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Age of Discovery

Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance

By Ian Goldin, Chris Kutarna
13-minute read
Audio available
Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance  by Ian Goldin, Chris Kutarna

Age of Discovery (2016) looks back at the European Renaissance of 500 years ago to draw parallels with contemporary times. These blinks delve into the good and the bad while providing a deep historical context that has much to teach us about the “New Renaissance” we’re currently experiencing.

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Ian Goldin is Professor of Globalization and Development at the University of Oxford. He was formerly the vice president of the World Bank, chief executive of The Development Bank of Southern Africa and an adviser to President Nelson Mandela.

Chris Kutarna is a fellow at the Oxford Martin School, specializing in international politics and economics. He previously worked as a strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group and currently advises senior executives in Asia, North America and Europe.

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Age of Discovery

Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance

By Ian Goldin, Chris Kutarna
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance  by Ian Goldin, Chris Kutarna
Synopsis

Age of Discovery (2016) looks back at the European Renaissance of 500 years ago to draw parallels with contemporary times. These blinks delve into the good and the bad while providing a deep historical context that has much to teach us about the “New Renaissance” we’re currently experiencing.

Key idea 1 of 8

We are living in a modern Renaissance, but it’s not all pretty.

Just about everyone has heard of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. These famous artists created some of history’s most iconic masterpieces, and millions stand in line every year to see their work, which are landmarks of the incredible achievements of the Renaissance.

But what exactly was the Renaissance?

It was a period from about 1450 to 1550 during which supreme achievements of scientific and artistic genius were made. But it also had a dark side.

The term Renaissance itself is controversial as it suggests something that is universally good. But in reality, the idea of “Renaissance Europe” was crafted by nineteenth-century European historians as a way to fortify the standing of European nations. This concept of European cultural superiority was then used to justify nineteenth-century European imperialism and colonialism across the globe.

Despite the innovations made during this period by the likes of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, theologian Martin Luther and explorer Christopher Columbus, the Renaissance was also a time of great destruction and suffering. Diseases like smallpox were spread across oceans, practically exterminating the Aztecs, Incas and other Native Americans.

Just like the Renaissance of the fifteenth century, our current New Renaissance has also been a time of great growth. The New Renaissance could be said to have started in 1990 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Commercial internet service began, and China stepped back into the world economy.

The world suddenly felt very different, and historical data backs up that sensation. For example, the World Trade Organization or WTO, formed in 1995, is a powerful symbol of international economic advancement, cooperation and a radically different historical period. Today it numbers 161 members, representing every major economy in the world.

However, just like the Renaissance of centuries past, this progress comes with a hefty bill. Just consider the catastrophic toll 30 years of unprecedented growth have had on the environment.

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