NATS 1775 Lecture 6: NATS 1775 UNIT 6

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4 Feb 2016
NATS 1775 UNIT 6: Technology in the Age of Imperialism
I. Science, Technology and Justifications for Colonization
A. The “civilizing” mission
justification for European conquest and dominance in 19th century
Linked to idea of “empire-building”
Based on paternalistic notion that it is the European’s “duty” to better the
situation of the native who was not as “civilized”
Idea was to bring peace and order to areas where there are wars, constant
Europeans considered themselves to be best qualified for this mission because
they were the most progressive and advanced civilization
evidence for this: scientific and technological achievements
example: firearms, machines and vast scientific knowledge are presented as
proof of European superiority
belief that rational thought (i.e. science) would triumph over knowledge of
cultures that were superstitious and ignorant
extremist position condoned the extermination of “natives” in countries
considered “backward” in scientific and technical know-how
colonizers thus used idea of scientific and technological superiority as a)
justification to govern colonized peoples and b) as a way to keep colonized
people under control of administration
idea of bettering condition of humanity is today questioned as cover for
exploitation of African and Asian peoples
moral arguments vs issues related to economic self interest and nationalist goals
example: in order to better their own economic standing, colonizers would
provide manufactured goods and machinery to colonized in return for their
constant supply of raw materials
by doing this, many native industries were destroyed; i.e. Indian shipbuilders,
cotton manufacturers
B. Science and the Christian Missionary Movement
Christian missionaries often used idea of Western scientific and technological
dominance as way to prove to the Non-western peoples that Christianity was
superior religion
conversion would lead to their salvation
This included missionaries teaching Non-western people technical skills, ideas
about Western cleanliness, hygiene, social discipline in hopes of “civilizing” these
idea that Christian civilizations more scientifically and technically proficient and
efficient that other “heathen” cultures
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emphasis on idea that Christianity is foundation behind scientific and
technological achievements
science and technology are “handmaidens” (servants) to Christian religion
lack of scientific and technical knowledge is used by missionaries as justification
for their purpose of converting individuals
technology itself (i.e. railroads and telegraphs) would aid in “breaking barriers” to
scientific knowledge is seen to simultaneously strengthen notion of powerful
Christian God and weaken other religious deities
Reverend John Cumming: “we can…upset the whole theology of the Hindu by
predicting an eclipse” What does this quote imply?
comparisons between the non-Western native and European peasant were often
made during this time period as well
C. Non-Western Attitudes towards Time, Work, and Nature
Non-western cultures had different timekeeping methods from Europeans; did
not always rely on mechanized “clock” time of Europeans
As a result, they were seen time wasters; lazy and unpunctual when it came to
Inability to replicate European timekeeping devices seen as evidence of their lack
of mathematical or scientific aptitude
Non-western ideas about nature also ridiculed
recall that Western thinkers increasingly see nature as something to be used and
exploited for their own purposes; humans should “master” natural world to
improve their lives
this idea started in 17th century with men like Francis Bacon but becomes more
popular during Industrial Revolution as these ideas gain greater credibility with
new scientific developments and technological innovations
nature increasingly seen as object to be studied
human needs can be met by reshaping natural environment
human superiority over nature sees the individual assuming responsibility for
“lower” beings; this metaphor then used to justify “taking care of” non-Western
Idea of dominating nature was contrary to cultures that advocated a more
balanced relationship between individual and nature, respect for nature
such cultures themselves then criticized by Europeans as being irrational,
superstitious and ignorant
the fact that non-Western did not try to investigate, dominate or control nature
becomes justification for European to take control and claim these “wasted” and
“unused” resources, the “raw materials” needed for industrialization
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