Friday, October 2, 2009

Western Tech

The technologies developed by the dominant western powers would enable them to stay on top for much of this time period (1875-1914). Clearly weaponry was a key factor. The British were not the first to use firearms since gunpowder was invented in China. However, they were the first to invent the deadly machine gun that would change the face of warfare forever. The Maxim machine gun was revolutionary in that it enabled a small force to defeat larger (less developed) armies. It would have been impossible for the powerful west to stay on top without the aid of such technologies.
Another key invention was the steam engine and more specifically the railroad systems. Not only did this spark commercial integration and growth. It connected vast parts of the world together. Where once it took weeks to travel across open continents, it was then shortened to days or even hours. The railway technologies that helped to advance the West were brought to their colonies and vassals. A classic example is the construction of railways in China. The rail system there was not for China’s advantage but for Western capitalists. The rails were designed to carry materials from the interior of China to the coast. Their purpose was not to link parts of China together for the use of the Chinese people but rather was used to facilitate faster acquisition of their natural and manufactured goods.
Over time technologies are then incorporated in the host countries for their own good but this happened after their overlords left.


  1. It really is amazing how control over technology has translated into global power and control. It makes me wonder about the future since who knows, maybe a western country won't make the next watershed innovation in technology. And if not, who will become a core power? China especially has forged ahead in the past decade technologically amd economically. What then will become the standard language for global communication in English-speaking countries are no longer cores?

  2. I agree with Liz that it is so astonishing to see how global powers were formed based on the technological advances. I too wonder about the future and if other countries will overtake the world system as it is now based on their technolocial prowess.