable of long-distance travel. These advancements empowered European explorers to venture into uncharted waters and lay the foundation for the Age of Discovery.

Plagues and Climate Changes

Another factor contributing to Western Europe’s ascendancy was the devastating impact of plagues and climate changes. The Black Death, which ravaged Europe in the 14th century, resulted in significant social upheaval, but it also spurred innovation and social reforms. The labor shortage led to higher wages, improved living conditions, and a shift towards a more individualistic society. This transformation laid the groundwork for economic growth and exploration.

Meanwhile, China experienced devastating plagues as well, including the Black Death, but its demographic impact was less severe than in Europe. Additionally, Europe’s Little Ice Age, a period of colder climate, had profound effects on agriculture and trade. Although it posed challenges, it also stimulated European economies to adapt and explore new avenues, further boosting their influence.

Hongwu, Yongle, and Zheng He

China witnessed significant political changes during this period, with the Ming Dynasty ascending to power. Hongwu, the first Ming emperor, successfully expelled the Mongols and established a centralized administration. His reign focused on domestic affairs, encouraging agricultural productivity and implementing economic reforms (Chan, 2023). However, Hongwu’s isolationist policies limited China’s engagement with the outside world, inadvertently inhibiting its progress.

Yongle, Hongwu’s successor, sought to expand China’s influence and sponsored ambitious exploratory expeditions led by the admiral Zheng He. These expeditions aimed to project Chinese power, establish trade networks, and gather information. However, following Yongle’s death, the Ming Dynasty’s focus shifted, abandoning Zheng He’s voyages and adopting a more insular approach. This decision curtailed China’s maritime ventures, allowing Western Europe to seize the opportunity for global exploration.

Rise of Western European Monarchs

In Western Europe, the power of monarchs significantly increased during the fifteenth century. Rulers such as Henry VII of England, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and Louis XI of France consolidated their authority, often by centralizing power, suppressing nobility, and building strong bureaucracies (Brooks, 2020). These monarchs, motivated by a desire for wealth, fame, and religious conversion, supported expeditions to expand their dominion and find new trade routes to Asia.

The Italian Renaissance

The Italian Renaissance played a pivotal role in Europe’s dominance. Italy, with its flourishing city-states and thriving intellectual climate, became the epicenter of artistic, scientific, and cultural advancements. The Renaissance emphasized humanism, promoting the pursuit of knowledge and individual potential. The patronage of wealthy families like the Medici facilitated the creation of masterpieces, the exchange of ideas, and the flourishing of commerce. These developments nurtured the spirit of inquiry and exploration that would shape Europe’s future endeavors.

The Age of Discovery

The Age of Discovery, spanning the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, witnessed a surge in European exploration. Influenced by the desire for trade, the spread of Christianity, and a thirst for knowledge, European navigators embarked on voyages of discovery. Notable figures like Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan sought new trade routes, expanded European empires, and amassed wealth. These explorations paved the way for European colonization, establishing a global network of trade and dominance (European Exploration | Definition, Facts, Maps, Images, & Colonization, 1999).

Conclusion

Western Europe’s triumph over China in the fifteenth century can be attributed to a combination of factors. Technological advancements, plagues, and climate changes gave Europe a competitive edge. The careers of figures like Hongwu, Yongle, and Zheng He, while significant, were not able to sustain China’s momentum due to shifting policies. Western European monarchs consolidated power and sponsored expeditions, with the Italian Renaissance providing intellectual and cultural impetus. The Age of Discovery marked a turning point, solidifying Europe’s ascendancy as a global power. By understanding these multifaceted factors, we gain insights into this pivotal period in history.

References

Brooks, C. (2020, January 6). Chapter 4: Politics in the Renaissance Era. Pressbooks. https://pressbooks.nscc.ca/worldhistory/chapter/chapter-4-politics-in-the-renaissance-era/ 

Chan, D. B. (2023, June 20). Hongwu | 1st Ming Emperor, Founder of Dynasty & Reformer. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hongwu 

European exploration | Definition, Facts, Maps, Images, & Colonization. (1999, May 27). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/European-exploration/The-Age-of-Discovery 

 

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