chapter  13
19 Pages

Europe and the outside world

To the average European during the eighteenth century overseas colonies were chiefly areas in which the commerce of the mother-country could develop. They were an outlet for trade, a source of raw materials, particularly those which the mother-country could not produce for her, and a market for manufactured goods. Europe's relations with the outside world in the eighteenth century affected not only her economy and politics but also her intellectual and artistic life. Exploration and colonization, the publication of increasingly full and detailed accounts of newly discovered lands, gave Europeans more clearly than ever before a sense of the immense variety of human habits and customs and of the difficulty of passing simple judgements on them. In particular contact with China, with its wealth, its apparently stable and enlightened government and its enormously long recorded history challenged many received ideas and stimulated the growth of new attitudes. The influence on European intellectual life of the Asia was relatively unimportant.