HBC is both a site about both fashion and history. We do not believe that fashion can be viewed in a vacuume. In addition, fashion provides a great deal of useful historical information as well as a factor in a major industry--the clothing industry. This is an industry that todays is a relatively small part of the ovrall economy. Throughout history, however, clothing was a much more important part of the economy. No better illustration of this is the fact that the Industrial Revolution was at first based on improved methods of producing cotton textiles. We have been expanding our background information on historical events and national histories as HBC develops. History is commonly structured around national states or reguional groupings of nation states. Thus most people are acustomed to viewing history through thre prisim of their own national experiences. Of course, this can lead to many misunderstandings as so many historical developments involve interactions with other countries. We have worked on many historical events as we developed HBC, working on a thematic and chronological approach. Many of these topics toch upon or pertain to many individual countries. A number of HBC readers have expressed an interest in specific countries. So it seems a reasonable to create pages on national histories that tie these various pages together for readers interested in a specific country. We do not have many of these national history pages, but will begin to create them as HBC develops. Here we invite readers to contribute assessments of their country's history. HBC's focus is of course largely American and we are thus interested in reader contributions on their history.
Africa is the poorest and least developed of all the world's regions. Historians and anthropologists debate the reason for this. A variety of factors may be involved including the native flora and fauna and the extent of endemic diseases. Climate may be a factor. The slave trade conducted by the Arabs and Europeans may have also been another factor. Africans tend to see colonialism as a factor. The colonial experience, however, is mixed. The Africans do indeed have much to complain about. Blameing their problems on colonialism is an easy way of avoiding responsibility. European colonialism that brought Africa into the modern world and many African countries have declined since independence. A report by Oxfam and other charities suggests that one of the factors contributing to ppverty in Africa are the constant wars and civil strife that reportedly cost the various countries about $18 billion annually (2007). A range of other problens including over population, poor educaion, corruption, incompetent leadership, and a lack of economic freedom are also contributing factors to Africa's failure.
North Ameica is one of the most successful and prosperous of the world regions, especially Canada and the United States. There are a number of reasons for this, including raw materials, productive agricultural lands, and the ability to draw from the European experience and technology as the result of emigration.
And the United States had a governing philosophy that discouraged government restrictions on individual enterprise. The American experience was blighted by the institition os slavery. These are elements that North America shares with South America. The basic historical question is why North America has developed so differently from South America. In many ways North and South America are similar. A key and often ignored factor is the impact of English law and political values. The key difference is in North America the English were the dominant colonial power. While in South America it was the Spanish and Portuguese. Marxists during the Cold War claimed that American success was based on exploiting South America and other Third World countries. The problem with this assessment, is that the United States began its industrial development years before it began to make investments in the Third World. And it is not just America that that has been enormously successful, but Cabnada as well--another British-dominated country. And Canada does not have the overseas involvement of America.
South and Central America were the home of the great Native American civilizations. The isolation of the Americas probably explains the failure of Native American civilization to make the transition to the Bronze Age. Despite their impressive achievements, they were stone-age peolples and easily overcome by the Conqistadores. Many Native American tribes were wiped out by the Conquistadores. European diseases to which isolated Native Americans had no immunity played a key role in the fall of their principal civilizations. The region developed as Portuguese and Spanish colonies in which the surviving Native American peoples were Christinized and exploited economically. Modern South Americans are an ethnic mix of Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans imported as slaves to replace decimated Native American populations. The ethnic mix varies from country to country. None of the countries in the region have achieved the success of either Europe and North America. Argentina came the closest, but faltered. Today Brazil is making considerable progress. The key question in studying the history of the region is why have these countries have not developed economically and socially so that they can provide their people a decent standard of living. Many Latin Americans influenced by Marxist thought blame the United State and to a lesser extent European economic exploitation. Such conclusions are not based on any real economic analysis, but rather a muddled mix of ideologically-nationalist kant, often effectively used by populist politicans. There is a general reluctance among academics and politicans in the region to more deeply investigate the region's economic failure.
Civilization first appeared in Western Asia (Mesopotamia--Tygris Euprates and Egypt--the Nile) and Southern Asia (Indus River). Egypt of course is in Africa, but the civilization has been more associated with the Middle East than Africa. Later civilization developed in China (Yellow River). The reason for this is the high yields available in river valleys as well as the available flora and fauna. Given the early appearance of civiization and the importance of Asian civilizatons such as the Persians, Chinese, and Arab Caliophate, the core historical question is why did the findamental economic, political, and social achievements occur in Western Europe, a region until relatively late in world history was backward and underdeveloped. The decline of the Caliphare and the turn inward to findamentalist Islam which restricted science and free thought explains the faiure of the Middle East. More interesting is why China failed to mke the leap to modern industry and politcal development. This is an especially intreauging question because until about 1500, China was technologically more advanced than Europe.
The rise of the West is the dominant historical development that has shaped our modern world. This largely means European countries and their North American offshoots. The basic historical question is why did Europe with a relatively small population come to dominate the rest of the world. (And within Europe why did a smll country like England become so important.) One author suggests it was the flora, fauna, and matural resorces. There is some validity in this argument, but it is not completely satisfying. Europe is not the only area with such favorable underpinnings. In particular they do not explain why it was not Chima which dominated the world. In particular they do not explain why it was in Europe, especially in England, that the industrial revolution occurred. We believe that it was Europe's unique historical experience
that led to free enterprise, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for individual human rights that led to the rise of the West. Esentially the genius of the West was unlocking the innate capabilities of the human mind from traditional cultural, political, and religious contraints. The European historical experience Of particular interest is how the Germanic tribes that overran the Roman Empire did not evolve into the dominant European national and linguistic group. Rather it was England, at first a tiny remote island nation on the western perifery of Europe, that became a decisive factor in European and world affairs. At the eastern extreme of Europe was Russia which developed along very different lines and by the 20th century posed a threat to the essential foundation of Western civilization.
The Middle East was the cradel of civilization because of the existence of appropriate flora and fauna in conjuction with river vallies. The Middle East was also the source of three of the world's great religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). Since Mohammed's inspiration, the region has been dominated by Islam. And other the Caliphate was a center of tolerance and leaning exceeding that of any European state. Eventually Islam turned away from science and learning toward an increasingly faith-based world outlook. This occurred at the same time that the Renaissance began to move Christian Europe in just the opposite direction. The result has been a long-term cultural and ecinomically decline. The only exception was the Ottoman Empire, in large measure because there moderate and tolerant approach to Islam. This left the Middle East and North Africa among the poorest in the world. The Middle East became part of the Ottoman Empire. North Africa developed as pirate states living off slavery and pilaging the increasingly rich commerce of Europe. Most of the regions tends to be poor and unproductive, both in cultural (measured in terms of artistic, literary, medical, and scientific achievement) and economic (measured in terms of production and living standards) areas, as well as intolerant toward other religions, women, and minorities. The major exception in terms of living standards, but not cultural and economic productivity and tolerance, are the oil states. Despite the clear historical record, in the region are convinced that what is needed to improve their society is a return to a more puritanical Islam, esentoally returning to the Medieval era.
Oceania is a geographic term coveing a huge area of the Western Pacific, most but not all south of the Equator. The area is commonly referred to as the South and Central Pacifiv, but is all locted in the Wesern Pacific--except for Easter Island. Oceania includes Australia commonly given continental status. There are also two huge archepolgical nations--Indonesia and the Philippines. In additn are a smll number of island nations. The largest islands are New Guinra, Borneo, and the two main New Zealand islands. Many other islands and island groups are included in Micronesia and Melonesia. Most of these islands, except for southern Australia and New Zealand are located in the Tropics. The proples of Oceania are a diverse mixture . We find aboregines in Austrlia as well as primitive proples ion isands like New Guinea and Borneo. Much of the area ws settled by Poynesian peoples originting in Southeast Asia. To the originl peoples have been added an extrdunary mixture of Indian Hindus, Arab traders, and European colonists, including the Dutch, English, French, German, Portugese, and Spanish. And finally in the late-19th century, the Americans. And finally the Japanese for a brief period of the 20th century leading to World War II. Many of the islands of Oceania achieved independence in the de-colonization period following the War..
HBC is an international community. We are thus especially interested in reader comment from the various different countries. A reader writes, somewhat tounge-in-cheek, "Far easier for you in the States than those of us in the Old World!" But remember, we do not want a listing of events. What we want is a historical summary bring out each country's role in the evolution of human society, both negative and positive. Thus for England we do not need a list of English kings, but a paragraph focusing on the evolution of democracy and the rule law. Also we need to mention the Royal Navy, industrial revolution, colonialism, and role in maintaining the European balance of power. We can manage this for the larger countries, although we would prefer contributions from the country's involved. The task for smaller countries is more of a challenge.
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