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为什么西方能够主导世界?——看地理上的解释

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On his current visit to Beijing, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said China will soon reclaim its position as the world's biggest economy - a role it has held for 18 of the past 20 centuries. But how did the US, Britain and the rest of Europe interrupt this reign of supremacy? It comes down to location.
正在中国进行访问的英首相大卫-卡梅隆称中国在过去的20个世纪中,有18个世纪都处在世界第一大经济体的地位,而如今的中国将很快重新夺回这一宝座。但笔者的问题是,诸如美国、英国及欧洲其他国家当初是如何后来居上的呢?以下是一套以地理因素为依据的解释。

Why does the West dominate the world?
为什么西方能够主导世界?

Europeans have been asking this question since the 18th Century, and Africans and Asians since the 19th. But there is still not much agreement on the answers.
自18世纪以来,欧洲人一直都在思考这个问题,19世纪以后,亚洲和欧洲也提出了同样的问题。不过到目前尚还没有公认的答案。

People once claimed Westerners were simply biologically superior. Others have argued Western religion, culture, ethics, or institutions are uniquely excellent, or that the West has had better leaders. Others still reject all these ideas, insisting that Western domination is just an accident.
曾有人把这一问题的答案简单的归结为欧洲人具有更高的生物优越性。也有人认为这是因为西方的宗教、文化、民族和制度都特别的出色,或者因为西方拥有更好的领导人。再者一部分人干脆否而以上所有观点,认为这一切都只不过是个巧合。

But in the last few years, a new kind of theory has gained ground.
但是在过去的几年中,一种新的理论越来越为人们所接受。

Distinctive ways of life began emerging in different parts of the world 11,000 years ago, when the first farmers created more complex societies. Great civilizations grew out of the original agricultural cores (in what we now call southwest Asia, China, Pakistan, Mexico, and Peru), all of which steadily expanded as population grew.
一万一千年前,世界上第一批农民营造了结构较为复杂的农耕社会,同时,各具特色的生活方式也在世界各住开始显现。在如今亚州的西南部,中国,巴基斯坦,墨西哥和秘鲁等国的所在地,伟大的文明借助原始的农业核心成长起来,并且,伴随着人口增长的,其疆域也在不断的扩大。

The westernmost of the Old World's agricultural cores, in southwest Asia, was the foundation of what we now call Western Civilization. By 500 BC, the Western core had expanded across Europe, its centre of gravity shifting to the Mediterranean cultures of Greece and Rome. By 1500 AD it had expanded still further, and its centre was shifting into Western Europe. By 1900 AD it had expanded across the oceans, and its centre was shifting to North America.
亚洲西南部是当时东半球最西端的农业中心,也是现今世界西方文明的基础。公元前500年,农耕文化从这里向整个欧洲发展,以希腊和罗马为代表的地中海文明逐渐成为农业核心。到公元1500年,农耕文明继续拓展,其中心转移向了欧洲西部。公元1900年,农耕文明跨过大洋,并且北美洲成为了农业的中心。

People, it suggests, are much the same all over the world. The reason why some groups stuck with hunting and gathering while others built empires and had industrial revolutions has nothing to do with genetics, beliefs, attitudes, or great men: it was simply a matter of geography.
这表明人类文明大致上都是相似的。那么为什么有些只围着原始的打猎和采集农业打转,而有些却可以建立帝国,发动工业革命呢?其原因与基因,信仰,态度,或者与伟人无关,原因只不过是地理因素在起作用。

China and India are, of course poised to pick up the baton of global superpowers, but to explain why the West rules, we have to plunge back 15,000 years to the point when the world warmed up at the end of the last ice age.
中国和印度正跃跃欲试欲重新夺回超级大国的权杖。但为了解释为何西方能够主导世界,我们还需追溯回一万五千年前,大约在上个冰河期结束,地球开始变暖的阶段。

Geography then dictated that there were only a few regions on the planet where farming was possible, because only they had the kinds of climate and landscape which allowed the evolution of wild plants and animals that could potentially be domesticated.
地理因素决定了当时世界上只在少数几个地区有发展农业的可能性。因为只有那些地区的气候和地势可以为日后为人所用野生的动植物的进化提供条件。

The densest concentrations of these plants and animals lay towards the western end of Eurasia, around the headwaters of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Jordan Rivers in what we now call south-west Asia. It was therefore here, around 9000 BC, that farming began, spreading outwards across Europe.
这些野生动植物最集中的地区分布在欧亚大陆西端,幼发拉底河源头,底格里斯河以及约旦河等地区,这些地区也就是我们如今的亚洲西南部。因此,大约在公元前9000年左右,这些地区的农业开始发展,并且向欧洲拓展。

Farming also started independently in other areas, from China to Mexico; but because plants and animals that could be domesticated were somewhat less common in these zones than in the West, the process took thousands of years longer to get going. These other zones of complex agricultural societies also expanded, but the West long retained its early lead, producing the world's first cities, states, and empires.
从中国到墨西哥,各个地区的农业也开始各自独立发展。不过因为这些地区可供人类种植及驯养的野生动植物较西方来说比较少见,所以在这些地区的农业和畜牧业的发展相较西方来说晚了几千年之久。而其他一些高度发展的农业社会的规模也开始扩大,不过西方世界保持住了先发的优势,并且创建了世界上第一批城市,邦州和帝国。

But if this were all that there was to the story - that the West got an early lead and held onto it - there would be no controversy over why the West rules. In reality, when we look back across history, we see that things were more complicated. Geography determined how societies developed; but how societies developed simultaneously determined what geography meant.
但是如果因为西方占有且保持了先发的优势,就能够解释为什么西方能够引领世界的话,那么便无需再争论当今世界格局的原因了。而然事实上,如果我们追史溯源便会发现历史的发展要复杂得多的。地理因素决定了社会发展模式,但是同时发展中的各个社会的发展程度决定了地理因素能够起到什么样的作用。

The ancient Greeks called it Mesopotamia, the land between two rivers - Tigris and Euphrates. But it is also the land between two seas - the Mediterranean Sea and Persia Gulf. It is also the land between mountain and desert, lagoon and salt marsh. All these geographical features have to be borne in mind when considering the birthplace of the first civilisations.
古希腊人称底格里斯河与幼发拉底河之间的这篇陆地为美索不达米亚。美索不达米亚不仅位于这两条河之间,而且还有地中海与波斯湾在其另外两端。除此之外,米索不达米亚周围还有山地,沙漠,淡水湖和盐沼。在讨论这片先期文明的发源地时,这些所有的地理特点都要考虑进来。

Geography v history - it's impossible to know which takes precedence. There's no getting away from the brutal facts of nature - rivers that flood will dry up, rainfall that's intermittent, mountains that are impassable, deserts that are hostile.
要将地理与历史相提并论,很难去判断哪个应该排在首位。不过残酷的自然条件是不可能摆脱的----河流洪水会干涸,降雨会时断时续,无法逾越的山川,以及不适宜生存的沙漠。

Applying this kind of analysis to Mesopotamia, where summers are hot, winters are cold and rainfall is low, I'd sum it up like this: difficult but not impossible. No garden of Eden, but no howling wilderness either.
将这些因素考虑进来以后再去综合分析美索不达米亚:夏季炎热,冬季寒冷,降水量也低,我不妨如此评价:虽然条件艰苦,但不是不可生存。不是天堂,但也绝不是地狱。

In the earliest days of agriculture, having the right temperatures, rainfall, and topography was all-important. But as villages grew into cities, these geographical facts became less important than living on a great river like the Nile, which made irrigation possible.
在早期的农业文明中,适宜的温度,降水以及地形都是很重要的因素,比如在大尼罗河河畔,从而使得灌溉成为可能。不过当村庄发展为城市之后,这些因素便显得不在那么重要。

As states turned into empires, being on a river began mattering less than access to a navigable sea like the Mediterranean, which was what allowed Rome to move its food, armies, and taxes around.
当城邦发展为帝国,毗邻诸如地中海等适宜通航的大海相比盘踞河流来说又变得更为重要了。罗马人正是利用地中海来运输食物,军队以及税金。

As the ancient world's empires expanded further, though, they changed the meanings of geography again. The long bands of steppes from Mongolia to Hungary turned into a kind of highway along which nomads moved at will, undermining the empires themselves.
当古代的帝国获得更大的发展之后,使得地理因素的意义又发生了变化。从蒙古到匈牙利,狭长荒原起到了一种通道的作用,从而游牧部落可以随意迁徙,同时也使得这些帝国开始自我衰败。

In the first five centuries AD, the Old World's great empires - from Rome in the West to Han China in the East - all came apart; but the political changes transformed geography once again. China recreated a unified empire in the 6th Century AD, while the West never did so.
For more than a millennium, until at least 1700, China was the richest, strongest, and most inventive place on earth, and the East pulled ahead of the West.
在公元头五百年中,古代各个庞大的帝国,从东边的中国的汉朝,到西边的罗马,都土崩瓦解了。这次政局的变更,又使得地理的意义发生的改变。中国在公元6世纪又一次建立了统一的帝国,而然西方再也没能建立起一个统一的帝国。

East Asian inventors came up with one breakthrough after another. By 1300 their ships could cross the oceans and their crude guns could shoot the people on the other side. But then, in the kind of paradox that fills human history, the East's breakthroughs changed the meaning of geography once again.
东亚的发明家们不断的取得重要的新突破。到公元1300年,东亚产出的船只可以越洋航行,那里的火枪有能力射击远处的目标。人类历史就是这样令人费解,当时东方的发明又再一次的改变了地理的意义。

Western Europe - sticking out into the cold North Atlantic, far from the centres of action - had always been a backwater. But when Europeans learned of the East's ocean-going ships and guns, their location on the Atlantic abruptly became a huge geographical plus.
欧洲西部一直延伸至冰冷的北大西洋海水中,而且远离当时世界的中心,一直处于很闭塞的状态。但当西方习得东方的航海术以及火器制造术后,欧洲西部的地理位置突然之间演变成了一个巨大的地理优势。

Before people could cross the oceans, it had not mattered that Europe was twice as close as China to the vast, rich lands of the Americas. But now that people could cross the oceans, this became the most important geographical fact in the world.
在人类有能力跨越海洋之前,欧洲与广袤富庶的美洲之间距离只是中国与美洲之间距离的一半的条件显得不值一提。但是人类一旦掌握了跨洋航海的能力,这种距离的差距便成为了世界上最重要的地理因素。

The Atlantic, 3,000 miles across, became a kind of Goldilocks Ocean, neither too big nor too small. It was just big enough that very different kinds of goods were produced around its shores in Europe, Africa, and America; and just small enough that the ships of Shakespeare's age could cross it quite easily.
三千英里宽的大西洋,不大不小。大到可以允许在其周边的欧洲,非洲,美洲等地生产的各种货物运输流通。小到可以允许莎翁时代的船队轻松的穿越。

The Pacific, by contrast, was much too big. Following the prevailing tides and winds, it was an 8,000-mile trip from China to California - just about possible 500 years ago, but too far to make trade profitable.
相比之下,太平洋就显得太为宽阔了。从中国到美国的加利福尼亚,顺着强劲的洋流季风,也要驱船航行8000英里之遥。进行如此漫长的航行,在500年前虽然是可行的,但是遥远距离使得贸易盈利的希望变的渺茫。

Geography determined that it was western Europeans, rather than the 15th Century's finest sailors - the Chinese - who discovered, plundered, and colonised the Americas. Chinese sailors were just as daring as Spaniards; Chinese settlers just as intrepid as Britons; but Europeans, not Chinese, seized the Americas because Europeans only had to go half as far.
所以在15世纪时,地理因素决定了,最初是西方的欧洲人,而不是拥有当时最好航海能力的中国,发现,掠夺并且殖民美洲大陆。当时中国的水手们正如西班牙的水手们一样勇敢;中国的侨民也正如英国的一样无畏。但是历史事实是欧洲人而不是中国人占领了美洲大陆,原因仅仅是因为欧洲人只需航行一半的距离便可到达美洲大陆。

Europeans went on in the 17th Century to create a new market economy around the shores of the Atlantic, exploiting comparative advantages between continents. This forced European thinkers to confront new questions about how the winds and tides worked. They learned to measure and count in better ways, and cracked the codes of physics, chemistry, and biology.
17世纪时,欧洲人继续充分利用各个大陆间的相对优势在大西洋沿岸建立新的市场经济体系。这样便迫使欧洲的思想家们思考洋流季风的规律。他们研究出了更好的测量和计算方法,并且开始探究物理学,化学以及生物学的奥秘。

As a result, Europe, not China, had a scientific revolution. Europeans, not Chinese, turned science's insights onto society itself in the 18th Century in what we now call the Enlightenment.
因此,又是欧洲,而不是中国发起了一场科技革命。在十八世纪是欧洲人,而不是中国人将科学发现运用到自身的社会之中,如今,我们称那段时间为启蒙时期。

By 1800, science and the Atlantic market economy pushed western Europeans into mechanising production and tapping the power of fossil fuels. Britain had the world's first industrial revolution, and by 1850 bestrode the world like a colossus.
在1800年,科技和大西洋沿岸市场经济的发展,推动西方欧洲人开始机械化生产能力,并且开始利用化石燃料。英国孕育出了世界上第一场工业革命,到了1850年,英国高踞于世界各国之上,成为了一只超级力量。

But the transforming power of geography did not stop there. By 1900 the British-dominated global economy had drawn in the resources of North America, changing the meaning of geography once again. The US, until recently a rather backward periphery, became the new global core.
不过地理因素作用的转变并没有停止。到了1900年,由英国主导的世界经济开始在北美洲开发资源,从而又一次的改变了地理因素的意义。一直到现代,又发生了一场世界中心向更为边缘地区的转移,美国成为了新的世界中心。

And still the process did not stop. In the 20th Century, the American-dominated global economy in turn drew in the resources of Asia. As container ships and jet airliners turned even the vast Pacific Ocean into a puddle, the apparently backward peripheries of Japan, then the "Asian Tigers", and eventually China and India turned into even newer global cores.
不过,地理因素的意义并没有停止转变。在20世纪,由美国主导的世界经济开始开发利用亚洲的资源。集装箱货运船、喷气式飞机的出现,使得跨太平洋的航行变得犹如跨过一个水坑一样容易。这样又使得更为边缘的地区—首先是日本、随即便是亚洲四小龙,日后,中国和印度终将会成为更新的世界中心。

The "rise of the East", so shocking to so many Westerners, was entirely predictable to those who understood that geography determines how societies develop, and that how societies develop simultaneously determines what geography means.
“东方的崛起”让很多西方人很是震惊,但是对于理解地理因素如果影响社会发展,社会的发展同时又怎样决定了地理因素如何作用的人们来说,这一切都是可以预测的。

When power and wealth shifted across the Atlantic from Europe to America in the mid-20th Century, the process was horrifyingly violent. As we move into the mid-21st century, power and wealth will shift across the Pacific from America to China.
在20世纪中叶,世界力量及财富从欧洲向美洲转移的过程充满了可怕的暴力。而我们正在步入的21世纪中叶,世界力量和财富的中心将会从美国跨过大西洋转移到中国。

The great challenge for the next generation is not how to stop geography from working; it is how to manage its effects without a Third World War.
未来的人们所面临的巨大挑战不是让地理因素停止发挥效力,而是在应对这种转变时如何避免第三次世界大战。

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2010-11-25 10:04 编辑:kuaileyingyu
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  • engbiz 说:

    文章太啰嗦,观点不鲜明。难为翻译了。

    2010-12-12 06:14 回复 支持(0) 反对(0) 沙发
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