Trans-cultural Diffusion - Medieval Europe

Medieval Europe

A noteworthy example of diffusion theory is the massive infusion of technology into Europe between 1000 and 1700 CE. In the early Middle Ages, Byzantine and Asian societies were far more advanced than Europe, however, the era beginning in the High Middle Ages reversed that balance and resulted in a Europe which surpassed Asian, Byzantine and Muslim cultures in pre-industrial technology. Diffusion theory has been advanced as an explanation for this shift in technological development. Many important basic inventions had their roots elsewhere, notably gunpowder, clock mechanisms, shipbuilding, paper and the windmill, however, in each of these cases Europeans not only adopted the technologies, but improved the manufacturing scale, inherent technology, and applications to a point clearly surpassing the evolution of the original invention in its country of origin. Historians have questioned recently whether Europe really owes the development of such inventions as gunpowder, the compass, the windmill or printing to the Chinese or other cultures. It is a matter of record that by the late eighteenth century, European fleets, armed with advanced cannon, decimated Arab and Chinese fleets, paving the way for unfettered domination of the seas that led to the colonial era.

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