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The era from 1400 to 1800 saw intense biological, commercial, and cultural exchanges, and the creation of global connections on an unprecedented scale. Divided into two books, Volume 6 of the Cambridge World History series considers these critical transformations. The first book examines the material and political foundations of the era, including global considerations of the environment, disease, technology, and cities, along with regional studies of empires in the eastern and western hemispheres, crossroads areas such as the Indian Ocean, Central Asia, and the Caribbean, and sites of competition and conflict, including Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean. The second book focuses on patterns of change, examining the expansion of Christianity and Islam, migrations, warfare, and other topics on a global scale, and offering insightful detailed analyses of the Columbian exchange, slavery, silver, trade, entrepreneurs, Asian religions, legal encounters, plantation economies, early industrialism, and the writing of history.


'… gives us a view of the state of the art of a venerable field, with valuable surveys of early modern features of world lifeways from the importance of the environment and resources to disease, urbanization, and household structures.'

Jeremy Adelman Source: Journal of World History

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  • 12 - Imperial competition in Eurasia: Russia and China
    pp 297-322
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    The greatest of the early modern imperial enterprises in terms of physical extent was the joint Hispano-Portuguese monarchy of the period 1580 to 1640. From the last quarter of the sixteenth century onwards then, the idea of an integrated global history based on the existence of worldwide networks of trade, exchange, conquest and circulation can be thought to have at least partly become a reality. The trade between India and Central Asia, or India and East Africa, involved a considerable degree of differentiation and specialization. Europe's share of population was 16 percent in 1400, and over 19 percent four centuries later. The most substantial transformation in the negative direction was caused by the American population collapse of the sixteenth century, with only a partial recovery being evident even as late as 1800, based in part on processes of migration, very largely from Africa and Europe.
  • 14 - Crossroads region: Central Asia
    pp 347-371
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    The early modern world was "organic" in the sense that humans got energy mostly by tapping and concentrating solar flows to grow food, and to heat their homes and to make other industrial products. Epidemic disease, famine, war, and other disasters kept human life expectancy much shorter than it is today. The "Columbian Exchange" refers to the exchange of plants, animals, and pathogens between the Americas and Afro-Eurasia following Christopher Columbus's voyage to the Americas in 1492. For Europeans who came to the Americas in the century after conquest, the "New" world appeared to be a cornucopia, stocked with nature's bounty there for the taking. The early modern period also saw the extension throughout the world of a particular kind of legal framework for human interaction with nature, built on idea of private ownership of property. States, markets, productive agriculture, and rising populations moved environmental change in America before 1492, in East and South Asia, and in Africa.
  • 15 - Crossroads region: Southeast Asia
    pp 372-392
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    Some of the upheavals, such as the Eurasian outbreak of Black Death of the fourteenth century and the introduction of Old World diseases to the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, had such broad historical consequences that they seem to stand categorically outside of earlier human experience. The common cold was almost certainly among the first of the Old World viruses to infect individuals in the Caribbean. Beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century, a second wave of infections from the Old World crossed the Atlantic and opened a new chapter in the global integration of infectious disease such as falciparum malaria and yellow fever. The third wave of infections from seventeenth century into middle of the nineteenth century is bubonic plague confined for centuries to the expanses of Eurasia, breaking out periodically. In Northern Africa and Eurasia, the disease burden was substantially different, because many of the tropical diseases could not be transmitted in other ecological zones.

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