In Atlantic history, law functioned as an element of regional formation. Legal practices and discourses circulated widely, and similar patterns of legal politics produced parallel regulatory shifts around the region. This article describes processes contributing to each trend in Atlantic law. It considers some similarities in strategies for extending sovereignty and notes the prominence of often indirect references to Roman law by European sojourners and settlers. It then turns to repeating patterns of legal pluralism, discussing in particular the regional effects of maritime conflicts and of decentralised legal authority, including control over slaves. This point leads to the observation that, particularly in the late eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century, legal conflicts in the Atlantic world stood at the centre of new discourses of imperial, constitutional, and international law. While noting the most salient differences between legal systems within the Atlantic world, the article emphasises shared features contributing to the formation and transformation of an inter-imperial Atlantic legal regime.
Alan L. Karras
This article argues that historians ought to have two main goals: reconstructing the past in a way that demonstrates how those who lived life in times before our own understood and interacted with the world that they inhabited and ascribing meaning to these past experiences so that they are relevant to those in the present. Atlantic history, at least for the last few decades, has held out tremendous potential for modern world historians. This article describes expanding time and integrating space by considering the Atlantic world as a single entity from the time that the four continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean became linked though exploration. It also discusses community, migration, and the need for political economy; and globalizing Atlantic history.
N. A. M. Rodger
Without the ocean — or rather, the two oceans, the North and South Atlantic — we cannot account for many of the basic facts of Atlantic history. Only ships and seafaring made possible the construction of the Atlantic world. Two stages in the making of the Atlantic world need to be distinguished; the age of exploration, when the geography of the two oceans was yet to be determined, and the age of exploitation which followed. Besides knowledge of celestial navigation and the wind systems, there was one further key element of the Atlantic navigation system which was developed in the fifteenth century: the three-masted ship rig. Just as the wind and current systems favoured the Spaniards in the Caribbean, they favoured the Portuguese in the South Atlantic Ocean. The study of Atlantic navigation raises as many questions as it answers. It seems to account for the early success of Portugal and Spain, but also seems to make almost impossible the rise to prominence in international trade of such remote and unfavoured ports as London and Amsterdam.
Europe's incursion into the Atlantic — the ‘occidental break out’ — after the mid-fifteenth century created many challenges and generated many kinds of ‘newness’ for all of those caught up in it. For the peoples of the African littoral, of the Canary Islands, of the Caribbean, and of the American mainland, the contact with Europeans throughout this period was inevitably, if not always initially, violent. Both Africa and America had been the site of large political structures which the Europeans called ‘empires’, Zimbabwe and Benin, Aztec Mexico and Inca Peru, before the fifteenth century. The discovery of America had seriously undermined both classical geography and the traditional Christian accounts of the creation and subsequent peopling of the world. It offered, however, other, less direct, challenges to the ancient understanding of the world which in the end, were to be even more devastating for the subsequent history of Europe.
From unpromising starting points in Atlantic-side Europe, during a period of plague and cold, in a region that was poor and, by comparison with civilizations of maritime Asia, technically backward, explorers worked out the wind-systems of the world, and opened routes of commerce, conquest, colonization, contagion, and cultural and ecological exchange between formerly sundered regions and continents. This chapter narrates their achievements and approaches the problems of how and why Europeans’ breakthrough to much of the rest of the world happened when it did. The emphasis is on explorers’ mental as well as material equipment, and on the environmental constraints and challenges that shaped their efforts.
Matthew H. Edney
This article considers the configuration of the Atlantic by Europeans through the production, circulation, and consumption of spatial information, specifically in the form of maps. It examines each of the several cartographies associated with the early modern Atlantic within their respective knowledge domains. Europeans slowly developed the idea of the Atlantic in order to organise and understand the waters, shores, peoples, and places that they encountered as they sailed westward and southward away from Europe. Understanding the contributions of cartography to the formation of the Atlantic requires an appreciation of the historical limits to the various practices and institutions of making and using maps. It should be considered, for example, the way in which Christopher Columbus, when he headed out into the Ocean Sea in 1492, set aside one way of conceptualising and representing the world and began working in another. He had conceived of his direct voyage to the Indies through participation in the general scholarly discourse of geography (then generally known as ‘cosmography’), which understood the earth to be a sphere and already mapped it using latitude and longitude.
The first part of this article discusses the different approaches to Mediterranean history. People talk of the Mediterranean and refer to the waters that stretch eastward from the Straits of Gibraltar, linked to the Red Sea by the man-made channel of the Suez Canal and to the Black Sea by the natural channel of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus. The discussion insists that the study of Mediterranean history encapsulates many important aspects of world history: it involves the investigation of connections between societies separated by extensive physical space, focusing on commercial networks, the building of empires, and the movement of peoples, These phenomena can be traced across the surface of the sea across which Europe, Africa, and Asia meet one another and over which Christianity and Islam have vigorously competed for dominion. The second part of this article focuses on the development of the ‘classic Mediterranean’ over time.
Oceania and Australasia are relatively recent and externally imposed terms. The term Australasia refers collectively to the lands south of Asia, or present-day Australia and New Zealand. Oceania refers to the Pacific Islands east of present-day Indonesia and the Philippines across to Pitcairn Island in the southeast Pacific and also includes the western half of the island of New Guinea, which is now part of Indonesia. These islands are generally divided into three geographical areas: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Present-day national borders cut across previous indigenous exchange areas or unite peoples with little previous sense of collective identity, especially in the larger Pacific Island nations of southwest Oceania. The region's value and prime relevance to world history lies in its comparative value in terms of European explorers and traders, and subsequent settler societies and their relations with, and impact upon, indigenous peoples.
Rainer F. Buschmann
The Pacific Ocean is the world's largest and deepest ocean, spanning about one-third of the earth's surface. Despite its size, the Pacific has received only scant global historical attention when compared to the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. However, the Pacific has played a prominent role intermittently in world history, highlighted by Austronesian expansion, Manila Galleon trade, eighteenth-century European exploration, and the intense island-hopping military campaigns of World War II. At the same time, such historical interest did not translate into a familiar timeline integrating this watery geographical feature into a larger world historical framework. This article argues that there is more discontinuity than continuity to this ocean, and its history is best broken down by three distinct periods of exploration and settlement.
This article begins with a brief historical introduction that illustrates the interaction between ship, port, and city in the pre-modern era. It then explores the modern era from the mid-nineteenth century, characterized by major global changes, transformation of shipping networks, and new players following industrialization. In the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, European nations and port cities dominated and controlled global harbours. The main maritime control centres and the greatest ports were European, including London, Liverpool, and Hamburg. During this period, steamships emerged as the main carriers of goods and people, rendering travel cheaper, faster, and more reliable, and facilitating the immigration waves of the nineteenth century. Starting in the early twentieth century, the United States became a major global player, with New York and San Francisco becoming port centres in their own right. The opening of new markets in China and Japan in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought new port cities such as Hong Kong, Canton, and Shanghai to the global centre stage. Since the 1960s, extensive globalization and containerization have reshaped all ports and port cities. These dynamics spurred governments to both transform and revitalize former inner-city ports and construct new deep harbours.