What role did the Arabs
According Shaffer, what role did the Arabs and Mongols play in the spread of ‘Southernization’?
This is a question from the Southernization article by Lynda Shaffer.
The concept of southernization was developed by American historian Lynda Shaffer. It refers to a complex series of processes that occurred first in South Asia (mainly India), and which later facilitated westernization. Some of the most important processes in southernization were the cultivation of cotton and the production and export of textiles, maritime gold trade in the Indian Ocean, and the development of more advanced mathematics, including Indian numerals and the zero.
According to Shaffer, southernization started in India during the Gupta dynasty (320–535 CE), from where it spread to China, the Muslim caliphates, and eventually to Europe. The Mongols and the Arabs both acted as intermediaries for the processes related to southernization to reach Europe. Indian numerals are a good example of this. In the West we call these Arab numerals because we received them through the Arabs, who developed them further.
Indian mathematics also influenced Chinese mathematics, but they did not adopt Indian numerals at the time. Buddhism was an important medium for the southernization of East Asia. For instance, it was an Indian monk who first showed the Chinese the power of saltpeter, from which gunpowder is produced. The Chinese also developed the compass, which would eventually be used by European navigators to travel across the world’s oceans.
War and conquest were important vehicles of southernization. The Arab conquest of Spain and the Crusades facilitated this process, as did the Mongol conquest of much of Asia. About this Shaffer writes that “Mongols’ control of overland routes between Europe and Asia in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries fostered unprecedented contacts between Europeans and peoples from those areas that had long been southernized.”
As you can see, the Arabs and the Mongols played an important role in spreading southernization across Asia and to Europe. However, according to Shaffer, the whole process started in India. If you want to know more about this, I strongly recommend Shaffer’s own article “Southernization,” which can be downloaded for free here: .
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