Unit 4 Overview: Transoceanic Interconnections

9 min readmarch 16, 2023

Amanda DoAmaral

Amanda DoAmaral

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP World History: Modern 🌍

577 resources
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The one thing you need to know about this unit:
Global trade changed everything. 
Better transportation = Global trade = More food = more people = political, economic, and cultural conflict.

Contextualizing the Unit

Before 1450, regional trade was all the rage as the Silk Roads, Indian Ocean network, and Trans-Saharan routes exploded with more merchants and goods flowing. By 1450, Europeans were set on finding a faster route to Asia. Relying on overland trade was too slow, and they were not able to bring all their many goods on a camel's back. Maritime trade would prove to be far more economically efficient, and the fastest way to Asia, to their knowledge at the time, was through the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Byzantines occupied and monopolized the area, and the Ottomans would soon follow. Therefore, Europeans traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas in hopes of finding a faster route.
However, looking back to units 1 and 2, remember that there WERE societies in North and South America by 1450. In fact, not only were these societies organized, but they were flourishing. The Aztecs and Incas had fully grown empires with social structures, economies, and infrastructure. However, when Europeans arrived, they began to colonize, which is arguably the most considerable impact of globalization. The growth of maritime empires marks a distinct shift in political growth compared to the post-classical era. Think back to 1200-1450; all of the empires we studied were based on land even though trade was becoming more oceanic. In this period, we'll see the growth of empires (mostly European colonial empires) and economic systems explicitly based around maritime trade. It all begins with the growth of globalized trade in the late 15th century following the Columbian Exchange. Unit 4 will focus on the impacts of globalized trade on Afro-Eurasia and the Americas positively and negatively.

Summary of Unit 4

Unit 4 can be summed up in one sentence: "Global connections changed everything." Everything is a broad term, but generally, no aspect of human life remained the same after the beginning of global connections. While existing trade routes like the Silk Roads continued, the focus primarily turned to routes around and through the Americas and towards Southeast Asia and India. This unit focuses on the impacts of this change along economic, social, political, environmental, and cultural lines. As the economy globalized, maritime empires turned to mercantilism, a protectionist trade ideology that encouraged colonization. This led to empires such as the Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, and British Empires establishing colonies in the former Aztec and Incan empires.
The first interaction between Western Europeans and Native Americans is known as the Columbian Exchange. The Columbian Exchange was a transfer of goods, disease, and food from the Americas to Europe and from Europe to the Americas. The most significant impact of the Columbian Exchange on the Americas was the spread of disease. Because of the isolation of the Americas from Europe, disease, specifically smallpox, was rampant and killed upwards of 90% of the Native population. In Europe and Asia, foods such as the potato became revolutionary in fueling population growth.
Globalization also led to new social classes via the creation of new labor systems and race-based class systems. Labor systems such as chattel slavery and indentured servitude became commonplace as cheap labor was needed to build the colonies. These were coerced labor systems that abused humans through forced work. As people of different races came into contact, caste systems were created specifically around race, like the Sociedad de Castas. The new classes of peninsulares, creoles, mestizos, and mulattoes formed a system in which any racial "purity" to Spain gave power. At the top were Spaniards born in Spain (hence peninsulares, or "people of the [Iberian] peninsula"), and at the bottom were indigenous peoples and Africans. Europeans used these new racial systems (that they created) to justify their racist policies and violent takeovers of native lands.
There was, of course, resistance to European takeover. In this unit, you'll learn about various rebellions and resistances to European influence, especially those led by Native Americans and African slaves. Resistances like the Pueblo Revolt, Stono Rebellion, and Metacom's War (AKA King Philip's War) displayed the tensions between European colonizers and Native populations in the West and the East. Understanding the relationship between Europeans and Natives is crucial to this unit.

Main Events

1492: Columbus sailed the ocean blue… and then committed genocide
1521: Cortes topples the Aztecs using smallpox
1526: Mughal empire begins
1600: Tokugawa empire begins
1602: Dutch East India Company established, the world’s first joint-stock company
1624: Queen Nzinga becomes ruler of Ndongo in south-central Africa
1697: Peter the Great travels to Europe to study technology

Main Vocabulary

To colonize means to establish or develop a colony, typically a settlement or group of settlements, in a new territory. Colonization is the process of establishing and developing a colony, and it can involve the settlement of people, the exploitation of resources, and the exertion of control over the territory. Colonization has often been associated with the expansion and expansion of empires, and it has also been a controversial topic due to the often-violent histories of colonization and the effects it has had on indigenous populations.
Columbian Exchange
The Columbian Exchange was a period of exchange of plants, animals, technology, and culture between the Eastern and Western hemispheres following the voyages of Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century. The exchange had a significant impact on the development of the modern world, as it facilitated the spread of plants, animals, and diseases between the Old World and the New World. Some of the plants and animals that were introduced to the New World as a result of the Columbian Exchange include wheat, rice, horses, cows, pigs, and chickens, as well as diseases such as smallpox and influenza. The exchange also led to the establishment of trade routes between the Old World and the New World and helped to spur economic development and global integration.
Mercantilism was an economic theory and practice that was dominant in Europe from the 16th to the 18th centuries. It was based on the idea that a country's wealth and power were determined by its supply of gold and silver, and that a country should therefore focus on increasing its exports and decreasing its imports in order to build up its reserves of precious metals. To achieve this, mercantilist governments imposed tariffs on imports and provided subsidies to domestic industries. Mercantilism also involved the use of colonies as sources of raw materials and markets for finished goods. The theory of mercantilism has been largely abandoned in modern times, but some of its ideas, such as the importance of a favorable balance of trade, continue to influence economic policy.
Capitalism is an economic system in which private individuals and businesses, rather than the government, own and control the means of production and distribution of goods and services. In capitalism, the production and distribution of goods and services are guided by the profit motive, and prices are determined by supply and demand in a competitive market. Under capitalism, the government plays a limited role, typically confining itself to protecting property rights and enforcing contracts. The theory of capitalism was developed by Adam Smith and other classical economists, and it has been the dominant economic system in the world for the past several centuries.
Chattel Slavery
Chattel slavery is a form of slavery in which people are treated as the personal property of their owners and are bought and sold as such. Under chattel slavery, slaves are not considered to be legal persons, but rather are considered to be the property of their owners, who have complete control over their lives. Chattel slavery has been practiced in various forms throughout history, and it has been especially prevalent in the Americas, where it played a significant role in the economies of many countries. The transatlantic slave trade, which brought millions of Africans to the Americas as slaves, is one of the most well-known examples of chattel slavery.
Indentured Servitude
Indentured servitude is a form of labor in which a person works for a period of time, typically several years, in exchange for something of value, such as passage to a new country or the payment of a debt. Indentured servitude has often been used as a means for people to pay for their own passage or to work off a debt, and it has been especially common in situations where people have few other options for earning a living. Indentured servitude has a long history, and it has been used in various parts of the world. In the United States, for example, it was a common practice in the colonial period, and it was also used as a means of providing cheap labor for the growing tobacco and sugar industries in the South.
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, ethnic, religious, or national group. It is a crime under international law and is considered to be one of the worst atrocities that can be committed. Genocide can take many forms, including killing members of a group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of a group, deliberately imposing living conditions on a group that are intended to bring about its physical destruction, and preventing births within a group.
Smallpox was a highly contagious and deadly disease caused by the variola virus. It is believed to have originated in Africa and was spread to other parts of the world by human trade and travel. Smallpox is characterized by the development of a rash on the skin that eventually forms pustules, which eventually burst and leave scars. Smallpox was responsible for countless deaths throughout history and was one of the most feared diseases of the pre-modern world.
Dutch East India Company
The Dutch East India Company, also known as the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) in Dutch, was a chartered company that was established in the Dutch Republic in 1602. It was the first multinational corporation in the world and one of the most powerful companies in history. The Dutch East India Company was granted a monopoly on the Dutch spice trade and was also involved in trade in other goods, such as textiles, ceramics, and precious metals. The company had trading posts, warehouses, and forts around the world, and it played a major role in the early modern global economy. The Dutch East India Company was dissolved in 1799, but it had a lasting impact on global trade and commerce.
Queen Nzinga
Queen Nzinga, also known as Nzinga Mbande or Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande, was a queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms in what is now Angola. She ruled in the 17th century and is remembered for her resistance to the Portuguese colonial powers that were seeking to control the region. Queen Nzinga was a skilled diplomat and military strategist, and she formed alliances with other African kingdoms and with the Dutch in order to resist Portuguese expansion. She is known for her bravery and determination in the face of great odds, and she is celebrated as a symbol of resistance and independence in Angola.
Peter the Great
Peter the Great was the Tsar of Russia from 1682 to 1725, and he is known for his numerous reforms that modernized Russia and made it into a major European power. Peter the Great was a strong and ambitious leader who sought to westernize Russia and to bring it up to par with the other major European powers. He implemented numerous military, economic, and cultural reforms, such as the establishment of a standing army, the construction of a modern navy, and the creation of a new capital city, St. Petersburg. Peter the Great also supported education and science, and he is credited with bringing the enlightenment to Russia. Despite the many changes he brought about, Peter the Great's rule was also marked by authoritarianism, repression, and violence.

Major Trends Between 1450-1750

  • New tech → More exploration → Columbian Exchange
  • Effects of the Columbian Exchange
    • New foodstuffs 🌽 → 👶🏼 increased the population everywhere
      • Except the Americas where disease decimated everyone 😵
    • Migration of people → Spread of religion, new syncretic cultures
  • Integration of the west → trade was actually global → new Maritime powers
    • New trading posts → New powerful cities
    • Colonies established in the Americas
    • Mercantilism & capitalism became predominant economic policies
  • New global economy had long lasting effects
    • European middle class gained wealth → Industrialization possible
    • More money in circulation → inflation
    • Prosperity → funding for arts and architecture
    • Slave trade intensified as demand for labor increased
      • Other coerced systems created (encomienda, mit’a)
    • Social class based on race & ethnicity, first time ever
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
✏️Frequently Asked Questions
🤔Exam Skills
👉🏼Subject Guides
📝AMSCO Notes

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