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Conquest, Disease and Trade

With the discovery of new sea routes by European nationals to India and America, the lives of the people began to change. Precious metals, particularly silver, from Peru and Mexico, enhanced Europe’s wealth and financed its trade with Asia.

The Portuguese and Spanish conquered America not by superior firepower but because of the germ such as smallpox that they carried on with their people. The original inhabitants of America had no immunity against these diseases that came from Europe. Such diseases spread deep into the continent, killing and decimating whole communities and thus paving the way for the conquest.

During the nineteenth century, poverty, hunger, religious conflicts and deadly diseases were common in Europe. But during the eighteenth century, China and India were among the world’s richest countries. They were also pre-eminent in Asian trade. China restricted overseas contacts and retreated into isolation, this led to the emergence of Europe as the centre of world trade.

By the eighteenth century, slave trade had also been introduced, under which, the slaves in Africa worked in plantations, growing cotton and sugar for European markets.

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