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“Traditions and Encounters” by J. Bentley Essay


Chapter 1: The Foundations of Complex Societies

The first complex societies of mankind were based on hunting, gathering, agricultural activities, and domestication of plants and animals. Eventually, these societies grew and started to cover bigger territories. Rural areas turned into cities. The inevitability of inter-social relationships became the reason for the development of political borders, diplomatic interactions, and trading. Soon these societies started to establish their religions, languages, and writing.

Wealthier states with stronger military power were taking over the neighboring territories and influencing the states nearby. The land of Mesopotamia was divided between several city-states. The kings of these states were in a constant state of conflict. Mesopotamia gave birth to Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian Empires, the invention of the wheel, shipbuilding, metallurgy, astronomy, and mathematics.

Chapter 2: Early African Societies and the Bantu Migrations

Early societies of Africa also practiced rural lifestyle and developed agriculture. Soon Nile River became the concentration of the agricultural societies of Africa. Egypt started to take the leading positions among the other societies and states. Nile’s canals supported large populations of the territory. The cultural and religious traditions of Africa started to spread with the beginning of the Bantu migrations.

The biggest and most prosperous African societies were located around the Nile River, which also served as the means of communications and trade. Migrations of tribes and nations around the region led to the spreading of knowledge in the spheres of farming and metallurgy. Just like in Mesopotamia, African societies interacted using trading and used diplomacy.

Chapter 3: Early Societies in South and East Asia

Early societies of China and India were very similar to the ones of Africa and Mesopotamia. They were also based around the biggest rivers, which were Yangzi and Indus. These societies also practiced and improved farming and herding. The Chinese and Indian societies were especially good at training. They developed complex routs and ways of interaction with states and cultures that were located far away from them. These societies also adopted some of the western inventions and innovations.

Culture and traditions of Indian and Asian states were very different from the ones of the West; this is why communication was one of the obstacles. Both Indian and early Chinese societies were divided into classes or casts. There were elite and peasants. In China, elite dynasties Xia, Shang, and Zhou gave a push to the cultural development of the state. South and East Asian societies were known for their bronze industry and fine textiles, great achievements in mathematics and astronomy.

Chapter 4: Early Societies in the Americas and Oceania

The early societies of the Americas had to deal with glaciers and their melting. This caused massive floods, so the populations and tribes were separated by large amounts of water, which led to an early invention of boats. These societies practiced exclusively in hunting and gathering. Yet, climate change and growth of the population caused the extinction of large animals, so people had to start developing agriculture.

The habitants of Australia and Oceania were good at farming and started to bring cultivated plants to islands around their territories. They also bred domesticated animals and birds such as pigs and chicken. Long-distance interactions and trade were significant features of the societies of the Americas and Oceania. All of these regions have a rich cultural heritage and complex social hierarchy. The remains of ancient Aztec and Mayan cities are still known all around the world.

Chapter 5: The Empires of Persia

Persian kingdom began to make an important impact on the neighboring lands when Cyrus took over the kingdom of Lydia. Persian Empire became the link between states of Asia, Mesopotamia, India, and Mediterranean lands. It was challenging to manage such enormous territory, yet the rulers of Persia accomplished this mission, and eventually, Persian culture started to create important influences on religions and cultures of other states. Persian Zoroastrianism impacted Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Due to its constant interactions with very different states and cultures, Persia learnt to develop diplomacy, law, and international relationships and created a strong socio-economic structure for the state.

Chapter 6: The Unification of China

Legalist theories and doctrine in China served as the beginning of the unification of the state and put an end to constant confrontations between the leaders (Bentley, Ziegler, Street-Salter, 109). Legalist teachings were based on strict laws and regulations for the citizens. The Confucian ideal of the ideal state and society was quite different and based on initiative and devotion to the motherland. China of that time became a prosperous and wealthy state with great influences, culture, and developing trades.

Han dynasty that replaced the Qins started a successful stage for the state of China. Yet, that state was based on enormous social differences; this is why soon the gap between the elite and peasants led to severe social disorders and mass protests. Centralization of power in China led to its unification, but the process was incomplete without the proper social policies directed at minimization of differences between social classes.

Chapter 7: State, Society, and the Quest for Salvation in India

The warm climate and geographical location of India made it a very fertile land with highly developed agriculture. Even though trading was one of the major spheres of economic development of the state, India never followed the too the imperial way of living. Naturally, Indian society practiced two different religions – Buddhism and Hinduism.

These teachings are quite similar, but they have certain differences. Both of them are based on the pursuit of enlightenment and spiritual self-searching. These religions were adopted by other Asian states around India. The society of India was strictly divided into classes or casts (Bentley, Ziegler, Street-Salter, 128). Philosophers and priests were highly respected in India.

Chapter 8: Mediterranean Society under the Greeks and Romans

The Greek and Roman civilizations in the Mediterranean basin brought multiple advantages to the area. Both states played an active role in the international and intercultural communication and effectively developed the trading system and served as the sources of goods, resources, military forces and, of course, knowledge and ideas (Bentley, Ziegler, Street-Salter, 140).

Greek society consisted of smaller city-states that were in a constant state confrontation with each other. Roman Empire had centralized power and managed to spread its influence throughout the entire Mediterranean region. Both states are known for their outstanding philosophers, whose ideas are still very popular and used by the thinkers of the present days.

Chapter 9: Cross-Cultural Exchanges on the Silk Roads

In 100s B.C.E. trade networks started to develop rapidly. Soon the trading ways were spread across the Eastern hemisphere. The covered the deserts of Asia, a big part of Eurasia, reached Africa and Indian Ocean (Bentley, Ziegler, Street-Salter, 166). Long-distance trade ways were very dangerous because of pirates and bandits ready to attack the groups of mongers every day and because of natural disasters such as storms.

Long-distance trade ways carried plenty of benefits, the spreading of religious beliefs and cultures and new markets for various goods. They also created serious dangers, such as the transmission of epidemic diseases. Trade ways played an important role in the process of shaping many societies, economies, and cultures.

Works Cited

Bentley, Jerry, Herbert Ziegler and Heather Street-Salter. Traditions and Encounters: A Brief Global History. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006. Print.

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