A separate agriculture-based feudal society came into being, resulting in the emergence of the Christian world of Europe as a cultural entity independent from Islam. From the age of Charlemagne (Charles the Great; 742_814)) until the 11th century, the Frankish kingdom was a blockaded inland kingdom which was forced to develop a new economic order, the feudal system, based on the only available source of wealth: the land. Pirenne concludes his thesis by stating that the Frankish kingdom was inconceivable without Islam and the rise of Charlemagne unthinkable without Mohammed (c. 571_632).
(3) The Establishment of Early Modern Europe
The Mediterranean Revival
Just as Europe entered the medieval era because it was cut off from the Mediterranean Sea, it could be said that a new age was born through the revival of the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean revival ushered in the early modern period in Europe. Not surprisingly, Henri Pirenne was quick to notice this, describing the Mediterranean revival movement that fomented this new age in Europe as a _resurgence of commerce._ With the establishment of a trading network centering on the principality of Flanders and Venice in Northern Italy, Europe once again ventured into the Mediterranean world. What was the result of this?
The French historian Fernand Braudel analyses the transition from the medieval to the early modern era in his masterpiece The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, interpreting the Christian Mediterranean and the Islamic Mediterranean as a single, indivisible world. The symbolic climax of this revival was the naval battle of Lepanto between the fleet of the Holy League (the Papacy, Venice and Spain) and the Turkish fleet. The Battle of Lepanto began on 7 October 1571:
Searching for each other, the two fleets suddenly met at the entrance of the Bay of Lepanto on the morning of 7 October... Both the Christian and Islamic forces were shocked to find themselves so close that they could count each others_ numbers. Although the Turkish fleet consisted of 230 ships against the 208 of the Holy League, the battle ended in a crushing victory for the Christians from which only 30 of the Turkish galleys returned… The Turkish dead and wounded amounted to more than 30,000 men and 3,000 were taken prisoner. 15,000 captured Turks who served only as rowers were released. The Holy League also sustained heavy losses: 8,000 dead and 21,000 wounded. It thus paid a high price for its victory, effectively losing over half its fighting force. The sea where the battle was fought seemed to the combatants as if it had turned the color of human blood… This victory put an end to the Christian world_s sense of inferiority as much as it ended the actual superiority of the Turks.
If we consider this together with the Persian wars in the ancient period and Islam_s mastery of the Mediterranean in the medieval period, it becomes apparent that Europe has repeatedly shed its skin through its changing relationship with the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean was the mirror reflecting Europe as it came of age.
Europe_s Inroads into the Indian Ocean
It is no coincidence that the two greatest historians of Europe in the twentieth century_Henri Pirenne and Fernand Braudel _both stressed the importance of Islam in Europe_s development. Islam was also profoundly linked with the transition from the early modern to the modern period in European history. In the early modern period, Christian countries such as Britain, Holland, Belgium and Denmark together established the East India Company and embarked upon trade in the Indian Ocean region. Before the Europeans came, Islam had made inroads into this region. According to the records of the fourteenth century traveler Ivun Batuta???, the Islamites had advanced as far as Northwest Africa, India and China. The regions surrounding the Indian Ocean_East Africa, Ottoman Turkey in the Middle East, and the Mughal empire in India_had already become Muslim.