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Changing Social Hierarchies

Unit 4: c. 1450-1750

Main Ideas:

  • Many diverse kingdoms adopted policies to utilize the different contributions of each ethnic/religious group, while others suppressed the actions of certain groups

  • More imperial conquests → Power of existing elites fluctuated → Creation of new elites & hierarchies

Creation of New Hierarchies

More Imperial Conquest → States Became More Diverse → Changing Hierarchies

Key Ideas:

  • Many diverse states adopted policies to accommodate for their ethnic diversity or to suppress the actions of certain ethnic/religious groups
    • Mughals & Ottomans were very religiously diverse & adopted policies to utilize the contributions of each ethnic group

      • Mughal zamindars were Hindu tax farmers​

      • Ottoman devshirme was a program of enslaving Christian boys & putting them in the Ottoman administration or army

    • Some Kingdoms suppressed their diversity & only favored a certain ethnic group

      • Colonial Americas favored Europeans over African slaves & indigenous Americans

      • Spain favored Catholics and expelled all its Jews

      • Qing Dynasty restricted actions of the Han Chinese

  • More imperial conquest → Creation of new elites & social hierarchies

    • As the Europeans colonized the Americas, they created a new European-dominated hierarchy called the casta system

    • The power of existing elites (European nobility, Russian boyars, etc.) fluctuated as they struggled to respond to the growing power of European monarchs

Casta System:


People born in Spain or Portugal


Direct descendants of Peninsulares (European people born in Americas)


People of mixed European and indigenous (or African) ancestry

Bottom Classes

Indigenous Americans & African slaves

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