I have been meaning to write about my teaching opportunity at the Second Baptist School this past Wednesday. Phil Sinitiere, a friend and a colleague who is the history department chair at SBS invited me to teach his Advanced Placement European History class on the Age of Exploration. Although I met Phil for the first time this past summer, I am looking forward to working with him on future research and writing projects. While teaching at SBS, I did not get as far in the lecture as I had hoped, though our class meeting went well. Not only are SBS students bright, but I found them to be as receptive and polite as my HCHS students. I started the session off by presenting an illustration that conceptualizes the growth of European modernity and the birth of what Arnold Toynbee would call the “Industrial Revolution.”
“The Industrial Revolution” coined by Toynbee in the late 1800s and used by Marxist and socialist historians to attack “the captains of industry” and expose “the conditions of the working classes;” after World War II, conservative social scientists like Rostow used Britain as model for industrial “take-off.” Recent scholarship suggests the story not so simple; e.g. Peter Sterns
Unfortunately, I ran short of time before drawing a conclusion on the relationship between European constitutionalism, mercantilism, geo politics, and the expansion of capitalism. Because of these factors and a number of others, the British middle class promulgated the growth of Atlantic slavery while modeling a new economic paradigm that the French bourgeoisie and nobility would desire. Unlike the traditional Marxist’s interpretation of the revolution that claimed it started as a matter of class conflict between the third estate (peasants & bourgeoisie) and the first and second estates, recent interpretations claim the revolution was a result of the Atlantic market system. Feudal lands and titles no longer carried the wealth that the Atlantic market offered. With an ancient system in existence that prevented the French nobility from prospering in this newly minted Atlantic market, the second and third estate unified to overthrow the French ancient class system.
Besides the colonial wars fought for geo-political gain in the Atlantic market, the dawn of neo slavery emerged. Paradoxically speaking, this institution heightened during a period in which the literature addressed both natural rights and racial inferiority. I believe the process of understanding European history from 1450 to 1815 rest on students’ understanding of the Atlantic market.