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STS203: History of Technology

Unit 6: Technology and Imperialism   The 19th century is often referred to as the Age of Progress because of the many benefits derived from industrial production. However, it is necessary to think more critically about the notion of progress as being intimately tied to imperialism and contemporary theories of civilization. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, industrializing nations competed for natural resources and labor across the globe. Sentiments of nationalism, social Darwinism, and racial science drove the competition. Technology was at the center of this civilizing mission, both as the means through which imperial nations pacified subject populations and how they measured civilization itself. They ranked civilizations according to relative levels of science and technology on an imagined hierarchy of development, in which white Europeans usually appeared on top.
 
This unit will complicate your understanding of progress and civilization in Western history. It will illustrate how cutting-edge industrial technologies like telegraphy, steamboats, trains, and machine guns served imperial interests. We will focus especially on Britain in India and Africa, and American expansion westward and into the Pacific.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 10.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 1.5 hours      ☐    Subunit 6.2: 4.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2.2: 2.5 hours
 

☐    Subunit 6.3: 4.5 hours ☐    Subunit 6.3.1: 0.25 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3.3: 1.75 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3.4: 1 hour

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- explain James Lewis Morgan’s three stages of human development; - identify and explain technologies of British imperialism; - analyze and discuss how John Gast links technology to progress in the painting, Age of Progress; - explain the negative impact of the Transcontinental Railroad on the Plains Indians; - explain the important of the Panama Canal to American imperialist ambitions; and - explain the Matthew Perry mission.

6.1 Social Evolution Theory and Imperialism   6.1.1 Anthropological Theories   - Reading: University of Alabama’s Department of Anthropology: Heather Long and Kelly Chakov’s “Social Evolutionism” Link: University of Alabama’s Department of Anthropology: Heather Long and Kelly Chakov’s “Social Evolutionism” (HTML)
                     
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read the “Basic Premises” and “Points of Reaction” sections. Early anthropologists ranked the peoples of the world and introduced terms such as “savage” and “civilization” that contemporary imperialists easily co-opted. Notice how central technological developments were to Lewis Henry Morgan’s theory in particular, and study his three stages of evolution.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.2 The “White Man’s Burden”   - Activity: Annenberg Foundation’s America’s History in the Making: “The White Man’s Burden” Link: Annenberg Foundation’s America’s History in the Making: “The White Man's Burden” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and study this advertisement by the Pear’s Soap Company (1899). Take notes on how the company represented its product as a gift of civilization. Imposing progressive technologies on foreign peoples became a major goal (and rationalization) for imperial nations.
 
Studying the image and note-taking should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2 Technology of Imperialism   6.2.1 Industrialization and Imperialism   - Reading: History World International: Stuart B. Schwartz’s “Industrial Rivalries and the Partition of the World, 1870-1914” Link: History World International: Stuart B. Schwartz’s “Industrial Rivalries and the Partition of the World, 1870-1914” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read the entire text. This selection ties the Industrial Revolution to Imperialism, focusing especially on the technological advantages of European nations as they subjugated non-European peoples. Pay close attention to the section “Unequal Combat.”  
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 2 hours.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.2 The Tools of Empire   - Reading: The British Empire: Stephen Luscombe’s “Railways” and “Telegraphy” Link: The British Empire: Stephen Luscombe’s “Railways” and “Telegraphy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the links above, and read these two webpages for a close look at how the steam train and telegraph, respectively, helped the British Empire consolidate its power in India and Africa.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Transport Research Institute: Margaret Grieco’s “Transport Organization and Colonial Order” Link: The Transport Research Institute: Margaret Grieco’s “Transport Organization and Colonial Order” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: The webpage linked above introduces you to Daniel Headrick’s book, Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1981). The chosen passages concern steam boats and medical advances in particular.
     
    Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3 Technology of American Imperialism   6.3.1 John Gast’s Painting, American Progress (1872)   - Activity: California State University at Bakersfield: Gonzalo Santos’s “John Gast – American Progress (1872)” Link: California State University at Bakersfield: Gonzalo Santos’s “John Gast – American Progress (1872)” (HTML)
                     
Instructions: Click on the link above, and study this image and the contemporary description below the image. Pay close attention to the figures, objects, animals, action, and color scheme. You should consider the role that Gast gives to technology and industry in American Westward expansion.
 
Studying the image and note-taking should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.2 The Transcontinental Railroad   - Reading: PBS’s American Experience: “The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad” and “Native Americans” Link: PBS’s American Experience: “The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad” and “Native Americans” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the links above, and read these pages on the Transcontinental Railroad and its effect on the Plains Indians. Note the positive effects it had for white settlement and the U.S. economy. Pay close attention to how aggressively Americans acquired native lands and the devastating effects of railroads and white settlement on native life and the buffalo herds.  
 
Readings and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.3 The Panama Canal   - Web Media: YouTube: nnickoo's “History of Panama Canal Construction, 1934” Link: YouTube: nnickoo's “History of Panama Canal Construction, 1934” (YouTube)
                     
Instructions: Click on the link above, and view the entire video. This short retrospective video on the Panama Canal from 1934 focuses on the engineering feat itself and exhibits the same patriotic pride that would have attended construction (1904-1914) under Theodore Roosevelt. Notice the massive steam-powered shovels. 

 Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 15 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: PBS’s “Interview: Walter LaFeber, Historian” Link: PBS’s “Interview: Walter LaFeber, Historian” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Click on the link above, and read this page for an introduction to the political context of the building of the Panama Canal. Pay close attention to the Monroe Doctrine, President Roosevelt’s interests in the Pacific, US relations with Columbia, and Panama’s independence from Columbia.
     
    Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.4 Gunboat Diplomacy in Japan   - Reading: MIT: John W. Dower’s “Black Ships and Samurai” Link: MIT: John W. Dower’s “Black Ships and Samurai” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Click on the link above, and read the entire webpage. In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States sailed to Japan on steam-powered warships to force the secluded country to trade with the United States. The reading focuses on observations and depictions of the ships themselves – known to the Japanese as “black ships” due to the billowing black smoke of the coal-fired steam engines.  
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Unit 6 Assessment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 6 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 6 Assessment” (HTML)

 Instructions: Complete the linked assessment.  
    
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