The Europeans seemed to have first targeted the Americas, a basic civilisation where Europe had an advantage in terms of technology - muskets, canons etc The ability to manufacture church bells was transferred to military technology that gave them the edge.
Once dominating the Americas they had slave labour, land and resources - capital to build profits that could be invested in science, military technology etc to undertake revolutions and change european social order... Which then led to the next step - attacking Africa and more advanced civilisations in Asia...
That would explain the how in a more effective manner that correlates with the historical facts rather than airbrushing them from the narrative...no?
I would say two things about this. First, while this did contribute to the relative wealth of the West and the relative poverty of other cultures, it begs the question of how the West became powerful enough to engage in such "plunder" to begin with. You still have to ask the question, how did the West become more powerful?
Second, the "plunder" was not even across time or space. In the Americas, Spain pretty much stripped the wealth of Mesoamerican civilizations very quickly in terms of gold, silver and urban development. But in India, Britain's advance took place over a fairly long period, started a good deal later than the Spanish imperial onslaught in the Americas and was fairly uneven, in terms of how much wealth was extracted or destroyed from region to region.
Depending on how you look at it, China had almost a century (or more) to prepare for the coming of the West, but basically did little or nothing to respond. In the early days, in fact, the wealth transfer was INWARD to China as a result of contact with the West (e.g. the silver imbalance that lead to the first Opium War). Japan was never "plundered," but rather had a *RELATIVELY* gentle introduction to the West and then engaged in a very vigorous response. The transfer of wealth was not great in the Muslim world until very late in the period of Western ascendancy and many cities in the Muslim world grew more after the coming of the West than before (viz. Cairo). Africa's colonial/imperial experience actually came fairly late, but was one of the worst (especially in places like the Congo) in terms of how the West engaged in extraction of resources and wealth.
Again, this second point begs the question of why most of those non-Western cultures who had more time to adapt to the modern world largely did not and why the few who did, succeeded.
That's a good story - theft from one area financed subsequent thefts from others. But it ignores a few important points, in my opinion. First, the net wealth transfer from the Americas to Europe was mainly in the form of gold and silver for a very long time and for a long time (100+ years) almost all to Spain.
Second, gold and silver aren't actual raw material inputs into guns and ships. The gold and silver made its way to northen Europe because Spain basically contrinued with a feudal economy and that may have contributed somewhat to the relative wealth of England and Holland within Europe. But the major technological and social elements of the power of the northern European states was in the technology of their militaries and their social reorganization into modern nation-state.
I'm most familiar with the European imperial impact in East Asia - something that didn't really have a major impact until well into the 19th century. I'd ask you to look at the image of the confrontation between China on the one hand and the European powers on the other. During the time that Spain and Portugal were in their ascendancy as imperial powers, these two countries had a minimal impact on China, despite the great wealth in gold and silver they'd stripped from the New World and despite their extensive colonies there, Even when England finally did confront China in the 1840s, a very good argument can be made that China was on at least a similar level as England in terms of total national wealth. And look at the technologies with which England bested China. While the timbers for their ships may well have largely come from prior imperial acquisitions, the steel for the guns came from native European iron and coal.
To me, it's clear that its not about the "stuff" the Europeans had (however they got it), but what they did and how they did it. That's culture.
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