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American Age of Discovery, Colonization, Revolution, & Expansion Military history of North America. .

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Old 26 May 17, 20:14
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Technology

if there is a thread on this, please advise
what really advanced/boosted/etc technology ?
--specific area: European shipbuilding/exploration/etc vs Africa/South America/etc
...I was having a discussion with my Kenyan co-worker about this
his main theme was there wasn't a need in Africa for ''higher technology''
also, most African countries have no coast--no need for ships
did the Europeans ''need'' ships?
--not a need or not enough time/manpower/etc?
...yes, I've read Guns, Germs, and Steel--I don't agree on some of the book's themes-

..another of the Kenyan's points was they couldn't make steel in Africa [ generally speaking ] ..? ..

Last edited by Moulin; 26 May 17 at 20:45..
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Old 27 May 17, 01:03
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On ships:

Navigable rivers and seas are like highways. Even in ancient times, a ship could carry an entire caravan worth of materials over great distances using a small number of men. That made them extremely efficient compared to land transportation. When you add in the general lack of roads and the slow speed of movement of land transport, ships were the powerhouse transportation system of the ancient world.
Building bigger, better ones became a need as an economy grew past the point of being able to survive on local resources.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Americas, the need for large ships never appeared for several reasons.

First, there was never the population pressure that Europe and the Mediterranean experienced. The same goes for China and Asia. Population growth led to a need for more trade from longer distances.

Second, terrain played a role. Like Central Russia and Siberia, the vastness of North America made sea trade irrelevant except to populations on the very coasts. But, without pressure or need to trade, ships didn't arise. In Central America, there were no other nearby civilizations to deal with outside the local ones. But, with constant warfare, trade between those civilizations was likely not to happen on a large scale.

In Central and South America population pressure did arise, but the indigenous peoples found a different mechanism to deal with it. Perpetual intertribal warfare and human sacrifice.

Look at Polynesia. The Polynesians had limited resources and land. Population pressure forced them to go to sea. They became incredibly skilled sailors for the technology they had. But, they also didn't face warfare at sea and really had no one to trade with. So, their vessels didn't grow appreciably in technology. In size, the grew as large as the extant technology would allow.

Another thing you need for ships to develop is a society that develops some hierarchy of social structure beyond the basic tribe. The Inca, Maya, and Aztecs all managed that. But, they also were relatively isolated from any other existing civilizations so there was no real need for ships and trade. In Africa it's the same thing. The few civilizations that do arise don't get large enough, face population pressure, or have other civilizations they can trade with.

In Europe, the civilizations there were close enough to interact. That meant trade would happen. Making larger boats and ships made for more efficient trade. That would lead to the exchange of ideas and technology.
It is likely that more sea trade in Asia would have occurred if Japan were closer to China and Korea than they are. In Europe, England was visible from France. Ergo, a place to go and see if there's trade. The Ice Age also made it possible to populate England early due to it being connected to Europe by land that far back.

Some other things that go with this:

A written language. Rare in the Americas and virtually nonexistent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Without it, you have difficulty expressing and retaining complex ideas like shipbuilding over time. It's one thing to pass the knowledge for building a canoe of some sort from father to son. One person can build such a craft. It takes organized teams of workers to build larger, more complex, ships. That requires records and things like drawings and instructions in writing.

So, you end up with ships in Asia and Europe but not in Africa and America.
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Old 27 May 17, 01:05
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Europeans got into Trade because they needed salted fish for church holidays, spice and silk. Remember back when the Farmers slaughter livestock in the Fall? The meat had to be pickled and/or salted in hopes it would last through the winter. Towards the end of Winter the preserved meat could turn nasty. How do you eat nasty meat? Some people used Spices to cover up the bad taste. Spices usually came from India and the East Indies. It was taxed in every country they unloaded it at. That could mean four or more hefty price increases!

To cut out the middle men, Europeans started trying to sail directly the source. If you were from the Mediterranean you designed your ships to have oars and/or Lateen Sails. The Portuguese and Spanish used ships with a Mediterranean influence. France and England sailed in rougher seas and a higher freeboard was necessary.

Another factor is how much you want to carry? When the Transatlantic routes were started, the ships were small and did not carry a lot of cargo. Naval warships started getting bigger and bigger. If you changed the lines of these warships you could get a much slower trading/cargo vessel that held a lot more. As long as you avoided Hurricane season in the Atlantic, bigger was better.

Africa did work Iron, probably before the Middle East and Europe. The Nubians conquered Egypt with Iron weapons. Most areas in Africa were reachable by caravans. The Zulu were working Iron before the Dutch got there. I wonder where the iron came from? Steel was first made in the Middle East and moved into Europe and India. It reached the Far East (China and Japan).

Chinese ores were lacking in trace elements that allowed easy work in Bronze and Iron. I remember reading a story from China about the Bell Maker's daughter. The man got a contract from the Imperial Court to cast a large bronze Bell. He made several cast and failed. The last batch was being melted and the man's daughter was so scared for her father that she jumped into the melting pot. This time the cast worked beautifully. The daughter had trace elements in her body.

It has been many years since I read the story, and it makes a sad but interesting tale. Who knows if it is just a myth?

The earliest example of steel I believe was a steel dagger found in King Tut's tomb. Scientists speculate it was made from meteoric iron.

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Old 27 May 17, 05:40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
On ships:

Navigable rivers and seas are like highways. Even in ancient times, a ship could carry an entire caravan worth of materials over great distances using a small number of men. That made them extremely efficient compared to land transportation. When you add in the general lack of roads and the slow speed of movement of land transport, ships were the powerhouse transportation system of the ancient world.
Building bigger, better ones became a need as an economy grew past the point of being able to survive on local resources.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Americas, the need for large ships never appeared for several reasons.

First, there was never the population pressure that Europe and the Mediterranean experienced. The same goes for China and Asia. Population growth led to a need for more trade from longer distances.

Second, terrain played a role. Like Central Russia and Siberia, the vastness of North America made sea trade irrelevant except to populations on the very coasts. But, without pressure or need to trade, ships didn't arise. In Central America, there were no other nearby civilizations to deal with outside the local ones. But, with constant warfare, trade between those civilizations was likely not to happen on a large scale.

In Central and South America population pressure did arise, but the indigenous peoples found a different mechanism to deal with it. Perpetual intertribal warfare and human sacrifice.

Look at Polynesia. The Polynesians had limited resources and land. Population pressure forced them to go to sea. They became incredibly skilled sailors for the technology they had. But, they also didn't face warfare at sea and really had no one to trade with. So, their vessels didn't grow appreciably in technology. In size, the grew as large as the extant technology would allow.

Another thing you need for ships to develop is a society that develops some hierarchy of social structure beyond the basic tribe. The Inca, Maya, and Aztecs all managed that. But, they also were relatively isolated from any other existing civilizations so there was no real need for ships and trade. In Africa it's the same thing. The few civilizations that do arise don't get large enough, face population pressure, or have other civilizations they can trade with.

In Europe, the civilizations there were close enough to interact. That meant trade would happen. Making larger boats and ships made for more efficient trade. That would lead to the exchange of ideas and technology.
It is likely that more sea trade in Asia would have occurred if Japan were closer to China and Korea than they are. In Europe, England was visible from France. Ergo, a place to go and see if there's trade. The Ice Age also made it possible to populate England early due to it being connected to Europe by land that far back.

Some other things that go with this:

A written language. Rare in the Americas and virtually nonexistent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Without it, you have difficulty expressing and retaining complex ideas like shipbuilding over time. It's one thing to pass the knowledge for building a canoe of some sort from father to son. One person can build such a craft. It takes organized teams of workers to build larger, more complex, ships. That requires records and things like drawings and instructions in writing.

So, you end up with ships in Asia and Europe but not in Africa and America.
Many of the larger rivers in Africa were unsuitable for long distance bulk transport with too many reaches being too shallow and others with rapids and falls. Hence when a Stanley relief expedition was mooted it was proposed to build a steamer equipped with a continuous track under the hull so it could drive through the shallows and around the rapids. On the one African river with a substantial navigable reach, the Nile, quite advanced ships were built.
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Old 27 May 17, 06:33
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Further to the above - the proposed amphibious boat for African rivers - I believe it was to be armed with 6 pounders and a Gatling gun
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Old 27 May 17, 07:30
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Sea going Egyptian ships were trading along the East Coast of Africa as early as 1500 BC (certainly during the reign of Hatshepsut as there are surviving inscriptions commemorating elements of this). These were relatively substantial ships but clearly developed from smaller Nile river boats. Later Indian ships traded with East Africa (about the 6th century AD) these appear to have been two masters with outriggers but were replaced with early Arab lateen rigged Dhows. Thus the coastal inhabitants of East Africa had been exposed to the concept and design of sea going vessels for centuries but never appear to have adopted the technology. Possibly as the traders were coming to them they felt no need to. However it seems inconceivable that there would be no shipyards on the African coast where traders could repair and maintain their ships. These were probably run by the traders and the technology never seems to have been transfered.

On the West Coast of Africa the prevailing winds (trades) would take a ship across to South America (mainly making landfall in the region of Brasil) to to get back again would would either need to sail well South and pick up the Westerlies which could take a ship well clear of the Cape of Good Hope so that landfall back in Africa would be problematic for early ships and navigators. This may well be an explanation for a lack of seagoing technology in West Africa - there was nowhere to go (and nowhere known to go). In the Northen hemisphere the trades would take you to North America and the Northern Westerlies bring you back to Europe.
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Old 27 May 17, 10:32
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Parts of Africa had relatively advanced technology but the use to which it was put appears to have been restricted (by tradition?). There were for example centres where high quality metal based products were made - Benin for example had high skills in bronze founding as the quality of bells and bronze ornaments in museums and art galleries around the world testifies but they never seem to have used this for much else. If you can make high quality bells you can make cannon as good as anything in Renaissance Europe and some firearms and gunpowder had already arrived as trade goods from the North (so the concept was known) but despite the warfare that seems to have been endemic they made no cannon. Itg was not a reluctance to use firearms for these were a key trade good used by the early slave buyers and purchased eagerly. I suspect that it may have been an extreme cultural conservatism "our ancestors made bells, we make bells now and we'll continue to make bells -its what we do"
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Old 27 May 17, 10:44
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thanks all replies
all very interesting and enjoyable to read--my only reading on the subject was Guns, Germs, Steel

my Kenyan friend did mention the critical point of lack of written language--but I never put much thought/emphasis into that area..that does seem like another big factor

and the ships were the nations' strategic power
naval power ''ruled'' the world for many years, yes?
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Old 27 May 17, 14:06
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moulin View Post
thanks all replies
all very interesting and enjoyable to read--my only reading on the subject was Guns, Germs, Steel

my Kenyan friend did mention the critical point of lack of written language--but I never put much thought/emphasis into that area..that does seem like another big factor

and the ships were the nations' strategic power
naval power ''ruled'' the world for many years, yes?
Your friend appears deficient in the history of his own continent. There were six ancient written languages in Africa four of which have survived to the present day. In addition ancient Arabic quickly became widespread over half a million documents in such were recently smuggled out of Timbuktu to save them from Islamic militants and amongst them are "dictionaries" to older lost African written languages
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Old 27 May 17, 16:24
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Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Your friend appears deficient in the history of his own continent. There were six ancient written languages in Africa four of which have survived to the present day. In addition ancient Arabic quickly became widespread over half a million documents in such were recently smuggled out of Timbuktu to save them from Islamic militants and amongst them are "dictionaries" to older lost African written languages
maybe he meant Kenya, and a few others..not all Africans...?
or some tribes...

so then the next question would be, why didn't some cultures have written languages/advanced writing/etc?
seems like that greatly advanced education--''rapidly''--thereby --as stated--greatly advancing technology
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Old 28 May 17, 07:49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
Europeans got into Trade because they needed salted fish for church holidays, spice and silk. Remember back when the Farmers slaughter livestock in the Fall? The meat had to be pickled and/or salted in hopes it would last through the winter. Towards the end of Winter the preserved meat could turn nasty. How do you eat nasty meat? Some people used Spices to cover up the bad taste. Spices usually came from India and the East Indies. It was taxed in every country they unloaded it at. That could mean four or more hefty price increases!

To cut out the middle men, Europeans started trying to sail directly the source. If you were from the Mediterranean you designed your ships to have oars and/or Lateen Sails. The Portuguese and Spanish used ships with a Mediterranean influence. France and England sailed in rougher seas and a higher freeboard was necessary.

Another factor is how much you want to carry? When the Transatlantic routes were started, the ships were small and did not carry a lot of cargo. Naval warships started getting bigger and bigger. If you changed the lines of these warships you could get a much slower trading/cargo vessel that held a lot more. As long as you avoided Hurricane season in the Atlantic, bigger was better.

Africa did work Iron, probably before the Middle East and Europe. The Nubians conquered Egypt with Iron weapons. Most areas in Africa were reachable by caravans. The Zulu were working Iron before the Dutch got there. I wonder where the iron came from? Steel was first made in the Middle East and moved into Europe and India. It reached the Far East (China and Japan).

Chinese ores were lacking in trace elements that allowed easy work in Bronze and Iron. I remember reading a story from China about the Bell Maker's daughter. The man got a contract from the Imperial Court to cast a large bronze Bell. He made several cast and failed. The last batch was being melted and the man's daughter was so scared for her father that she jumped into the melting pot. This time the cast worked beautifully. The daughter had trace elements in her body.

It has been many years since I read the story, and it makes a sad but interesting tale. Who knows if it is just a myth?

The earliest example of steel I believe was a steel dagger found in King Tut's tomb. Scientists speculate it was made from meteoric iron.

Pruitt
No no no

Salted fish had nothing to do with it. Europeans got into trade long before there was a church and fast days . They were trading goods across the seas in pre Roman times. They need to carry bulk heavy cargos by water because the only alternatives were pack animals, expensive, limited and slow and in the case of some products like wine, oysters etc took too long or shook up the product too much. Much trade in the seas off Western Europe was carried out by the Veneti of Brittany using oak built sailing ships, flat bottomed to allow operations in tidal waters (so the didn't topple over when grounded at low tide). The Phoenicians had initiated trade with Britain mainly for tin and iron (smelted ingots not ore) and the Veneti continued some of this until the Romans replaced them.

Norse seamen in the “Dark Ages” traded everywhere from the Black Sea to the Arctic. Some of their larger ships were over 300 feet long. They introduced the true keel which was essential later if ships were able to sail close to the wind and tack. One product carried was timber and he Viking “settlements” in North America (Vinland) are now thought to have been less permanent settlements than logging camps supplying timber to the new Viking settlement in treeless Iceland where timber was at a premium price and were abandoned when those running the business had made their fortunes.

Preserving food was a minor use for spices which were important in traditional medicines, perfumery, dying of expensive luxury fabrics (e.g. using saffron and cochneal) and improving the flavour of somewhat dull Northern cuisine. The main spice traded for food was pepper and this was only available to the well to do. Peasant’s winter fare was usually fairly meatless and limited to a gritty bread and hard cheese with possibly some apples, dried peas and beans and root vegetables from winter storage. The drive to find alternative routes to obtain spices came when the Ottoman Empire began to restrict the flow to the West and the Venetians began to abuse the near monopoly of the trade with the Ottomans to raise prices to exorbitant levels.

However early sea trade between European nations such as England and the East carried relatively little spice by volume and much more silk and cashmere as well as other luxury products such as ivory. And increasingly tea and coffee. But the bilk of trade in the early period remained in European waters with essential but mundane cargos. John Masefield’s oft quoted poem Cargoes although referring to a later period still makes the same point.

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.


Incidentally bullion was indeed the main Spamish import from the America. Although it boosted Spain’s imperial might in the short term it created inflationary forces that eventually ruined the economy.

All early European ships from the Baltic to the Med relied on oars to some extent as they could only effectively sail before the wind and oars were essential for manoeuvring in and out of port for example. Oars were never used for long distance travel. Even the war galleys could only manage short high speed spurts under oars and would up masst and sail on long voyages.
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Old 28 May 17, 09:09
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Originally Posted by Moulin View Post
maybe he meant Kenya, and a few others..not all Africans...?
or some tribes...

so then the next question would be, why didn't some cultures have written languages/advanced writing/etc?
seems like that greatly advanced education--''rapidly''--thereby --as stated--greatly advancing technology
May I suggest Niall Ferguson's "Civilisation- The West and the Rest" wherein he examines just why Western Europe rose to World domination.
He cites six "Killer Applications" that the remainder of the world lacked:-competition (between each European nation state), science (applied), democracy,medicine,consumerism and the work ethic.
While you might not agree with all of Ferguson's contentions it's certainly a fascinating study.
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Old 28 May 17, 10:04
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moulin View Post
maybe he meant Kenya, and a few others..not all Africans...?
or some tribes...

so then the next question would be, why didn't some cultures have written languages/advanced writing/etc?
seems like that greatly advanced education--''rapidly''--thereby --as stated--greatly advancing technology
Parts of Europe had no written language until comparatively late. The educated elite often used Latin. The thing that enabled the spread of some written language in Europe was the introduction of printing and the Reformation for example

Quote:
The standardization of the multiple varieties of Finnish was brought about by the creation of written language in the 16th century, encouraged by the Reformation which required preaching in the local language. It was based heavily on south-western dialects, which form the basis of modern Finnish. The Bishop of Turku, Mikael Agricola, published the New Testament in Finnish in 1548 effectively creating written form of the language from scratch, and is today celebrated as the father of literary Finnish.
Similar events appear to have happened in Latvia even later.
The need to spread biblical teaching in the local laguage rather than Latin being a spur.
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Old 28 May 17, 10:21
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In France until sometime in the 19th century a significant number of people had one of the following languages/dialects as their first and sometimes only tongue

- Alsatian
- Basque
– Berrichon
– Bourguignon-Morvandiau
- Breton
- Catalan
– Champenois or Campanois
– Franc-Comtois
– French
– Gallo
– Lorrain
– Norman
- Occitan
– Picard which is also known as Chtimi
– Poitevin and Saintongeais
– Walloon
– Angevin
– Manceau
– Mayennais
– Romande

I wonder if they all had written forms?

de Gaul only had to worry about the number of types of cheese!
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Old 28 May 17, 11:07
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BELGRAVE View Post
May I suggest Niall Ferguson's "Civilisation- The West and the Rest" wherein he examines just why Western Europe rose to World domination.
He cites six "Killer Applications" that the remainder of the world lacked:-competition (between each European nation state), science (applied), democracy,medicine,consumerism and the work ethic.
While you might not agree with all of Ferguson's contentions it's certainly a fascinating study.
I'll try that out ..thanks
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