Entanglements: Assimilation and Integration in the Atlantic World

In chapter seven of The Atlantic World the impacts of European culture, specifically the development of commerce/trade, are shown to have major affects on indigenous populations. What I thought was interesting was how European and indigenous ideas clashed in regards to the function of commerce. Bernado de Bargas Machura, a Spanish soldier turned estate manager and district official in the Spanish colonies, believed that natives were barbarous people in need of guidance to encourage the production of goods for sale (Pg. 217). This expressed the ignorance Europeans had toward native culture in which the belief that since indigenous people only traded for food, clothing, and weapons they were primitive. For Europeans economic gain was one of the main motivations for European transatlantic expansion. In the European mindset, if natives were taught to trade and adapted to a commercial mentality they might find enjoyment in wealth. During the 16th to the 18th centuries, trade transformed Atlantic culture for both European and indigenous peoples. European cities in colonized lands became power houses in trade. In comparison, the largest Native American states had land locked capitals instead of major cities oriented toward river or ocean trading. For African nations, those who joined with the Atlantic trade enjoyed goods and arms which helped to centralize individual states. This is similar to ideas brought up in Michael Gomez Exchanging Our Country Marks in which African nations closest to the coast and eager to trade slave with Europeans began to gain in power and wealth. While those Africans nations who did not join the trade became less developed and less adaptable to the changing outside world around them.

Chapter eight elaborates on the opposite effects that Atlantic trading had on European and indigenous culture. Instead of indigenous traditions/customs being completely dissolved under the might of European culture, an integration of cultures took hold. These ideas are discussed through the words of my colleague Marissa Cervantes. She brings up the fact that the Atlantic world was becoming culturally flexible and multilingual allowing ingenious culture to survive. Most of the mixture of culture happened at places such as trading posts along the West African coast. I found this to be ironic as the very areas in which Europeans believed indigenous people would fully assimilate into their culture instead allowed new mixed races and cultural customs to flourish.

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