The history of Europe is a history of engaging with encounters.
This has largely happened through conquest, leading to exploitation and very often colonisation, in the new found lands across the Atlantic and around the coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Something major happened in Europe in the sixteenth century. Looking back from where we are now, it must have been an interesting but also quite disturbing time to be alive.
For centuries the focus of much of the continent had been on itself, and when it looked outside it was to the immediate south (to Muslim Spain and North Africa) or to the east (to the Turks and the Arabs, to the Holy Land, and to a degree the Silk Road).
Then, quite suddenly, new worlds emerged — quite literally. By this I don’t just mean Christopher Columbus, or even just the new trade and empire routes the Portuguese developed around Africa into the Indian ocean.
These were phenomenal in themselves. But those discoveries, and the European exploitation of what they found, were to transform the continent of Europe in ways that have shaped so much of what we now take for granted. European history and culture has been made by these encounters.
The boundaries of Europe and its shape and sense of itself has grown up from distinguishing itself from others (as well as engaging with them).