Tools Of Empire


Tools Of Empire Essay, Research Paper

Book Review

Imperialism in Africa and Asia in the nineteenth century was effected by technology as well as other factors. In Daniel R. Hedrick?s book, The Tools of Empire, the idea of technology was introduced inspite of the ways historians have ignored or put down technology?s impact on imperialism. Historians have often focused more on the motives of imperialism than on the means. This was what Hedrick was trying to move away from. In this book he focused on both the means and the motvies and how each effected wach other. To do this Hedrick looked at the first three phases of imperialism. The first was the phase of penetration and expansion, the second was conquest, and the third was communication and transportation networks.

The first phase, penetration and expansion wsa a very important phase. One of the most importatn tools in this phase was the steamer. These were ships that were equipped with a low pressure steam engine that drove a paddle wheel by converting the steam energy into kinetic engergy, the energy of motion. The first steamers into India were two ships known as the Diana and the Pluto. These ships were brought in to be used as pleasure steamers for Nawab of Oudh (Hedrick 19). This ship was then commendeered by the British durring their war with the Burmese in 1824. The Diana was the greatest investment the British could have aquired, It used it?s engines to pull sailing ships into lines and it?s loud cannons and fiery engines struck fear into the heart of their enemies. Durring this time the Select Committee on Steam Naviagation to India was formed. The purpose of this comitee was to recommend plans to British investors. The committee questioned three people, Thomas Love Peacock, Francis Rawdon Chesney, and Macgregor Laird. The committee asked each experienced witness to share with them the fastest and most economical route to India. It was decided that the British would back both the Egyptian and Mesopotamian overland routes. The British then had another need to call on the power of the steamboat durring the first Opium War in 1839. This war was started when the British kept smugling Opium to China. The East India Company, who had had power over their for years felt threatened when the British goverment came in to fight the Chinese. Both British powers had their separate plans. The British Goverment favored a fleet of traditaional wooden sailing ships while the East India Company favored iron hulled steamships. For this war the East India Company buitlt the Nemesis. The Nemesis was 184 feet long, 29 feet wide, 11 feet of draft, and weighed 660 tons (Hedrick 47). The Nemesis?s main purpose durring the war was to tow sailing ships around and tow fire rafts out of the way. It worked so well the British decided to build more steamers so they took take the Grand Canal and cut of the rice trade. They launched the attack on the Yangtzee River in May of 1842 and by August they had taken the canal and the peace was then made by China.

Another huge technological influence on the first phase of imperialism was the discovery of Quinine. For years Europeans hadbeen trying to penetrate into Africa but they couldn?t, to many people would die. The cause of this was the dreaded disease called Malaria. This was a dissease that was carried by insects and most likelly led to death in the jungle. That was untill a chemical called quinine was discovered. Europeans like Macgregor Laird wanted to get into the interior of Africa, because it presented many comerical oppertunities. The mortatlity rate on African voyages was very high, until the Jesusits that lived in the Andes extrcted a chemical from the cinchona tree called quinine. This chemical acutually helped prevent and cure malaria. The only problems was that it was hard to aquire and it tasted horrible. So many countires began growing this plant themselves, the Dutch were the most successfull in growing the cinchona tree. This gross production of Quinine finally mad the palm oil rich interior of Africa open for trade.

The second phase of imperialsim is conquest. The one thing that mad e the conquest easier for the British ws the improvemtnes in weapons. Up untill the 1840?s british soldiers were still using old muzzle loading smooth bored weapons. These weapons held little value in the field due to their inacuarcy and poor engineering. Finally the British wised up and started using new rifled barrels that sent the bullets in a straight line. They also bean percusion locks which used Potassium Chlorate as an igniter, instead of the old flint locks. They also changed the shape of the bullet from a ball to it?s current oblong shape. The nect move the British made was to get rid of the old, slow and dangerous muzzle loading guns. The breechloader was born. In a breechloader, the bulet is loaded into the stock of the gun instead of down the barrel this offered increased firing and made the gun more reliable in inclimate weather.

The third phase and the last one discussed in the bok is that of communication. After the Briitish had established themselves in India they needed a way to keep in touch with their home. The first attempts at a communcation network where mail routes that traveled both over land and around Africa by sea. These routes were rather slow and untill more efficent steamships were invented they just didn?t satisfy their customers. Finally steam compaines were formed and better realtions were established with the countries that were crossed. The greatest boon to comuntication was the building of the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal connected the Mediterainian Sea to the Red Sea by turning the overland route trhough Eygpt into a much faster water route. The final inovation was the laying of submarine telegraph cables. When the first undersea cables were layed the British lacked the technology and materials to uild a cable that could last under water. Cables were often snapped when being layed or were digested by undersea organisms. In 1867 a calbe was layed from Britain to India entirelly underwater. It took five hours for a message to travel, which was a great improvemtn form the mail routes which could take up to 3 years to receive a reply from a message.

Hedrick did a very good job of achieveing his goal of informing readers of how technology impacted imperialism in India and Africa. He did this by using company records, other books and accoutns of incidents throughout history.

Pesonaly when reading this book I found the content rather dry. He made his point and presented the facts ina straight on appraoch. It was well written but it lacked that extra bit of inginuity that grabs the reader and forces him to keep asking questions and reading on further. Basically he did a good job in proving his pint but it oculd have use a little more style.


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