For most of world history, Western Europe was insignificant and weak. After the fall of Rome in the 5th century, the dominant powers in the Mediterranean and the Middle East were Byzantium (today’s Istanbul) and various Muslim empires, which quickly expanded from the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century and controlled the area from Spain to India. The Mongol Dynasty reached all the way to Europe. China dominated East and Southeast Asia and Admiral Zeng He’s trade missions extended all the way to India and Africa. At that time, nine out of ten of the largest cities in the world were outside of Europe.
Meanwhile, from 500 to 1500 AD, Europe was mostly divided among constantly warring local feudal leaders who were poor and weak. However, starting in 1500 and going until the end of WWII in 1945, Europe underwent agricultural, demographic and industrial revolutions and came to dominate world politics and economics.
Various powers arose in Europe through this period, but only a few spread out into the rest of the world. In the 1500s and 1600s, first Portugal, Spain and then the Netherlands/Holland developed better weapons, ships and navigation. The Portuguese and the Dutch pushed around the coast of Africa to Arabia and Asia and the Spanish went across the Atlantic to the Americas. (Typical of the Eurocentric psychology of the time, in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas the Catholic Church had divided the world in half when they didn’t really know what was where, giving the Americas to Spain and giving Africa and Asia to Portugal. (Part of Brazil happened to fall on the Portuguese side of the line - thus Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country in Latin America.)
In the Americas, the Spanish made fortunes ripping off huge amounts of gold and silver and using Native American slave labor to mine more. The Portuguese first made money in the gold and slave trade from Africa. Then they and the Dutch made a lot of money bringing spices and other goods from Asia. (At that time, pepper, cinnamon and cloves were literally worth their weight in gold.) The Spanish and Portuguese never industrialized in a big way, but tiny Holland took a big step forward by integrating a modern system of trade, manufacturing and finance on a world scale, which made them the richest nation in the world for several decades.