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Was it a good thing or bad thing that Europe conquered the "New World"?

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kest24 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted April 16, 2010 at 1:15 AM via web

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Was it a good thing or bad thing that Europe conquered the "New World"?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 16, 2010 at 1:23 AM (Answer #1)

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This is totally dependent on your point of view.  For me, it is a good thing.

I say it is a good thing because I live here in the "New World" and I would not be likely to live here if Europe had not conquered this world.  My mom's side of the family is European.  My dad's side is from the Philippines (also conquered by Europe).  If not for European conquest, how would I be here?

Less selfishly, there are many people whose lives are better because the United States exists.  If England had not colonized North America, surely the US would not exist.  I think that would be bad for the world because I think that US democracy has been a strong force for improving the world.

Of course, this completely ignores the really horrible things that happened to many Native Americans and to Africans brought here as slaves.  So if you wanted to argue that it was a bad thing, that's the evidence you need.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 16, 2010 at 1:26 AM (Answer #2)

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That is a pretty interesting question.  Do I get to assume that I would still have been born?   Can I assume I would have been born to the same family and lived in Sweden where some of my ancestors came from?  I think if that is the case, I might say unequivocally that it was bad.  But I've had a pretty good time here in the New World, so it is difficult to say that.

From an historical perspective, it is also pretty difficult to answer that question.  Obviously horrible things were done, the spread of disease that killed millions of natives and the incredibly callous and destructive attitude of the colonists (some of them) towards the natives and the resources of the New World, the loss of incredibly advanced cultures and ways of living (The Iriquois and other Native American groups) that likely set us back quite a ways in terms of the level of civilization...  Anyway, you can certainly make the argument that it was a very, very bad thing.

But you might also suggest that it was good because it led to a certain level of religious freedom, a country where social mobility was far more open (of course only for certain groups of people and you can make the argument that since then it has decreased) and the development of the democracy that many folks feel is pretty darn good (even now with its warts...)

So I would have to say that in my opinion, this is a question I am not going to be able to come down on one side of, perhaps if you added a few more limitations to the ways you could interpret it.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted April 16, 2010 at 1:53 AM (Answer #3)

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From the perspective of the American Indians it was a bad thing that the New World was taken over by Europeans.  IN general though, it was bound to happen.  Progress was necessary and inevitable. 

I believe that it was a good thing.  People in Europe were oppressed under different governments.  They wanted a chance to have a new life free from the dominating governments.  Freedom of religion and the opportunity to have land was a dream comes true for many of them.

Generations of people struggled to get our country to where it is today.  Their challenges and strengths created a better place for many generations.  Eventually, some group would take over the New World so it may as well have been Europe.

 

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 16, 2010 at 1:57 AM (Answer #4)

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I like both answers above.  It's an impossible question to answer objectively as a historian, because I live daily with the benefits and realities of European conquest of the New World:

1)  My home is built on what used to be Yakama native lands.

2)  I buy food in the store each week grown on what used to be native lands

3)  The resources we exploited after conquest have made our country wealthy and comfortable

4)  I have never had to pay compensation to tribes, or even apologize for past crimes.

One huge drawback to conquest is the fact that Europeans first, and Americans since then, have done such drastic environmental damage to a land that used to have vast tracts of old growth forest and unspoiled streams with intact species and populations of wildlife.  I'll never be able to see that America.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:37 PM (Answer #5)

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I think that the question might have to be termed as an inevitable end.  It was a matter of time before the Age of Exploration spread the sphere of influence to another world.  Certainly, its advantages have been well detailed and quite abundant.  Yet, the other side of the coin has to be evaluated into this setting.  The emergence of exploitation and enslavement, the presence of the so- called "Columbian Exchange," was a reality of European exploration.  In the end, this helped to transform the relationship of Europe and "the West" to the rest of the world and added dimensions to these nations' conception of identity, as present in post- Colonial literature and thought.

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lnichenko | Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 17, 2010 at 2:00 PM (Answer #6)

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This is a “black and white” question and, as the previous answers indicate, it is always important to look at history through multiple perspectives. That way the complexities of human cultures are not reduced to simple answers, but can provide a rich diversity of learning that will help us, as a species, evolve. We can look at the conquest of the new world from the point of view of different countries, and we can look at it from the point of view of different times. The accomplishments of the Western European explorers brought most of them great acclaim. For their time they were doing the right thing. However, when we of the 21st century look at some of the things that they did, we are horrified. The decimation of the indigenous American people was an atrocity, as was Columbus' treatment of the Taino. We are more enlightened now; our beliefs and attitudes support human rights for everyone. We have certainly evolved, but why have we evolved? Could it be because of our history? Have we truly learned from the past? Absolutely. We can despise the barbaric events of the past, and at the same time recognize that because of them, we are who we are today. In essence, your question has two answers. The Western European conquest of the New World was bad for those who were already here, but hundreds of years later it has has proved to be good for those who came after.

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