DOCUMENT-BASED QUESTION #1: After reading the following two historical sources, how would a historian most likely use them to describe the state of Western European knowledge of the world-system during this time period? (And, why do you think your choice is the correct one?).
Document #1: The first source is a selection from a geography text written by a European intellectual named Petrus Ailliacus, which was completed in the year 1414, and became a popular geographical text across Europe for much of the fifteenth century.
The investigation into the quantity of the habitable earth demands that we should consider "habitability" from two angles. One has respect to the heaven; that is, how much of it can be inhabited on account of the Sun, and how much cannot.....From another angle it must be considered with respect to the water, i.e., how far the water is in the way. To this we now turn, and on it there are various opinions among the wise men. Ptolemy in his book "The Arrangement of the Sphere."..would have almost a sixth part of the earth habitable because of the water. So also his Algamestus, in Book II, says that there is no known habitation except on one fourth of the earth, i.e., where we live; and that it extends lengthwise from east to west, the equator being in the middle. Its breadth is from the equator to the pole....Aristotle, however, in the close of his book on "The Heaven and the Earth" would have it that more than a fourth is inhabited. Averroes [i.e., Ibn Rushd, a twelfth-century Spanish Muslim author] confirms this. Aristotle says that a small sea lies between the confines of Spain on the western side and the beginnings of India on the eastern side. He is not speaking of Nearer Spain which in these times is commonly known as Spain, but of Farther Spain, which is now called Africa. On this topic certain authors have spoken, such as Pliny, Orosius, and Isidore. Moreover, Seneca, in the fifth book of the "Naturalium" holds that the sea is navigable in a few days if the wind is favorable. Pliny, in the "Naturalibus" Book II, informs us that it has been navigated from the Arabian Sea to the Pillars of Hercules in rather a short time. From these and many other reckonings, on which I shall expand when I speak of the ocean, some apparently conclude that the sea is not so great that it can cover three quarters of the earth. Add to this the judgment of Esdras in his Fourth Book [of the Bible] where he says that six parts of the earth are inhabited and the seventh is covered with water. The authority of this book the Saints have held in reverence and by it have established sacred truths....
Document #2: The second source is a selection from a diary and personal account of a sailor who was present on the voyage of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (d. 1524) that first began to explore the coastal regions Indian Subcontinent in 1498.
The city of Calicut is inhabited by Christians. They are of tawny complexion. Some of them have big beards and long hair, whilst others clip their hair short or shave the head, merely allowing a tuft to remain on the crown as a sign that they are Christians.....When we arrived (at Calicut) they took us to a large church, and this is what we saw: The body of the church is as large as a monastery, all built of hewn stone and covered with tiles. At the main entrance rises a pillar of bronze as high as a mast, on the top of which was perched a bird, apparently a cock....In the center of the body of the church rose a chapel, all built of hewn stone, with a bronze door sufficiently wide for a man to pass, and stone steps leading up to it. Within this sanctuary stood a small image which they said represented Our Lady. Along the walls, by the main entrance, hung seven small bells. In this church the captain-major said his prayers, and we with him. We did not go within the chapel, for it is the custom that only certain servants of the church, called quafees, should enter. These quafees wore some threads passing over the left shoulder and under the right arm, in the same manner as our deacons wear the stole. They threw holy water over us, and gave us some white earth, which the Christians of this country are in the habit of putting on their foreheads, breasts, around the neck, and on the forearms. They threw holy water upon the captain-major and gave him some of the earth, which he gave in charge of someone, giving them to understand that he would put it on later. Many other saints were painted on the walls of the church, wearing crowns. They were painted variously, with teeth protruding an inch from the mouth, and four or five arms....The king was in a small court, reclining upon a couch....The captain-major, on entering, saluted in the manner of the country: by putting the hands together, then raising them towards Heaven, as is done by Christians when addressing God, and immediately afterwards opening them and shutting fists quickly....
Now, which of the following five possibilities do you think is the most correct response to the issues raised by these two sources?
Western European thinkers were undergoing an intellectual renaissance that prepared them well for maritime exploration and expansion, by adding up-to-date information about world geography, and they could readily adapt to the customs of new lands that they discovered.
Western Europeans were laying the groundwork for maritime expansion by learning about the nature of the oceans, seas and ports that could be accessed from their region of the world.
Western Europeans had only a limited understanding of the broader world system of the later medieval period that they inhabited, because they were in a peripheral position within it during the fifteenth century.
Western Europeans were open to other cultures and religious traditions by the end of the fifteenth century, and sought to incorporate them into their worldview and commercial networks as a result of the weakening of their own traditions.
All of the above statements would be accepted by a historian to describe the position of Western Europeans during the time frame of the fifteenth century.
In your response below:
Explain which of the five choices you think is correct;
show the evidence you used from your reading to explain that choice; and
also, explain briefly why you rejected the other four choices!
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