Robert B. Marks’, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative is a useful tool for exploring the new concepts in the History of the World and make the scholars visualize the global world from the new perspective. Mark gives an amiable account of the Industrial revolution and its direct effects on the trade networks and International trade between 1400 to 1850, along with that he connects each element between nations involved in world trade. Marks end his history book with the events of 2001.
From the beginning only Marks makes the readers understand the elements of a non-Eurocentric study and “polycentric” world –view on the major trends in the world trade. Robert B. Marks who was popular as an environmental historian of China, enlightens the historians and students of history on the development that took place between 1400 and 1900 in the modern world’s and about the important traits. In 1400, the world especially the most advanced societies across the Eurasian continent was predominated by two basic economic structures: the one is the “biological old regime,” i.e. the agriculture was dependent on the organic sources of energy with the sun’s yearly supply, and other are the trading networks.
The most advanced societies of the Eurasian continent including China and England were running their economy on the similar ecological constraints of the biological old regime. He said that, “During those 1100 years [650 – 1750], the Indian Ocean was arguably the single most important crossroads of trade and generator of merchant wealth in the world”. 1 In the period of just 200 years where on one hand Asians dominate the trade regime, and now these are the Western countries and Japan who are leaders in the game of economics.
1. Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, pp. 49 When The Europe introduced the Armed Trade, it had incredible impact on the Asian traders also who endeavored to purchase their own cannons and guns. In fact Acheh built his own navy to block the Portuguese trade and capture their ships and arms. In 1500, Acheh imported several large and well-made guns from Ottomon Empire, not only to defend themselves from the Portuguese but also to post threaten Malacca. “ Portuguese armed trading may have altered much in the Indian Ocean, but dar-al-Islam continued to limit what Europeans could and could not do in the world.”
It was in 1500 that the first time concept of Globalization became materialized when, “Two new links drew the entire globe into a single world for the first time.” Then by 1700, England had a government that, in the words of one British historian, ‘was prepared to subordinate all foreign policy to economic ends.”3.
In the year 1775, Asia was the maximum producer of goods in the world, “Asia produced about 80% of everything in the world, probably an increase from 1500. In other words, though Asians constituted two-thirds of the world’s population yet they produced four-fifths of the world’s goods and Europeans, constituted one-fifth of the world’s population, produced one-fifth of the world’s goods and too share with Africans and Americans. Asia thus had the most productive economies, which lasted three centuries after 1500.
China, India, and other eastern areas had developed large empires at the center of the world, and along with the new economic system, competition and constant warfare had led to the establishment of several small European nation-states.
1 Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, PP. 63
2. Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, pp. 67
.3. Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, pp. 88
.4. Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, pp. 81
The discovery of Silver helped Hapsburg to consolidate their empire in 1500 and to initiate the trade of the Europe with China. Between the years 1500 to 1800, around three-quarters of the silver from the New World wound up in China, which was known as “the engine of the world’s economy”.
Industrial development because of the conjunction of European nations with development, mercantilist policies, and coal were responsible for the building of empires around 1800. India around 1700 boasted of being the largest exporter of cotton textiles in the world. It supplied textiles not only to England but also all over the world. Moreover the Southeast Asia, East and West Africa, the Middle East, and Europe too were the major export markets. “No wonder that the demand for Indian cotton in the eighteenth century was ‘greater than all the weavers in the country can manufacture’ and that India accounted for fully one quarter of the world manufacturing output in 1750,” 1 but the steam powered gun boats, guns and other weapons and production of cotton with the machines overpowered the economy of India and China and turned India into an importer of cotton goods. “By 1900, India accounts for barely 2% of world manufacturing output, China about 7%, while Europe alone claims 60% and the United States 20%.” 2 and “It was as if the British had subjugated the Indian peninsula simply in order to use its resources against China.” 3 .
The rapid Industrialization saw the diminishing use of the renewable (solar) sources of energy towards the mass reproduction of raw materials, which were solely dependent on the non- renewable sources of energy. The prior role that the economies played in the trades also radically lead to destruction and change in the environments. Robert B. Marks describes the world as the Industrially developed,
1 Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, pp. 96-97
2 Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, pp. 123
3 Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, pp. 117
the nation states, characterized by interstate warfare, regional disparities relating to their economic position and the world which has escaped from the biological old regime.”
He explained these changes taking into consideration the discovery of the New World and the comparability of the most advanced regions of China, India, and Europe. He also explained the reasons behind England’s success in able to escape from common ecological constraints facing these regions in century; and he cited the main reason behind the change in the today’s world due to the conjuncture of human and natural forces which became a most contributing factor in filling the gap between the industrialized and non-industrialized parts of the world.
Though the book has established link between ancient world and us fruitfully but book did not focus on the roles played by African and American peoples in creating the modern world. It also did not present any information about the changes of intercontinental and international trade among African nations during this entire period. It is also not appropriately true that the people of the Americas before the Columbia engaged in very little manufacturing or international trade. Marks emphasized that the Americas after European conquest were the important raw material suppliers to the Asian and European manufacturing growth nations while engaging the biological ancient regime, but they lacked much evidential proof. According to Mark this modern world emerges from the tension that was created between two forces, which came into being after 1400. These two forces were the nation states and global capitalism.
Marks also depend on three concepts to present history. First is contingency, shaped by contingent factors like discovery of America by Columbus’s, which lead to the large quantity of silver available to Europe. Secondly, his dynamic narrative like the examples of climate and the location of certain grades of coal and thirdly is the conjuncture and with the continuous flow of historical process, creating situations that favor one outcome over another, he makes his position persuasive.
1. Marks B. Robert (2002) The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and
Ecological Narrative Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
2. Ringrose David (December 2004) Book Review Journal of World History Vol. 15
No. 4 Retrieved May 18, 2007 from W.W.W:
3. Schleisgner-Watrous Mary (2004) Book Review: The Origins of the Modern
World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, World History Connected Retrieved
May 18, 2007 from W.W.W:
4. Todd N. Edmund (2004) Book Review: The Origins of the Modern World: A
Global and Ecological Narrative, History Cooperative Vol. 9 No. 3 Retrieved May
18, 2007 from W.W.W: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/eh/9.3/br_1.html