The World: A Television History #11 The Expansion of Europe

great voyages of discovery westward to the new world eastward to the Orient next as TLC presents the world a television history for 17 years Marco Polo lived at the Magnificent Court of Kublai Khan lord of the mighty mongol empire the period of mongol onslaught was over and polos sojourn with Kublai was the first halting step in the expansion of Europe when Polo was ready to return home the Great Khan gave him two tablets granting him and his family freedom of travel throughout the realm and guaranteeing provisions for themselves and their attendants Google I gave them messages for the Pope and the kings of France Spain and the rest of Christendom he provided a mighty fleet of ships to carry them and their possessions back to Italy as the fleet pulled out to see both sides knew they would never see each other again after three long arduous years they finally disembarked at Venice amazing their fellow citizens who had long ago thought them dead Marco Polo’s journals written after his return from the east were published soon after his death and contained many fine illustrations of his travels in 1295 when Marco Polo returned home to Venice the world’s most striking feature was the Mongol Empire the Mongol conquest said link China with Europe for the first and only time in history the Great Khans rulers of the greatest Empire ever known made sure that the routes through their kingdom were entirely safe Western artists pictured Asian people as bizarre creatures like this headless man with his face on his chest travelers were not put off by such wild imaginings and east/west contact multiplied the cons themselves were curious about the world beyond their frontiers Marco Polo kept notebooks during his travels around the empire of Kublai Khan recording the habits and customs of the people Kublai enjoyed hearing about them far more than reading the reports of his ambassadors and officials although the present-day Forbidden City has been enlarged and rebuilt since the time of Kublai Khan it stands on the original site of the Imperial Palace in Beijing polo was not the only European to visit the palace during Kublai Khan’s long rule from the 12 40s when the Mongols first attacked Europe missionaries were sent eastward in an attempt to convert the invaders to Christianity they met with some acceptance and the Pope appointed a succession of Archbishop’s to Beijing who gradually built up a small congregation of believers the majority of the visitors to Beijing were the merchants and their wives who came all the way to China in search of luxuries like silk and porcelain many of them died in the East and were buried there like Catherine de Launay whose hybrid Chinese and Latin tombstone in Yangzhou still marks the place where she was buried in 1342 sadly the century of mongol peace came to an end Kublai Khan died in 1294 at the age of 80 his successors failed to retain a grip on the areas outside China in 1368 following a long period of civil unrest they were driven out of China altogether without the protection of the Khans no more Europeans followed the Silk Route to Cafe spices now arrived by sea from India and Venetian fleets numbered several hundred most of them built in the Republic’s enormous shipyard the Arsenal the biggest industrial complex in the whole of Europe the vessels constructed there undertook regular voyages to France Spain Portugal

Flanders and England carrying Eastern wares trade was more than silks and spices the Genoese and Venetian forts and trading stations around the shores of the Black Sea now exported increasing quantities of grain and caviar into the Mediterranean most of all they shipped slaves from the Caucasus Georgians Circassians and Russians this trade in human life was interrupted along with everything else in Europe by a calamity which began in the year thirteen 47 the Black Death tens of millions died of the black death in Europe alone many towns saw half their population die some monasteries lost all but one or two of their monks everywhere death became an obsession beyond control or comprehension even to this day there’s no consensus on how the Black Death arrived in Europe it came from Asia but it’s itinerary is a mystery one popular theory is that it was brought by a group of Genoese who returned to Sicily after surviving a siege of their fortress kapha in the Crimea they reported that Mongols surrounding the city suddenly began to die of a strange disease that gave its victims black swellings that whose blood and caused unbearable pain a small party of Genoese survivors managed to escape kapha as they made their way to sicily the terrible plague raged among them by the time they reached their destination most had died having ravaged Asia the Black Death surfaced in Europe in relentless sweeps it fanned out to the far corners of the continent and to the farthest islands beyond only a few places parts of Poland and northern Italy and escaped by 1353 when the epidemic finally diminished perhaps 20 million Europeans from Scotland to Spain and from Ireland to Crete had been claimed by the Black Death it’s still widely believed the disease was bubonic plague carried by a deadly parasite living in the stomach of a flea the best defense was to kill rats hosting the fleas and to avoid places such as houses where rats lived instead most people killed dogs and cats thinking they were the source of infection the rats multiplied instead of sleeping in the countryside like the sensible storytellers in Boccaccio’s Decameron most people stayed at home and like Boccaccio’s mistress viennetta they died of the plague the world a television history will continue on TLC the black death was not the only disaster to strike Europe during the 14th century by the year 1300 the continent was almost certainly overpopulated a century or more of economic growth had produced a rapid increase in population especially in the cities between 13 15 and 13 19 a run of bad harvests caused famines as the century advanced harvest failures became more frequent the poor ate whatever they could lay their hands on dogs cats even their own children yet there seemed to be plenty of people left to wage wars few years passed in the

14th century without a battle being fought somewhere in Europe some Wars lasted for generations the struggle between England and France that began in 1337 popularly known as the Hundred Years War in fact lasted until 1453 most of the Wars leading episodes were recorded in beautifully illustrated chronicles these were hand copied many times and seemed to have been equally in demand among the warriors of both sides during the rare periods when England was at peace with France her young men could always find employment fighting abroad in Switzerland in the 13 70s they fought the men of Bern in a series of furious actions for warmth the English wore hooded cloaks over their suits of armor and became known as the hood lock the hooded men in Italy soldiers of fortune mainly Englishmen were led by Sir John Hawkwood their brutal deeds were later narrated with little embroidery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book the white company while Western Europe suffered economic collapse plague and Wars the southeastern parts of the continent finally fell under Muslim rule the Ottoman Turks nomads from the Asian steppe steadily conquered the Christian territory around Constantinople by 1415 all that was left of the thousand-year-old Byzantine Empire founded by Constantine was the city of Constantinople itself defended by it’s magnificent walls the Turks settled down to a long siege hoping to force the city to surrender before aid for the defenders arrived from the West in 1453 an all-out assault on the walls was successful Constantinople the capital built by the first Christian Emperor now became a city soon to be renamed Istanbul it was a shattering blow to Christian pride it also dealt a considerable reversal to Christian trade as Western merchants lost all their trading concessions in the Near East the Venetian Republic was among the worst-affected being the most exposed and vulnerable European power in the contest between Islam and Christianity as a maritime community overwhelmingly dependent on the trade in spices and exotic goods from the east the Republic required a working relationship with the Islamic world Venice wanted to be regarded not as an Eastern outpost of Christendom but as a neutral service industry for a time this precarious policy paid off but as the Turks advanced criticism of the Republic mounted alas Venetians wrote pope pius ii in 1463 how your ancient character is debased too much trading with the Turk has made you the friend of the infidel the Venetians retorted we are Venetians first and Christians afterwards the city of canals built extensive fortifications along the adriatic to keep the Turks out while continuing trade with friendly nations further east but as the ottomans drew closer trade with India and China temporarily collapsed Venice’s commercial rival in the Orient the Republic of Genoa reacted to the rise of Ottoman power in a totally different way in 1489 they sold their rights in Cyprus to Venice Genoa invested heavily and Portuguese voyages of exploration down the west coast of Africa the merchants of Genoa shifted their financial interests and their commerce from east to west the world a television history will continue on TLC Genoa backed Portuguese expeditions south down the African coast to counter the westward advance of the Ottoman Empire Prince Henry was the leader of this expansion movement and head of the largest crusading order in Portugal he was anxious to carve out some territory

at the expense of Islam both to gain converts to Christianity and to acquire wealth for himself in the fourteen 20s he sent settlers to occupy the Azores Madeira and the Canaries to prevent takeover and to produce revenue for his cause with the aid of Genoese capital and experience the islands before long began to export rich cargoes of would die sugar and Madeira wine prince henry later called henry the navigator began to send ships down the coast of africa in 1434 they passed cape bahadur the most southern point then known to Europeans in 1444 they passed Cape Verde and in 1460 they reached Sierra Leone Henry the navigators captains had traveled 2,000 miles down the coast of Africa the primary motive was no longer religion or curiosity it was gained soon several thousand slaves were being shipped from the coastal plain beyond Cape Verde to Portugal every year the Portuguese government began to take a direct interest in sending more ships further south from 1470 onwards a succession of intrepid Portuguese explorers sailed down the Uncharted west coast of Africa their journeys into the unknown were rigorous and daunting captain Barthelemy odias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 at his last landing place Diaz erected a large stone cross bearing the arms of Portugal this cross and those of his predecessors dotted the African coast nothing new was found to match the gold and the slaves from Guinea but despite reduced profits the Portuguese now hope to find beyond the tip of Africa a sea route to India there was little to guide them on their voyages this second century map by Ptolemy was the standard of the day it shows Africa running off the bottom of the world and joined to Asia by a land bridge this lack of geographic knowledge was the legacy of the Dark Ages by sailing around the southern tip of Africa Diaz had proved Ptolemy wrong his little ships were almost destroyed by the Seas of the Cape which D as aptly christened the Cape of storms he advised the King to build larger ships for the Passage to India Diaz also pointed out that they would need to be equipped with heavy artillery since the Indian Ocean was the preserve of powerful navies this all took time to prepare Portugal could not afford to fail in 1497 a powerful fleet commanded by the court nobleman Vasco da Gama set sail from Lisbon within two years the voyagers were back bearing spice and silk and convinced that more Portuguese ships and guns would bring control of the entire seaborne trade of India in 1500 pedro √°lvares cabral and route from lisbon to india paused to claim brazil for his master the king and began to establish portuguese control over all shipping in Asian waters by this time another European Christopher Columbus claimed to have discovered a sea route to Asia he was one of many Genoese who entered Portuguese service in the 15th century around 1487 at age 36 Columbus became convinced that 3,000 miles west of Lisbon laid Japan he and his educated contemporaries had generally concluded the world was not flat but was in fact round Columbus however mistakenly believed the Earth’s circumference to be only 20,000 miles or approximately 20% smaller than we know it to be this incorrect theory combined with navigational errors by earlier explorers led Columbus to think that the distance from Portugal to the eastern coast of China was some 16,000 miles not the 7,000 miles it actually is by Columbus’s miscalculations the journey would have taken him three-quarters of the way around the

world to the West Indies consequently when he sailed 3,000 miles due west and reached land he assumed it was China and sent an emissary ashore to find the Great Khan the king of Portugal rejected Columbus’s proposal in 1484 for years Columbus toured the capitals of Europe in search of a patron in 1492 he found one in Spain Isabella of Castile she named Columbus her Admiral of the ocean sea and gave him three ships to sail to his India Columbus was bound for immortality in a succession of voyages he was eventually able to claim the discovery of a new continent America in less than half a century a handful of Italian and Iberian explorers had led the expansion of Europe and created a global system Europeans Africans Asians and Americans came into contact with each other’s products and prejudices by no means did this exchange bring only advantages even to the dominant European cultures and nations for those who would be discovered Africans and Native Americans in particular the gains from European expansion would be few and the losses catastrophic families would be torn apart and native civilizations would vanish often without a trace great Emperor’s unite a diverse population uncovering new strengths in an ancient nation China’s rise next on the world a television history you