Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan, and Ambassador Gérard Stoudmann
(b) The Middle Ages of Globalization
The events that occurred during what we will call the middle ages of globalization were vast in their influence. During this time, global trade and the wealth of information available as a direct result of travel expanded to unprecedented levels. This era began with the fall of Grenada in January 1492 and continued with the expulsion of Islamic civilization from Spain. These events had a lasting impact on the continent and led to Columbus’ expedition in April of that year to discover a new route to Asia. Because of the Islamic expulsion, Columbus was accompanied by captive Arab sailors who gained their freedom by safely returning him to Toledo. Columbus’ discovery of America began a race for colonies that would last throughout the next five centuries. As William H. McNeill described it, “The year 1500 marks an important turning point in world history also. The European discoveries made the oceans of the earth into highways for their commerce and conquest.”15 The importance of this discovery and expansion has also been noted by Ronald Findlay: “the extension of the overseas frontier to the Americas caused profound changes within Europe itself and subsequently in Asia and Africa as well.”16
Developments during the 17th century would also have a lasting impact on the development of modern civilization. With the end of the Thirty Years’ War and the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia, the concept of the modern nation-state was born: “According to the conventional view of international law during the Cold War period, it was the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) that ushered in the modern period of the nation-state and state sovereignty, departing from the previous medieval pattern, in the case of Europe, of religious universality and political feudalism.”17 This notion of sovereignty has had a lasting impact on the structure of the international system and the way in which the role of the nation-state is understood. This concept is important to understand due to the fact that many authors argue that it is exactly this world order that globalization challenges.
The next globalization event worth highlighting occurred just a few years later in 1683 with the siege of Vienna and the halt of Islamic influence in Europe. It can even be argued that “the relaxation of the Ottoman challenge in Europe helped facilitate the emergence of the Westphalian political order in the latter part of the seventeenth century.”18 The ramifications of this are still being dealt with in Europe (most recently illustrated through the printing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in European newspapers),19 and the lines drawn between cultures and nations at that time still resonate throughout the international system.
The globalizing decade of the 1760s saw an explosion of knowledge. The Enlightenment introduced the age of reason. Developments in mapping, surveying, exploration, and expanded commercialism and imperialism resulted in important milestones in the history of globalization, most notably the development of the steam engine in 1765. During the Industrial Revolution, man was replaced by machine and production levels soared. Communities moved into the modern era as jobs that were traditionally done by hand were now the domain of automated systems, thus freeing labor and increasing the production of goods worldwide. This process continued in the 20th century, when Henry Ford mass-produced the first automobile. The invention of the steamship in 1807 and the steam locomotive in 1825 made travel easier, and the resulting increase in movement brought people together faster and more efficiently than had ever been experienced. This was followed by the invention of the telegraph and the telegraph cable, which helped to move humanity into an era of mass communication and production. Without the developments experienced in the 19th century, transnational integration would have remained in its infancy for many years.
(c) The Birth of Modern Globalization
It can be argued that modern globalization began in 1903 with the birth of manned flight. As the Wright brothers flew 120 feet, they lifted the hopes and dreams of the modern world with them. The invention of the airplane would, over the next century, propel globalization into a new era, easing connections between people, cultures, languages, economies, and playing a leading role in the development of modern warfare. The impact of this invention and the way in which it shaped our modern world was a decisive globalization event. As noted on the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ achievement: “It's hard to overstate the importance of that moment because, as Wilbur Wright watched his brother guide their flying machine into the air, the past and the future separated and the world started shrinking. Left behind were weeks-long trips across the United States (US) and months-long crossings of the Atlantic Ocean. Ahead lay transcontinental trips of less than a day, and eventually even the oceans would be crossed in a few hours.”20