Age of Exploration, Slavery Middle Passages, EU: History and Achievements

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Age of Exploration

  • Movement in Spain during the 15-16 centuries inspired by the Italian Renaissance and focused on new ideas, art, literature, and science.
  • The 'Reconquista' was a period when Muslims conquered most of Spain, and Christian kingdoms rushed to reconquer their territories. It ended with the conquest of Granada in 1492.
  • The Alhambra Decree, issued by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after the 'Reconquista,' expelled Jews from Spain. Many converted or left the country, while others practiced their faith in secret.
  • The Spanish Inquisition was a method used by the Catholic Church and supported by the Spanish monarchy to punish blasphemy and people of different faiths.
  • Christopher Columbus, a Spanish explorer, made several voyages across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a direct route to Asia but instead discovered the Americas.
  • The Spanish Golden Age was a period of significant literary achievements in Spain from the early 16th century to the late 17th century, characterized by classical works of art.
  • The 'Catholic Monarchs,' Isabella and Ferdinand, were given titles by Pope Alexander VI in 1494, establishing their authority as rulers of Spain.

Portuguese Exploration

  • Marked beginning of Portuguese power and wealth.
  • Portugal's economy in the 1400s heavily relied on maritime trade.
  • Factors contributing to Portugal's exploration dominance:
    • Development of a complex maritime economy.
    • Lisbon and Oporto served as bases for merchant operations and financing of explorations.

Spanish Exploration

  • Spain was a powerful country during the Age of Exploration.
  • Spain funded significant explorations.
  • Columbus' four voyages opened doors for European exploration, colonization, and exploitation.
  • Spanish conquest in the New World driven by the three G's: gold, glory, god.

Slavery Middle Passages

  • Transatlantic slave trade:
    • Global trade transporting enslaved Africans from the 16th to 19th centuries.
    • Many Africans died during the journey.
    • Enslaved Africans were treated as property and bought/sold.
    • Europeans captured Africans and brought them to the Americas.
    • Slaves were valuable for wealth and labor.
    • Slaves were sold in markets and subjected to harsh conditions.
    • Slavery involved permanent domination and dehumanization of individuals.
  • The Journey:
    • Out of the 12 million enslaved Africans, 2 million did not survive the journey.
    • European merchants built ships specifically designed to transport large numbers of enslaved people.
    • The ships had portholes for ventilation and weapons in case of rebellion, as well as compartments to hold the human cargo.
    • Before boarding the ships, Africans were stripped of their possessions and had their heads shaved.
    • They were segregated by gender and age, with men being chained together in pairs.
    • Women were unchained but confined to their compartments.
    • Children were allowed to move freely between compartments.
    • Diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever, were a major concern during the journey.


  • The Journey:
    • After World War II, six Western European states sought closer economic cooperation.
    • They established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1950.
    • In 1957, they signed the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Community (EEC).
    • The EEC later became the European Community (EC).
    • Spain and Portugal joined in 1986.
    • The Maastricht Treaty in 1992 established the Euro and renamed the organization as the European Union (EU).
    • The EU expanded its membership over time, with additional countries joining.
  • Single European Act 1985:
    • This Act created a single European market by 1992. It removed three main barriers:
      1. Physical barriers: Customs checks scaled back at borders.
      2. Technical barriers: Goods that met minimum standard in one member state accepted in all EU.
      3. Fiscal barriers: New VAT procedures introduced.
  • Maastricht Treaty 1992:
    • This treaty widened the influence of the community by establishing the European Union. It was established on three pillars:
      1. The existing European Community.
      2. Common Foreign and Security Policy.
      3. Justice and Home Affairs.
    • It also gave birth to the idea of 'European citizenship' for the first time.
    • Economic and monetary union would be sought with the creation of a single currency – the Euro in 1999.
  • EU (part 2):
    • Deepening and widening of the EU:
      • Deepening – Further integration.
      • Widening – Enlargement.
    • Since Maastricht three developments:
      1. Economic and monetary union:
        • Eurozone = 16 states 2010 (11 originally 1999, 5 up to 2009) – UK opted out.
        • EMU – ended exchange rate uncertainty and eliminated transaction costs at borders.
        • BUT – countries lost sovereignty over own currency (ECB does this).
        • Stability and Growth Pact designed to create budgetary discipline – since 2008 countries bailed out (e.g., Greece).
      2. Eastward enlargement:
        • Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined 1995.
        • BUT – the idea of 12 former Communist countries was ambitious.
        • EU criteria = liberal democracy with market economies BUT they weren’t quite there.
        • HOWEVER – 10 joined in 2004, 2 joined in 2007.
        • Croatia joined in 2013.
      3. Treaty Reform:
        • Treaties are the highest laws in the European Union. Therefore, when they are made or reformed then the EU usually changes shape or scope.
        • 1997 – Amsterdam Treaty.
        • 2001 – Nice Treaty.
        • 2004 – Constitutional Treaty.
        • 2007 – Lisbon Treaty.

Political Vocabulary

  • Accountability: Being responsible and answerable to a higher authority.
  • Authority: Power exercised with the consent and approval of the governed.
  • Constitutional Monarchy: Monarch retains power but requires support from parliament. In the UK, the monarch has no political power.
  • Conventions: Unwritten rules and practices within the political system.
  • Executive: Branch of government responsible for proposing laws and implementing them. Includes Cabinet, Prime Minister, ministers, civil service, and local government.
  • Globalisation: Emergence of a global economy and interconnectedness through rapid communication and transport.
  • Government: Body authorized to administer laws and govern the state.
  • Influence: Ability to shape decisions or outcomes through permission or pressure.
  • Mandate: Approval and authority given by voters to the elected party's policies. Manifesto pledges become binding contracts through electoral mandate.
  • Parliamentary Sovereignty: Absolute and unlimited authority of Parliament. Parliament can create, repeal, or amend any law.
  • Power: Ability to make others comply without their consent.
  • Representative Democracy: Citizens elect representatives to act on their behalf.
  • Rule of Law: Principle that everyone is subject to the same laws, including rulers.
  • Separation of Powers: Executive, legislative, and judicial powers are separate and independent.
  • State: Permanent entity with sovereign power over a defined territory.
  • Unitary: State where sovereignty is vested in a single national institution, such as parliament.

Political Parties

  • First Past the Post:
    • Commonly used in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada.
    • One representative per constituency.
    • Vote for a specific candidate.
    • Choose one candidate.
    • The candidate with the most votes wins.
  • Alternative Vote:
    • Used in Australia, Ireland, Papua New Guinea.
    • One representative per constituency.
    • Rank candidates in order of preference.
    • Vote for a specific candidate.
    • Candidate with more than half the votes wins.
  • Single Transferable Vote:
    • Used in Ireland, Scottish elections.
    • Multiple representatives per constituency.
    • Rank candidates in order of preference.
    • Vote for a specific candidate.
    • Candidate with more than half the votes wins.
  • Party List System:
    • Used in European Parliament.
    • Multiple representatives per constituency.
    • Vote for a political party.
    • Vote one political party.
    • The political party or parties with the highest vote share wins.

EU Achievements

  • Peace: The EU was founded to promote peace in Europe and has been successful in maintaining lasting peace through alliances and cooperation.
  • Single Market: The EU's single market ensures the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, providing opportunities for travel, work, and business across the union.
  • Single Currency: The eurozone, with the euro as its currency, promotes economic growth, strengthens the EU's international standing, and improves integration within the union.
  • Passport-free Travel: The Schengen agreement allows for easy and borderless travel across many EU countries, benefiting tourists and promoting freedom of movement.
  • Foreign Aid: The EU is a significant global aid provider, accounting for half of all global aid and making positive contributions to global development.
  • Cheaper and Safer Flights: Increased competition and regulations have led to cheaper flights and improved safety standards in the aviation industry.
  • Democracy and Human Rights: The EU sets standards for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, influencing countries and promoting civil society development.
  • Equal Opportunities: The EU has taken measures to tackle discrimination and promote equal opportunities in areas such as the labor market.
  • Cheaper Telephone Calls: EU telecommunications liberalization and technological advancements have significantly reduced the cost of international calls and roaming charges.
  • Improved Environmental Quality: EU legislation has pressured member states to improve air and water quality, protect the environment, and reduce pollution.

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