The “discovery” of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492 linked the worlds of Europeans, West Africans and Native American Indians. The Portuguese and Spaniards led the colonization of the Americas, but were soon followed by the French, English and Dutch. The slave trade created a trading triangle in between Europe, Africa and the Americas. European and West African societies are similar in their hierarchal social order, involvement in the slave trade and farming societies; yet differ in religious organization and expansionist policies.
When comparing Europe to Native American Indians, they share an involvement in trade and farming, while differing in religions and government. The traditional European society and the West African society, while different in climate, location and culture, share many similarities. For example, authority from above controlled both societies—by princes in West Africa and by family, the church and the village in Europe.
Life at the bottom of the social hierarchy was primarily dedicated to farming, as peasants farmed in rural communities in Europe and West Africans farmed small plots of land that specialized in certain crops. Those with authority and means in both West Africa and European societies could involve themselves in the slave trade. Europeans would send ships and payment to West Africa, then send the fully loaded slave ships to the New World. However, the differences between these societies far outweigh their similarities.
European culture and West African culture seem to be the antithesis of one another. Europe underwent the Renaissance prior to their age of expansion, which the West Africans did not. The Roman Catholic Church united most of Europeans under the cloak of Christianity while the West Africans recognized many deities and had many different beliefs. The want for land, trade and “guns, god and glory” also unified many European societies in the quest for overseas colonies.
Contrarily, the West Africans remained land-locked in the south Sahara and lacked coastal cities due to the lack of seaborne trade. The Europeans’ discovery of the New World allowed yet another clash of cultures: that of the Europeans’ and the Native American’s. The Hopewells, like the Europeans, were organized into large villages with extensive trade networks. The Anasazis built residential and ceremonial villages while the Hohokams used irrigation to grow crops and fashioned fine pottery, also like the Europeans.
Unlike the Europeans, the Indians were organized into less complex societies, and lacked occupational diversity, social hierarchy, and strong state institutions. Their religions varied, as the Hohokam would worship their gods on platform mounds. In Muskogean speaking societies in the Eastern part of the United States, rights to the fields, or land ownership, passed through the daughters, the exact opposite of European primogeniture. Similarly to how West African societies related to European societies, Native Indian societies shared some practices with the Europeans, but mainly differed from them.
With all of the cultures throughout history, it is inevitable that some traditions and exercises will overlap. However, as each society has a distinct identity, most will strongly differ from each other. The West Africans and Europeans shared village structure and forms of employment, yet differed in their religious practices and governments. The European society and Native American Indian societies shared trading practices and crafts, but disagreed in religion and inheritance. Each society left its mark on this earth and influenced