AP World History Unit 4 Review (1450-1750) | APWH | Fiveable (2024)

AP World Unit 4: Transoceanic Encounters (1450 - 1750 CE)

In AP World History: Modern, Unit 4 spans from 1450 CE to 1750 CE and accounts for 12-15% of the material on the exam.

This guide was updated to align with the new course!

Contextualizing the Unit (1450 to 1750)

Before 1450, regional trade was all the rage as the Silk Roads, Indian Ocean network, and Trans-Saharan routes exploded with more merchants and goods flowing.

By 1450, Europeans were set on finding a faster route to Asia. Relying on overland trade was too slow and you couldn’t bring all that many goods with you on a camel’s back. Maritime trade would prove to be far more economically efficient.

But as of yet, the fastest way to Asia was through the Mediterranean, which was monopolized by the Byzantines followed by the Ottomans. Was there a faster route going west? Maybe. 🤷🏽‍♀️

AP World History Unit 4 Review (1450-1750) | APWH | Fiveable (1)

AP World Dates to Know from 1450 to 1750 (Unit 4)

STUDY TIP:You will never be asked specifically to identify a date. However, knowing the order of events will help immensely with cause and effect. For this reason, we have identified the most important dates to know.

1453 CE - Ottomans seized Constantinople

1492 CE - Columbus sailed to Americas... then committed genocide

1502 CE - First slaves to the Americas

1517 CE - Martin Luther/95 Theses

1521 CE - Cortez conquered the Aztecs

1526 CE: Mughal Empire begins

1533 CE - Pizarro conquered the Incas

1600 CE:Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan begins

1602 CE: Dutch East India Company established (first joint-stock company)

1618 - 1648 CE - 30 Years War

1624 CE: Queen Nzinga becomes ruler of Ndongo

1689 CE - Glorious Revolution

1697 CE: Peter the Great travels to Europe to study technology

Unit 4 Essential Questions

STUDY TIP:Use the following essential questions to guide your review of this entire unit. Keep in mind, these are not meant to be practice essay questions. Each question was written to help you summarize the key concept.

  1. How did new technology lead to changes in trade & travel?
  2. What were the motivations and consequences of exploration?
  3. What were the causes and impacts of the Columbian Exchange?
  4. How did Maritime (sea-based) Empires exert and expand their power?
  5. How was the development of Maritime Empires influenced by ethnic divisions and racist institutions?
  6. What were the challenges to state power and expansion?
  7. How did social hierarchies change in this time?

Past Essay Questions from Unit 4

STUDY TIP:Content from the early-modern era has appeared on the essays eleven times. Take a look at a few of these questions before you review the key concepts & vocabulary below to get a sense of how you will be assessed. Then, come back to these later and practice writing as many as you can!

**The AP World History exam was revised in 2017, so any questions from before then are not representative of the current exam format or rubric. You can still use prior questions to practice, however DBQs will have more than 7 documents, the LEQ prompts are worded differently, and the rubrics are completely different. Use questions from 2002-2016 with caution.

2019 - DBQ: 16th Century Portuguese Transformation of Indian Ocean Trade

2018 - SAQ 4: Agricultural developments

2018 - LEQ 2: Columbian Exchange

2017 - SAQ 2: Intensification of human land use

2017 - LEQ 2: CCOT in labor migrations

2015 - LEQ: CCOT in labor systems 1450-1900

2014 - LEQ: CCOT participation in interregional trade

2012 - LEQ: Compare effects of the Columbian Exchange

2007 - LEQ: Compare processes of empire-building

2006 - DBQ: Global flow of silver

2005 - LEQ: CCOT Columbian Exchange

2003 - LEQ: CCOT Impact of Islam

👉 Watch AP World teacher Patrick Lasseter run through the silver DBQ from 2006

Unit 4 Key Concepts & Course Outline

*The following outline was adapted from the AP World History Course Description as published by College Board in 2019 found here. This outline reflects the most recent revisions to the course.

Major Trends Between 1450-1750

  • New technology → More exploration → Columbian Exchange
  • Effects of the Columbian Exchange
    • New foodstuffs 🌽 → 👶🏼 increased the population everywhere
      • Except for the Americas where disease decimated everyone 😵
    • Migration of people → Spread of religion, new syncretic cultures
  • Integration of the west → trade was actually global → new Maritime (sea-based) powers
    • New trading posts → New powerful cities
    • Colonies established in the Americas
    • Mercantilism & capitalism became predominant economic policies
  • The new global economy had long-lasting effects
    • European middle class gained wealth → Industrialization possible
    • More money in circulation → inflation
    • Prosperity → funding for arts and architecture
    • Slave trade intensified as demand for labor increased
      • Other coerced systems created (encomienda, mit’a)
    • Social class based on race & ethnicity, first time ever

👉 Understand the context of unit 4 as AP World teacher Allie Thiessen explains what was happening

4.1 Technological Innovations

👉 Watch AP World Teacher Evan Liddle while he takes you through the new inventions to know

Causes of Innovation

The demand for exploration led to new technological innovations. The population was increasing and this led to more demand for resources. However, there was a business opportunity in the search for resources. The state with the most access to trade could be the most powerful.

By 1450, more people were migrating in search of religious tolerance and economic opportunities. Growing dissent among oppressed and poor populations pushed European states to invest in exploration and trade.

New Technologies

Tech Innovations in ScienceTech Innovations in Navigation
Newton’s Laws of Gravitation, Astronomical Charts, Better mapmakingAstrolabe, Lateen sail, Compass, New ships (caravel, carrack, fluyt)

Effects of Innovation

These new scientific discoveries and navigation undoubtedly opened up new trade networks across the Atlantic and Pacific, which also led to mass migrations of people (forced and voluntary).

The movement of goods and people had regional consequences. For example, gunpowder developed by the Chinese changed the method of conquest and made its way through South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Gunpowder would have violent consequences in the decades to come.

Muslim merchants continued to travel on trade routes, as they had done in the past centuries. During this time, Muslim merchants established themselves further in North Africa and the Indian Ocean, which is why Islam is a dominant religion in those regions.

Finally, Europeans built massive military strength because of trade profits and access to new weapons. Before 1450, Europeans did not play a prominent role on the global stage, but after 1450, Europeans were the main puppeteers of the global economy.

4.2 Exploration: Causes and Events

Watch: AP World History - 🎥 Transoceanic Connections

Trade between Europe and Asia had to go through the Mediterranean, which was controlled by Italian city-states. The Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, and Dutch had to find another route in order to remain competitive, so they invested in exploration. #traderace

AP World History Unit 4 Review (1450-1750) | APWH | Fiveable (2)

Motives for Exploration

Europeans were primarily motivated by money, religion, rivalry, and conquest. If they could fast a quicker route to Asia, profits would balloon and religious ideologies would spread.

At this time, wealth was measured by how much gold or silver a country had on hand. So states began to practice mercantilist policies, which limited imports and maximized exports. This kept more money in the bank at any given time.

Achievements in Exploration

The Portuguese led the way to Sub-Saharan Africa and present-day China, India, Indonesia, but their first to market advantage didn’t last long.

Once contact with the Americas was open, the Spanish, French, English, and Dutch increasingly invested in the explorations.

Comparing Explorers

ExplorerOriginTripsGoalImpactZheng HeChina
  • India
  • Middle East
  • Africa
Open trade networks and spread cultureChina stopped exploringJohn CabotEngland
  • North America
Get to AsiaEstablished English land in CanadaVasco de GamaPortugal
  • West coast of Africa
  • India
Get to India & ChinaEstablished power in Indian OceanChristopher ColumbusSpain
  • Caribbean islands
  • Central America
Get to India & ChinaEuropean colonization of the AmericasFerdinand MagellanSpain
  • South America
  • Philippines
Get to AsiaEstablished Spanish links to Americas and Asia

4.3 Columbian Exchange

Before 1492, the Americas were isolated from Africa, Europe, and Asia. This is why the ancient civilizations are so fascinating because they all developed similar structures without knowing about each other.

Columbus was an all around terrible human being that committed mass genocide, but he gets the namesake of this era because his voyage kicked off a new global trading system.

Flow of Trade

The connection of the Old World (Afro-Eurasia) and the New World (the Americas) unlocked a massive flow of goods, people, ideas, and disease. New crops and livestock changed eating habits and largely increased the global population. However, the Americas suffered massive depopulation because of the spread of disease.

  • AfroEurasia to Americas → 🐎 🐖 🍚 🌾 🍇
  • Americas to AfroEurasia → 🌽 🥔 🍫 🍅 🥑 🍠

Atlantic Slave Trade

The Atlantic Slave Trade began immediately after the Portuguese arrived in Africa, but seriously expanded after Native American populations were decimated. Cash crops were profitable, but required a lot of labor.

Indigenous communities were originally enslaved, but they were not a viable long term plan for free/cheap labor. Disease wiped out most of the population and many that were left were able to escape because of superior knowledge of the land.

The Atlantic Slave Trade was expanded to supply labor throughout the colonies. Africans were kidnapped, often with the help of local rulers, and brought to the New World.

The most common destination for slaves was Brazil because sugar was so harsh to cultivate that the lifespan of slaves was extremely short (5-10% of slaves died every year). On the backs of millions of slaves, sugar eventually outpaced silver as the most profitable good at the time.

👉 🎥 Watch former AP World student Charly Castillo discuss what to know about the Columbian Exchange

Where Slaves Went

ColoniesPercentagePortuguese (mostly Brazil)39%British West Indies (Caribbean)18%Spanish (Latin America)18%French (North America)14%British Mainland (US)6%Dutch West Indies (Caribbean)2%Other3%

African Diaspora

The African diaspora changed the culture of the Americas as slaves brought new ideas, foods, and languages.

With over 1500 different dialects, most slaves did not share a common language, which meant that native tongues were lost over time. New languages developed as a blend of different dialects, such as Creole.

Music was a key factor for survival in many slave communities. This music would later influence many genres including gospel, blues, jazz, rock n’ roll, hip hop, reggae, and samba.

The Columbian Exchange also had an enormous effect on the environment. As colonists expanded plantations, many regions suffered from deforestation, soil depletion, and a strain on water sources.

4.4 Maritime Empires Link Regions

👉 Watch former AP World student Varoon Kodithala review the key facts about the Maritime Empires

Europeans in the World

As Europeans explored and colonized Africa and Asia, they set up trading post cities to establish a base. These cities became centers of imperial administrations later on.

In West Africa, European merchants and missionaries reached inland to the Kongo and Benin. The Asante Empire and Kingdom of the Kongo participated in slave trade, which increased their wealth and power.

Japan initially welcomed Portuguese and Dutch traders and missionaries, then pulled back by banning Christianity and contact with the outside. They remained isolated for most of the 17th and 18th centuries in an effort to protect traditional culture.

China was also set on isolating itself from foreign affairs. After Zheng He’s explorations, the Ming dynasty retreated into isolationist policies. Europeans would have to wait a few centuries for access to China.

The Mughals in India were open to trade with Europeans and the British East India Company (EIC) was established. The EIC took advantage of tensions between Muslims and Hindus in order to expand influence. The British moved inland and by the 19th century, had direct colonial control over all of India.

The Americas

The Spanish and Portuguese divided up the lands of the Americas before they even explored or conquered any of it. In 1494, they signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, which gave Brazil to the Portuguese and everywhere else to the Spanish. Languages are still divided on these lines.

The Spanish conquistadors brought down the thriving Aztec and Inca empires within a few decades. The Aztecs fell first when Hernan Cortes and his troops brought disease to the region. Cortes also combined the forces of Aztec rivals to topple them faster. He then established the Spanish capital of Mexico City.

The Incas fell quickly because of disease and betrayal. Francisco Pizarro and his troops captured the Inca leader Atahualpa and convinced the Inca to trade gold for his return. They complied, but Pizarro still had Atahualpa killed, effectively toppling the empire.

The Spanish also established a fort at St. Augustine in present-day Florida. In North America, the Spanish had control of the southwest regions, central America, and Florida.

North of the Spanish territory, the French and British were fueling their rivalry as they competed for land and control of resources. The French aligned with the Iroquois for protection and trading rights. The rivalry eventually popped off as the Seven Years’ War exploded tensions around the world. The British drove the French out of Canada and India after that.

Changes in Labor Systems

Economic systems were disrupted as trade intensified. The Portuguese controlled some areas on the Indian Ocean network as they strong armed locals, but merchants continued to trade and migrate.

In the Americas, the Spanish established the encomienda system to force Natives to harvest cash crops in exchange for food and shelter, similar to the feudal system. In this labor system, the Natives were tied to the land and were not free to leave. This same system was used on smaller farms, which was called the hacienda system.

Meanwhile, the silver trade was insanely profitable for the Spanish and the mines at Potosi and Zacatecas needed as much labor as possible. Indigenous peoples were forced to work in the harsh mines using a modified Mit’a system to nearly enslave the Natives.

Comparing Labor Systems

TypePlaceWorkCharacteristicsSlaveAmericas & AfricaHarvested cash crops, worked plantations, maintained homes
  • Treated as property
  • Few or no rights
SerfEurope & AsiaWorked the farms of Lords
  • Tied to land
  • No legal protections
Indentured ServantGlobalField work, maintained homes
  • Transport paid in exchange for 7 years of unpaid labor
Free PeasantEurope & AsiaBlacksmith, weaving, farming
  • Worked own land
  • Paid taxes to Lord
  • Paid tithes to Church
NomadEurope, Asia, & AfricaHerding, pastoralism, breeding
  • Moved often
  • Used land temporarily
Guild MemberEuropeSkilled crafts
  • Apprentice
  • Eventually independent

Atlantic Slave Trade

The work of harvesting cash crops and mining silver was labor intensive. These new markets were profitable, but could only be sustained with a lot of cheap or free labor.

Africa was targeted for labor in the Americas because Indigenous populations were decimated by disease and were able to escape with knowledge of the land and the ability to blend in with other Natives.

Indentured servants provided cheap labor for a while, but plantation owners couldn’t scale their businesses when laborers would leave after seven years.

As the slave trade expanded, some African Kings participated and shared profits. Slaves were captured, transported to holding pens (“Points of No Return”), and then crammed on ships for the Middle Passage journey across the Atlantic.

The demographic effects of the slave trade in Africa were unprecedented. Although the population of Africa ultimately increased because of increased food resources, in some regions the population declined as slaves were kidnapped. Families were separated and there was a gender imbalance because more men were taken than women.

4.5 Maritime Empires Develop

Mercantilist policies of the time maximized exports and minimized imports so a state could have more silver and gold on hand. These policies forced colonies to only import goods from their colonizer

The changes in economic policy and increased trade led to innovations in finances, business, and banking.

Commercial Revolution

The worldwide transformation into a trade-based economy using gold and silver is known as the Commercial Revolution, which had four main causes:

  1. Development of European colonies overseas
  2. Opening of new trade routes over the Atlantic and Pacific
  3. Population growth, which increased demand for goods
  4. Inflation caused by increased mining

-As a result of increased trade and mining, prices also increased across the board. This is also known as the Price Revolution. As prices increased, more people went into debt, which was a recipe for revolution in the upcoming century.

Innovations in Finance

To keep up with the new global demand, joint-stock companies were formed. These minimized personal risk as investors pooled money into ventures. It was kind of like an early form of crowdfunding. Rather than one investor risking everything if a ship was destroyed, many investors could split the risk thereby increasing the number of new businesses.

There were two main joint-stock companies. The British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Spain and Portugal had more government than private investing, which is why they didn’t rely on joint-stock companies.

The Dutch were high rollers in this time and played a main role in finance. They established a stock exchange and developed an international currency to facilitate trade. These financial innovations created enormous wealth for the Dutch.

France and England were not as financially stable. Investors were rapidly buying shares based on speculated costs that increased as demand increased. When a large number of these investments failed to return profits, many investors went bankrupt which had rippling effects on the economy.

Triangular Trade

In the Atlantic, the consistent trade from Europe to Africa to the Americas and back to Europe was known as Triangular Trade. Europeans brought manufactured goods like guns to Africa, picked up slaves to bring to the Americas, then filled up on cash crops to head back to Europe.

Effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade

The explosion of the slave trade seriously weakened African kingdoms that had been on the rise before this time. For example, the Kongo was in decline. Slowed population growth also weakened economic production.

Because of this, economic development in Africa was stalled for centuries and these regions were left vulnerable to the imperial conquest of Europeans. Without the slave trade, African kingdoms would have continued to strengthen and could have prevented centuries of turmoil in the region.

Some African rulers were complicit in the slave trade. They would kidnap slaves and trade them to Europeans in exchange for wealth and guns, which made local rivalries far more violent.

Most kidnapped slaves were men, which left a gender imbalance in favor of women, especially in Ghana and Benin. As a result, practices of polygamy were more common.

Ultimately, the exchange of new food staples increased the population of Africa, but in parts of West Africa, the population suffered as people were taken.

Effects on Native Americans

The most immediate effect on indigenous communities was the massive depopulation caused by disease. Native Americans did not have biological immunity to the common diseases brought by Europeans like smallpox and typhoid. These diseases killed up to 90% of the population.

Spanish and Portuguese influence spread across politics, economics, and society in the Americas. Spanish viceroys were appointed to rule each region in conjunction with audiencias (royal courts).

Most of the native literature, art, and languages were completely destroyed, which left very few primary sources from before 1450. The decimation of lands and peoples made it difficult to preserve this history. The languages of Spanish and Portuguese became the dominant languages of the region.

Finally, a new elite class emerged called the creoles. These were people of Spanish or Portuguese descent that were born in the Americas. They were not quite as powerful as Peninsulares, people born on the Iberian peninsula, but had far more powers than any mixed person, Native American, or African slave.

Changes in Belief Systems

New syncretic religions emerged that blended native and colonial traditions. Syncretisms happen everywhere, but in the Americas there are quite a few examples.

  • Santeria - West African faith + Roman Catholicism

  • Vodun - West African spiritualism brought to caribbean
  • Candomble - “dance to honor the gods”, Bantu + Brazil
  • Virgin of Guadalupe - Indigenous + Catholic

4.6 Internal and External Challenges to State Power

As states expanded power, they were consistently met with resistance and rebellion. This is a constant in world history.

People will always find a way to challenge state power, especially when survival is at stake. An internal challenge to power comes from people within the state such as citizens, enslaved people, or colonies. An external challenge to the state usually comes from neighboring states or other colonizing forces in the region.

Here’s a few examples of how states were challenged between 1450-1750:

Queen Nzinga vs. Portuguese colonizers

After the British and Dutch pushed the Portuguese out of India, they turned their attention to expanding their role in the African slave trade. In order to resist the Portuguese, Queen Nzinga of Ndongo (present-day Angola) initially made an alliance with them in order to protect the imports of guns for her people.

Over time, the Portuguese became more exploitative to expand their powers. Queen Nzinga turned to the Dutch to help fend off the Portuguese. Together, they defeated the Portuguese in 1647, but the Dutch retreat from central Africa a year leaving the region vulnerable.

Even into her 60s, Queen Nzinga personally led her troops into battle to protect their land. After her death, the Portuguese gained control of the region until well 1975.

Serfs vs. Russian Central Government

While the West African people were defending themselves from foreign attacks (external challenges), the Russians were dealing with internal challenges. Russian serfs had suffered oppression from the time of the Mongols and by the 15th century, the hardship and population of serfs had increased.

Free peasants affected by heavy debts often lost their land and were forced into serfdom. Even as serfdom was abolished across Europe, Russian serfs were tied to the land through strict laws that had no opportunity for freedom. Escaped serfs began to organize as free peasants, especially in the steppes. They were called Cossacks.

The Cossacks under Yemelyan Pugachev rebelled against Catherine the Great. Although they experienced early success in their revolt, the Russian government eventually suppressed the rebellion. After that, oppression of peasants and serfs increased in an effort to avoid future conflict.

Maratha (Hindu warriors) vs. Mughal Empire (Muslim)

South Asia, which includes modern-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, has a majority population of Hindus and a strong minority of Muslims. However, in the 17th century, the Mughals were a Muslim group that ruled the region.

In fear of minority rule, Hindu warriors called the Marathas rebelled. Between 1680-1707, the Maratha rebellion continued until they killed the Mughal leader Aurangzeb. His death effectively ended the Mughal Empire and the Maratha Empire ruled until 1818.

Pueblos vs. Spanish

In the Americas, Indigenous groups rebelled against European conquest. In present-day New Mexico, the entire Pueblo community rebelled against the Spanish for 10 days in 1680.

The Pueblo Revolt was successful and the Spanish retreated from the region. However, they returned in 1692 to recapture the lands. Some Pueblos again resisted, but the Spanish quickly massacred the small group of warriors. After that, many Pueblos migrated away in search of freedom.

Slaves vs. Slave Owners

Jamaica had a growing slave population throughout this time period. In 1655, the British took control of the land forcing the Spanish out. As Spanish slave owners fled, many slaves escaped and formed settlements called Maroons. Revolts led by maroon communities had some success, but were ultimately squashed. There were groups of Maroons in Jamaica that were coerced into collaborating with Spanish militias in opposition to British incursions to Jamaica that eventually switched sides when Spain was failing there and signed a treaty with Britain.

The Gloucester County Rebellion in 1663 was the first slave revolt in the British American colonies. African slaves forged an alliance with white indentured servants in a rebellion to demand freedoms.

The revolt in Virginia failed and had serious consequences. In order to prevent white and black oppressed groups from conspiring, the Virginia government wielded racist policies to drive a wedge. They gave lower class white workers some rights to appease them and prevent further chaos. Black slaves remained enslaved for 200 more years.

Indigenous Tribes vs. British Colonists (Metacom’s War)

Native American tribes in New England were some of the first indigenous communities to be displaced by British colonists. The last stand against colonization was led by Metacom, also known as his colonial name King Phillip.

By the 1670s, the colonists and Natives had largely co-existed. However in 1675, Metacom mounted one last effort to drive the British off the Native land. Many tribes participated, although some sided with the English.

The colonists defeated the Natives after 14 months of bloody rebellion. Relative to the total population, Metacom’s War is the deadliest in US history.

Glorious Revolution: English Protestants vs. English Catholics

Back in England, things were getting complicated. England was a majority Protestant country, but had a Catholic minority. In 1685, the Catholic King James II ascended to the throne and began enacting anti-Protestant policies.

William of Orange was backed by Protestants to overthrow him. Without any bloodshed, William and Mary II pressured James II into exile and took the throne. William and Mary accepted joint powers with parliament and signed the English Bill of Rights. This is what’s known as the Glorious Revolution.

Rebellions & Revolts
StateNotable Challenges
  • Dutch & English pushed out of South Asia
  • Queen Nzinga’s rebellion in modern-day Angola
  • Fronde revolt against the royal power
  • Cossack rebellion
  • Pugachev rebellion
  • Maratha rebellion
  • Pueblo & Apache Revolt in present-day New Mexico
  • Maroon Wars (Jamaica)
  • Gloucester County Slave Rebellion (Virginia)
  • Metacom’s War (New England)
  • Glorious Revolution (Catholic vs. Protestant in England)

👉 Watch AP World teacher Evan Liddle breakdown what to know about resistance in the empires

4.7 Changing Social Hierarchies

The expansion of trade on a global scale expanded both the upper elite class and the lower labor class. Global trade was insanely profitable and new elite classes enjoyed this wealth. Meanwhile, the population of forced laborers increased, further expanding the wealth gap.

Gunpowder Empires

Quick reminder! The gunpowder empires included the Ottoman, Mughal, and Safavid.

Ottoman society was complex. The Sultans ruled the top of the pyramid and had powers to grant rewards to favored groups, such as soldiers. The middle class included the military, scholars, and other bureaucratic groups. Within the military, the Janissaries gained power and tried to overthrow the Sultan.

For its time, the Ottoman Empire practiced a surprising amount of religious tolerance for Jews and Christians. Although non-Muslims were forced to pay the ji*zya tax, many Jews that had been expelled from Spain and Portugal migrated to the Ottoman Empire, which expanded its power.

Meanwhile, the Mughal Empire under Akbar the Great was even more tolerant as they abolished the ji*zya tax and supported the expansion of Sikhism (blend of Hinduism and Islam).

Women in the Ottoman Empire also experienced some expanded freedoms. Some women, such as Roxelana, climbed the social ladder from slave to wife of the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Great. This was an extreme case of class mobility, but is an example of what was possible.


The Qing dynasty that overthrew the Yuan Mongols was ruled by the Manchus, a minority group. This was yet another historical example of a minority group ruling a majority group (see: Mughals, colonialism).

Although the adopted political traditions in China, the Qing were committed to making the Manchu culture dominant. For example, they forced all men to wear their hair in queues (braided pigtail style), which was a power move to test loyalty to the throne.

Ethnic divisions: The majority Han ethnicity faced the most intolerance from the Qing. Often times, Han men would side with the Qing and carry out mass murders of Han men refusing to wear the Manchu hairstyle.


European society was ruled by a royal family that gained enormous wealth from trade and corruption. Below the royals was a second class of the nobility, a small wealthy group that owned most of the land.

Nobles had influence in Parliament, but no power over the royals. The commoners were the lowest class and often challenged the nobility. After a failed revolt from commoners, Louis XIV committed to keeping power from the common people or the nobles, “I am the state.”

Jewish Diaspora

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Jewish communities faced increased anti-semitism in Western Europe. In Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the entire Jewish population, which sent them migrating all over the world.

Jews of Spanish descent that migrated to North Africa and the Middle East are referred to as Sephardic. Jewish populations descended from eastern and central Europe are called Ashkenazi. Both groups would experience a diaspora by the 20th century.

The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution led to more tolerance for Jews as people contemplated natural rights. The Netherlands was particularly tolerant for Europe at the time, so many Jews migrated there and worked in the booming financial industry. This connection would later be used to scapegoat Jews for economic downturns.


In Russia, the social classes were similar to the rest of Europe, except that they continued to practice serfdom. The Russian nobility, known as Boyars, were wealthy landowners. Below them were the merchants.

At the bottom was the largest class of peasants, many of whom sank into debt and were forced into serfdom. As serfs, they were completely tied to the land and sold when the land sold.

The Americas

The Americas are mostly defined by ethnic division during the period of 1450-1750. The most dramatic social changes happened in the Americas because of the influx of Europeans, decimation of Indigenous, and explosion of the African slave trade. Social classes in the Americas were based on race, which is a pivotal difference from the rest of the world. Slavery was a major driver of maritime trade relations.

In the British North American colonies, Europeans, Natives, and African slaves remained separate classes that rarely mixed. Although mixed children existed, primarily because of forced assaults, the societal norm was segregation and policies supported this tradition.

In the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, things were different. In an effort to genocide Indigenous culture, Europeans were encouraged to procreate with the Indigenous and African communities.

All of the ethnic combinations created new social classes organized by race with Europeans the top. The Peninsulares, or Europeans born in Spain or Portugal, were at the top and served as representatives of the royal crown. The Creole class was born in the Americas, but had the next highest privileges with their pure European descent.

The mixed classes, or the castas, had its own pyramid within a pyramid.

  • Mestizos = European + Indigenous
  • Mulattoes = European + African
  • Zambos = Indigenous + African (free)
  • All other Indigenous communities
  • African slaves

👉 Watch AP World teacher Donald D'Orto explain the changing social hierarchies

List of Concepts & Vocabulary from Unit 4

Watch: AP World History -🎥

STUDY TIP:These are the concepts and vocabulary from period 4 that most commonly appear on the exam. Create a quizlet deck to make sure you are familiar with these terms!

  • 95 Theses

  • Adam Smith
  • African Diaspora
  • Akbar
  • Anglican Church
  • Atahualpa
  • Atlantic trade system
  • Aurangzeb
  • Aztec Empire
  • Babur
  • cash crop
  • castas
  • coffeehouses
  • colonies
  • Columbian Exchange
  • Commercial Revolution
  • conquistadores
  • cottage industries
  • Council of Trent
  • Counter-Reformation
  • creole
  • devshirme
  • divine right
  • East India Company
  • encomienda
  • English Civil War
  • Enlightenment
  • fur trade
  • galleons
  • Glorious Revolution
  • Great Peace of Montreal
  • Gunpowder Empires
  • Hermit Kingdom
  • Inca Empire
  • indentured servitude
  • indulgences
  • Inquisition
  • John Locke
  • joint-stock companies
  • kabuki theater
  • maritime empires
  • mercantilism
  • mestizos
  • Middle Passage
  • Ming Dynasty
  • miniature paintings
  • mit’a system
  • mulattoes
  • northwest passage
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Peace of Augsburg
  • Peace of Utrecht
  • Peace of Westphalia
  • Peninsulares
  • Protestant Reformation
  • Puritans
  • Qing Dynasty
  • Safavids
  • Santeria
  • Scholasticism
  • sepoys
  • Sikhism
  • steppes
  • Suleiman I
  • Sunni Ali
  • Taj Mahal
  • Thirty Years’ War
  • Tokugawa Shogunate
  • transatlantic slave trade
  • Treaty of Tordesillas
  • triangular trade
  • Versailles
  • viceroys
  • Virgin of Guadalupe
  • Westernization
  • White Lotus Rebellion
  • zamindars
  • Zheng He
AP World History Unit 4 Review (1450-1750) | APWH | Fiveable (2024)
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