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Sapiens 12 The marriage of Science and Empire

Page history last edited by Ian Kimber 8 years, 3 months ago



Lesson 12  The Marriage of science and empire


Segment 1     

European Imperialism was a bit of a surprise.  Around 1500 Western Europe was not powerful or had any great reputation for ideas. 

The real great powers were in the east Asia was the Main centre of economic power but was uninterested in expansion.  


This is very different today  how did this happen?

Beyond 1850  technological superiority was the case.  but what about before this.


Also the east did not have the political and social structures that had developed in Europe before this time and this is the important factor


There are two answers to this modern science and capitalism and a political structure that accepted this.

The next segments deal with the rise of science.


Segment 2   


The scientists and the empire builders started from a point of ignorance.   This is seen in the voyages of exploration to find out about the world.  They set out to conquer and learn new knowledge  they laid claim to ownership of the lands that they discovered. Captain cook’s expedition included a substantial team of scientists.  the ship was also a warship and laid claim to discovered lands  for example  Australia.  Native populations were brushed aside and dominated.  The expeditions looked for profit.   The Beagle was to create knowledge to enable war in the south Atlantic eventually the scientist was Charles Darwin a naturalist and geologist.


The europeans always came with conquest in mind  but also to learn.


Segment 3   


This mentality is shown by the maps that they drew.   They either left out unfamiliar areas or imagined what might be there.  when the europeans stared to explore they included unknown areas and demonstrated that their knowledge was limited.  Columbus never admitted that he had discovered a new continent he thought he had discovered an island off there coast of iIndonesia. 

this was left to others to describe america was named after Amerigo Vespuchi  the first person to say that is was a new continent.


Eventually the whole globe became known and mapped by Europeans  most other major states were to busy worrying about their borders and neighbours to explore find things out and conquer.   The nearest equivalents was the voyages of the Chinese to explore the Indian Ocean.  The crucial difference was that he did not try to conquor or colonise but were minor feature of one particular Chinese group when tis change the expeditions stopped and the fleets were dispersed they were just not interested.  They learned of the discoveries by the Europeans they did not consider them to be important.


the resources that the europeans gained from their exploration made Europe wealthy and an economy bigger than the asian empires.


Segment 4   

Explorations produced many positive results in the form of new crops products and medicines.  This also included biology and archaeology and the study of old and forgotten civilisations and languages.  This was not done by previous invasions.  Scientific researches followed all colonisations by Europeans  it was also seen as a way of justifying the invasions and expansion of the empires “bringing progress” to the world.  In fact the reality was that the Europeans brought war, famines and disease.  In many places there was however an improvement in spite of these negatives.  They did in fact create most of the world as we know it today.


Science and empire building was financed by capitalism.  that is the next lecture set.


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