Theme 2 (CDI) - Cultural Developments and Interactions

11 min readjune 25, 2020

Safiya Menk

Safiya Menk

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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👉The one thing you need to know about this theme:
More cultural interaction = more trading of goods between groups of people = more cultural diffusion of literary, artistic, and cultural traditions as well as scientific and technological innovations
Trade routes and commercial innovation led to increasing volumes of cultural interaction 

📘College Board Description

The development of ideas, beliefs, and religions illustrate how groups in society view themselves, and the interactions of societies and their beliefs often have political, social, and cultural implications.

🔍Organizing Question

How have traditions, ideas, and religion influenced group behavior towards themselves and others?

📝Key Vocabulary

GlobalizationBeliefsTrade Routes

Historical Examples

Units 1 & 2 (1200-1450)

Chinese cultural traditions continued. One example is filial piety, a cultural tradition where people respected their parents and elders. Confucian traditions also included respecting and expecting different from women. 
Buddhism was also dominant in East Asia. It revolved around the idea that life is full of suffering and that by achieving Nirvana, one can be free. Its branches included Mahayana, Theravada, and Tibetan. Buddhism continued to shape societies in East Asia. Syncretism was shown as a blend of Confucianism with ideas of Buddhism and Daoism formed Neo-Confucianism.

Detail from the from the Song dynasty painting Illustrations of the Classic of Filial Piety. (Wikimedia Commons)

This image reflects the Confucian ideal of "Filial Piety" as respecting elders was obligatory
Islam, Judaism, and Christianity continued to shape societies in Africa and Asia. Islam expanded due to military expansion, creating empires such as Mali. Merchants and missionaries successfully spread Sufism. The Silk Roads, Indian Ocean, and Trans-Saharan trade networks promoted the growth of these new powerful cities. Muslim merchants also developed communities along these trade routes, especially the Indian Ocean. The Silk Road was also responsible for the spread of Christianity to Asia. Missionaries were also sent to Ethiopia and Christianity became the dominant religion there.
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism continued to influence societies in Europe. The Crusades between the Christians and Muslims led to the increased demand in Europe for Middle Eastern goods, such as coffee and spices. 
Improving commercial interactions led to an increased volume of trade. Demand for luxury goods increased in Afro-Eurasia. Chinese, Persian, and Indian artisans and merchants expanded their production of textiles and porcelains for export; manufacture of iron and steel expanded in China. 
The Mongols were the biggest land empire at this time after it destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258. They facilitated Afro-Eurasian trade and communication. The Mongols were responsible for the spread of gunpowder, papermaking, and printing to non-nomadic societies. They also spread the Turkish language and customs throughout Eurasia.  
☮️ Pax Mongolica allowed for this cultural spread since the Mongols had peace in their empire. Muslims made great advances in astronomy and calendar making which non-nomadic societies, such as Western Europe and South Asia, eventually adopted.
The yam system, involving supply points and messengers, led to communication and trade.
Within the Indian Ocean Trade Network, diasporic merchant communities were created. Some communities include the Arab and Persians in East Africa, the Chinese in Southeast Asia, and the Malay in the Indian Ocean Basin. The Chinese maritime activity led by admiral Zheng He created cultural and technological transfers.

Units 3 & 4 (1450-1750)

The Protestant branch of Christianity emerged in Europe after Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation. By going against the Catholic Church's indulgences (selling salvation) and writing his 95 Theses, he was able to spread protestantism. Protestant Christianity believed in the idea of salvation by faith only. This represents a change in belief systems in this period as Catholicism was not the only form of Christianity in Western Europe anymore.

Image Credit

The map shows all the places in Europe that the Protestant Reformation had an effect on/spread to. These ideals mainly took over the Nordic countries.

The Renaissance started in 1300 and carried on till the 17th century. Literature became popular with printed books becoming a thing and them being written in vernacular (common) language. More artistic innovations occurred as artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael made works with religious and worldly themes. It was a period of humanism and individualism 👨🏽‍🎤

Image Credit; The “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci was painted during the Renaissance and has become one of the most popular works of art today.

New gunpowder empires formed, such as the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals. The Ottomans destroyed the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and took the capital Constantinople, renaming it Istanbul. Empire was very diverse as it included Muslims, Christians, and Jewish people and had a huge bazaar. Religious conflicts with their neighboring Safavid Empire intensified the split within Islam between Sunnis and Shias. Also, due to interactions between Hinduism and Islam, a syncretic religion called Sikhism was formed. 
The Mughal Empire was Muslim dominant and reigned over a Hindu majority. The emperor, Akbar the Great, was Muslim and tried to restore unity between the two religions by marrying a Rajput princess. He also translated Hindu literature and took part in their festivals. He combined Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Sikhism to form the Divine Faith.

Map of Islamic Empires

The Tokugawa Shogunate emerged in Japan. They practiced Zen Buddhism. They had interactions with European Christian missionaries but did not like them. In 1630, Japan closed itself off to limit European influence on them.
The Manchus (Qing Dynasty) came into rule in 1644 after overthrowing the Ming Dynasty in China. They practiced Neo-Confucianism. Contact between Europe and China increased. Jesuits such as Matteo Ricci came to China as missionaries. They impressed the Chinese with their information on science and technology. However, they were unable to get many Chinese to convert. The contact increased European demand for Chinese goods, such as silk, porcelain, and tea.
European technological developments, such as the lateen sail and compass, that facilitated the connection of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres were influenced by cross-cultural interactions among the Islamic, Classical, and Asian worlds. Knowledge, scientific learning, and technology from these worlds spread, facilitating these developments. 
The Columbian Exchange was a system that resulted in the transfer of goods between the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. Although primarily a system where food and disease were spread, culture spread too. European missionaries spread Christianity to the Americas. Most of the time, Native Americans and Africans did not accept Christianity completely. Instead, they combined it with their indigenous beliefs, resulting in syncretism. The biggest example is the Virgin of Guadalupe

Image Credit: Columbian Exchange

Units 5 & 6 (1750-1900)

🤯The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment, a.k.a. the “Age of Reason,” was a period after the Renaissance in which science, arts, and philosophy were studied. People took these ideas and applied them to the current laws of humanity. Enlightenment philosophies applied new ways of understanding and empiricist approaches to both the natural world and human relationships; they also reexamined the role that religion played in public life and emphasized the importance of reason. Philosophers developed new political ideas about the individual, natural rights, and the social contract. Some famous Enlightenment thinkers included John Locke, Voltaire, and Montesquieu.
Some Enlightenment ideas included:
  • Every human being had a right to freedom
  • Tolerance- freedom of religion
  • Separation of Church/State
Enlightenment ideas diffused around Europe and into the Americas. These ideas influenced American, Haitian, and French Revolutions. Nationalism also emerged in this period, shaping the development of states and empires.
American colonists fought against the Loyalists to successfully achieve a Republic. The American Revolution was influenced by democratic ideals. After many battles, the colonists became victorious and in 1776, drafted the Declaration of Independence, inspired by Enlightenment ideals. Enlightenment ideals also inspired the French “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” and Simon Bolivar’s “Letter From Jamaica.” 


In this time period, imperialism (establishing exploitative colonies) emerged. To justify this, the term Social Darwinism was used. This idea is centered around the superiority of those who are racially dominant (Europeans) and believed that they were better and could assert control over those who weren’t racially superior. Nationalism, the concept of the civilizing mission, and the desire to convert indigenous populations to Christianity also justified imperialism.
European powers, such as the British, French, and Spanish, colonized Africa and Latin America. The British were most influential in colonizing India under the British Raj. The Sepoy Rebellion occurred in 1857. In order to open cartridges and reload rifles, Indian soldiers had to bite them open. It was rumored that the cartridges were greased from pig and cow fat, which was very disrespectful to Hindus. France also colonized much of northern Africa, spreading language and culture there. 
European powers in Africa led to syncretism. Because they tried to convert indigenous populations, Christianity was combined with many African religions, such as Shamanism and Animism. 
Migration to the United States started rising, with groups like the Germans, Irish, Polish, and Italians. This led to one big melting pot. Restrictions on this immigration included the Chinese Exclusion Act that prevented the Chinese from coming into the U.S.

Units 7, 8, & 9 (1900-Present)

❄️The Cold War

The global balance of economic and political power shifted during and after World War II and rapidly evolved due to the Cold War. The democracy of the United States and the authoritarian communist Soviet Union emerged as superpowers, which led to ideological conflict and a power struggle between capitalism and communism across the globe. 
The Cold War was not a war of arms, but rather ideologies. It was Capitalism (U.S.) vs. Communism (Soviet Union). This began because both nuclear powers could not directly confront each other. This war utilized proxy wars where each side will pick factions in other places and have them fight each other.

🚫Containment and the Domino Effect

Both capitalism and communism can be compared to universalizing religions as both powers wanted to spread these ideologies everywhere. Both the U.S. and Soviet Union believed they can topple a few places and the rest will fall. The U.S tried to spread its ideology through NATO and the Soviet Union through the Warsaw Pact.
Although conflict (WW1, WW2, and the Cold War) dominated the 20th century,  many individuals and groups— including states—opposed this trend. Some individuals and groups, however, intensified the conflicts.
Figures such as Mohandas Gandhi, MLK Jr., and Nelson Mandela sought to use nonviolence as a way to bring political change to their countries 👇🏽
Mohandas Gandhi used nonviolence to end the ruling of the British Raj in India. He was a master at advertising through pictures and newspapers.  The Homespun Movement was when he gathered his followers and sat on people’s lawns and brought looms. This was to protest the production of British controlled goods. In his Salt March to Sea, Gandhi marches to the sea coast with his followers and they pick up scoops of salt and walk back. He also took part in hunger strikes, which he would stop eating and drinking until the violence stopped. He also launched the Quit India Movement in response to the British declaring WWII without telling them anything.
Martin Luther King Jr. sought to bring peace in America through the ending of racism in the United States. Discrimination against African Americans was prevalent for decades, and through his nonviolent protests and “I Have a Dream” speech, he was able to help bring change and end segregation for African Americans. Nelson Mandela was a leader of the African National Congress. In 1994, he became the first African American prime minister in South Africa. He helped to eliminate the apartheid system (legal segregation) in Africa.
Militaries and militarized states often responded to the proliferation of conflicts in ways that further intensified conflict. Some examples include Chile under Pinochet, Spain under Francisco Franco, Uganda under Idi Amin, the buildup of the military-industrial complex, and weapons training.
Some movements used violence against civilians in an effort to achieve political aims. Some examples are the Shining Path, which was the Communist Party of Peru whose goal was to get rid of the existing Peruvian Government. Another example is Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization that has carried out attacks on many countries, the biggest one being 9/11. It was led by leaders such as Osama Bin Laden.

🌏Globalized Culture After 1900

Political and social changes of the 20th century led to changes in the arts and in the second half of the century, popular and consumer culture became more global.  Arts, entertainment, and popular culture increasingly reflected the influence of a globalized society. Consumer culture became globalized and transcended national borders. Some examples of consumer culture include: music such as reggae and hip hop movies such as Bollywood and Hollywood, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, television such as BBC, and sports such as the World Cup soccer, and the Olympics  💰Global consumerism includes online commerce such as Alibaba and eBay and global brands such as Toyota and Coca-Cola

Practice Questions for this Theme

Sample MCQ

© BnF, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY The image above, from seventeenth-century Ethiopia, shows the Virgin Mary and Christ Child with the merchant who commissioned the painting lying below. 
The painting is best seen as evidence for which of the following? 
(A) The lasting impact of the spread of Christianity through Afro-Eurasia during the period of the late Roman Empire 
(B) The success of crusaders in spreading Christianity into East Africa 
(C) The emergence of syncretic religions as Islam spread through East Africa in the period after the Muslim conquests 
(D) The migration of Bantu peoples across Africa

Sample SAQs

Use the passage below to answer all parts of the question that follows.
“Having questioned Sidotti,* I understand that Christians teach that their God produced heaven and earth and make him out to be the Great Lord and Father. This God of theirs, they say, cannot be served without giving him all of one’s love and all of one’s reverence. What these Christians are in effect saying is this: I have a [real] father, but I do not love him because I reserve all my love for God; I have a [real] lord, but I don’t revere him because I reserve all my reverence for God. Now this is what we call being impious and disloyal! According to the Book of Rites, it is the emperor, the Son of Heaven, who should be worshiping God, the Lord of Heaven. It is not a duty that is given to ordinary people. And that is in order to prevent the blurring of the line between the exalted and the base. Thus, the sovereign is Heaven to the subjects just as the father is Heaven to the child.” *Giovanni Battista Sidotti was an Italian priest who had entered Japan in 1708, in violation of the Japanese government’s prohibition on Christian missionary activities. Arai Hakuseki, Japanese scholar and adviser to the Tokugawa shogun, report, circa 1720 
(A) Describe ONE way in which Hakuseki’s argument was influenced by long-standing Asian cultural traditions.
(B) Explain ONE way in which the religious encounter referred to in the passage differed from most other religious encounters in the period circa 1450–1750. 
(C) Explain ONE historical situation in the period 1450 -1750, other than the one illustrated in the passage, in which states in Asia and Africa adopted policies to limit European power or political influence.

Sample LEQ 

2018 AP World Exam
In the period 1450-1750, oceanic voyages resulted in the Columbian Exchange, which transformed the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
Develop an argument that evaluates how the Columbian Exchange affected people in the Americas in this time period.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🐎Unit 1 – The Global Tapestry, 1200-1450
🐫Unit 2 – Networks of Exchange, 1200-1450
🕌Unit 3 – Land-Based Empires, 1450-1750
🍕Unit 4 – Transoceanic Interactions, 1450-1750
✊🏽Unit 5 – Revolutions, 1750-1900
🚂Unit 6 – Consequences of Industrialization, 1750-1900
💣Unit 7 – Global Conflict, 1900-Present
🥶Unit 8 – Cold War & Decolonization, 1900-Present
✈️Unit 9 – Globalization, 1900-Present
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