Commerce, Agriculture, and Slavery: Crash Course European History #8



hi I'm John Green this is crash-course European history so last time we were focusing on queens and kings and rivalries today we're gonna take a break from struggles over religion and political disputes that made for so much violence and look instead at some basics of everyday life the food people ate centuries ago the kinds of things they bought and sold and changes in the kinds of lives people could hope to live I know developments in agriculture and commerce may seem like sidelines to the main political show I mean there's a reason it's called game of Thrones and not like game of slightly improved seed quality but I'd argue that history is about how people lived and what we might learn from their lives and if you think about our lives today our leaders are important to our forms of government are important but as Miroslav Volf said politics touches everything but politics isn't everything on a day to day basis our lives are also shaped by the kinds of goods and services available to us and our professional and personal opportunities whether you go to school whether you get enough to eat the kinds of freedom you do and do not enjoy those are the big questions we're exploring today the citizens of many European nations today have long life expectancies and a top standard of living Europe also comprises the largest developed economic marketplace and a major region of trade but in 1500 that was hardly the case in the early 14th century a major famine erupted with further famines across the centuries we've talked about the Black Death trade was local and regulated by guilds that is by organizations of individual artisans and traders that determine the number and type of goods that could be produced and marketed in the late Middle Ages Europe was a subsistence economy with little if any agricultural surplus if Prince's could satisfy their appetite for food and drink on a regular and reliable basis they were virtually alone in experiencing a consistently full stomach in 1500 Europe was not exceptional in life expectancy or in many other measures of well-being but in the early modern period roughly between 1500 and 1750 the situation gradually improved and I know that seems impossible given all the religious strife and wars and massacres we've discussed so far in this series but during this period population actually rose in Britain for instance the population almost doubled between 1700 and 1800 historians attribute this rise to developments in agriculture sometimes called an agricultural revolution that unfolded alongside all that warfare and there was also growth in commerce often called a commercial revolution and of course the Columbian Exchange which made new nutritious foods from potatoes to corn available to Europeans but the agricultural revolution was also driven by innovation that dramatically boosted agricultural yields in Europe between 1500 and 1800 let's go to the thought-bubble for starters it was discovered that planting certain crops like turnip and clover could replenish soil which was one example of crop rotation farmers would plant one crop in a field one year and then another the next year rotating too or at times three crops to add nutrients to the soil and the great thing about crop rotation is that it decreased the amount of farmland that needed to remain fallow each year that is unplanted secondly with the Dutch pioneering some advances land reclamation occurred across Europe this entailed converting marshes and other previously unusable land into farmland and third common lands were enclosed enclosure occurred when wealthier farmers bought up or simply took common land land that had been opened a community use private farms were able to innovate faster than communities which required consensus in group decision-making and fourth there were new inventions such as the seed drill and a plow that could be drawn by two instead of six or eight farm animals the new plow cut down on expenses and the seed drill made planting more accurate with less wasted seed both of these new tools by the way copied Chinese inventions but while enclosure and more mechanized farming practices did mean more overall food and therefore more overall wealth not everyone benefited because a decrease in common land meant that fewer people had direct access to land for their own use thanks thought-bubble so one example of all these innovations can be seen in the life of Elizabeth Countess of Sutherland who inherited some eight hundred thousand acres of land in Scotland Stan hold on a second is that a trout in her hair is it a feather was there some kind of hair fish trend at the time let's move on from light-hearted portrait jokes and talk about people being rested from their land so Elizabeth removed hundreds of tenants from her estate then created unified acreage for farming and raising sheep with the help of day laborers these landless workers were cheaper and also unlike the tenant farmers who had lived on the land previously day laborers did not have long standing claims to inhabit and work the land called tenancy the countess was known for chasing villagers away from their land with her own hands and also for innovations that increased productivity even as Sutherlands former tenants became homeless so moreover all food but on land controlled by fewer people so obviously this agricultural revolution entailed massive social dislocation that in the rise of poverty migration of disenfranchised farmworkers to cities and also to other continents and even as overall agricultural production rose some among the poor starved and this period of European history is still widely debated in part because ideas of private property and inequality of wealth remain resonant today but whether this modernization helped or hurt humanity again depends on your perspective to some it was fatal to many it meant trauma and impoverishment as people were removed from lands their families had farmed for generations but these changes also helped fuel greater overall food production population growth larger cities and more space for all kinds of specialized labor from shoemaking to theatres I mean it's no coincidence that Shakespeare and Marlowe were writing as English agricultural production started to increase farmers started experimenting with all kinds of new crops but especially with maize and potatoes which could produce superabundant did the world just open is there a potato in the centre of the world there's a lot of candidates for a most important plant of the last 500 years but I'm gonna say it's the potato they contain lots of carbohydrates and whatever micronutrients are you can turn them into both french fries and tater tots the world's two most important foods but most importantly you don't need great soil to have great potatoes just ask Idaho in addition to the transfer of crops knowledge of Agriculture was transferred from Africa and the Americas to Europe women in both the Americas and Africa had made their region's food rich as European traders and invaders testified and their knowledge of crops and irrigation techniques allowed for instance rice to be grown in larger quantities in European colonies much of what Europeans learned about agriculture from Africans came from enslaved women agriculturalists slavery has existed for millennia but slaves have experienced very different lives depending on culture and religion and occupation and gender before 1650 the Atlantic slave ships took an annual total of around 7,500 Africans to the Western Hemisphere and that number was comparable to other slave routes such as the one in South Asia or the Ottoman Empire the vast majority of those slaves went to Mexico and South America European ships transported other slaves from the Indian Ocean across the Pacific many of them to Mexico but beginning in the late 17th century there was a massive upsurge in African slavery that sought to replace the labor of the Native American populations that had been utterly devastated by disease and warfare in particular slave labor was used to fill the world's increasing demand for commodities and consumer goods Europeans came to depend on sugar and tobacco and coffee and tea many of which were produced primarily via forced labour and racism developed alongside the growth of the African slave trade at first Europeans were in awe of African wealth in the 15th and 16th centuries in fact it motivated their first contacts they craved african gold and found african men and women stately and intelligent and rich as one portuguese trader wrote however greed for profit took over and as the indigenous population in the americas declined the desire for slaves grew and to justify slavery european descriptions of africans became contemptuous and dehumanizing as dehumanization progressed Europeans treated Africans as morally and intellectually inferior and used those incorrect constructions to justify their horrendous treatment of Africans packing them into slave ships and subjecting them to the lethal Middle Passage across the Atlantic African kings and independent African traders fed the rising demand for slaves in those days of state consolidation African rulers sought funds for weaponry which Europeans provided in exchange for slaves more advanced weaponry then allowed leaders to capture additional people to sell to European slavers for yet more weapons European slavers mostly operated along the West African coast while Arabs took slaves from East Africa to sell to India or into the Middle Eastern markets the Saharan slave trade went northward transporting many women slaves to serve as domestics and sex workers but the European slave market was by far the largest and the most violent and it's legacy of humanizing racism continues to this day in the 18th century 1 million slaves worked in the sugar industry and diamond and gold mines of Brazil these industries were tremendously lucrative and in that sense slavery both produced and was a product of growing european wealth the conditions of slavery were truly dire torture beatings overwork and malnutrition were routine and because the system itself did not treat them as humans enslaved people had very little recourse and there was always the knowledge that you could be separated from your children from your family at any time because you were treated legally and practically as property the slave trade itself was part of a web of interactions that is still being understood historians used to talk about the triangle trade shippers took small iron goods from Britain to Africa trading them for slaves and then shippers dropped off the slaves who survived the passage in Brazil or the Caribbean and then filled their holds with local sugar or molasses to take back to England but while there was a triangle there were also many other shapes West African rulers and consumers wanted cowrie shells and Indian textiles as payment for slaves these products took a much more circuitous route than a simple triangle cowrie shells for example were picked up from merchants along the Pacific Ocean or south asian coasts then cured and processed in Sri Lanka then shipped again with slaves coming to the new world across the Pacific and commodities to pay for them flowing in multiple directions the slave trade into the Americas was part of a global not just triangular market in fact multi-directional trade in general was increasing in diversity and quantity in the 17th century for instance literally millions of pieces of porcelain went in Portuguese ships to Dutch and other European ports and to get funds to buy that porcelain European shippers did a lot of local coastline shipping stopping at ports around the Indian Ocean or at Chinese depots in the Philippines European consumers snapped up goods and Merchants grew wealthy the increase in consumption was truly unprecedented for eggs in 1660 the east india company imported 23 pounds of tea to britain in 1750 it imported 5 million pounds remember Queen Isabella's daughter getting a tiny box of sugar for a Christmas gift well soon sugar was available to many Europeans innovation was also an important facilitator of economic growth and I don't just mean innovation in terms of actual things I also mean innovation in terms of ideas like corporations the East India companies such as those founded in Britain the Netherlands and France focused each kingdom's international trade and raised funds for investment joint stock companies arose to finance merchant ships and the development of double-entry bookkeeping gave merchants and bankers a better idea of inflows and expenditures however there wouldn't be laws limiting the liability of such companies until much later so a ship lost at sea could still mean investors loss of homes and possessions whereas now when investors do things that lose money we just give them their money back and talking of bankers brings us to the FEU Gers the Fuger family of bankers who once loaned money to monarch such as charles v & philip ii of spain who then spent everything on defeating protestants and when the monarchy went bankrupt the bankers were penniless to this whirl of commerce disrupted society because it produced new values and also because it created new groups of wealthy influential people almost everywhere in Europe people who weren't aristocrats became rich from global expansion of trade many of the aristocrats also became richer of course but the wealth of new groups of people upset long-held notions about the importance of family lineage and capitalism that is the private ownership of enterprises changed everyday values and turned activities toward making profit above all else capitalism also created a new class of wealthy traders and merchants who have competed for political influence with those from hereditary status groups such as the nobility will hear much more of course about the twists and turns of capitalism and aristocracy across the centuries but by the beginning of the 18th century capitalism was in a lively stage of development thanks to the abundance provided by the agricultural and commercial revolutions and also by the Atlantic slave trade which wrenched some 11 to 12 million Africans from their homes and families thanks for watching I'll see you next time thanks so much for watching crash course European history which was filmed here in Indianapolis and made with the help of all of these nice people our animation team is thought cafe and crash course exists because of your generous support at patreon patreon is a voluntary subscription service where you can support the content you love through a monthly donation and help keep crash course free for everyone forever thanks again for watching and as they say in my hometown don't forget to be awesome




Comments
  1. Europeans: hmmmm.. SPICES
    Africans: Oh no
    Americans: oh oh, the flu is coming

    500 years later

    Us commenting about these times with a device that fits in our pockets

  2. the new protein source in the outer banks plus the columbian exchanges provided things like the potato that allowed the cultivation of marginal land. yes an all those improvements.

  3. Was the European market of slaves really the most brutal? I have read that many Arab countries do not have African populations to this day, largely due to the castration of African male slaves

  4. So I was watching The John green videos from 7 years ago for school and I see the most recent one and WHOA MY TEST SAVIOR HAS BEEN ON HERE FOR A LONG TIME

  5. I didn't look it up, because I'm sure someone in the comments can help me out. Why plant clover? What does it do? Can you actually eat it, like you could dandelions?

  6. You are wrong, the Arab slave trade was the largest and most brutal slave trade in the world's history. The Arab slave trade has lasted for 14 centuries, and Africans are still being sold in Saudi Arabia today. More Africans were killed during the Arab slave trade than were even involved in the Atlantic slave trade. Arabs have had in place a brutal practice of cutting African male's penises and testicles off, turning them into eunuchs, so they couldn't reproduce. Most men died during castration by bleeding to death. And their female counter parts were kept as sex slaves.
    Who do you think the westerners got their slaves from? They bought them from Arabs and black Africans who'd captured people to sell into slavery. In American History, it took hundreds of thousands of selfless white men — the Republicans — who died fighting against slavery, against the Democrats who did the enslaving, KKK, Voted in Jim Crow laws, and voted against black civil liberties. If anything, western culture should be credited with ending slavery, rather than what you've said here, that they caused the worst bout of slavery in human history. It's just disgustingly missinformed, dangerously ignorant, and demonstrably false!

    Sadly, Americans today are fed a constant diet of only American history. I know this because I was educated in America, right through high school. Never did we have a class called "World History", only "American History" in 7th grade. Ignorance can lead to misplacement of anger. Which is why I think it's necessary for me to speak up here. Whether people in the United States are kept in the dark by design or it was an oversight, I can't prove either. I just know that I had to learn the rest of the world's history by going to university in the UK and by educating myself. I couldn't believe the things I hadn't been told until my adult life!

    Just a bit more information:
    The Arab slave trade had harems, where men would have sex with the slave girls. Islamic texts give very detailed and specific instructions to Muslim men, regarding how they are to interact with these slave girls. They were given instructions which women they could and couldn't force sex with. They are given the "right" to "spill seed" or "sow the seed", depending on whether the girl was a slave or not. And I say "girl" because these were girls, some prepubescent. Consensual sex was basically not a thing, even with their wives. There are instructions given for every detail of life. Islam prescribes everything for a Muslim's behavior. That's why Islam is called a total way of life, rather than just a religion.

  7. I would say:
    1. Corn
    2. Rice
    3. Potato.
    But I'm no expert, and I bet the experts have a hard time saying too.

  8. Why didn’t African nations expand and conquer? They had better agricultural techniques, vast wealth and good technology. How was it that Europeans could so easily gain access to slaves?

  9. The European slave trade lasted three centuries. The Muslim slave trade lasted 14. And you can still buy black slaves today in the Middle East . In Libya you can get one for $400. Yeah the Atlantic slave trade took 11 million blacks, but the Arab-Muslim slave trade took 28 million and nobody ever talks about that.

  10. A few of these episodes have been half decent at explaining some of the things Marx was describing in his great work, Capital. The level of productivity in society is the basis for its social and political structures, primitive accumulation of capital was brutal but also civilizing and the basis for modern wage labor, that wealth inequality is inherent in production based on Capital, the growth of early Capital and its tendency of dissolving the old modes of production. But, I still think his final conclusion, that the associated producers should democratically and logically plan the use and distribution of labor and resources amongst vital industries in ways that ensure a healthy society and environment in a way that private ownership of Capital can never do with its anarchic and profit-driven markets.

    However, I disagree that 'capitalism' created these new groups. Instead, the development of exchange values occurred as productive forces increased, from Barter to Money to Capital. Capital developed, and its personification in the merchants and bankers made them the first Capitalists. However, this was not Capitalism and Capitalism is not a transhistorical category. Capitalism is production that is dominated by Capital, or production for the creation of surplus-values. It developed with the domination of Capital over industry, but just because Capital exists doesn't mean there is 'Capitalism.'

  11. There are places today many things of slavery ( often sex slavery) is legal or allowed in some way.
    Then there is selling kids for marriage ( yes forced marriage of kids to adults is a thing that happens even in the western world legally).

  12. There are people that think slavery ended or there is no such thing as slavery ever in hostory. Human trafficking/ slavery is ancient but also still exists today in many ways.
    I have talked to some surprised by this.

  13. I feel so appropriate and so inappropriate at the same time watching this directly after eating maybe too much self-fried chili cheese fries…

  14. Let us celebrate the birth of capitalism. It is by far the most important contributor to rich people's pursuit of high scores. Don't worry about all the side effects though most of them aren't so horrible as in this video any more. After all it's a great boon for society that they have convinced us that making you pay them for the necessities to live in exchange for working for them is not theft but freedom. Now where is my rent money. I have to pay for them for the American dream of never retiring because you can't afford your house and eating at the same time.

  15. Wonderful episode! Incredible how do you pack so many information, from such different fields into a 15min video! Congratulations to the team! Keep it up!

  16. European slave trade was the most violent? Arab slave traders castrated their slaves, which is why there isn't an African diaspora in the Middle East. Not to mention the current Arab slave trade in Libya.

  17. I've always wanted to learn more about the African kingdoms that sold the slaves to Europeans. It seems like a rather taboo subject, since I guess it's uncomfortable to admit that slavery was a two-party system. The stories of slaver kingdoms who would sell their own people in order to buy weapons to fight the neighboring slaver kingdom sound pretty horrifying. Hope we get CC histories for the other continents/culture zones. Or maybe someone can recommend a book on the subject.

  18. The big question I would like to explore is why you have one of your collar buttons buttoned and one not 🤷🏻‍♂️

  19. At 8:44, when you juxtapose the "in awe of Africans" with the "called them dumb to legitimise slavery", you slightly misrepresent things, making it sound as though the Europæans were just so greedy that they made up a totally bogus story of unintelligent Africans. These were different subpopulations of Africans; even today there are distinguishable African subpopulations, some of which have mean IQs near the global average and others whose IQ distributions are significantly different (in some cases as much as a two-sigma difference in means, which is a huge effect). Other sources (e.g. analysis of slave-descended populations in the Americas) support the theory that slaves in this period were drawn largely from the latter subpopulations. Of course that does not in any sense justify the slavery or the dehumanising attitudes, but the point is that the Europæans' error was one of values rather than facts, in inferring moral inferiority from (statistical) intellectual inferiority. (Anyone who believes that a subpopulation's distribution of intelligence justifies taking people as property and putting them to forced labour, is making an error that has nothing to do with population genetics or heritability.)

  20. I’m getting sick of your Fagget face and voice respectively. Tone the patronizing smug attitude down 10%. It’s getting obvious.

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