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Shifting Historical Paradigms: Europe Was Not Able To Colonize Asia Until Much Later

As far as we were taught, Europe's military technology and intimidation led to many parts of Asia being colonized. Only some of the bigger empires in Asia were able to put up decent resistance against the Europeans until their wily schemes caused China and Japan to acquiesce. 

But a new paradigm shift on the dynamics between Europe and Asia shows that the European colonizers and imperialists weren't able to breach Asia until much later in the 19th century. And even then, Asia wasn't backing down.

The moment that Europe embarked on long-distance trade with Asia in 1498, when the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut in India, a process started that would ultimately lead to large European colonial empires. More than three centuries later, these empires spanned the globe. 
It is easy to see what happened in Asia before 1800 in the light of what happened later, but conquest depended more on Asian circumstances than on European superiority. However, this can also stand in the way of understanding what might have actually happened in the past.

If we are to change our views on these historical events, then we would need to do a deeper study on the sequence of events or circumstances which led to Europe's being able to get a strong foothold in Asia and build their empires. If Asia had the upper hand all along, then which events caused them to relinquish this advantage?

(Image credit: Edward H. Cree/MIT; Wikimedia Commons)


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