World & Indian History

How Scientific Discoveries Aided the Expansion of European Colonial Powers After 1880?

The concept of colonialism is not new in the world; colonization began around 4,500 years ago by Romans, Greeks, Perthians, Mongols, and others. However, in the contemporary sense, the age of modern-day colonialism or new imperialism began with the age of discovery, led by Portuguese and Spanish explorers as they set out to uncover rich and prosperous new places like India.

British, French, Spanish, and Dutch colonies were formed in North America, Asia, and North & South America. Each country's reasons for colonization and expectations of the possible benefits were unique. 

However, the concept of European colonization was mostly driven by necessity. The period of colonization began with the unprecedented pursuit of overseas territorial acquisition by force. These colonial powers originally pushed into virgin regions such as North America, Africa, and portions of Asia and looted them for riches before forcibly converting indigenous populations to Christianity. 

In the case of South Asia, the reason for colonization was the same, but Europeans' eagerness to colonize the land of South Asia peaked when Europeans had grown accustomed to Asian goods such as silk, spices, and pottery that had for centuries traveled the Silk Road, but the traditional trade route was captured by the Ottoman Empire and pushed prices of common goods used by European common and rich civilians. 

At the same time, advances in shipbuilding and navigation made it possible to go farther and for longer periods of time. European governments recognized the potential rewards of improved trade with Asia and sought new sea routes. 

Also, the empires in India and other parts of Asia became weak as a result of internal conflicts and a lack of shipbuilding technology, allowing European powers such as Britain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands to quickly invade the land by defeating some kingdoms along India's and other countries' coasts. After invading the region, the European rulers used diplomatic methods to deceive the native king and secure their hold on it. 

The European powers pillaged every continent but were unable to establish their dominion due to local resistance. However, because of scientific breakthroughs that contributed to the Industrial Revolution, they were able to increase their colonial authority in the later part of the 1800s.

The commencement of the Western Industrial Revolution altered the concept of "Production and Distribution." As a result, colonial powers strengthened their hold on colonies by suppressing the people of the land, undermining local businesses by introducing commodities manufactured in factories, ruining traditional farming practices, and suppressing critical voices.

Suddenly, vast swaths of the earth were colonized by resurgent empires. For example, in 1880, the huge continent of Africa was still predominantly comprised of sovereign governments and societies. By 1914, there were only two independent nations: Liberia and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, France dominated the expansion of continental Southeast Asia. 

What scientific discoveries led to the expansion of European nations' colonial empires? 

The Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom and quickly extended to the rest of Europe. Europe swiftly became an industrialized region, owing primarily to the agricultural society. 

The movement, which began in the United Kingdom, was not a sudden burst of advancement, but rather a series of breakthroughs that relied on or fed off one another. Some of the most important advances came from the use of new materials, such as iron and steel; new energy sources, such as coal and steam; new machines, such as the power loom; the unique factory system of labor; and new modes of transportation, such as steam-powered trains and boats.

Here is a list of the top ten inventions that altered the course of European colonization: 

1. The Steam Engine (1778)
2. The Power Loom (1785)
3. The Cotton Gin (1794)
4. Gas Street Lighting (1807)
5. The Electromagnet (1825)
6. The First Photograph (1826)
7. Stephenson's Rocket (1829)
8. The Electrical Telegraph (1837)
9. The Steam Hammer (1839)
10. Mass Steel Production and Metallurgy (1856) 

The steam engine arose from the need to pump out flooded mine shafts and allow for deeper mining. The steam engine's beginnings can be traced back to Heron of Alexandria, who invented the aeolipile, a steam turbine that spun a sphere, in the first century C.E. Heron's steam engine was only built for show and had no utility.

In 1698, Thomas Savery (about 1650-1715) invented the first modern steam pump. In 1712, Thomas Newcomen (1664-1729) perfected his more powerful steam pump in Dudley, Midlands, to drain water from coal mines. 

After the basic version of the steam engine was invented, numerous engineers and scientists worked on it to enhance its efficiency in terms of fuel consumption and power generation. Scottish instrument makers James Watt (1736-1819) and Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) later perfected the steam engine.

They boosted the engine's power generation. As a result, the engine became known as "Watt's Steam Engine." The engine's power was also transferred to a more adaptable rotational motion via a flywheel. 

The invention of the steam engine and the development of the steam locomotive resulted in faster, more efficient, and more reliable transportation of goods and people. With the use of steam locomotives, colonial powers established their influence in remote areas of the colonial lands, delivering raw materials to ports and then exporting them to industries back home for the manufacturing of completed goods. 

The steam locomotive aided urbanization by allowing cities to grow around railway hubs, but it also destroyed the backbone of colonies' primitive industries.  

Following the invention of the steam engine, Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823) developed the power loom weaving machine in 1785, which revolutionized the global textile industry but decimated the primitive handmade textile goods sector in colonies.

India became a victim of the power loom because it was one of the world's best textile goods producers at the time. Because India produced the finest cotton in the world, the Indian textile industry was one of the most important contributors to the Indian economy at the time.

Following the invention of the power loom and the steam engine, British colonial rulers exported the majority of cotton produced to England to be made into cloaths, flooding the Indian market with inferior-quality cloaths imported from England. 

Power looms and steam engines aided colonial powers in expanding their power circle in colonies. They plundered raw goods such as cotton, gold, and other commodities, but it damaged the economies of the colonies, and these countries are now trying to move forward owing to a lack of wealth.

Aside from these, Samuel Morse's invention of the electric telegraph has proven to be a watershed moment in the history of communication. The steam engine had already enhanced the pace of excellent movements and, with the help of an electric telegraph, could deliver signals over large distances. 

Later, the cotton gin revolutionized the time-consuming task of separating cotton fibers from seeds, significantly increasing output. The invention of gas street lighting transformed the nightlife of cities that used to become dark after nightfall, and cities' contribution to the economy doubled as nightlife bustled with life on streets, stores, and factories. 

Scotsman William Murdock employed gas lights successfully at his Birmingham factory for the first time. From 1807, the German inventor Frederick Albert Winsor (1763-1830) pioneered the use of coal gas for city lighting. 

Following those discoveries, some of the inventions that resulted from demand and necessities flooded the market, increasing economic activity. The development of photography gave birth to several new professions.

The invention of the electromagnet helped the era to discover the generators and motors to produce electricity for cities and the discovery of dynamite changed the open pit mining and infrastructure building around the Western World. With the development of industrialization came labor market reform and the creation of a new manufacturing environment through the implementation of new regulations in the system.

All of this would have been impossible without the discovery of a method for mass-producing steel, portland cement, and the advancement in metallurgy. Throughout the Industrial Revolution, iron was utilized for a variety of equipment and construction projects, but steel is significantly superior in strength and malleability, and it is lighter.

Following the spread of the Industrial Revolution in several European countries, the European powers engaged in a large burst of imperialist expansion in the years following 1880. The European powers expanded their colonial regimes in order to gain control of new markets and raw supplies.

As a result, discord between European countries intensified at the turn of the century, resulting in the war in Europe, formally known as the First World War because all of the colonies were forced to participate in it.

Must Read:  How did Turkey get the title of "Sick Man of Europe"?