Europe Advanced Technologically
Through a combination of factors Europe began to have a technological
edge on the rest of the world by 1500, and over the next few
centuries this process began to accelerate. Advancing seafaring
technology allowed Christopher Columbus in 1492 to create a lasting
link between the previously unconnected Americas and Eurasia.
This had dramatic effects on both continents. The Europeans brought
with them diseases the Americans had never before encountered,
and over 90% of them were killed in a series of devastating epidemics.
The Europeans also had horses, steel, and guns that allowed them
to hold a decisive military advantage over the Americans.
The Aztec and Incan empires were destroyed, as were many of the
cultures of North America. Gold and resources from the Americas
began to be shipped to Europe, while at the same time large numbers
of European colonists began to emigrate to the west.
The Portuguese and Spanish Empires were at first predominant,
but soon the more northern French, English, and Dutch began to
dominate the Atlantic. In a series of wars fought in the 17th and
18th centuries, culminating with the Napoleonic Wars, Britain emerged
as the most powerful nation in the world. It controlled an empire
that spanned the globe, controlling, at its peak, approximately
one-quarter of the world's land surface.
While the Americas were the first areas to fall to the Europeans
soon they also had a technological advantage over the people of
Asia as well. In the 19th century Britain gained control of the
Indian subcontinent, Egypt and Malaya, the French took Indochina
while the Dutch occupied Indonesia. The British also occupied several
of the areas still populated by neolithic peoples including Australia,
New Zealand, and South Africa, and as in the Americas large numbers
of British colonists began to emigrate to these areas.