Lecture 1. 1400 The Beginning of the Anthropocene

Columbus’ infamous voyage to the Americas took place by the end of the 15th century, an event often lauded as a “discovery” and the beginning of a new age. However, if we tell the stories of global human interaction as one beginning with the European “Age of Exploration,” we miss the dynamic shifts that were taking place technologically, economically, and culturally elsewhere in the world that make up the fabric or serve as catalysts for global expansion. These lectures aim to establish the context for what has come to be known as the “Anthropocene age,” or the age of titanic encounters between the microbes of Eurasia and the Americas, and the growing sophistication of cross-cultural influences through trade and conflict. We use “Anthropocene” because these were encounters engineered by humans, setting the stage for further expansion and conquest in the centuries to come.

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