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«17th Century from the Standpoint of Travelers»

The 17th century can be viewed as the beginning of the domination of European civilization in the world and a first step to industrialization. Changes that occurred during this period also involved significant political and social shifts, provoked by revolutions and constant conflicts for trade routes and colonies with high resource potential. Moreover, this period is famous for the changes in world economy that have led to the creation of trade companies and the involvement of various states in their protection. In addition, during this period, world leaders were pressed by other states that had a better economic and political development. At the same time, the religious conflicts of the 17th century led to the development and spread of Protestantism and to the deterioration of relations with the Muslim world. This clash of civilizations also involved Asia and caused the downfall of great empires and kingdoms, eventually destroying the centuries of cultural heritage. Additionally, this period could be considered as the beginning of the mass slave trade that destroyed the unique tribes and states of Africa. Therefore, in the 17th century, the descendants of Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo would have had to change their ways and means of traveling, whereas their motivation and independence would have been significantly changed as well since their goals were different from those of their predecessors.

The Development of Navigation

The trade activity of the 15th-16th centuries spurred the development of ship craft and navigation. However, the Age of Discovery became possible only after the creation of the carrack, which affected the speed of traveling by water and made it possible to travel for a long period of time. However, the ship craft in the 17th century significantly improved the already existing vessels, making them universal for the use in trading and scouting new lands (Pollard, Rosenberg, Tignor, & Karras, 2010). Moreover, the hegemony of the Spanish fleet in the oceans was suppressed by the industrial power of the Dutch and British economies that had developed with social and political changes in these states. Therefore, the descendants of Ibn Battuta and Marko Polo could have traveled by ships and they would be interested mainly in the coastal states of Asia and the far lands of South and North America that became the center of migration and colonization of the great European countries (Marks, 2006). In addition, there would be a good chance that such travelers would be the representatives of either trading companies and states, such as the Ost-Indian Company, or the outlaws who periodically worked on greater forces (Pollard et al., 2010). Single travelers were a unique phenomenon, while the possibility of being robbed by pirates or the fleet of a hostile country was extremely high. Thus, the pioneers of the 17th century were sailors who searched for the new ways and lands with unexplored markets.

New Lands and New Goals

Before the beginning of the 17th century, the colonial activity of the majority of European states was limited to preliminary reconnaissance. Thus, its main directions were the search for the new ways that had not been captured yet by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers, and these were mainly the routes to India. Furthermore, this reconnaissance implied the collection of information on the routes to India and America that Spaniards and Portuguese used as well as the identification of opportunities to undermine their monopoly. Following pirates, since the beginning of the 17th century, the trade companies of Netherlands, England, France, and other European states were involved in a colonial war (Pollard et al., 2010). The main spheres of their interest were North America and the states of the Pacific and Indian oceans. Land routes to Asia were closed by two unstable states – Moskowia, which experienced rebellions and distemper with constant military conflicts, and the Ottoman Empire that tried to keep the heritage of Suleiman the Magnificent by fighting with the states of Central Europe. Therefore, the unexplored lands of America and the Pacific Ocean was the most interesting goals for the majority of European explorers. The American continent was interesting and important because of land that could be used for plantations or manufactures, while the importance of the Pacific lay not only in the possible chance of founding an untaken land or an unconquered state but also in being the new market for the distribution of European goods (Marks, 2006). In relation to this situation, the majority of explorers were also involved in slave trade and in the military activity against the indigenous inhabitants of lands. Moreover, in the majority of cases, the indigenous population was seized and then exploited or just killed by the colonizers. Therefore, the main goal of this period was not only to establish new trade relations but also to conquer as much land as possible.

The Muslim World in the 17th Century

The major powers of the Muslim world in the 17th century were the Ottoman Empire and Persia. At the same time, many other Asian and African countries were also under the influence of Islam and they developed in the sphere of control of the above-mentioned hegemons. However, in contrast to previous times, along with stamina and morale of armies and the quality of weapons, the level of military art began to play an increasingly important role. In this respect, it became difficult for the Ottomans to compete with the best European armies, which led to hard defeats of the former. The growing economic backwardness of the Ottoman Empire, which sharply contrasted the leading powers of Europe, also began to manifest itself. As a result, by the middle of the 17th century, the decline of military power of this empire was obvious (Pollard et al., 2010). Paying the utmost attention to state of its troops, the Ottoman authorities were already unable to take control of the internal situation in the empire. At the same time, the history of Persia was similar to that of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, it had the same problems with the army and the situation with possessions on territorial expansion. Consequently, since the 17th century, the economic development of the Persian state stopped and it began losing its power (Pollard et al., 2010). Therefore, the Muslim world in the 17th century would have appeared to the descendants of Ibn Battuta as on the merge of decay. African kingdoms were significantly affected by European trading companies that had switched from this market to the Arabian one (Marks, 2006). Moreover, trade routes with the Far East were also controlled by Europeans who had managed to get control on the oceans and seas. Thus, the Muslim world was no longer a participant of the great explorations but a guest in the world of European expansion.

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China and Japan

The 17th century was the period of revolutions and changes in the dynasties of the hegemons of the Far East. Thus, the Qing Empire conquered the territory of China and made Korea its vassal. Moreover, the Qing Empire changed its international policy, thus isolating its land from the impact of foreign countries. In addition, this Empire was in a constant conflict with its neighbors since due to such a territorial expansion, it increased its lands twofold. The history of Japan in the 17th century is inseparably linked with the feudal military government, founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu (Holcombe, 2017). Japan had just finished its internal conflicts and it was in the process of changing its policy from the open to foreign trade to a closed and nationalized one. The result of the isolation of Japan and the unacceptance of Christianity led to the uprisings of baptized samurais, which was one of the main conflicts during this period. The result of religious pressure and conflict with Christians was the decrease in relations with Portugal and, as a result, the stagnation in the development of Japan. Therefore, the descendants of Ibn Battuta and Marko Polo, who would travel in the 17th century to this land, could have had an interest in China and Japan until the 1640s, before their isolationist policy became strict and narrowed the access to the territories of these states only to trading zones (Holcombe, 2017). Moreover, constant conflicts in this region would have made any travels there extremely dangerous. Thus, the travels to the Far East could be interesting only in relation to the great benefits from smuggling and weapon trade.


The 17th century was important due to the discovery of the final, sixth continent, Australia. There are two theories regarding the discoverers of this continent. Thus, one states that Australia was discovered in the 16th century by Portuguese travelers and the other claims that it was found by Willem Janszoon (Marks, 2006). Therefore, the descendants of Ibn Battuta and Marko Polo could have had an interest in this unexplored continent since it would have resources and the land for plantations as the most useful form of commercial activity of that period. Consequently, these explorers could have traveled there and a successful journey could have made them famous like Janszoon.


The 17th century was the time of constant military conflicts between the European colonizers as well as the time of the first revolutions, and this period changed the politics in the world. On the one hand, this was the beginning of decay of the great Muslim empires such as Persia and the Ottoman Empire as they were not ready to face the challenges of industrial world with fast changes in politics and economy. The situation in the Far East was also complicated, which was related to the shifts in the political forces in that region and their policy of isolation. However, the discovery of Australia and the colonization of the American continent were the most impressive events of this period, attracting the attention of the main political players to the treasures and potential of these lands. Thus, had the descendants of Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo explored the lands in the 17th century, they would be dependent on the great trading companies, serving as an explorers or traders. Furthermore, they would have had specific commercial interests in development of new markets and their extensions on new territories. Consequently, they would have lived in an extensively developing world that substituted individual travels with commercial expeditions.



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