Paul Brian’s Paper on Enlightenment tells us that in the Middle Ages, peasants move from rural estates to the towns in search of increased freedom and prosperity. Towns people realized that trade and communication are important to improve their way of life. Indeed Brian wrote that people in this era experience many possibilities as new charters (constitutions) could be written, new governments formed, new laws passed, new businesses begun.
Brian admits that some institutions were affected by the radical changes brought about by new possibilities as some institutions tried to calm it by means of tradition but many were forced to adopt them as the force for change is greater than expected. The changes brought about by new thinking through the emergence of Asian and American products not only brought wealth but created new merchants that give them influence and fame and displace the power of a partial aristocracy whose power had been rooted in land ownership.
This new merchants became major agents of change in arts, governments and economy (Brian). “The Enlightenment” paper of Brian enumerates the different stages of this prevalent movement in European continent. It all started according to Brian with the recovery and establishment of Aristotelian logic by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century and by Aquinas’s hands came the logical procedures carefully laid Aristotle the great Greek Philosopher which he used to defend the Christianity’s doctrine.
In the 14th and 15th century there developed in Italy and France a group of thinkers known as the “humanists” and argued that the proper worship of God involved admiration of his creation, and the humanity, the crown of creation, in particular. Brian explained that this group celebrate human race and its capacities as well as worship God more appropriately as some claimed that humans were like God, created not only in his image, but with a share of his creative power. The painter, the architect, the musician, and the scholar, by exercising their intellectual powers, were fulfilling divine purposes.
Then came Michel de Montaigne’s, Essays: “What do I know? ” In Brian de Montaigne’s essay explaining that individuals have no right to impose on others the doctrines which rest on cultural habit rather than absolute truth and argued that morals in some degrees are relative. According to this philosopher, Europeans are not supposed to insist the moral degeneracy of Brazilian cannibals who lived on dead human flesh instead of wasting it as compared to the superiority of Europeans who condemn such acts.
Somehow, as per Brian’s erudition, this cultural relativism in Europe at Montaigne’s time was based on little knowledge available at that time regarding people outside Europe, thus, such thinking have a profound effect on how Europe treats non Europeans. The thinking was a hallmark one for it was used to gain freedom that reshaped not only the prevalent philosophies at that time but it reformed their societies Being away from mainland Europe, England developed its own enlightenment fostered by thinkers like John Locke, the Scot David Hume, and many others.
England’s experience towards its neighbor and in its own experience on monarchy created some openness towards freedom of speech and press. England’s revolution was far advanced in time compared to its continental neighbor, thus, it was able to proceed more smoothly and gradually down the road to democracy and eventually to its economic trade with the outside world. One effect of enlightenment in Europe in the 18th century was scientific revolution.
Hooker’s paper on “Industrial Revolution,” states that scientific revolution resulted in the most far-reaching, influential transformation of human culture since the beginning of agriculture eight or ten thousand years ago, was the industrial revolution of eighteenth century Europe (Hooker). The movement permanently changed human labor, consumption, family structure, social structure, and even the very soul and thoughts of the individual. The revolution that took place is more than technology for it shows that there had been industrial “revolutions” throughout European and non-European history.
The European’s shift to capitalist, urban and industry-based economy from agricultural, rural and family-based economy respectively is the profound societal change that drove the continent to attain prosperity and new beginning in all aspects in this period. The pivotal change, according to Hooker’s Industrial Revolution is on the capitalistic activity that focused on mercantile relation rather than production thus manufacturing industry grows up around the logic of mercantilism.
The European’s growth on trade, industry and commerce stretched to every continent except Antarctica; this vast increase in the market for European goods in part drove the conversion to an industrial, manufacturing economy (Hooker). The monopolistic control of the global economy at that time affects other nation’s entry to this change as Europe virtually dominates global economy and became Lord over all other non-Europeans. As exposed by Hooker, Mercantilism prospered in England because of the absence of taxes on commerce as compared to any of the continental European states.
Hooker describes that merchant has to pay very high taxes and duties every hundred miles when they trade their goods compared to England. England became powerful due to monopoly overseas trade. England’s success was due winning wars in eighteenth century resulting to acquisition of new overseas territory as bounty in effect controlling trade and commerce in the subdued land. Having controlled Indian and South American trades, it became the largest merchant marine and naval power protecting its merchant marine fleet resulting to new capitalist and economic power.
England’s monopoly of trade and commerce in Asia, India and Africa has some disastrous effects. In China, as a producer of silk and porcelain as well as spices, British tried to expand her sphere of influence in trade and commerce, took advantage of Chinese Qing Dynasty’s instability as the empire confronts varied problems in all fronts. Schaffer’s paper entitled “Emergence of Modern China” described the volatility of the Qing dynasty. Schaffer showed China’s difficulty to maintain its pre-eminence as the empire was confronted with growing challenges from seafaring Western powers most especially the British.
The centuries of peace and self-satisfaction dating back to Ming times had encouraged little change in the attitudes of the ruling elite for to them their culture is superior. In 19th century, China experienced growing internal pressures of economic origin due to 300 Million populations, a country with no industry or trade that can absorb labor surplus. Added to these factors are land scarcity and widespread rural discontent and lawlessness. British economic power brought about by England’s enlightenment leads to Chinese trade.
This British trade was conducted in the guise of tribute with China and in the process the foreigners were obliged to follow the elaborate and centuries-old ritual imposed on envoys from China’s tributary states. There was no exception at the imperial court, according to Schaffer, even if Europeans would expect or think that they deserve to be treated as cultural or political equals. The sole exception was Russia, the most powerful inland neighbor (Schaffer). Trade with west flourished even if Chinese officials blocked the West moves to expand trade within because China’s belief was that the West products were inferior.
Schaffer’s paper outlines the basis of China’s Opium War with England. China’s refusal to conduct trade with economic power Britain even under a pre-industrial stage resulted to an unfavorable trade balance on the part of Britain. British did not take Chinese refusal lightly, it conducted her trade via a third party as well as bartered its merchandise in India and Southeast Asia for raw materials and semi processed goods, which found a ready market in Guangzhou.
Shaffer’s paper divulged the staple British imports to China such as raw cotton and opium, in early nineteenth century that all came from India– her trading post– in spite of China’s prohibition by virtue of an imperial decree of opium. The opium traffic was made possible through the connivance of profit-seeking merchants and corrupt bureaucracy. Again, due to Chinese government’s restriction and eventual prohibition of Opium trade, Britain retaliated with a punitive expedition that resulted to an Opium War.
Schaffer’s paper showed that the unprepared Chinese was caught unaware that led to her defeat and humiliation of its image as an imperial power tarnished beyond repair. As a war bounty, China ceded the island of Hong Kong, under the Treaty of Nangking. This treaty abolished the licensed monopoly system of trade; opened five (5) ports to British residence and foreign trade; limited the tariff on trade to 5 percent ad valorem; granted British nationals extraterritoriality (exemption from Chinese laws); and paid a large indemnity.
In addition, Britain was to have most-favored-nation treatment, that is, it would receive whatever trading concessions the Chinese granted other powers then or later. The Treaty of Nanjing set the scope and character of an unequal relationship for the ensuing century of what the Chinese would call “national humiliations. ” The treaty was followed by other incursions, wars, and treaties that granted new concessions and added new privileges for the foreigners (Schaffer).