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Essay/Term paper: History repeats itself

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities Essays

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History Repeats Itself

History repeats itself. This concept applies not only within the realm
of a singular nation's history but throughout and between nations. That is to
say, that what one nation endures, throughout its economic and political history,
may be compared to and be strikingly similar to that of many other nations. As
we analyze social change thought the world we have noticed a cyclical pattern of
histories, both economic and political, in the countries of Spain, Holland,
Britain, and the United States.

I. Historical Periodization:

Throughout history and during alternating time periods, countries have
grown from feeble entities, defeated by or ruled by the governing structures of
foreign nations, to powerful nations. Between the fifteenth and the sixteenth
century, SPAIN ruled as a great power among other nations. Its empire began
when, in 1492, Spain financed Columbus's expeditions and explorations to conquer
territory in the New World. Once it held its new established territory, Spain
relied on the influx of gold and silver from the New World. Spain was the first
country to start an empire and consequently started a trend. Once HOLLAND
gained their independence from Spanish rule, at the beginning of the seventeenth
century, it moved on to become a great power. Holland had relied on seafaring
and the economic success of Amsterdam until around 1620. "By mid-century,
however, they had used their technical sophistication and control of vital raw
commodities to build successful industries . . . and supported by Holland's
bourgeois virtues, trading preeminence and credit, Dutch manufactures soon
dominated a number of European markets" (BP 198). Holland remained in power
until its decline began in the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1750, the
Dutch started losing European markets but continued as the number one market
country in Europe. The British moved in where the Dutch had been. GREAT
BRITAIN reached great heights in the middle of the eighteenth century. Starting
out as the home of the Industrial Revolution, Britain was considered the
workshop of the world. However, by the 1890's Britain was losing ground in the
global market of manufacturing, specifically to the United States and Germany.
The UNITED STATES, is the youngest of the nations studied in this essay, which
became a major power at the end of World War I, and since then has experienced
both increases and declines in power. Since the 1920's until present day The
United States has moved from an agricultural society to an industrial society as
many moved from the rural areas into the urban areas and the cities.

II. Geographic Scope:

When it was an empire, SPAIN had control over many countries, including
South America, Mexico, Latin America, and the Philippines. Not only did Spain
conquer new land during its zenith, but it combined much of Europe under one
rule as the Hapsburg Empire when it united the crowns of Castile, Leon, and
Aragon. "Besides opening much of America, sixteenth-century Spain was also
ruling a Hapsburg empire that extended beyond the Iberian Peninsula to Flanders,
Germany, Austria and Italy," during its rapid internationalization (BP 216).
After the union of the Spanish crowns and the rise of the Hapsburg Empire,
Madrid experienced a major increase in its population, as what often occurs when
a new world political capital comes into existence. "The new imperial capital
mushroomed from a population of 4,000 in 1530 to 35,000 in 1594 and at least
100,000 in the mid-1600's before fading again when the great days were over" (AC
31). While the Dutch was in war with Spain it accepted various kinds of
people,such as the Jews and the Huguenots, and eventually acquired a vast empire.
Although HOLLANDS realm was comparably smaller to that of Spains, its domain
included the United Provinces, New York, New Amsterdam, and the East Indies.
"The purest governmental culture was in the Hague, which, after quadrupling its
population, was the only major Dutch city to continue growing during the
nation's decline in the mid- and late-eighteenth century" (AC 64). The empire
of GREAT BRITAIN is unparalleled by any other in that it encompassed one fourth
of the world. Its numerous English-speaking colonies, which come from around
the world, include Canada, British Australia, India, and New Zealand. The Realm
of the UNITED STATES is vast and was acquired when the land on the continent was
taken from the Native Americans and redistributed.

III. Impact of The Political Order on The Economic Order:

A political order is composed of those institutions within which people
gain, wield and influence distributions of power and an economic order is
composed of those institutions within which people organize land, labor, and
capital for the production and distribution of goods and services (Flint). "In
nations, the political and economic aging processes are not the same and do not
go at the same pace. Great economic powers have often grown in waves--early
emphasis on agriculture, shipbuilding, fishing, or mining, then a move to
manufacturing, then a shift from manufacturing to financial services" (AC 21-22).
"A significant part of what overtook each of these nations was the emergence of
finance, debt and an investor or rentier class within their respective
societies,as the boureois emphasis on manufacturing and trade diminished" (BP
203). Manufacturing potential was undercut when an influx of Gold and Silver
from the New World bombarded SPAIN in the sixteenth century. As its wealth
steadily increased, Spain relied on other countries to produce the goods it
needed and caused it to lose sight of hard work. Spain went from being
supportive to parasitic as "reformers in early seventeenth--century Madrid put
the ratio of parasites to actual productive workers as high as 30:1" (AC 39).
In the end, "narrow monetary wealth, irresponsible finance and an indolent
rentier class were important in the decline that was taking hold in Spain one
hundred to one hundred fifty years after Columbus's voyages" (BP 205). Due to
its thrify methods HOLLAND quickly emerged as a center of world commerce.
Engineering, manufacturing, and fishing industries gave way to ever increasing
export markets and financial institutions that dominated the European market.
However, this disrupted the economic and social polarization. Foreign
investments, such as the East India Company, took capitol away from Holland and
did little to ameliorate its unemployment problems. Hollands financialization,
like that of Great Britain, caused it to go from supportive to parasitic, as
well. As a result of its Industrial Revolution, GREAT BRITAIN dominated the
steel and textile industries and its merchant marines was the largest in the
world. As it accomplished its world wide trade and manufacturing climax it
witnessed the appearance of a considerable rentier class. Britain, too followed
its predecessors and as its yearly foreign investments increased it turned to
stocks and shares as opposed to an earned income. Most of its capitol was
invested overseas in countries that competed with Britain. Britains
financialization did not cause London to lose its place as the center of world
commerce and in fact, "it was not transformed into a governmental parasite
complex" (AC 64). After World War II, "the annual figures nominally returned to
prewar levels, but adjusted to inflation they were much lower- and Britain also
staggered under the weight of $13 billion of new external liabilities" (BP 208).
Between 1790 and 1990 The UNITED STATES transformed from an agricultural to an
industrial to a financial society. Most recently, the United States has
disregarded its manufacturing industries, eliminating many jobs, and relied
upon financialization, which unfortunately, only benefits a small elite.
Moreover, overseas investments cost the United States citizens their jobs and
increases economic polarization.

V. Optional:

VI. Households and Social Stratification:

All of the aforementioned countries had fell "from their middle-class
zeniths when manufacturing, trade, nationalism and bourgeois spirit gave way to
"financialization"-- the cumulating influence of finance, government debt,
unearned income, rentiers, overseas investments, domestic economic polarization
and social stratification" (BP 193-194). By the early 1600's SPAINS economy had
polarized when the gold from Mexico and Peru ran out. The middle class that
existed in Spain was very small as the polarization resulted in basically a
solely elitist and peasant society. With concern about the defeat of the
Spanish Armada, a plague, and failed harvests, Spains economic reformers
attempted to "rebuild manufacturing and the middle class while cutting
government jobs and dispersing the parasites of the court" (AC 84). HOLLAND'S
financialization brought about both economic and social polarization. "As for
the Dutch, their mid--eighteenth century ruling cliques were confronted by a
movement called the Patriots, which attacked nepotism, corruption, and moral
decay and called for a full return to old liberties and values" (AC 92). The
middle class ordinary folk of both Spain and Holland were left with nothing from
their country's zenith. As financialization occurred in GREAT BRITAIN the gap
between the middle class and the rich increased. The middle class in Britain
deteriorated as the manufacturing declined and the wages decreased. During the
1890's the average family's purchasing power was entering a two-decade period of
stagnation or decline while the financial sector boomed and the rich grew ever
richer" (AC 82). During World War I, manufacturing boomed again but once
postwar reality set in British manufacturing began to decline again. In Great
Britain polarization was reversed by redistribution of income, socialism, and
welfarism. This benefited the middle and lower--middle class citizens but hurt
the elite. In the UNITED STATES at the end of the "Roaring Twenties", when the
stock market crashed, the major financial institutions were left to fail and die
out. When the bubble of the 1980's burst, however, the United States government
bailed out the companies and caused the country to go into economic decline,
deficit, and ruin the budget. The "Roaring Twenties", and the "Anxious 1980's"
are examples of rises and later declines of economic and political prosperity
and power. Decline in the United States is occurring on both an economic and
social level. America has witnessed a rapid centralization at the seat of
federal power and a capital more influenced by interest groups than by voters.
"Imperial capitals don't become notorious until they display wealth and develop
serious, parasitic elites, not true of Washington until it came of age in the
late 1960's and 1970's" (AC 29). "There is no point in mincing words. Aging
great-power capitals often become parasitic cultures"(AC xix).


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