In the first chapters of Janet L. Abu-Lughod’s book, Before European Hegemony, she attempts to explain why and how the West became dominant. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was left in shambles and in many aspects “whenever differences appeared [between the East and the West,] the West lagged behind” (15). While many relate the start of the world economy to the sixteenth century, Abu-Lughod tells how in actuality there was a world trade century before, where Europe was just a newcomer. It was between 1200 and 1300 CE that Europe joined the trade system (Pax Mongolica) with the Middle East, India and China. Abu-Lughod also brings up that while parts in central Europe’s economies practically disappeared, Italy was able to somewhat sustain its international trade, due to the easy access to water. The European economy went through many changes of core cities during its time of gaining power. Abu-Lughod explains that these core trade cities needed to be accessible and have multiple regions products in order to be successful. Also, she informs us that during this time the role of a banker became highly important. While Europe was gaining strength, Abu-Lughod explains, that the European economies growth was not the whole reason Europe became a core of the world system. Europe was able to become the core of world trade, largely because of the tribulations and disarray of the East, such as the Black Death and the division of land between the successors of Genghis Khan. Before European Hegemony helps us understand the process by which Europe gained its dominance over world trade, starting with the periodic markets.
Abu-Lughod writes “throughout history, the core zones of world economies have been displaced successively from one location to another. Cores become peripheries and peripheries are thrust into the core”(74). This leads into my question for the class. Why is it that we assume Europe and the West have always dominated? Why is it that the discoveries the East made are still attributed to the West? I feel as though modern day society is still geared toward European and western society dominance, when it is most likely that cores will change.