Beginning of Globalization


The Origin of Globalization

The process of globalization is, let us say it metaphorically, the atmosphere in which the States live and the element in which the relationship between them is produced. It was the process of globalization that gave origin to the international system. When the continents began to interact, approximately five centuries ago, something slowly began to form which we today denominate “international system”.[1] However, what is globalization? How did the process of globalization unravel?

The process of globalization, which more appropriately should be called universalization, is not the strategy of any group, nor of any country, though some groups or countries try usufruct it for their sole benefit.[2]It is, simply, a historic process that began with the great geographical discoveries achieved by Portuguese and Castilian ships.[3]

This process is found today in its third stage (Ferrer, 1999, 2001a, 2001b). It has to do with a process that began with the maritime discoveries driven by Portugal and Castilla and whose main players were, amongst others, Enrique el Navegante, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, Herando Magallanes and Sebastian Elcano.

At one point in the beginning, the globalization was daughter of the Liso-Castilian for breaking down the Islamic wall. That was the objective: “Islam was owner and master of all uniting points of traffic from the ancient world and all the paths that connected East and West, between India and Europe, until such point that in the Middle Ages, it was materially impossible to carry out important trade without passing through an Islamic customs checkpoint” (Bey, 1946: 321). The Islamic power had fenced in, on South and on West, the small European peninsula. It threatened its very existence, carefully planning and underbelly attack to Europe through the preparation of a fleet that should have attacked the Italic peninsula and conquer Rome –a plan that latter on, though without success, the Muslims would put into practice in the Battle of Lepanto (1571)- and they prepared for the final assault to Constantinople to later attack Vienna which, having been defeated, would open the doors of Europe to Muslim power. The European peninsula, fenced in by Muslim power, was being deprived on the East of spices, an element which in those days had a great strategic value given that it would allow the Europeans to preserve food that, at that moment, were scarce for the provision of a growing population.[4]

The maritime drive from Portugal is this born out of a vital necessity: to reach Asia bordering the Muslim world.[5]

It is also worth recognizing –to understand the character that will later have the conquest of America through the Iberian people- that the second motive of the African adventure that Portugal was going through with was religiously strategic:

The member of the royal Portuguese family, as good Christian soldiers, wished to attack Islam from its rearguard. (Thomas, 2004: 68)[6]

The centuries of struggle against Muslim power for the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula had slowly been drawing together the war-basedand naval qualities would allow the Iberian people to break through the Islamic fence. There is no doubt that the beginnings of maritime force, as much that of Portugal as that of Castilla and Aragon, are found in the war with the Muslims. The three great States of the Reconquista, Castilla, Aragon and Portugal, became naval powerhouses throughout the course of the wars against Islam. “Islam, which had conquered the greater part of the Iberian Peninsula, also dominated the sea. In order to reject the attacks and the Arab predations in the coastal territories of the Christian States, it was seen necessary to build ships. The founder of the Castilian shipyard was, in the first half of the 12th century, the Archbishop of Santiago, Diego Gelmirez. The devastations of the Galician coasts by the Arab navigators moved him to head for the two most important maritime cities: Geneva and Venice, imploring them to send ship builders and helmsmen. A master ship builder, native of Geneva, established a shipyard, in which towards 1120 two ships were suddenly built. Ten years later, there was already a considerable fleet in Geneva” (Konetzke, 1946: 22). In the same way the Portuguese shipyard came out of the necessity to defend the coasts of Portugal from the pillagesand ransacks that Muslim pirates carried out, which moved King Alfonso I of Portugal in 1179 to effect the construction of an important fleet.

The Catalan naval force also had its origin in the necessity to protect its coasts from Arab pirates that used the Balearic Islands as a base of operations.

After Islamic power was detained by the remains of the Visigoth population taking refuge in the mountainous north of the peninsula, where the advantage of the swift Arab cavalry disappeared; becoming offensive to initiate the conquest demanded “the progressive development of the naval forces in the Christian States, as much for the protection of the flanks of the army marching towards the south as for the blockade of the ransacked coastal cities, it was imperative to have an important naval war port” (Konetzke, 1946: 23).

Let us say, by way of example and by the way, that the Reconquista de Seville caused in 1248 would have been impossible without the participation of the Castilian fleet that blocked the entrance of the Guagalquivir and defeated the Islamic fleet that the Arabs, from North Africa, had sent in aid of their Muslim brothers situated in Seville. The Castilian fleet had been put together by order of King Fernando III in the northern ports of Castile. His successor Alfonso X played with the plan to build a permanent war marina in order to proceed with the fight against the Arabs and to put a foot in Africa. Though Alfonso the Wise did not achieve that grand objective, in his intent he favored the development of naval construction “by the establishment of ports and the bestowing of privileges, inserting in the Seven-Part Code detailed directions about maritime war, the armament of the fleet, navigation and maritime commerce” (Konetzke, 1946: 24). The inserted privileges by Alfonso X in the Seven-Part Code built, without a doubt, an important State impulse towards the strengthening of naval construction.

The Portuguese Adventure

1415 is historically a key year because the Europeans are going to throw themselves into a great adventure of sailing the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal carries out a true State policy in order to bolster research and building of new kinds of shops that will allow for the objective of reaching Asia, lining the African continent. The Portuguese Crown bestows all sorts of privileges on the seamen in order to support their activity: from the reduction of taxes to the free delivery of necessary wood to build the new crafts. The Portuguese shipping industry is, as well, born from State impulse.Lisbon as a consequence becomes a vast international port. Hundreds of ships make anchor in her port. Local merchants sell wine, fish, salt, however, just like the Crown, they are interested in expanding these niches and including among their products spices, gold and slaves, but for that they need to sail the cost of Africa to get to Asia. King Juan I takes the reigns of that idea. It is not an easy undertaking. Juan I organizes the first step towards Asia: the conquest of Ceuta. In 1415 two hundred ships and twenty thousand men are employed to attack the Muslim fortress. Portuguese victory is complete. All of Christian Europe celebrates the Portuguese triumph, though some already begin to worry about for what the first step of Portugal’s expansion promises to be. In its religious content, the taking of Ceuta is spread, through all of Europe, as the continuation of the “reconquering of Christian territories”. Prince Enrique, who will later be known as Enrique the Sailor, is distinguished in battle at Ceuta and his father names him as knight, symbolically, in the ancient mosque of the reconquered city. In 1418 the Muslims try to recuperate Ceuta but garrison rests and Enrique arrives with reinforcements that hinder that purpose. All of Portugal considers him a true hero and the prince is named governor of Algarbe.[7]

Enrique, obsessed with breaking the Islamic fence by sailing the African coasts in order to reach Asia without passing by any Muslim territory, gathers the sages and specialists of all types in Sagres: astronomers, cartographers, marine experts, ship builders and navigation instrument makers, in order to undertake the difficult mission of setting out to sea. In Sagres the most important concentration of wise men and technicians of the age is produced. They counsel Prince Enrique who –with good judgment, a large sum of money and the utmost support from the King- sends small expeditions to explore the African coasts. Gi Eannes is able to round Cape Bojador, located in the western Sahara, and proves that the southern sea is the same as the one they know. The Portuguese sailors step by step go on breaking, with every new discovery, the great superstitions that spoke of seas impossible to sail and populated with enormous marine serpents and waters so hot that they would melt the ships down. In 1448 Enrique the Sailor orders a fort to be built in Arguim, an island in the bay of Branco Cape, much farther south than what he had ever imagined to reach. To the west, he orders the colonization of the Madeira and Azores islands.

Contemporarily, in 1453, the Ottoman Turks take Constantinople. The siege to the European Peninsula takes a new and renewed impulse. The Ottoman Empire, willing to strengthen the European blockade, creates a type of “wall” that divides the “known” world in two. The Turks close off the path to Asia, thus in Europe the need to open a new route to reach the Indies is felt more than ever. The business of sailing the ocean is more and more imperious. The Portuguese will continue betting on finding a new passage through the south of Africa. Seven years after the fall of Constantinople, in 1460, Enrique the Sailor dies. His disappearance and war that breaks our freely between Spain and Portugal in 1475 detain and trip up the strategic objective of Portugal.

In 1479, thirteen years before the discovery of America, the Acazobas Treaty is signed by which Portugal recognizes the Castilian Sovereignty over the Canary Islands –ignoring that the system of maritime winds and currents would turn it into the access gate to the “New World”- and Castile recognizes that the African route towards the islands of the Asian spices belongs to the Portuguese.

On May 27th 1498, Vasco da Gamma arrived at Calicut, the Indian port from which, more than one thousand years before, ships sailed uninterrupted, destined for the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, loaded with spices. King Portugal ordered that throughout the country they should be triumphantly celebrate the return of the Vasco da Gama because de rightly sensed that an actual new cycle in Portuguese history was being inaugurated, seeing as how the country had broken the “Islamic fence”. Nevertheless, when the Portuguese reach the Indian Ocean they find that commerce that was carried out there was also controlled by the Muslims, mostly Arabs, set up in little groups everywhere and with solid relationships with Indian Princes.

Conflict was produced from that moment on. The Muslims tried to hinder the commerce of the Christian Portuguese. The Portuguese Captains, the hybrids of traffickers and mutts that they were, tried to give chase to and destroy the rival Islamic ships. The superiority of the Portuguese ships and the better use of artillery allowed for a Portuguese triumph. Without despising the role played by the great military Portuguese chiefs, it is necessary to highlight that it was the technological superiority that was the key to Lusitanian triumph in the Indian Ocean.[8]

Amongst the great Portuguese militants, the most distinguishable figure of the Lusitanian action in India was Alfonso de Alburquerque, who conquered for the power of Portuguese Ormuz, the “strategic key” of the Persian Gulf, and Malaga, “the door” to the seas of China. The Portuguese Crown acquired, thus, a new dimension and the little Iberian Portuguese State became one of the major naval and commercial forces of Europe.

Technological Jump, Strategic Advantage & State Impulse

In effect, the business of sailing unknown oceans needs a new type of craft, completely different from the one used up to that point in Europe. This reality was made very evident from 1415 on. Until that time, the Europeans had sailed the Mediterranean with the famous “galeras”, war ships adapted to commerce. They were elongated crafts with very strong shells to resist crashes against other ships in the case of boarding. The galley –a fast ship, capable of sailing with or without wind due to the fact that it can transport approximately one hundred rowers-, tremendously efficient for sailing the Mediterranean, is completely inadequate to cross long distances, given its small cargo capacity. Great distance requires a ship capable of resisting the ferocity of the ocean and of transporting a great quantity of food stores. The Mediterranean is an immense lake compared with the Atlantic Ocean which is necessary for Portugal to sail to miss the Islamic fence. The technological answer before this new challenge were caravels. This technological answer gives Portugal a strategic advantage and later on to Castile. The caravel is, in great measure and once again, the result of State impulse.

From the Portuguese adventure we can glean a constant factor that repeats itself along history: each technological jump –which always come from a strategic advantage- is related to the need to overcome a necessity and to the State impulse that supplies the initial indispensable force to put into play the process of research and experimentation whose final result will be the overcoming of the original need. When Portugal, thanks to this impulse, was able to complete an unprecedented technological jump in way of the art of navigation and in armament manufacturing –artillery-, it increased its national power and elevated the threshold of power in such a way that it was able to begin the process of subordination of the powerful kingdoms of Asia.

The Castilian Adventure

Christopher Columbus gave Castilethe same objective, years before, that Portugal was after, but it will be done sailing west. The idea of reaching Asia by sailing to the West was not new. Even in his time, Seneca had affirmed that it was possible to sail from Spain to the Indies in a few days.

In his work The Description of Asia Pope Pio II postulated that it was feasible to travel from Europe to Asia, through the Indies. The humanist Paolo del Pozzo Toscanelli thought that it was totally viable to establish a route to China through the west. Pierre d’Ailly, a cosmographer of the 15th century that was also Bishop of Cambrai, cardinal and confessor of the King of France, ventured in his writings that Seneca was right to hold that, with favorable winds, it was possible to traverse the Atlantic in a few days and the “Antipodes” really did exist.

In 1469 the Geografia of Estibon was published in Spanish, Greek geographer that defended the possibility of sailing, directly, from Spain to the Indies. The Portuguese, confident of the sphericity of the earth, send approximately a dozen maritime expeditions between 1430 and 1490 to the west. In reality, “it had been many generations that it had been proven that the earth was a sphere. Greek astronomers of Mileto had already ventured, around the year 500 a.d, that the world was a sphere. This idea was developed by Pythagoras a short time later. Though a large part of Greek knowledge were to be lost afterward, the Catholic Church had accepted the hypothesis around the year 750 of our age and, in the 15th century, the sphericity of the earth was generally accepted. Only the most ignorant continued sustaining that the Earth was flat” (Thomas, 2004:70). This is to say that the Portuguese were perfectly aware of the possibility of reaching Asia by sailing to the west, but the advances they had already achieved by sailing the African route had convinced them that that was the best way to “skirt the Islamic power”, to reach the country of spices and, in this way, attack the Ottoman Empire by surprise. It is necessary to always have in mind that the second motive for these African adventures was strategic and religious: to attack Islam from its rear guard.[9]

Christopher Columbus sought the support of the Catholic Kings only after his plan was rejected by the commission of experts put in charge by King John of Portugal to examine the Genoese’s project.10It was then that Castile assumed the same strategic objectives that, already seventy seven years prior, the kingdom of Portugal had been pursuing. Columbus arrived in Spain in the summer of 1485 and settled into the Franciscan monastery of La Rabida, close to the mouth of the Tinto River in the Atlantic. The monastery was, for the time, a sort of “university” in maritime studies. In the Franciscan monastery Columbus stroke up a friendship with the friars Antonio de Marchena and Juan Perez –confessor of the Queen-, who urged him to go to the Court of Castile and recommended him to Cardinal Mendoza, the first most influential man in understanding the strategic religious importance of Columbus’ ideas.

In those days, Mendoza was the most powerful personality in Spain, after the King and Queen. The first meeting between Columbus and the monarchs took place on January 20th of 1486, in Alcala de Henares, precisely in Cardinal Mendoza’s palace.

Nevertheless, the Catholic Royalty only decided to support Columbus’ plan after the reconquering of Granada, done on January 1st of 1492. The decision to incorporate Granada and Castile had been made in the Toledo Courts in 1480, though the idea was present since the beginning of the rein of Isabel and Fernando. One of the most important purposes for the war against Granada was undoubtedly strategic: “To free the south-eastern coast of Spain from a power linked to the feared threats of the Turkish” (Thomas, 2004: 19). Only after having a eliminated the last Muslim enclave in Spain and having suppressed, in that way, the greatest strategic vulnerability of the kingdom, the Catholic King and Queen felt themselves in condition to start up the Columbus project.

The Decline of Islamic Power

The unexpected result of the Castilian effort to break through the Islamic fence will be called “America”. The discovery and colonization of the American continent will take the central axis of world power from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and will give way, at the same time, to the decline of Islamic power which had already been badly hit by the invasion of the Mongols. In his book Mahoma: The History of the Arabs the great Arab historian Essad Bey brilliantly synthesizes the effect provoked by the discovery of America on Islamic power:

Islam should receive yet another blow, even more violent maybe, whose harshness was not manifest in the beginning; but not because of that do I stop contributing in large part to the ruin of the caliphate. The author of that ruin did not think, for one instant, that he was dealing a mortal blow to the caliphate and did not even presume that his feat could destroy it. It might be coincidence; but no one in the world suspected that the day Christopher Columbus discovered America that the period was being placed on the history of the caliphates. All looks, from that time on, were directed towards the new continent. The commerce of the whole world took new routes, new directions, and the empire of the caliphate, the great cities of the Orient, suffered that which, from quite a time before, we have come to call a depression or economic crisis. Prices fell, the caravans that produced the country’s riches stopped arriving; customs no longer made any money, the great commercial highways, afterwards made useless, lent no services at all. The population, that ignored the origin and cause of the crisis, found themselves restless. The people felt haunted by misery, and the lands, for lack of sowing, began to weaken. Simultaneously a noticeable diminish in all manifestations of spiritual activity could be felt. The most evident of those was what was called the Bab-ul-iyitihad, the closing of the door of science; the Muslim sages that through their profound studies had intended to transpose the limits of what was known, saw it in vain to continue with their research. And so the falling out of science and of the might of the Arabs ensued. (Bey, 1946: 325-326)

Diametrically opposite was the path and destiny of Europe. It serves to clarify, nevertheless, that not all the political units there benefited from the discovery of America. Thus, the Sacred Germanic Roman Empire, having been left out of the new economic and political axis, lost its international meaningfulness and disbanded into a multitude of small independent States. However it is worth highlighting one example of European political units that were put in danger by the upcoming of the great State nations and the swing of the world epicenter from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, with no doubt as to the fact that they were once more than prosperous city-States in the Italic Peninsula being the best paradigm.                                               

The Twilight of Power of the City-States of the Italic Peninsula

The 15th and 16th centuries represented not only the unperceivable beginning of the end of Islamic power –as Essad Bey so well points out- and the beginning of the economic and political expansion of Europe, but also the origin of the hegemonic structures of world power and the forming of the great national States: Spain, France and England. Spain, once having finished its territorial unification with the conquest of Granada in 1492, had close to ten million inhabitants. France, which achieved its national unity after the War of a Hundred Years (1453) and the expulsion of the English, added up to fifteen million inhabitants. England, the least populated of the three new powers, possessed between three and a half and four million inhabitants. Spain, France and England thus fixed a new threshold of power and the political units that were not able to become national States, like the city-States of the Italic Peninsula, progressively became subordinated States.

The Italic Peninsula, far off from the new economic Atlantic axis, politically dismembered and impotent, became the new “plunder in dispute” of Spanish and French power. During two centuries, Italy was the battle ground of the countering pretensions of the French and Spanish and there the great struggle between Carlos the 5th and Franciso the 1st developed. Thus, in the Mediterranean, the main victim of the birth of the great nationalities under the hereditary monarchs was the city-State of Venice, incapable of imagining itself as the artifice of the national unity of the Peninsula, as circumstances dictated. Venice did not understand that, before the apparition of the State nations on the scene of European power, her only way of autonomous survival consisted of leading the process of Italian unity:

At all times Venice wanted to build a unique nation. As long as it did not have to occupy itself any more with the fragmented Italian nationalities or the weakened Greece, it was able to affirm its commercial and manufacturing supremacy without difficulty over the coastal countries of the Mediterranean and Black Sea. However, when strong and vigorous nations appeared on the political scene, Venice turned out to be a mere city and its aristocracy, a municipal one. […] Venice (though mistress of provinces and islands, only an Italian city) was not a commercial or manufacturing power compared to other Italian cities. Its exclusivist commercial policy could only be effective as long as it did not face other perfect nations, encouraged by a unifying force. As soon as this happened, Venice only would have been able to maintain the supremacy by placing itself at the head of a united Italy and extending its commercial policy to all the rest of it. But there was no commercial policy intelligent enough to sustain for a lasting time the commercial supremacy of a simple city against unitary nations. (List, 1955: 26)

It is necessary to point out –to extract the true historical lesson from the policy followed by Venice- that it cannot be argued in favor of the Venetian leading class that the idea carrying out the unity of the Apennine Peninsula was an extravagant idea and that the Venetian Elite are judged in retrospect, because numerous voices had warned, reading the signs of the times well, that the destiny of Venice was tied to that of the whole peninsula. What’s more, Venice possessed all the necessary factors of power to try for unity and, at one point, dreamed of reaching it:

When the Modern Age began, and after the disappearance of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Venice was the strongest State, diplomatic and militarily, in the peninsula. It even came to desire primacy for all of Italy, and in support of these plans, the versions of the renovation of Rome were exhumed, with projects that do not lack background, until the point of power gave an expressive text of Petrarch. This was written in 1354 to duke Andres Dandolo making him see that Venice could not find salvation other than inside Italy, tying itself to its progress and its ruin as part of the whole. (Beneyto, 1947: 72)

In order to completely understand the opportunity that Venice lost and the historic cost that the peoples of Italy paid due to a lack of political unity it is convenient to remember that, at the beginning of the 15th century, the Italic Peninsula was in possession of all the elements needed to be the most prosperous and powerful region in Europe and, in fact, it was. No other region found itself in such a favorable situation. From a commercial and industrial point of view it was notable more advanced than the rest of the regions of the European continent. Its agriculture and manufacturing were the best in Europe and served as examples. Its roads and canals were the most perfect of the continent. Its merchant marina and its military fleet were the most important of the Mediterranean. It found itself in possession of world commerce and supplied all the other countries with manufactures goods and luxury articles, obtaining from them raw material. When List (1955: 24) analyzes the history of Italy, he sagaciously points out that “only one thing was lacking in this town to make it what England in our days has come to be, and that lack brings on the loss of all other things she possessed; the lack of national unity and the corresponding force that is born out of it”.

Italy was a geographical and cultural unit it was not a political unit, as it found itself fragmented in a multitude of lordships and city-States. In the Renaissance five were the centers of power that could have been transformed into centers of political agglutination: three in the north, one in the center and one in the south. In the north was the aristocratic republic of Venice, without a doubt the power with the most capacity to try for unity, the democratic republic of Florence and the dukedom of Milan; in the center, the Papal States, and in the south, Naples, whose influence extended to Sicily.

A league of the great city-States of Italy being well organized would have been able to contain the dangerous military progresses of the Turks, dispute the Portuguese for the route of the Cape and defend the Independence of Italy from Spain and France. Unity was most certainly attempted in 1526, but too late, when danger was imminent and only lasted for a momentary defense. The final result of the fact of not having sought unity of the peninsula at the opportune time was the loss of independence of all the city-States, economic decadence and poverty for the majority of the towns. The great city-States of Italy went from being subordination States to being subordinated.

The Historic Significance of the First Ocean Voyages

Analyzing the consequences of the first stage of globalization, Darcy Ribeiro sustains that:

The European ocean expansion, initiated by the Iberians, becomes a collective undertaking that multiplies enslaving colonies, merchants and populating all over the world, accelerating the capitalistic civility merchant process as the most vast of the recent historical movements. With its unleashing, millions of men were transported from one continent to another. The most dislike racial matrices were mixed and reshaped. Cultural and mainly technological conquests of all those people converged, setting the first foundations for a unifying reordering of human cultural heritage. (Ribeiro, 1971: 86)
As Arnold Toynbee holds, there is no doubt that the oceanic journeys of discovery that the sailors of Castile, Portugal and later England, Holland and France played a main role in were a historical “epic” happening because from around 1500 humanity was reunited in a sole universal society:

From the dawn of history until that approximate date, earthly residence of man had been divided into many isolated mansions; from 1500 a.d. on, approximately, the human race has been put under one roof. (Toynbee, 1867: 54)

Until that moment, the main line of communication between civilizations was made up of a chain of steppes and deserts that reached from the Sahara to Mongolia:
For human means the steppe was in inner sea that, in virtue of being dry, turned out to be more practicable for human transit than the salty sea had ever been before the end of the 15th century. This waterless sea possessed its ships of earth and its ports without docks. The galleons of the steppes were camels; its galleys, horses; its ports, the caravan cities, large ports in oasis-islands and terminal ports in the coasts where the sandy waves of the desert crashed over seeded land. Petra and Palmira, Damascus, Ur, the Salamanca de Tamerlane, and the Chinese empires in the doors of the Great Wall… And that strategic line of communication was dominated by Islamic power, led by the Turks, who from that strategic control broke into, conquering and to conquer in all directions: in Manchuria and Argelia, in the Ukraine and in Dekan. (Toynbee, 1967: 57)

However the ocean navigators of the small European Peninsula flung into the sea, flanked Islamic power and took it on by the rear guard. The revolutionary Western invention to overcome Islam “was to substitute the ocean for the steppe, as the main means of worldwide communication. This utilization of the ocean, first through sailboats and later through steam barges, allowed the West to unify the totality of the inhabited and inhabitable world, including the America… [and] the center of the world gave a great sudden leap. It leapt from the heart of the continent to its extreme western edge, and, after having hovering around Seville and Lisbon, it settled down for a time in Isabelian England” (Toynbee, 1967: 58)

As far as Latin America in particular, this “first wave” of globalization, that begins with maritime discoveries, makes the territory of the New World conquered by Castile, in barely forty years, go from being a fragmented territory with more than five-hundred ethnicities, languages and dispersed tribes, to being a linguistically and religiously unified territory. America goes from dispersion to unity. With the inter-mingling of Spanish blood with indigenous blood, of the Hispanic culture with the autochthonous American culture and the evangelization of the aboriginal masses, the extreme west is born. Later the input of Portugal will come and the English conquering of the Atlantic strip of North America which will give origin to Saxon American – Latin American contradiction. In the lands of the new continent the Anglo-Spanish confrontation will be produced, the low-key war upheld by England against Spain hegemony of the world. The main theatre hall of operations of that low-key war was in the “Western Indies” that were besieged by English piracy, promoted, protected and harbored by her gracious British Majesty. As much the fight between Spain and England as the struggle between Anglo Saxon America and Hispanic America will have, in a certain way, a religious background. Paradoxically, the first globalization –which generated the greatest expansionist movement in human history tending to unify the entire world in a sole system of economic exchange- made Europe begin to “experience in that stage an opposite movement of segmentation of the peoples in ethno-national entities loaded with hostility one against the other. The same civilizing process that will expand the world, putting all people groups in contact, and that will amplify the internal environment of each society by breaking regional barriers, finds its definition in national borders. All over Europe expansionistic ethno-national nuclei agglutinate that had been evolving since the dissolution of the Roman Empire. Thus modern national spaces are configured. Each one of them comprehends a community that during generations had participated in the same beliefs and customs. Now its members begin to identify themselves as defined nations in terms of solidary entities, excluding all others, with a  right to political dominion of the territory that they occupied or claimed” (Ribeiro, 1971: 89). Thus the State-nation is consolidated, progressively, that will become the main actor in international relations. Confronted with this new form of organization, non-western societies found themselves obliged, in order to survive, to adapt to that new organizational form and to the ratio that upheld it. In this way Japan proceeded, as we will explain later on, with the Meiji Revolution. Even with three centuries of delay, China also had to proceed in this way and it did, just recently in the 20th century, with the Mao Revolution and its followers, after the frustrated attempt of Sun Yat-Sen.


1. From the classical studies of history of international relations, made from a Euro-centric standpoint, they mistakenly insist that they are born in 1648 with the Paz de Westfalia, as if the only form of State were the State-nation that was invented in Europe.

2. Though the universalization process has not been intentionally created by anybody, there nevertheless exists a clear “disposition”, on behalf of the dominating sectors of the States that conform the “central triad” of world power –the United States, Europe and Japan-, of using it for their sole benefit. At the same time, new political movements, born in the central countries, oppose the intent that that process be used for the exclusive benefit of the central countries. Evidently, what is really at stake today is not universalism in and of itself, for this is an inevitable process –unless humanity were to self-destruct, provoking an ecological catastrophe and a nuclear holocaust-, but rather for its contents.

3. Globalization is the result of the evolution of the technological-scientific process that revitalized, as was early on warned by Marshall McLuhan in his celebrated book War & Peace in the Global Village, the categories of space and time.

4. “Pepper may not mean much to us, but in those times it was valued as much as precious stones. Men would risk their lives out on the dangers of the deep, would fight and die for pepper… The spices could only be obtained in India or Indonesia and had to return through Persia or Egypt; this indispensable and monopolistic commerce by nature became the primary motive of dispute of the policy of the Levant and it was the sole most powerful factor that stimulated the European expansion of the 15th Century. The dominion of the Tatars over Persia, before their conversion from Ilkhanate to Islamism, allowed Italian merchants to reach India directly and compete with Egyptians, who tended to raise prices to 300 percent as intermediaries between India and Europe. As a result of this, Europeans new where the spices were produced and at what price, in such a way that when they found themselves isolated once again from the Indian world by a hostile Islam and by the unceasing wars of the Levant, that had complete awareness of the opportunities a power might have if it could find a new route to the Indies where the spices grew” (Panikkar, 1966: 5).

5. The Hindi historian KovalamPanikkar (1966:XIX) affirms thus: “The first European expansion through Asian waters was an intent to neutralize the overwhelming land power of Islam in the Middle East with a rodeo, with the purpose of breaking the prison of the Mediterranean to which European energies were restricted”.

6. Along the same lines of interpretation as Hugh Thomas, Rene Sedillot (1958: 308) holds that: “the main reason for the discovery has to do with military order and with what is strategic: having suffered a long time under the yoke of Islam, the Portuguese aspired to eliminate this danger forever; also, as a precaution, they appointed Ceuta and Arzila over the Marrocan coast and made Tangier a lookout city: a type of Crusade pushed them towards Africa”.

7. Prince Enrique the Sailor (1392-1460) was the third son of King Juan I. Enrique –educated in the courageous tradition of NuñoÁlvarez, the great national hero whose victory of the Muslims gave Portugal its independence- “lived from his very tender childhood on in an atmosphere of Christian militant mysticism”. His passion for the reconquest took him in 1415 to plan the attack on the African base of Islamic power and from 1417 on “to plan a grand strategy that would allow for flanking Islam and taking Christendom directly to the Indian Ocean” (Panikkar, 1966: 9).

8. On July 8th of 1497, Vasco da Gama, at the head of four crafts, set sail from the port of Belem, at the mouth of the Tajo river, headed for the Indian Ocean. San Gabriel, the leading ship, had twenty cannons. Almost a year later, in May of 1498, the arrival of the San Gabriel introduced a revolutionary element to the Indian Ocean: a ship equipped with cannons. “The armament of the Portuguese ships was something completely unexpected in the seas of India, and it gave them [the Portuguese] an immediate and decisive advantage over their Indian counterparts. The only non-European force that had developed maritime artillery was the Ottoman Empire, but when the Portuguese reached Calicut, the Turkish had not a single ship in the Indian Ocean” (Panikkar, 1966: 15). The Ottoman Empire reacted late against the Portuguese threat. It wasn’t until the decade of 1530, moment in which the spice trade through the Mediterranean had reached a very low point and pepper stores where running low in the Sultans palace, did the Turkish take action. Sultan Soliman order the construction of a fleet in Suez and in 1538 the Ottoman fleet, headed by the governor of Egypt, Soliman Baja, sailed to the Indian to siege the Portuguese fort of Diu. However “the Turkish galleys could not resist the major fire power of the Portuguese cannons nor were then adequate for ocean sailing” (Imber, 2004: 303).

9. To delve into the content of the Papal bulla, see Panikkar (1966).

10. In 1484, Columbus finished a project to sail due west towards Japan and China. King John of Portugal submitted his plan to a commission of experts that was formed in Lisboa and was called “Junta dos Matematicos”: “The board decided that Japan must be much farther away than what Columbus (and Toscanelli) thought, and they were right. Therefore, they concluded that it was not possible to provide water and food for an expedition that implied crossing such an enormous surface of the ocean” (Thomas, 2004: 73).


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