Researched Works

Sailing Expeditions in Early Asia - Europe as an Imperial Power

History points to Europe as an imperial power that changed the world. Its hegemonic motives fueled sailing expeditions to divide and conquer early Asia.

Asia had been (and still is) a strategic target for an imperial power. With its sailing expeditions, European forces took control of some of its territories. As the world’s largest and most populous continent, it houses over 40 countries, including the highly developed Japan, communist China, and oil-rich Saudi Arabia. It gave birth to early civilizations (e.g., Mesopotamia and Indus Valley) and major religions (e.g., Christianity and Islam).

Investing in sailing expeditions - Capitalist engine of European colonialism in early Asia

India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines are among the countries that Europe colonized in Asia. Although Janet L. Abu-Lughod's Before European Hegemony (1991) notes that nascent international trade had already occurred between this region and Europe in 1250-1350 AD, indicating pre-existing world economies prior to the latter’s hegemony.

It was a profit-driven capitalist system that drove European imperialism, as well as the Industrial Revolution. Early capitalism in Europe was noted in 1100, involving traders and financiers. Also playing a significant role were Jewish moneylenders from whom merchants received loans or a “business credit” around 1200.

Moreover, as Shepard Bancroft Clough and Charles Woolsey Cole write in Economic History of Europe (1952), it was also around this time onto 1500 when bankers financed wars waged by kings, collected taxes for the Church, and lent money to town and cities to build infrastructures. They also funded ships and trading voyages. Thus, the Age of Exploration led by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors during the 15th century was a collaborative business venture involving the monarchy, the papacy, and early capitalists who wanted expanded power.

Europe's inhumane treatment of colonized natives

Using religion as bait, the Europeans subjugated parts of Asia. They achieved political leverage, commercial monopoly, and military might. They also committed human rights abuses, such as when men were subjected to forced labor, and when Chinese children worked as slaves.

Given the cruel conditions that the locals endured, missionaries, friars, and scholars initiated the call for social justice. James E. Kiefer (n.d.) and Fidel Villaroel (2009) credit priests like Antonio de Montesinos, Bartolome de las Casas, Bartolomeo de Olmedo, and Francisco de Vitoria for imploring the Spanish monarchy to help stop the atrocities.

Villaroel names Fr. Vitoria as the man who inspired the current principles of the United Nations (UN), earning him the title “Founder of the Law of Nations”. Aside from him, Sanderson Beck (2005) identifies de las Casas, Francisco Suarez, Eméric Crucé, Hugo Grotius, Samuel Pufendorf, Christian Wolff, and Emerich de Vattel as international law pioneers of the 15th-17th centuries.

Fr. Vitoria, et al. emphasized the government’s role in protecting human rights and welfare. Their teachings foreshadowed The Enlightenment Period's humanist ideas that addressed the sorry conditions caused by clashing ideologies and burgeoning industrialization.

Life in Asia before and after the rough sailing of Western imperialism

According to The Silk Road to Riches (2006), Europe and Asian countries (i.e., China, Japan and India) had the same economic conditions before industrialization. However, J. Pirenne’s History of the Universe (1950) describes Asian society as more progressive than Europe in mid-17th century: "The riches of Asia were incomparably greater...Her industrial techniques showed a subtlety and a tradition that the European handicrafts did not possess...In matters of credit, transfer of funds, insurance, and cartels, neither India, Persia, nor China had anything to learn from Europe."

Western imperialism though introduced colonized Asians to novel technologies. Industrialization facilitated the production and distribution of goods. It likewise fueled competition with existing native industries. The locals then either accepted or defied foreign occupation and influence. Many attempts to oust the colonizers failed, resulting in the systemic and systematic assimilation of a “new” culture.


Abu-Lughod, Janet L. 1991. Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350. Oxford University Press. (accessed June 7, 2009).

Author unkwown. n.d. From Trade to Colonization - Historic Dynamics of the East India Companies. In History of India: The British East India Company and Colonization. (accessed June 5, 2009).

Beck, Sanderson. 2005. “International Law Pioneers” In Guides to Peace and Justice from Ancient Sages to the Suffragettes. World Peace Communications. (accessed June 17, 2009).

Clough, Shepard Bancroft and Cole, Charles Woolsey. 1952."Economic History of Europe". In Chapters in Western civilization - Volume I by Hesperides (2007). (accessed June 3, 2009).

Hart, Jonathan. 2008. Empires and Colonies. (accessed June 17, 2009).

Howitt, William. 2004. Colonization and Christianity: A Popular History of the Treatment of the Natives by the Europeans in All Their Colonies . (accessed June 17, 2009).

Kiefer, James E. n.d. “Bartolome de las Casas: Missionary, Priest, Defender of the Oppressed” in Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past. (accessed June 17, 2009).

Lim, Walter S.H. 2006. John Milton, Radical Politics, and Biblical Republicanism. (accessed June 1, 2009).

Mostrous, Yiannis G.; Gue, Elliott H.; and Martchev, Ivan D. 2006. The Silk Road to Riches: How You Can Profit by Investing in Asia’s Newfound Prosperity. FT Press. (accessed May 29, 2009).

Villaroel, Fidel. 2009. “Philip II and the “Philippine Referendum” of 1599” in Re-Shaping the World: Philip II of Spain and His Time. Ateneo de Manila University Press. (accessed June 17, 2009).

Williams Jr., Robert A. 1990. The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest. (accessed June 17, 2009).

Written by Leann Zarah (

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