Saylor.org's Early Globalizations: East Meets West (1200s-1600s)/East Asia and Its Trading World
The pre-modern world of South and East Asia was a diverse one linked together by commerce. Most politically and culturally independent Asian states, including India, China, and Japan, were only marginally affected by the arrival of European traders in the fifteenth century. Although the voyages of the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama had opened up the East to Europe, the power of Asian states and commerce prevented European nations from dominating lucrative trade networks. Still, the strength of European sea power allowed traders to influence many aspects of the Asian spice trade.
In this unit, we will begin with an examination of the Asian trading world. We will ask what this world looked like and why Europeans were so attracted to it. In particular, we will study how Portugal, Holland, and England extended their commercial empires to South and East Asia. We will then turn our attention to China and Japan. We will explore the unique characteristics of the powerful Ming state in China as well as the tumultuous era of medieval and pre-modern Japan.