The petroleum pioneers in the age of the illumination

The petroleum pioneers in the age of illumination

“The Petroleum Pioneers in the Age of the Illumination”. Presentation at the 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 28th July 2017. 

Three main technologies interplayed in the historical genesis of the petroleum industry: a) distillation, fractioning, cracking, b) pumping, c) drilling.

Wood tar distillation is an ancient process. The dry distillation of wood was employed in three or four receivers, to produce tar, pitch, essential oils, and gaseous products. Innovations such as the thermal insulation of the stills (alleged Raimond Lullus), steam distillation (Claude Dariot), separation of the heating source (Johann Glauber), air cooling and water cooling. In 1792-1807, Philippe Lebon and William Murdoch produced gaslight with wood and coal dry distillation. In 1813 Jean-Baptiste Cellier Blumenthal designed the first continuously working distillation column.

Karl Reichenbach discovered paraffin by dry distillation of the tar of beech wood, in 1829-1830. In short it was found that paraffin also exists in the tarry matters distilled from other kinds of wood, bitumens and coal. In 1830-31, Reichenbach discovered naphthalene. In 1831-32, he described kreosote, piccamar and pittakal, all of them derived by dry wood distillation.

Whale oil was the basic source of oil from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, and it was used experimentally by Benjamin Franklin. At the end of the eighteenth-century lard oil was used for the Cape Cod lamp. Between 1830 and 1850, the need for more and better light led to the distillation of illumination oil from turpentine (camphene) and to pioneering work in the production of coal oils, which stimulated the research upon: a) materials for the enrichment of manufactured gas, and b) mineral lubricants by means of low temperature distillation. A.F. Selligue of France acquired a patent in 1834 for producing water gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas produced by reacting steam with incandescent coke (Ayres, 1990). To carburet and enrich the water gas, he used oil produced by distillation of Autun schists (shale). By 1850, famous sorts of lamps were the (1) Crusie, (2) Betty Lamp, (3) Rushlight Holder, (4) Spout Lamp, (5) Spout Lamp, (6) Time Lamp, (7) Lard Oil Lamp, (8) Whale Oil Lamp, (9) Camphene Lamp, (10) Camphene Lamp, (11) Peg Lamp, (12) Astral Lamp. After the 1850, new types of lamps such as the Hitchcock table lamp were being developed.

Natural oil seepages. In 1833, Benjamin Silliman, Sr., described an oil spring near Lake Seneca, Allegany County, New York: “the oil spring, or fountain, rises in the midst of a marshy ground; it is a muddy and dirty pool of about 18 ft. in diameter. The water is covered with a thin layer of petroleum, giving it a foul appearance, as if coated with dirty molasses, having a yellowish brown color”. In 1847 petroleum seepage was discovered in a Derbyshire coal-mine, yielding 300 gallons per day. Oil seeps were abundant in the area that was to become California. The seeps provided crude from which illuminant, axle grease, and paving material were made. Seepages near Cañon City [Colorado] were a source of oil in the 1860s, and production from deep wells began at nearby Florence in the 1880s.

In the early 1850s, the technical chemist James “Paraffin” Young (1811-83), believing that petroleum had been condensed from coal, undertook the development of the required refining technology of oil-bearing coals and shales. James Young of Scotland produced paraffin oil from coal (paraffin-rich Boghead coal from mines near Bathgate, Scotland). Young obtained a patent in England in 1850, and in the United States in 1852, which he described as “improvements in the treatment of certain bitumenous mineral substances and in obtaining products therefrom.” His patent explicitly covered the recovery of paraffin-type crude oils from coal by means of slow, low-temperature distillation… Young emphasized the importance in the initial distillation of bringing the temperature in the “common gas retorts” gradually up to “a low red heat,” where it should be maintained until the volatile materials were removed (Williamson and Daum, 1959: p. 38).

Abraham Pineo Gesner, the petroleum pioneer and “father of petroleum industry,” refined kerosene from coal, asphalt rock (Trinidad asphalt) and petroleum. In August 1846, he gave a demonstration, burning his oil in lamps at a public lecture. In 1849, Gesner developed an improved process to produce, through dry, low temperature distillation, illuminating gas directly from asphaltum. Kerosene was registered as a trademark in 1854: When air was passed through or over kerosene, the kerosene itself yielded a rich, kerosene gas. Abraham Gesner’s Practical Treatise on coal, petroleum, and other distilled oils (1861) offers a historical account of the distillation methods since 1694, with the efforts of Eeele, Hancock and Portlock, and further, in 1761, when oil was produced by distillation of black bituminous shale, according to Lewis’s Materia Medica, and in 1781, when the Earl of Dundonald obtained oil from coals with dry distillation. Laurent, Reichenbach and others distilled tar obtained from bituminous schists, while Selligue purified the tars. The main purposes of oil distillation were medicine, lubricating machinery and burning lamps.

Another instance of technology that contributed to the petroleum industry was the atmospheric machine of Thomas Newcomen. Thomas Newcomen combined the ideas of Thomas Savery and Denis Papin, to build the first practical steam engine for pumping water, the predecessor of all subsequent thermal engines, including internal combustion engines. Newcomen realized that the error in Papin’s machine was that not only the condensation but also the creation of the vapor took place in the cylinder. For this reason, he built a machine, which condensed the vapor by outer cooling of the cylinder, nevertheless, it produced the vapor in a separated boiler, as Savery did. The machine operated through the motion of a swing lever that connected in its two ends the pump with the piston. Newcomen used Papin’s cylinder and piston, and Savery’s principle of the condensation of steam to produce a vacuum. But unlike Papin he used the expansive force of steam to do his work, and unlike Savery he used a cylinder and a piston actuated by alternate expansion and condensation of steam to transform heat into mechanical motion.

Salt-wells with petroleum. Traditionally, petroleum was a by-product of drilling for salt wells, as the salt was a necessary preservative. In the early 1800s, eastern saltworks operators developed basic machinery and techniques of modern cable-tool drilling. Stationary steam engines, used to pump salt water in 1829, later powered drilling equipment. By 1850, the cable-tool drilling rig was a reality. The traditional uses of crude petroleum, in construction as asphalt and bitumen, in medicine, and for lighting and heating, were overcome in the early 1850s by the discovery of petroleum distillation by Samuel Kier (Mann, 2013). The first refiner of petroleum, or rock oil, was Samuel M. Kier a druggist of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with his company Seneca Oil. He was selling the oil of the salt wells, when a Philadelphia chemist, J.C. Booth, advised him to refine it, to a new petroleum product, lamp oil. More than 2,000 years ago, the Chinese used a chisel-like bit on a rope to bore 400-foot-deep holes for salt brine. But drilling was not reported in Europe until the Middle Ages. Using the primitive spring pole method, brine seekers did nearly all well drilling in America until the middle of the 19th century.

Kier’s Petroleum. About 1849, Samuel M. Kier, was acquainted with the close similarity between the “American Oil” prescribed for the sickness of his wife and the petroleum obtained by his father from a brine well at Tarentum, Pa. He started bottling and retailing this oil for medicinal use, soon effecting a sale of about 3 bbl./day. Finding that the production far exceeded the sale, Kier began about 1855 to refine the oil in a roughly constructed still. The ‘light, wine-colored’ distillate which first came over, was found useful for illuminating purposes, as ‘carbon oil’, while the heavier product was employed at a factory in Cooperstown for cleansing wools. Kier adopted the Downer process of refining in 1860, obtaining more satisfactory results (Bacon and Humor, 1916a: pp. 202-203).

Benzene. In 1858, Frederick August Kekulé of Darmstadt, Germany, had suggested that the molecules of benzene and especially naphthalene are more densely arranged than in most organic compounds. In 1865, Kekulé wrote the formula of benzene and explained that its molecules arrange in a closed ring of six carbon atoms rather than an open chain like the one given for ethyl alcohol. He named this type of hydrocarbon “aromatic compounds” (Partington, 1937: p. 290). Charles Mansfield in 1847 obtained benzole from the coal tar of gas works. He described also alliole, benzole, toluole, camphole, mortuole, and nitro benzole. In 1856 William Perkin produced aniline dye, the first organic carbon compound artificially synthesized.

Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott. Aber Boshaft ist Er nicht“ [“God is subtle. But He’s not malicious„], as Albert Einstein stressed. Nevertheless, the best coal-oil and petroleum stills did not normally provide slow, even increase of still temperatures throughout their heating surfaces. This was an impediment to thorough separation, altogether with the immoderate variance of molecular weights and structures of many types of hydrocarbons in relation to their boiling points.

Distillation, cracking, polymerization. In 1855, Benjamin Silliman, Jr., insisted that petroleum is not merely composed of distillable components but also of very high molecular weight compounds that decomposed or cracked to smaller molecules before distilling (destructive distillation). In 1867, Pierre Eugène Marcellin Berthelot proved that all hydrocarbons, heated in a sealed vessel long enough under sufficiently elevated temperatures (far above 550° F), decomposed or cracked to carbon and hydrogen. Under slightly less severe conditions, this destructive distillation decomposed large molecules to smaller ones. At elevated temperatures also, with a reversible action, small molecules built into bigger ones, or polymerized.

The turn from coal to petroleum. After Drake’s first successful oil well in 1859, oil operators adopted cable-tool equipment. Drilling techniques rapidly improved in the oil boom that followed. The first refinery started operations in 1861 near Titusville, Pennsylvania. The goal of refining was to produce kerosene for use as a low-odor, smokeless replacement for the smelly and smoky animal fats and oils that were used as lamp oils. “Refining consisted of batch distillation in simple pot stills at atmospheric pressure. As the temperature of the still increased, naphtha boiled off first, followed by kerosene; tar remained in the pot” (Cavendish, 2003: p. 1575).

Boiling points, densities, and colors. By 1862, there was a collective understanding of the correlation between boiling points at which the components vaporize in the still and the densities of the condensed vapors or distillates. The manufacturing of products with the lowest densities and boiling points, such as gasoline, rhigolene and cymogene, were not yet feasible. The Baumé scale was used in the oil trade until the 1920s, when the American Petroleum Institute modified it into the A.P.I. gravity scale. The refiners used to supplement the Baumé test with observations of the color. The lower boiling distillates were lightest in color, almost white through the naphtha fractions, yellow to darker brown through kerosene and paraffin.

Refining techniques. By 1862, different refining techniques were available, on regard of: (1) the choice of a horizontal or vertical still, (2) which of four types of heat applications were used in distillation (direct fire; steam distillation; superheated steam distillation; vacuum distillation), (3) whether to engage in destructive distillation, and (4) which of various treating methods to adopt (for example, treatment with sulphuric acid and caustic soda, filtration through Fullers’ earth, filter pressing, sweating, sun-bleaching etc.). Direct fire distillation dominated petroleum refining throughout the 1860’s and in all succeeding decades. It involved a 5-barrel, cast-iron still, merely a closed kettle, where the crude oil was cooked over an open fire. The 100 feet coiled-copper pipe of the worm condenser was submerged in water to obtain cooling. Chemical treating was made in a tin- or zinc-agitating tank and a wooden dasher.

Retorts for the distillation of bituminous coal. In the 1860s. The retort on the right is a revolving one.

A plan of the type of petroleum refinery erected in the early sixties. You can see the petroleum settlers, the stills, the worms, the agitators, etc.

The plan of an 1860 coal oil refinery, having a capacity of 600 gallons/day. You can see the stills, the water pipe, the steam pipe, the pipe to the agitators, the agitators, the washers, etc. Crude coal oil like crude petroleum required distillation to separate valuable oils from the crude, and distillation combined with chemical treatment to eliminate impurities impairing odor, color, burning, and other qualities. The first stage was to charge the crude oil into a cast-iron still and to light the fires underneath it. The vapors from distillation escaped into a pipe, where they were condensed into liquid, and then passed into tanks. The lighter distillates, produced until 600° F, were routed to receiving tanks to be further processed into illuminating or burning oils. The rest of the increasingly heavier oils were piped to tanks for paraffin-oil lubricants. The next stages were treatment with sulphuric acid, caustic soda and water washes, and redistillation.

Riveted boiler with cooling apparatus.

Section of still and condenser, such as were used about 1865. Still with worm condenser.

Vertical still (or “cheese-box” still). Aside from that picayunish batch of crude, significant commercial importance was provided by the upright, oval-shaped coal-oil underfired refining still. It was made of heavy cast iron, sometimes 6 inches thick, and, even before the introduction of petroleum, of wrought-iron or boiler plate bottoms with a larger heating surface. Its capacity ranged from 20-40 barrels. This vertical still gave lighter gravity, less-colored distillates, and a larger yield of illuminating oil.

An alternative type, the horizontal, boiler-shaped stills, were constructed with thin boiler plates. The horizontal cylindrical still was considered more economical on fuel and more easily repaired. These two types of stills, horizontal (or “cylinder still”) and vertical (or “cheese-box”), dominated refining by direct-fire distillation for decades (Crew, 1887; Redwood, 1914).

Vacuum distillation was used for a better distillation of the heavy components of crude oil. It was already applied in the sugar refining industry in the United States. In 1860 George Wilson, a manufacturer of stearic acid, extended its use in refining petroleum. Vacuum distillation, however, was commercially implemented by Hope and Tweddle, in the early 1870s in Pittsburgh, for the production of the first lubricating oils.

Early apparatus used for vacuum distillation of lubricating oil. The separation of the residue boiling above 275° C. (527° F.) or 300° C. (572° F.) can be done without cracking either by steam or a vacuum distillation. “Boiling occurs when the vapor pressure of the oil slightly exceeds the pressure of the atmosphere above it. The temperature at which a liquid boils can be lowered either by balancing part of its atmospheric pressure with the vapor pressure of a current of steam, or by reducing the atmospheric pressure by means of an evacuating pump” (Dean et al. 1922: p. 19).

The Pacific Coast Oil Company’s Newhall refinery as it appeared in 1890. The facility was constructed in 1876 to process crude from Pico Canyon. The refinery had a capacity of 22,000 barrels per year and produced mostly kerosene and grease.

The simplest refinery is a topping plant. Which consists only of a distillation unit and a condensation unit.

Topping plant at the Avon refinery of the Associated Oil Company. You can distinguish the route of the hot oil from the retort to the separation chamber, the route of the vapor from the chamber to the condenser, etc.

Brown-Pickering plant in California. The route of the hot crude to the still, the vapor directed through the pipe to the separating chamber, etc.

Plan of refinery for the liquifies sulphur dioxide process. The way from the crude distillation to the distillate cooler and the passage from the cooling machine with the SO2 (Sulfur dioxide).

The longitudinal section of horizontal washer and tanks (1865).

Plan of the Edeleanu process… The chemical treatment of petroleum with sulphuric acid was mainly used for removing the resinous matters and certain hydrocarbons as the olefines, as residual sludge. For the removal of the aromatic hydrocarbons considerable quantities of sulphuric acid, often as “fuming acid”, were used. This process was not only expensive but also could not always single out the unsaturated from the saturated hydrocarbons. For this reason, the process of Edeleanu agitated the distillate with liquid sulphur dioxide at a low temperature, to separate effectively the aromatic compounds from the paraffins and the naphthalenes (Bacon and Humor, 1916b).

Cudahy Refining Company, at Coffeyville, Kansas (built in 1909).

the cracking process. During the same period, the cracking process was also transplanted from coal-oil distillation into petroleum refining. Early cracking at ordinary pressure was used to increase the yields of illuminating oil. Modern thermal cracking and later catalytic was used to increase the yields of gasoline fuel. The cracking process commences; the heating being regulated by the dampers according as lighter or heavier distillates are required. A suitable dephlegmator is used to collect and return or remove the heavy oils which are carried over during the distillation (Bacon and Humor, 1916b: p. 557).

Steam stills at the plant of the Atlantic Refining Company, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fractional distillation as distinct from simple distillation did not enter American refining until the development of fractionating towers early in the twentieth century. It differed from simple or ordinary distillation in being multi-stage rather than single stage, in not leading the vapors directly to the condenser, but instead first passing them through some contacting device where they are intimately contacted with liquid (condensed vapor) flowing contra currently. By means of this intimate contact between flows of liquid and vapors, modern fractional distillation achieves the equivalent of a number of simple distillations and a much closer separation of materials in narrow boiling ranges (Williamson and Daum, 1959: p. 205)

Plant for the production of gasoline. Gasoline, furthermore, was a by-product of kerosene production. Before the automobile, the refineries tried constantly to get rid the light fraction of crude oil known as gasoline, for safety reasons. They used to burn it for fuel in distilling for oil, or let it run into creeks and rivers. After the invention of internal combustion engine, the vast and persistent increase in demand for gasoline was met firstly by the discovery of additional crude oil, and secondly by the invention of the cracking processes. Distillation and thermal cracking are generally considered as conventional ways of producing gasoline.


Works cited

Ayres, Robert U. (1990). “Technological Transformations and Long Waves.” Part I. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 37: pp. 1-37.

Bacon, Raymond Foss, and William Allen Hamor (1916). The American Petroleum Industry. Volume I. With special chapters by F.G. Clapp, Rosswell H. Johnson, J.P. Cappeau, and L.G. Huntley. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Bacon, Raymond Foss, and William Allen Hamor (1916b). The American Petroleum Industry. Volume II.  New York: McGraw-Hill.

Cavendish, Marshall (2003). How It Works: Science and Technology. Volume: 11 (3rd Ed.). New York: Marshall Cavendish.

Crew, Benjamin J. (1887). A Practical Treatise on Petroleum: Comprising its Origin, Geology, Geographical Distribution, History, Chemistry, Mining, Technology, Uses and Transportation. Philadelphia: Henry Carey Baird & Co.

Dean, E. W., H. H. Hill, N. A. C. Smith, and W. A. Jacobs (1922). The Analytical Distillation of Petroleum and its Products. Department of the Interior; Bureau of Mines. Washington: Government Printing Office.

Gesner, Abraham (1861). A Practical Treatise on Coal, Petroleum, and other Distilled Oils. New York: Baillière Brothers.

Mann, Alfred M. (2009). “Some Petroleum Pioneers of Pittsburgh.” Oil Industry History 10(1): pp. 49-68.

Partington, J.R. (1937). A Short History of Chemistry. London: Macmillan.

Redwood, Iltyd I. (1914). A Practical Treatise on Mineral Oils and Their By-Products. London: E. & F. N. Spon.

Williamson, Harold F., and Arnold R. Daum (1959). The American Petroleum Industry: The Age of Illumination, 1859-1899. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.



Landmarks in the History of Science (Sample Chapter)



The scope of this book is a short journey through the last 2400 years of consciously recorded scientific practice. From the aspect of this considerably long period of time (from Ancient Greek, to Chinese and Islamic Science until the Age of the Discoveries and Modern Science and Technology), the greatest advancements in the world-history of science may be found not only in the theoretical field, such as with heliocentrism, atomism, relativity, but, more important, in the methodological transition to the experimental, mathematical, constructivist, instrumental practice of science.

The advancement of science, from antiquity to the renaissance, was significant in the domain of medicine, especially in the anatomy, the pathology and the hygiene, which may be ascribable mainly to the physicians and anatomists Thaddeus of Florence, Mondino de Liuzzi, Jacopo Berengario da Carpi, Andreas Vesalius, Realdo Colombo, the tradition of the works of Hippocrates and Galen, and that of Muslim scientists such as Muhammad ibn Zakarīyā ar-Rāzī. The ancient medicine, however, believed that the venous blood is generated in the liver, from where it was distributed and consumed by all organs of the body. Willian Harvey was the one who recognized the importance of the circulation of the blood, in his work On the Motion of the Heart and Blood. Harvey was also one of the first embryologists.

From the inner organs of the organisms to the outer regions of earth, renaissance science was ubiquitous. Significant discoveries were taking place in geography and cartography: The Norse voyages to Greenland and North America and the African travels of Masudi, Ibn Haukal, El-Bekri and Ibn Battuta had an inappreciable influence on Western Europe. A relatively larger impact had the journeys of John of Plano Carpini, William of Rubruck, Nicolo, Maffeo and Marco Polo, in the thirteenth century, and the voyages of John of Monte Corvino, Odoric of Pordenone, Andrew of Perugia, Jordan of Severac, and John of Marignolli, in the early fourteenth century. Aside from the eyewitness or hearsay story of Masudi, who “believed the ‘green sea of darkness’ (the Atlantic) to be unnavigable, and the frigid and torrid zones of the earth to be uninhabitable” (Parry, 1963: 5), Jewish cartographers and instrument-makers working in Majorca in the later fourteenth century, especially Abraham Cresques, produced, by about 1375, the famous accurate Catalan Atlas. He applied, for the first time, medieval hydrographical techniques to the world outside Europe, representing places such as Timbuktu and the rivers Senegal, Niger and Nile.

The Iberian Peninsula was a meeting point and crossroad of mutual affection between Arab, Jewish and European culture. Alfonso X of Castile summoned into his court intellectuals of three religions, his works were translated into French and his astronomical tables were annotated by Copernicus. Spanish culture was also influenced by the Arabs, in the vocabulary, in architecture, in commerce, irrigation, the design and rig of ships, in the construction of saddlery and harness. The Arabs were found to possess the original manuscripts of Greek scientists, which they translated and commented. When the Christians conquered the library of Toledo, they found numerous writings, while some searching for Ptolemy’s Mathematical Syntaxis or Almagest. The intellectuals knew about that work, where Claudius Ptolemy exposed the geocentric system (based on observations made with naked eye).

The Toledo School in Spain, directed firstly by Archbishop Raymond of Toledo, hosted a significant movement of translators, during the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries. The practice of translation extended also to other libraries in Spain and locally organized translation workshops. The translators were doctors who served in the courts of the rulers and knew Judeo-Arabic and Latin. They were Jewish, Italian, such as Gerard of Cremona, baptised Jews, as John of Seville and Dominicus Gundissalinus, of Latin or other origin, such as Michael Scot and Rudolf of Bruges. There are two families of works translated from Arabic translations: a) Works concerning practical knowledge related to everyday life: The medical works of Hippocrates and Galen, various projects of mathematics that have particular utility as geometric works, reflections on ratios, the fifth book of Euclid, various books of Euclid’s Elements, astronomical and engineering works, such as for pumping water, manufacturing catapults etc. b) The other family was favoured by medieval scholars, works mainly of Plato and Aristotle. Later, the contact of the Europeans with Greek texts was stopped and some translations are incomplete.

By 1200 in Paris, Bologna and Oxford the students were hundreds, and learned liberal arts, medicine, theology, law, while from 1377 to 1520 more than 200,000 students passed from German universities. The universities had three courses: a) The faculty of arts involved internally two cycles (corresponding to Bachelor and Master). The student studied the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, mathematics, physics). b) The second cycle was standardized, biennial and the teachers were many. The students learned mathematics, natural philosophy, astronomy, music, metaphysics, poetry, and ethics. c) The doctoral cycle offered theology, medicine and law and it was extremely long. In Paris there were four schools, a graduate school of liberal arts and three postgraduate (law, medicine, theology) (Rüegg, 1993).


Navigating and trading resources

The Spanish invasion in North Africa began with the capture of Melilla in 1492. The next year Columbus reported of islands in western Atlantic and insisted that they might be used as stepping-stones to China. Meanwhile the art of printing made possible a diffusion of navigational manuals and spread the news of discoveries, with bestsellers such as Peter Martyr’s De Orbe Novo, Fracanzano da Montalboddo’s Paesi novamente retrovati, Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia universalis, Theodor De Bry’s Grands Voyages.

Seaborne trade was traditionally organized by merchant guilds, craft guilds, regulated companies, as a type of commenda, societas, and compagnia. A fifteenth-century merchant ship might take up to two months to make the passage from Barcelona to Alexandria; perhaps two or three weeks from Messina to Tripoli; ten or twelve days from Genoa to Tunis. In the fifteenth century, the small Atlantic ships of Basque, Galician or Portuguese origin, invaded in the Mediterranean. The economic activity of the region was concentrated in Milan, the center of metallurgical industry, Florence, the main textile and banking center, Genoa and Venice, the centers of Eastern luxury trade to western and northern Europe. The Genoese capital associations compere and maone had a corporative character. Constantinople and Cairo were immense urban and consuming centers. Florence, Genoa, Venice, Ragusa, Naples, the western Mediterranean as a whole was rarely self-sufficient and depended upon sea-borne trade in grain, salt, food preserved in salt, oil, wine, cheese, raisins, currants, almonds and oranges.

Towards the end of the century, however, exports of oil from Andalusia began to be directed to the Canaries, and later to the West Indies, where it commanded very high prices. The Mediterranean wine trade -since viticulture was spread throughout the region- could not compare with the great fleets which left the Gironde, and later the Guadalquivir, for Atlantic destinations (Parry, 1963: 39).

The far eastern trade was controlled by Chinese, who delivered spices in the important Malayan port of Malacca. From there, together with the cinnamon of Ceylon and the pepper of India, the spices were sold in the spice ports of the Malabar Coast and Gujarat. From Malabar, Arabian teak-built ocean-going baghlas followed two alternative routes from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean, and two principal ports of transshipment: Aden to the Red Sea and Ormuz through the Persian Gulf.

Landmarks in the History of Science (Sample Chapter)

Algorithmen und ihre Macht

Das Kalkül entwickelte sich aus zwei antiken Probleme, den Versuch die Tangente zu einer Kurve zu finden, und die Fläche unter einer Kurve zu berechnen. Von Archimedes bis Newton wurde ein Zeitintervall von mehr als neunzehn Jahrhunderte benötigt, bis die ausreichenden und notwendigen Bedingungen endlich bereit wurden, den qualitativen Sprung in die Differentialrechnung und die Integralrechnung jeweils zu realisieren.

Der Wandel zur Generalisierung, nach der Errungenschaft vom Kalkül, führte zu einer Vermehrung von theoretischen, semantischen und experimentellen Ansätzen (Russell-Whitehead, Zermelo-Fraenkel, David Hilbert, J. von Neumann, Kurt Gödel usw.), die Geburt zu Innovationen gab, wie die Informatik und die subtile Verarbeitung von Datenstrukturen in Form von Arrays, Datensätzen, Listen, Stapelspeichern, Warteschlangen, Tabellen usw. Vielleicht einige der wichtigsten Analytischen Beiträge zu dieser Entwicklung waren die Mengenlehre und die Theorie der Generizität, die die Parametrisierung von Klassen durch Typen und die Beschränkung von Typen beinhaltet. Am Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts wurden Tabellen mit verschiedenen statistischen, Finanz- und Bankdateien weit verbreitet. Gleichzeitig wurden Berechnungstechniken weiter entwickelt, z.B. die Nomogramme (ab 1884).

Die Entwicklung von Kybernetik basierte auf dem Konzept der Rückkoppelung (Feedback), die der Mathematiker Norbert Wiener definierte als eine Methode zur Kontrolle eines Systems durch Beurteilen der Daten von seinen letzten Operationen.[1] „Zusätzlich im Jahr 1948, Claude Shannon von Bell Labs entwickelte seine mathematische Theorie der Kommunikation (auch als Informationstheorie bekannt), die Grundlage für das Verständnis der digitalen Übertragung.“[2] In der Informatik gibt es jedoch weitere erhebliche herkömmlichen Unterteilungen, wie zwischen Schnittstelle und Implementierung (Datenkapselung) und zwischen Command (d.h. Änderung) und Query (d.h. Zugang).[3]

Die Verbreitung der Algorithmen und der Informatik erforderte auch die Bekämpfung von Sicherheitsbedrohungen durch Codierung, mittels Primzahl und Primfaktorzerlegung. Der besondere Vorteil von Quantenalgorithmen ist ihre exponentielle Macht, die durch die Big-O  Notation gekennzeichnet ist.[4] Das Quantum-maschinelles-Lernen zielt auf die Verbesserung von Mustern ab, die von Daten abgeleitet („gelernt“) werden, mit dem Objektiv einen Sinn aus bisher unbekannten Eingaben zu machen.[5]

Die autonome mobile Robotik – worüber die Kinematik, die Fortbewegung (Beine und Räder) und die Wahrnehmung sehr wichtig sind – verwendet moderne mathematische Konzepte, wie der Poincaré-Schnitt, die Poincaré-Abbildung, die Monodromie-Matrix und die Eigenwertanalyse für die Datenverarbeitung. Darüber hinaus schlägt die Theoriebildung von chaotischen Attraktoren und dynamischen Systemen moderne Forschungsprojekte im Rahmen der allgemeinen Kategorisierung „virtuellen Umgebungen“ vor.[6]

Die Chaostheorie trat natürlich von der bahnbrechenden Verschiedenheit zwischen linearer und nicht-linearer Kausalität auf. Mögliche bessere und genauere Definitionen der Chaos-Problematik könnte „nichtlineare Theorie der dynamischen Systeme“ und „Theorie komplexer Systeme“ werden. Eine spezielle Untergruppe der oben genannten ist die Katastrophe-Theorie. Darüber hinaus „die klassischen Vorstellungen von Ursache und Wirkung werden durch Konzepte, die Kontrolle (im Ingenieurwesen-Sinn), Bifurkation, Energie und Turbulenzen betreffen, ersetzt.“[7] Die Wahrnehmung von Dimensionalität ändert sich auch, als nach der Erfindung der fraktalen Geometrie von Benoit Mandelbrot geschehen ist.[8] In der Physik, besonders in der modernen Optik, ist die Untersuchung der nichtlinearen Prozesse unerlässlich, wie bei den Experimenten mit Lasern im SCSS Test-Beschleuniger (Japan), FLASH (Hamburg) und LCLS (Stanford)[9]

Gleichfalls, eröffnete die Aufhebung des traditionellen diskreten Umfeldes der rationalen Zahlen neue Wege für die Forschung, durch den immanenten Charakter der reellen Zahlen und der Grenzwerte. Eine der faszinierendsten Anwendungen der Differentialgleichungen ist die Studie über die Wachstumsrate von Bevölkerung besonders in den USA, mit der Durchführung der Datenverarbeitung von Modellen wie das Räuber-Beute-System von Gleichungen (und die übermäßig wichtigen Gleichgewichtslösungen, die sie haben können).[10]

Außerdem die visuellen Methoden wurden wichtiger, wie z.B. bei der Verwendung von Graphen für die Untersuchung der Ableitungen, der konvexen und konkaven Funktionen usw., und mit der entsprechenden Anwendung von konvexen Kombinationen von Matrizen für die Erstellung von bildender Kunst. Die Anwendungen der linearen Algebra, nämlich der Vektor-Normen, reichen von dem Bereich der Data-Mining bis zu dem Lesen von handgeschriebenen Zahlen.[11]




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[1] Terence M. Ripmaster, “Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener the Father of Cybernetics,” Et Cetera 63, no. 1 (2006): 120+; Otto Mayr, “The Origins of Feedback Control,” Scientific American 223, no. 4 (1970): 110–118; “Adam Smith and the Concept of the Feedback System,” Technology and Culture 12, no. 1 (1971).

[2] Herbert Ohlman, “Information: Timekeeping, Computing, Telecommunications and Audiovisual Technologies,” in: Ian McNeil, An Encyclopaedia of the History of Technology (London, New York: Routledge, 1990): 703.

[3] Bertrand Meyer, Touch of Class: learning to Program Well with Objects and Contracts (Dordrecht, Heidelberg: Springer, 2009).

[4] Christos Papadimitriou, Sanjoy Dasgupta und Umesh Vazirani, Algorithms (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010).

[5] Maria Schuld, Ilya Sinayskiy and Francesco Petruccione, “An introduction to quantum machine learning,” Contemporary Physics 56, no. 2 (2015): 172-185.

[6] Kay M. Stanney, Hrsg. Handbook of Virtual Environments: Design, Implementation, and Applications (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002).

[7] Stephen J. Guastello, Chaos, Catastrophe, and Human Affairs: Applications of Nonlinear Dynamics to Work, Organizations, and Social Evolution (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995): 3.

[8] Leslie Alan Horvitz, “Broken Teacups and Infinite Coastlines; Benoit Mandelbrot and the Invention of Fractal Geometry”, In: Eureka! Stories of Scientific Discovery (New York: Wiley, 2002): 210-230.

[9] N. Berraha, J. Bozekb, J.T. Costelloc, et al., “Non-linear processes in the interaction of atoms and molecules with intense EUV and X-ray fields from SASE free electron lasers (FELs),” Journal of Modern Optics 57, no. 12 (2010): 1015-1040.

[10] Jacques Véron, “Alfred J. Lotka and the Mathematics of Population,” Electronic Journal for History of Probability and Statistics 4, no. 1 (2008),

[11] Tim Chartier, Applications of Linear Algebra – Part 1 (edX Courses), Davidson College, 2015,  

Sparkling, Plowing and Urbanizing. Technology and Community Life in Greece

Methodological Approaches

The modernization was progressing slowly in the peripheries; through the introduction of horse-drawn wells and railways, heavy steam-powered ploughing engines for land reclamations, and later, harvesters, balers, mowers, high pressure pumps and especially the internal combustion engine.

In the transition from the 19th to the 20th century the steam mill was popularized, although coexisting with wind power and plumbing facilities like water-powered olive presses. Chrysos Evelpidis, a valuable resource for the agriculture in the interwar period, mentions the existence of 9.536 mills in interwar Greece, of which 1,986 were motorized, and the remaining horse driven and hydraulic. There were also wineries, distilleries, canneries, mills, rice mills, dairies, water saws for timber production, etc.

Another form of coexistence was among the handloom and the textile industry, which was the most prevalent processing industry. With the development of cash crops such as tobacco, oil, cotton, vegetables, dairy, etc., and with the proliferation of manufacturing, transport and business, commercial and industrial centres were developed, and the closed economy of self-sufficiency was left aside. The storage capacity is a prerequisite for trade and is served with the construction of concrete cisterns for oil, wine, beer etc. and cooling towers, such as those made by Santorini. Similar services are offered by trucks and electricity.


  1. The Agriculturalist Stathis Damianakos

Many research traditions may be merged within our investigation, including the agriculturalists such as Damianakos,[1] the historians of civilization such as McNeill,[2] the historians of the technology such as Kline,[3] and the anthropological essays e.g. of the Modern Greek Studies.[4]

In 2002, Stathis Damianakos’ book From the Peasant to the Farmer[5] was published in Greece, translated by Athena Vougiouka. Six years ago, this book was first published in French, following some other works of the author.

The first finding for the reader is that Stathis Damianakos, a distinguished Agriculturalist, is well informed both of the Greek and the French sociological research on rural matters. He studies many statistical data and handles with ease the corresponding analyses, arranging with a critical attitude the statistical categories and the results of investigations.[6] His main concern, in this capstone work, is the theoretical clarification and delimitation, altogether with research documentation. Recurring to the Greek research tradition, Damianakos emphasizes the folklore theoretical origins of the newly established Agriculturalist discipline and stresses also the empirical contribution of the rural sociologist K.D. Karavidas. Extensive references are made to the French Rural Sociology, to the latest Greek surveys and to empirical and statistical data.

A basic truism of rural studies, as summarized by Damianakos, is the finding of the incompatibility or the contradictory nature of agricultural production within the generalized capitalist production. The author offers several empirical examples (including some traditional, conservative communities) to validate recent analytical approaches of sociology, which do not consider the rural community as a mere recipient of the assimilative effects of the system, “but an active partner who reacts, retorts, resists”.

Consequently, the main author’s position is that the modern Greek rural reality contests not only the final victory of capitalist rationality, but also the principles of liberal democracy, the process of converting the farm to a business unit, and the vertical integration of the Greek agricultural production in the agro-alimental sector. This contradiction is described by Damianakos with words as the following:

In Southeastern Europe, “urban” and “rural” spaces are always confused, the cities penetrate into the countryside up to the most distant edges of it; the country reaches to the heart of the city… The term “bourgeois-peasant”, ought to the great Greek Agriculturalist K. Karavidas,[7] doesn’t present, in the best way, this deeply hybrid character of the Balkan peasant?[8]

The output also, of the mountainous regions of Southeast Europe, in literature, arts, crafts and manufacturing industry, indicate, according to Damianakos, that a flourishing of the rural areas was observed, in Greece especially, for long periods of time. The reader may suggest, along with the author, that the peasant is modernized, changed, adapted, but not passive; so that in Greece one may let been known as the “triumph of the peasant”, rather than the “end of the peasants”.

To resume the historical explanation and reach the modern era, the author notes that we should not consider the Greek family farm as a “business”, not even as a “limited business” (as it is called in the western European countries), because in Greece this business is not profitable. Indeed, in a survey conducted in 1981 only 36% of the 957,040 farms were marked as “businesses”.[9]

In this passage, however, despite all the previous rhetoric about the “resistance of the Greek peasant”, Damianakos suddenly declares that he considers this non-entrepreneurial family farm as a problem. He even proposes the same unacceptable solutions which are promoted by the European Union, e.g. the reduction in the number of farmers, the increase in the average area of cultivated land, etc. Otherwise the farmers’ income, according to the author, will continue to be supported by the “institutional shifts in social surplus”, and not in the relative abundance of wage labor.[10]

The second most important basic idea that Damianakos supports is that there is an inherent political dimension of Rurality, which is personified by an external force or social class, which, by managing the interests of the peasantry, subordinates the famers. This social power is political, since “what constitutes par excellence the ‘rurality’ is exactly this specific form of subservience to a foreign power”.

A key concept that is used within the same analysis, is the dual social and local integration of immigrant farmers. In the prefecture of Ioannina, for example, between 1961 and 1991, “the number of voters who exercise their right to vote in the village is, more often, far greater than the number that the census shows”.[11] Since the 1970s, buses were being hired for the transportation of the expatriates to some villages for the day of the census. With this trick, a swelling, or even doubled, population was presented. It is remarkable that villages which resisted modernization, as Greveniti, had not used, but only recently, those chartered buses.


1.1. Empirical studies

The author visited and studied three villages of Epirus, i.e. Pyrsogianni, Aetopetra and Greveniti, many times. He noticed that they represent “ideal types” corresponding “to the three modes of reaction, the three different logics of adjustment, which characterize the evolution of the Greek local societies facing the postwar capitalist penetration”.[12]

The first category of village, which Damianakos distinguishes, is typically outlined by Pyrsogianni, an old large village of immigrant craftsmen who ‘built the entire world’. In the village, we meet today ‘second homes’ of a community residing mainly abroad, while maintaining mutual associations in the village. The second type of village (Aetopetra) consists of more or less decisive integration in the dominant production system: ‘direct involvement in the market’, smooth adjustment to economic, political and cultural structures, weakening of local identity.[13] A third way was the resistance of the local community (Greveniti), which manages to maintain, to reproduce and, sometimes, to strengthen its internal structures.

A long sociological research was carried out by Damianakos in Vergina, which was made famous in 1978 by Manolis Andronikos’ excavations. Even in the late 20th century, about a third of households in Vergina were stem families, extended families, or intermediate forms. “The hitherto assurances of certain ethnologists of the Balkan area, in favour of the primacy of the nuclear family and the ubiquity of dowry in Greece from the 19th century, are falsified”.[14] In case of the exchange relations developed at Vergina on the occasion of marriage, only after 1940 there is a noticeable change. While before the war, the groom compensated the bride’s family, in the postwar years the relationship was reversed, as with the provision of dowry the bride’s family contributed financially to the groom. Before the war, nor even the other ethnic groups in the village (Pontian, Caucasian) knew the custom of dowry.

In 1977, the biggest and most mechanized farm in Vergina covered an area of approximately one thousand acres. Of these, a small portion (4.6 hectares) was self-cultivated, while the remaining were leased by dozens of smallholders from the neighboring communities. There were three tractors, a van, a seeder and a combine. The farm employed 500 wages for the cultivation of cotton, 90 wages for peaches, 100 wages for beet, and 30 wages for cereals, which altogether accounted for approximately 60% of working hours on the farm. The combine was an additional source of income for its owner, bringing another 200 quintals of wheat from works in other holdings, an amount ranging between 8% and 12% of the harvest. In 1984, in the same holding only 30 hectares were cultivated (22 were leased). The wife worked exclusively in the Café-Patisserie and the touristic shop that meanwhile opened in front of the royal tombs.

Obviously, as Damianakos observes, the switching of the employer, employee, self-employed roles is prevalent in rural communities, making capitalist relations even more complicated. The apparent and the hidden relations in exchanging goods, services or labor, are interwoven with informal ways to evaluate their work (e.g. mutual aid), and with the multiple ways of land use (in joint ownership, dowry, community lands, extended family estates) and they are in any case so original and peculiar, that it becomes difficult to identify and measure.

Moreover, the mechanization and modernization of farming techniques made​ progress in Vergina. In 1977, only 46% of farms had tractors, while in 1992 the percentage had risen to 68%. In 1992, everyone had enough water, and all had irrigation and pumping equipment, except from farms smaller than 20 hectares, where only 50% owned irrigation systems.

In 1977, the binding engines of tobacco leaves and the planters were no more than ten in the whole village. In 1992, all the tobacco holdings owned binding engines, and 80% planters. Significant progress was also made in professional cars and telephones. 66% of the farms in 1992 had a van or truck. 84% of the farms had telephone.[15]


  1. Consumers in the American Country, by Ronald Kline

In 2000, Ronald Kline published Consumers in the Country, Technology and Social Change in Rural America, a rich in empirical data book that enlightens the reader about the phases and the social implications of the U.S. rural electrification. The author carefully monitors the process of innovation and highlights the inventive behavior of farmers in the new American land, with all the demon and untiring efforts to equip and organize their farm.

The empirical orientation of the book is revealed by its very theme and structure, since the first four chapters deal respectively with the telephone, the automobile, the household appliances and the radio.

Kline remarks that automation was the modernist project that brought together the largest and the most intense interest of the U.S. farmers. Early skepticism about electricity, was soon replaced, in the second decade of the 20th century, by an extensive use of the phone (33%), automobile (60%), radio (20%) and electricity, in the rural regions of the country.[16] The word ‘technology’, however, did not enter the vocabulary of everyday Americans, before the 1930s, when the ideology of technological progress and technological determinism prevailed.

In Kline’s study, the central question is whether the telephone, the car, the radio and the electricity were autonomous social forces that revolutionized rural life in ways predicted by their promoters. As proposed by the author, a key word is ‘resistance’. Quite early, by the breaking of the recession in 1870, laborers in Midwestern U.S.A. were sometimes destroying machinery, whereas, before the Second World, new resistances appeared in scientific agriculture and home economics.

Meanwhile, some of the means of resistance were: explosive traps on the streets to save the animals from cars, musical performances through telephone lines, and boycotts in cookers. The farmers in Midwestern regions avoided to buy modern appliances, and even today many of the sect of the Amish refuse to purchase phone or car. It is no coincidence therefore that the study of Kline rejects technological determinism: Neither the mediators of technology are simply channels of technology diffusion and cultural values, ​​nor the users are passive consumers. Through a fragmented process, the farm replied, resisted and eventually incorporated the new to the old, and the villagers selectively modified and used these technologies to create new rural cultures, new forms of agricultural modernization. In the theoretical field, Kline describes an interactive social construction: The farmers reinterpreted the four quasi urbanizing artifacts and systems (telephone, car radio and electricity), using different ways, often changing them. The technology producers responded to these acts, introducing respectively modified technologies. The result was new forms of technology and rural life.

The first urbanizing technology was the telephone, because as Kline explained, it was much more controllable than the car. Farmers and farm women resisted to the profit oriented phone companies, proved themselves as more innovative and used even the ubiquitous barbed wire fences of the fields west of Mississippi, to build the first private networks. Where gaps or intersections were found, they pulled galvanized wires from a fence to the other. They called these lines squirrel lines, because the animal is running on the tops of the wire over the tree trimming.

As pointed out by Kline, the model of corporative enterprise was very useful for telephone modernization, which in the U.S. had a long tradition and Scandinavian origin. Since the 1870s, when the cooperative movement developed, there were already clusters of grain elevators, cooperative dairies, creameries and farm animal pens.

The linking of provincial towns with the farms was realized thanks to cooperative telephone companies, e.g. in southeast Iowa 90% of 251 telephone companies were cooperative. Finally, the telephone was interwoven with the life of the farmer.

Kline’s method is to investigate carefully all elements of resistance and transformation expressed through situations of technology reception, and to explore how the manufacturers answered to the trends of resistance. The telephone, for example, in the beginnings was used in many irregular ways: churches delivered sermons through the phone, a political conference broadcast the speeches delivered there through the telephone, rural telephone companies provided news, weather forecasts and reports for the market to their subscribers. Kline’s study contains many similar highlights from the history of technology consumption in American countryside.

The resistance to the phone was ultimately insignificant compared to the crusade against the ‘devil’s wagon’, the automobile. At first, the farmers resisted the invasion of the cars in their lives and avoided them more than the telephones, because the automobile was very expensive, it bellowed in the countryside and prevented the movement of carts on rural roads. In West Virginia and Pennsylvania laws prohibited the automobile, and around 1908 the law required that the cars should lower speed whenever approaching a skull, or stop when the horse was afraid.

Rural resistance is recorded by Kline carefully until the time of the decline of the resistance and the reverse path, when, by 1905, newspapers such as the New York Times, changed their opinion and began to write positively about the car. Rural organizations stated that the car is ‘a permanent feature of modern life’, and the Rural New Yorker began to promote the car in 1909. From that time onwards, the interweaving of the car with the rural life involved the cooperation of many different agencies, organizations and companies that transformed their products and technological networks to meet the needs of the farmer for electrification.

During the same period, the lack of modern facilities, such as electric oven, warm air or hot water, sewage, bath and lighting systems, was very noticeable. Alongside many voices were calling to improve the working conditions of rural women: Mattie Corson, the daughter of a rural woman who had died from overwork, conducted by mail one of the first investigations and asked farm women several questions about life in the farm, e.g. if they would marry a farmer, or whether they would encourage their daughters to marry. The farmer women pointed out the issues of overtime work, unhealthy working conditions, preventing education, the social importance of a large crop for the purchase of communication and transportation technologies, etc.

Facing the high prices of electricity utilities, the farmers fled to the American agriculture’s antitrust tradition and formed cooperative electric companies. This form of resistance was popularized because of the success of the telephone cooperatives and the similarities between the two technologies. In electric companies, however, the technology was much more complex, engines were larger, thousands of kilowatts should be produced, their voltage should be increased to thousands of volts; then transmitted safely to the farms, and finally their potential difference should be reduced to 110 volts, suitable for home lighting and electrical appliances. The goal was so complicated that the cooperatives were persuaded to purchase electricity from the utilities, which already held the productive equipment, and distribute it themselves in the countryside (which was considered unprofitable by the utilities). In the decade after the World War I, at least 34 rural electrical cooperatives were formed, most in the Midwest and the Northwest, where neighboring power sources were found.

Focusing the narrative on the protagonists of electrification, Kline refers to the automobiles engineer Charles Kettering, who became in 1913 the famous inventor of the fixed power unit Delco Light, which sold 40,000 pieces until 1918, attracting the one-third of the market until 1923. These sets were the most sophisticated technology into the farms during that period. By 1919 the Delco Light had sold 200,000 generators, and 600,000 by 1929. Until 1923, 180,000 farms were linked to the distribution grid of electricity.

The radio, however, was the most popular new technology. In 1919, the U.S. Navy, claiming concerns of national security, had encouraged the General Electric to acquire the British-owned American Marconi, forming together with Westinghouse and American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) the Radio Corporation of America.

Kline[17] reveals the role of social conditions in the interweaving of technology with country life; he discusses how amateur radio helped to determine the message of radio, the broadcasting, while, in a similar way, the consumers of telephone and car were shaping their own message. Both groups of users were agents of technological change.

During the agricultural recession of the 1920s and 1930s, the radio disseminated across the American countryside. The representatives of the counties in each state suggested that in 1923 there were 145,000 radios in country’s farms. After 1940, the percentage of farmers with radios surpassed the percentage of those owning a car, a telephone, electricity and water supply.

A subsequent phase, that the author distinguishes, comes with the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935, which, after a decade of continuous competition between the public and private sector, eventually offered the means for the electrification of farms. For this purpose, the rural agricultural cooperative institutions were formed, which thereafter became the mainstay of rural electrification.

Comparing the progress of the U.S. with that in Europe, Kline notes that in the interwar period, electrification had reached only 14% of the American farms (6,000,000). By contrast, in Northern Europe, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, the coverage of farms by the electricity grid was total.

The narrative of the history of rural electrification in the U.S., as presented by Kline, admittedly reveals some of the most instructive lessons that the American people got by the greedy actions of capitalist enterprises: During a campaign in 1932, with a speech at Portland, Oregon, a local centre of the movement for public power, Roosevelt was criticizing the ravenous electrical industry, with its symbol, the magnate Samuel Insull, who flown to Greece to avoid arrest, accused of larceny and misuse, since the complex pyramid of his companies had collapsed, depriving thousands of shareholders .

On July 1, 1936, REA came into existence with a ten-year mandate to power the farms in the country, lending mainly public institutions with 410 million dollars, with an interest rate of 3% and a term of 25 years. The vast majority of borrowers were nonprofit cooperative associations, which would purchase electricity from electric companies to sell it to their members through lines to be built by those loans.

The war allowed a renewed prosperity for American agriculture. The net income from the farming sector was tripled, from 706 dollars per farm in 1940, to 2,063 in 1945. The good times continued after the war, since the period from 1940 to 1952 is the longest continuous period of prosperity in the history of American agriculture. Agricultural productivity had increased dramatically, because of a feverish rise in mechanization, high-yield crops, extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, increased specialization, and adoption of marketing and new technologies. Thousands of small farmers abandoned their land, because of the high cost of farm equipment  and government policies that favored big farmers. The costs could not be met due to lower prices of agricultural products as a result of overproduction. Consequently, the number of farms decreased from 6.1 million in 1940 to 2.73 million in 1969. Similarly, the number of rural population declined from 30.54 million in 1940 to 10.3 million in 1969.

The farmers were traditionally using the technology to undermine monopolies, as implied by Kline. Even in the late twentieth century, farmers continue to use new technology in innovative ways to create their own forms of modernization, as a farmer plowing talking on his mobile phone. Thus, the urbanization of rural life is part of a complex, competitive process. The technology is not an autonomous social force, because of the resistance mediated at the level of everyday life, the wide variety of applications, the intertwining of technology with life.


  1. The Big History by McNeill

W.H. McNeill’s book, The Metamorphosis of Greece since World War II, is the aggregate result of an empirical investigation that lasted over 30 years, from 1945 to 1976. The author participated personally in the American Mission for the reconstruction of Greece, contributed to the implementation of the plan for the country’s reintegration in the capitalist system and visited many times the Greek countryside, villages who suffered in the beginnings, but later lived the postwar ‘success stories’, as the protagonists of the Marshall plan insist.

With a comprehensive, detailed, well crafted and succinct writing style, the author manages to convey the experiences of the changes observed in his successive visits in Greek villages, approximately every ten years, in 1945, 1956, 1966 and 1976. The historical explanation that McNeill attempts to give is shaped by various approaches such as geographic, topography, climate and economy. Among the factors which may explain human behavior, McNeill takes into account the material needs (e.g. scarcity of goods, hunger), technological improvements, and the practices of violent enforcement and subordination into the structures of power (e.g. robbery, population displacement), etc.

McNeill, when expounds the Greek reality, contends that he is trying to set forth the key elements of traditional structures, local economy, language and religion. Thus, he identifies as a characteristic of the daily behavior of the Greek farmer, his traditional ability to bargain. The appeal in financial trading is an attribute that stands immediately out the Greeks villagers from those peasants which self-consume their own harvest. The bargaining, the emphasis on purchasing and selling, is considered by the author as a ‘traditional model of Greek agriculture’, which maintains though its opposite, that is heroism.

To support his opinion, the North-American historian, refers to the widespread in Greece crops of olives and vineyards that give an easily storable harvest, unlike the traditional cereals cultivated in Egypt and Ukraine. A remarkable geographical and climatological Mediterranean specificity, favoring the diversification of crops, caused an increase of the cereal – oil – wine exchanges and trade in the Mediterranean, followed by the sequential inputs of other storable and, hence, marketable products, such as cheese, wool and meat from the highlands, and raisins from the lowlands.

The author stresses that the Greek olive-oil producers and vine growers were unduly benefited by commercial activity, because their products were stored more easily. Furthermore, the close linkage between the production, the consumption, the purchase and sales units and the nuclear family, acquired a particular importance within the Greek rural society. In the course of his argument, focusing on the period of the Cold war, the author denies the prominence of collective production in Greek villages, to overstate the importance of the nuclear family and private initiative. Similarly, the narrative incorporates some other compatible social phenomena such as robbery and migration, seasonal or long-term.

To understand McNeill’s argument, the reader must take into account the different modes of production, extensively analyzed by the leading Greek agriculturalist Karavidas. Regarding rural structures in the early 1930’s, Karavidas distinguishes six ‘socio-economic formations’ under which brought the era of agriculture: The Zadruga, Southslavian collective social formation, which covered several nuclear families; The Tseligato, social formation of semi-nomadic livestock breeders; The Tsifliki (manor), derived from the great Ottoman owned and cultivated by serfs; The main village, which is rather a formation of local management of community affairs; The limited peasant family; The bourgeois-rural, or ‘mixed low-bourgeois-peasant’ family.[18]

McNeill believes that the collective production is an exclusively Slavic mode of production, which is found solely in zantrouga. Because of this, he emphasizes only compatible with this explanation landmarks, such as the commercial – colonial model of ancient Miletus, the treaty of Küçük Kainardji, or the decline of the Greek maritime commercial activities throughout eastern Mediterranean, because of the competition between Balkan nations. However, the author does not mention the Byzantine communities whose fleets reached, at least, until the remote Ceylon (Taprovani), or forgets the widespread practice of piracy.[19] This is because he is interested in stressing an alleged ‘market-oriented behaviour’ of the Greek farmers, exclusively. The omission of piracy from the list of the historical phenomena analyzed, can be explained only by examining McNeill’s intention to consider, a-priori, the business-oriented behaviour as an almost specific difference of the Greek farmers. In formulating this definition, the North-American historian untangles the issue of collective production and, thus, divides the world into Slavic and business.

On regard of the 1940s, McNeill’s narration becomes so dense, that is well worth to catch it from the beginning: The year 1941 was a milestone in modern Greek history, because it was the time when the financing of the Greek economy by migratory remittances stopped, temporarily. Thus, in winter 1941-42, thousands died from hunger. In early 1942 EAM grabbed the opportunity actively and the revolution begun.



[1] Damianakos, S. From the peasant to the farmer. The rural Greek society toward globalization. Athens: Exantas / NCSR, 2002.

[2] McNeill, W.H. The Metamorphosis of Greece since World War II. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1978.

[3] Kline R. Consumers in the Country, Technology and Social Change in Rural America. Baltimore and London: Τhe John Hopkins University Press, 2000.

[4] Michael Herzfeld, A Place in History: Social and Monumental Time in a Cretan Town, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991;

Leland G. Albauch. Crete, A Case Study of an Underdeveloped Area. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1953, pp. 245-46. Available at:

[5] Damianakos, S. From the Peasant to the Farmer. The Greek rural society toward globalization. Athens: Exantas / NCSR, 2002.

[6] Ibid. pp. 48-51.

[7] Karavidas, Konstantinos D. Agricultural Matters. A Comparative Study. Agricultural Bank of Greece, 1978 (1st ed.: 1931).

[8] Damianakos, S. From the Peasant to the Farmer. The Greek rural society toward globalization. Athens: Exantas / NCSR, 2002, p. 31.

[9] Ibid. p. 56.

[10] Ibid. p. 90.

[11] Damianakos, S. From the Peasant to the Farmer. The Greek rural society toward globalization. Athens: Exantas / NCSR, 2002, p. 60.

[12] Ibid. p. 167.

[13] Ibid. p. 173.

[14] Damianakos, S. From the Peasant to the Farmer. The Greek rural society toward globalization. Athens: Exantas / NCSR, 2002, pp. 117-18.

[15] Damianakos, S. From the Peasant to the Farmer. The Greek rural society toward globalization. Athens: Exantas / NCSR, 2002, p. 134.

[16] Kline Ronald R., Consumers in the Country, Technology and Social Change in Rural America, Τhe John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 2000, p. 5.

[17] Consumers in the Country, Technology and Social Change in Rural America. Baltimore and London: Τhe John Hopkins University Press, 2000.

[18] Karavidas, K. D. Agricultural Matters. Comparative Study. Athens: Agricultural Bank of Greece, 1978 (1st Edition: 1931).

[19] “The terror of pirates comes upon every passenger in the Greek seas”, as Kyriakos Simopoulos (Foreign Passengers in Greece, vol. A’. Athens: Stachy, 1999, p. 87) suggested.  The “crisis of the Byzantine Empire coincides with the organization of piracy in Eastern Mediterranean” (Ibid. p. 96).



Saarbrücken: Lambert, 2014

Wissenschaft, Technologie und Wirtschaft im Laufe der großen Ozeanischen Entdeckungen


Diese Studie bezieht sich auf die interdisziplinären Bemühungen, die Welt mit den großen ozeanischen Entdeckungen zu erkunden, d.h. eine interessante offene Frage, die auch zur Entwicklung der Geographie und Exploration beigetragen hat. Im fünfzehnten Jahrhundert die Humanisten übersetzten die Werke der alten Geographen, die den ideologischen Hintergrund der großen Entdecker beeinflussten. Die geographischen Konzeptionen hatten sich nach und nach von Dogmatismus befreit, mit der Annahme der Theorie, dass die Erde global ist, und mit der regenerierenden ptolemäischen Überzeugung, dass die europäischen Westküsten in der Nähe des östlichen Asiens liegen. Die Geographen unterstützten die Idee eines globalen einheitlichen Meeres und die Forscher entdeckten Meerengen, ozeanische Räume und Zonen von kontinuierlichen Winden und Strömungen.

Christoph Kolumbus entdeckte im Jahre 1492 die Bahamas, Kuba und Haiti, und später, die Antillen, die karibische Küste Venezuelas und das Mittelamerika. Die Reisen von Vasco da Gama und die Weltumsegelung von Ferdinand de Magellan betrachten sich als entscheidend für die Entdeckung der Marineroute nach Indien, und auch für die Erfindung vom Amerika und Pazifischen Ozean. Anschließend wurden die Grenzen des alten Orbis Terrarum ausgelöscht.


Kosmographen und Piloten

Seekarten, Schiffe und Waffen waren die allgemeinen Kategorien der Werkzeuge, die von den großen ozeanischen Entdeckern verwendet wurden. Ab dem dreizehnten Jahrhundert, zumindest, entwarfen Katalanische und Italienische Hydrografen Portolankarten, basierende auf praktischen Kenntnissen. Berühmte Kartographen der Renaissance waren Bartolomeo Pareto, Battista Beccario, Zuane Pizzigano, Martin Waldseemüller, Andrea Bianco, Grazioso Benincasa, Juan de la Cosa (Kolumbusʼ Pilot), Luis Teixeira, Gabriel de Valseca, Matteo Ricci, Diogo Ribeiro, Abraham Ortelius, Juan López de Velasco und viele andere.[1]

Die Karten von Andrea Bianco (Bianchi), von Walsperger (1448), die Katalanische Estense Weltkarte von 1450, die Borgia Weltkarte, die Genuesische Weltkarte von 1457, und die Mappa Mundi von Fra Mauro im 1459, bilden die Anfänge einer Übergangszeit, weg von den  rundlichen, Jerusalem-zentrierten, religiösen Darstellungen der früheren mittelalterlichen Mappaemundi, zu denen, die auf der Kartographie der Renaissance abgebildet wurden.

Im Jahre 1445 entdeckte der portugiesische Seefahrer Dinis Dias die Mündung des Flusses Senegal und das Kap Verde. Die Westküste Afrikas wurde in der Weltkarte des venezianischen Andrea Bianco, in 1448, dargestellt. Zwanzig Jahre später (1468), Grazioso Benincasa, aus Ancona, zeichnete die Landkarte der Entdeckungen von Gambia, Rio Grande, Kapverden und Sierra Leone. Bei dem Golf von Guinea, worin die Seefahrer den Äquator gegriffen hatten, sie wurden enttäuscht, von der Erfindung dass die Küste weit südlich führt.[2]

Um 1462, hatten die Europäischen Seefahrer die Berechnung des Breitengrades von der Höhe des Polarsterns geschafft. Nach 1485 verwendeten die Navigatoren Tabellen von der Deklination der Sonne für die Beobachtung der Breiten der Südhalbkugel. Die Koppelnavigation, basierende auf der Kombination von Seekarten, Logs-grobe-Geschwindigkeitsanzeigen und Sternen, war wichtig für die Entdecker. Sanduhren, Taschenuhren, Kompasse und Kardanische Aufhängungen wurden, zusammen mit dem Astrolabium, dem Quadrant, der Armillarsphäre usw., auch verwendet. Die portugiesischen Entdecker der afrikanischen Küste bevorzugten, wenn möglich, ihre Anblicke an Land zu nehmen. Sie standen in Richtung Küste, verankert, beim Land gezogen, und hingen sie ihre Astrolabien von Stativen auf dem Strand. Aus dieser Position nahmen sie ihre mittags Sichten und bearbeiteten sie ihre Breiten mit überhaupt überraschender Genauigkeit.[3]

Die früheste signierte portugiesische Seekarte wurde um 1485 von Pedro Reinel gezeichnet, basierte auf den Explorationen, die Diogo Cão in Zentral- und Südwestafrika (1482-1485) gemacht hatte. Pedro Reinel war auch der erste Kartograph, der, im Jahre 1502, eine Seekarte mit einer Meridianlinie abgestuft in Breitengrade präsentierte. Die Piloten benutzten den Jakobsstab zur Messung der Höhe des Polarsterns und das Astrolabium zur Bestimmung der Höhe der Sonne am Mittag.[4]

Im Jahre 1503 wies die spanische Krone die Konstruktion von präzisen transatlantischen Seekarten und astronomischen Instrumenten und die Ausbildung von den Piloten, der Casa de la Contratación in Sevilla zu. Später, im Jahre 1524, wurden der Consejo de Indias und der Real Corte gegründet.

Berühmte Kosmographen arbeiteten in diesen Organisationen, während ihre kontinentalen Kollegen Gemma Frisius, Sebastian Münster, André Thevet und Peter Apian, ihre Ergebnisse in den allgemeinen Kosmographien integrierten. Die Werke der spanischen Kosmographen wie die Arte de navegar (1545) von Pedro de Medina und das Breve compendio de la sphere y de la arte de navegar (1551) von Martin Cortés, wurden in vielen anderen Ländern und Sprachen veröffentlicht.

Im Jahre 1582 ernannte Philipp II den Kosmograf Jaime Juan die Piloten beizubringen, um die Navigationsinstrumente zu verwenden, die Karten zu erstellen und die Breite und die Länge (aus Mondfinsternissen) zu bestimmen. Weitere wichtigen Kernpunkte liegen in den Bereichen der technologischen Kompetenzen von Wissenschaftlern wie Cristóbal Gudiel, in den Fragebögen von geographischen Berichten (Relaciónes), in den monumentalen botanischen Untersuchungen der Neuen Welt und in der Gründung einer mathematischen Akademie in Madrid.[5]

Die formale Bildung der Kosmografen und die persönliche Erfahrung der Piloten waren wichtige Quellen für die Umsetzung der Pläne der Europäischen Reiche über transozeanischen Routen. Die Notwendigkeit die Portugiesische Navigationsastronomie in Spanien einzuführen, erstellte das Amt des piloto mayor.[6] Amerigo Vespucci war der erste piloto mayor (1508-1512), der die aus Indien rückkehrenden Piloten fragte. Sebastian Cabot diente in der gleichen Position ab 1518 bis 1548, wenn er nach England ging.

Außerdem, erfolgte die maritime Revolution nicht als ein linearer, aber als ein umstrittener Prozess. Die Schifffahrtsgeschichte und die Weltgeschichte beziehen sich auf die Eroberung, die Macht, die wirtschaftlichen Interessen, die Piraterie und die jeweiligen rechtlichen Argumente. Am wichtigsten, ab 1564, zwei bewaffneten Flotten, aus zwanzig bis sechzig Segeln, meist begleitete von zwei bis sechs Kriegsschiffen, führten die Bullion-Ladungen nach Spanien durch. Trotzdem durfte kein anderes Schiff den Atlantik überqueren, mit der Ausnahme von diesen Konvois.[7] In den 1550er Jahren wurde der Amalgamierungs-Prozess, eine effizientere Methode um Silber zu gewinnen, in Spanien entwickelt, und dazu die Menge von nach Spanien und Europa exportierten Goldbarren, zu erhöhen beigetragt hatte.[8]


Das portugiesische Überseereich

Die erste aufgezeichnete Portugiesische Seereise wurde vermutlich in 1341 auf die Kanarischen Inseln, die sogenannten Makaronesischen Inseln von den Alten, durchgeführt. Aber beginnt die Zeit des portugiesischen Kolonialreichs im frühen 15. Jahrhundert, mit dem Fall von Ceuta in die Hände von Heinrich dem Seefahrer, dem Reisen auf die Kanaren, nach dem Kap Non und dem Kap Bojador folgten. Laut Diogo Gomes machte D. John de Castro seinen Versuch auf die Kanaren im Jahr 1415, und als er die Existenz einer starken Strömung zwischen den Inseln berichtete, schickte Heinrich in 1416 Gonçalo Velho aus, um die Ursache herauszufinden (dies ist die erste wissenschaftliche Expedition dieser Art dokumentiert).[9]

Die Pläne des Prinzen Heinrich waren Länder jenseits der Kanaren und Kap Non, wie Guinea, zu entdecken, die Handelsbeziehungen zu etablieren und die christlichen Grenzen zu den islamischen Ländern zu sichern. Abgesehen von vielen Ärzten und Astrologen, der Prinz Heinrich hatte den Meister Jacome, ein Experte Kartograph und Hersteller von nautischen Instrumenten angeheuert, um ihn in die Kosmographie zu unterstützen. Der Meister Jacome wird mit Jahuda Cresques identifiziert; dessen Vater, Abraham, die katalanische Karte im Jahre 1375 produziert hatte.

Bis in die späten 1440er Jahre, waren die Sklavenraubzüge und der Sklavenhandel die wichtigsten Ziele von Prinz Heinrichs Expeditionen gewesen. Inzwischen den 1420er und den 1440er Jahren organisierte der Prinz Heinrich die Besiedlung der Inseln Madeira und Azoren. Ab 1448 beschäftigte er sich auch mit dem Goldstaub-Handel.[10]

Henricus Martellus war der Kartograph der Reisen von Diogo Cão und Bartolomeu Dias, die zur Entdeckung des südlichen Kaps der Guten Hoffnung geführt hatten. Die früheste vorhandene Karte von den östlichen und westlichen Reisen von Cabral, Da Gama und deren Wegbereiter ist die Weltkarte von Alberto Cantino (1502).

Nach den Ausflügen von Cabral und Pacheco in Brasilien, ging Vasco da Gama, im Jahre 1498, über das Kap der Guten Hoffnung, um zu Calicut anzureisen. Das Rote Meer und der Persischen Golf blieben jahrhundertelang die bedeutenden ozeanischen Routen nach dem Fernen Osten. Der zweite Vizekönig Alfonso de Albuquerque eroberte Ormuz 1508, Goa 1510, die Hauptstadt seines Kolonialreiches, und Malacca 1511, kommerzielles und diplomatisches Zentrum. Die Portugiesen erkundeten die Gewürzinseln in 1511-12, während Francisco Rodrigues Karten des Chinesischen Meeres erzeugte, die von lokalen Kartographen beeinflusst worden war.



Die Westpassage nach Asien war von Roger Bacon in seinem Opus Majus und von Kardinal Pierre d’Ailly in seinem Imago Mundi, ein wesentlicher Leitfaden für die Entdecker, andiskutiert worden. Der Kartograph Fra Mauro zeichnete im Jahre 1459 die erste Karte, die „Zimpagu“ (Japan) erwähnte. Die Anregungen zu Nordpassagen bezogen sich auf die Route „in Richtung Orient“, in „Richtung Westen“ und „ganz gegen den Antarktischen Pol“.

Im fünfzehnten Jahrhundert betrieben die Seeleute und Kaufleute von Bristol Handel regelmäßig mit Island, wo sie von Grönland, Markland und Vinland das Gute gehört hatten. Zwischen Bristol, Azoren und Madeira gab es auch signifikante Handelsbeziehungen. John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto) hatte, 1497, Bristol als Abfahrtpunkt seiner Expedition nach Nova Scotia gewählt.

Cabot berichtete fälschlicherweise dem König Heinrich VII, dass er Asien erreicht hatte. In seiner zweiten Reise verschwand Cabots Mission. Im Jahre 1498, schickte der König Manuel von Portugal eine Mission zu untersuchen, was John Cabot angeblich gefunden hätte, wahrscheinlich, in der Fischerei und dem Hochwald um Grand Banks von Neufundland. Im nächsten Jahr, nach Vasco da Gamas Rückkehr aus Indien, segelte der Portugieser Gaspar Corte Real von Lissabon nach Grönland, wo er von Eisbergen gestoppt war.

Im Jahre 1501 machte die Corte Real-Mission einen weiteren Versuch, einen polaren Durchgang zwischen Grönland und Labrador zu entdecken, aber sie verloren sich. Miguel Corte Real, Gaspars Bruder, ging auch verloren auf der gleichen Strecke, im Jahre 1502. Sebastian, John Cabots Sohn, schaffte es die Hudson Straße zu überqueren und in die Hudson-Bucht 1509 zu betreten, wo seine Männer darauf bestanden, wieder nach Bristol zurück zu segeln.

Christoph Kolumbus lernte den Reichtum und die Lage der östlichen Ländern von dem Florentiner Paolo Toscanelli. In seiner ersten Reise suchte Kolumbus nach Japan, und er wähnte, dass die Küste von Kuba das Festland von Cathay (Nordchina) sei. Nur in seiner dritten Reise vermutete er, dass die südamerikanische Küste ein großer, unbekannter Kontinent sein könne. Aber in seinem letzten, vierten Reise, nahm Columbus fälschlicherweise an, dass das Mittelamerika das Indochina wäre. Allerdings Geographen seiner Tage einigten nicht mit Kolumbus’ Sichten: Im Jahre 1494 Peter Martyr hatte das Konzept einer „westlichen Hemisphäre“ eingeführt, und 1496 Kolumbus’ Freund, Bernáldez, sagte ihm, dass sogar 1200 Meilen segelndem nach Westen, immer noch nicht bis Cathay gegriffen haben werde.[11]

In der ersten gedruckten Weltkarte von G. M. Contarini (1506) unterteilte eine große Seepassage die nordamerikanischen Entdeckungen der Engländer und Portugieser aus der Spanischen Entdeckungen in Südamerika. Allerdings war die echte Passage in einer Karte von Antonio Pigafetta, der in Magellans Schiff Vitoria reiste, dargestellt worden.

Der Piloto Mayor Amerigo Vespucci ist, nach einem seiner Briefe, für die Benennung und das Gewissen der Entdeckung eines neuen Kontinents anerkannt worden. In 1507, druckte der deutsche Kartograph Martin Waldseemüller den Vespuccis Brief nach und produzierte eine Weltkarte, die die neuen Länder präsentierte, benennend das südliche von ihnen als „Amerika“. Die Karte wurde, zusammen mit der zugehörigen Kugel und dem Lehrbuch Cosmographiae introductio, in den humanistischen Aktivitäten der St-Dié Gruppe am Gymnasium Vosagense in Lothringen enthalten.[12]

Das Weltbild veränderte sich schnell in ein paar Jahrzehnten. Der Kartograph Piri Reis kompilierte eine Weltkarte aus rund zwanzig Karten und Mappae Mundi von Kolumbus Kartographen.[13] Sebastian Münster im Jahre 1540 entwarf eine Karte von Amerika und Fernen Osten. Die Erfindung des mechanischen Buchdrucks in der Mitte des 15. Jahrhunderts hatte einen entscheidenden Einfluss auf die Verbreitung des kosmographischen Wissens, obwohl die portugiesischen und die spanischen Kronen, vor allem Philip II, den offenen Zugang zu den kartographischen Werken ihrer Kosmographen untersagt hatten.[14]

Bis zum Ende des sechzehnten und Anfang des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts waren die Nordost-, Südost- und Nordwestpassagen zum Pazifik einige der schwierigsten Ziele der Exploration. Martin Frobisher, Henry Hudson, die dänischen Polarexpeditionen hatten alle versucht, die Nordwestpassage zu erkunden. Ein weiterer Vorschlag war die Umrundung von Amerika, aus der Magellanstraße bis zum Pazifik, und von dort hinaus bis die Straße von Anian (Beringstraße).

Wichtige Verbesserungen von der geographischen Wissenschaft bestanden in Martin Waldseemüllers Weltkarte, in Magellans Exploration (1519), in der kartographischen Technik der Projektionen von Gerard Mercator,[15] in den Reisen nach Philippinen von Miguel López de Legazpi und nach Acapulco von Andrés de Urdaneta (1565), und in den Karten des Pazifischen Ozeans von Diogo Ribeiro 1529 und Matteo Ricci im Jahre 1584. Diese Karten trieben Diskussionen um die Neuorientierung des Handels auf die Richtung der „Südsee“ an.

In Bezug auf den Pazifik, die Reise von Álvaro de Mendaña auf die Salomon-Inseln (1567-1568) war ein Schritt für die Entdeckung Ozeaniens, während die Umschiffungen von Francis Drake im Jahre 1577, von Thomas Cavendish in 1586-1588 und von Olivier van Noort in 1598-1601, vor allem aus der Suche nach Bouillon aus den spanischen Galeonen motiviert wurden.[16]

Im Jahr 1569 legte Mercator eine Weltkarte vor und 1580 vermutete er eine Nordostpassage zum Cathay. Bis in die englischen Reisen im Süden von Nowaja Semlja, in 1555 bis 1557, wurde die Nord-Ost-Passage so weit wie Vardö bekannt, und man glaubte, dass bis der Mündung des Flusses Ob navigiert worden war. Weiter östlich, findet man „das Kap Tabin“ und die sogenannte Straße von Anian (zwischen Asien und Amerika).

Ab 1555 bis 1564 wurden Handelsbeziehungen zwischen Russland und den Entdeckern von Muscovy Company gegründet. Im Jahre 1594 wurden niederländische Expeditionen geschickt, um die Meerenge in den Norden von Nowaja Semlja zu erkunden, aber sie die südliche Durchfahrt der Jugorstraße bevorzugt hatten.


Schiffe und Schiffbau

Die europäischen Schiffe übertrafen die chinesischen Dschunken, und bis zum Ende des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts, wurden sie die besten in der Welt. Die Galeeren, obwohl sehr häufig in dem Handel bis zum achtzehnten Jahrhundert, waren sie nicht geeignet für die Exploration. Die Europäer bauten, seit 1400, schwere, stabile rahgetakelten Schiffe, mit Marssegeln und Kastellen vorn und achtern für die Nutzung der Armbrüste.

Das Lateinersegel ist eine sehr effiziente Allzwecktakelung. Die Qualitäten jedes Segels beim luvseitigen Schlagen hängen weitgehend von dem Vorhanden des Achterschiffs so lange und so straff wie möglich. Die Karavellen wurden nach und nach verbessert, auf der Grundlage ihres Verhaltens in der Exploration. Die Rahen wurden verkürzt, gestellt mehr nahezu aufrecht, angepasst besser auf die Masten; und ein dritter, Besanmast wurde hinzugefügt. Am Ende des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts kombinierte die caravela redonda eine rahgetakelte Anlage und Toppsegel an Fockmast mit Lateinersegeln an Besan- und Großmast.

Ab Mitte des fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts trugen die Kampfschiffe Waffen, montiert vorn und achtern in den Kastellen, in der Regel Artillerie aus Messing, ersetzend die Armbrust und das Hakenbüchse-Schießen. In den portugiesischen Karavellen, die keine Vorkastellen und Gefechtstops besaßen, wurden die Waffen in dem Bug, auf dem Heck und über die Reling montiert. Ab dem späten fünfzehnten bis zum frühen sechzehnten Jahrhundert wurde das breitseitige Schießen weiter mit Schießscharten und Klappluken entwickelt.

Die Entwicklung der caravela redonda war das Ergebnis der Kombination des lateinischen und des Rahsegels. Doch aus den 1530ern bereitete der Konkurrenz zwischen der iberischen und den Englischen und Französischen Flotten vor, den Bau größerer Schiffe.[17] Die Naus wurden von den Portugiesern und Spaniern entwickelt. Sie waren größer und schwerer als die Karavellen und die Koggen, mit zwei oder drei Masten.

Die in der carreira da India verwendete Schiffe bestanden vor allem aus Galeonen und Karacken (Naus). Die Karacken waren große Handelsschiffe, während die Galeonen wurden vorwiegend als Kriegsschiffe genutzt. Obwohl ziemlich oft die Naus und die Karacken als identisch betrachtet werden, die Maße und die Schiffskastelle stehen als die wesentlichen Unterscheidungsmerkmale zwischen ihnen. Die Karacken waren in der Regel 40 bis 50 Meter lang und in der Lage 500 Tonnen zu transportieren. Ihre Viermast-Takelage ermöglichte die Bewegung von außergewöhnlichen Frachten und großkalibrigen Kanonen.[18]

Dias entdeckte das Kap der Guten Hoffnung mit kleinen Handels-Karavellen. Die Flotte von Vasco da Gama wurde aus der ausgestalteten Flotte von Bartolomeu Dias bestanden, während zwei der Schiffe, nämlich das Flaggschiff San Gabriel und San Raphael, wurden für die Reise konstruiert und ausgestattet. Die Magellansche Weltumsegelung (1519-1522) wurde mit der Nau Victoria verwirklicht. Viele Jahre später, verwendete Captain Cook eine nördlichen-See Kohlenbark.[19]

Die Portugiesen erkannten die Überlegenheit des indischen Teaks und stellten ihre Carreira-Karacken in Goa, Cochin und Bassein her. Die Mannschaften bestanden nicht immer aus Europäern, besonders in den Indischen Ozean, aber aus Muslimen, als Vasco da Gamas Pilot Ibn Majid. Mehrmals die einzige Ausnahme von der nicht-portugiesischen Mannschaft war der Kapitän, der die Roteiros in Anspruch nahm. Die großen Werften in Lissabon, Amsterdam, Themse und Zaan wurden der „Motor des Wachstums“ der Schiffbau-Warenkette, die von Erfindungen wie die Sägemühle gefördert war.[20]


Schiffswracks und Darstellung

Der Nachweis von Schiffen in Schiffsarchäologie bezieht sich nicht nur zu den Schiffswracks, sondern auch zu ausgeladenem Ballast oder über Bord geworfenen Frachten. Die meisten der havarierten Karacken waren überladen, ineffizient verstaut und verspätet.[21] Die enorme Schiffbruch-Quote führte auch zu harte Strafen, wie das Erhängen der Offiziere der Galeonen Santo Milagre und São Lourenço, die im Jahre 1647 und 1649 jeweils zerstört waren.

Das Kap der Guten Hoffnung wurde auch als Kap der Stürme, ein Ort zahlreicher Schiffswracks, bekannt.[22] Eine Predigt aus der S. Paulo Erzählung bezieht sich auf die Schiffbrüche der Galeonen São João Baptista und São Bento, die vor dem Kap der Guten Hoffnung zerstört wurden, als Instanzen von Katastrophen, die durch Disharmonie verursacht gewesen waren.

Zwischen 1497 und 1650 wurden mehr als fünfundzwanzig Prozent der 219 portugiesischen Schiffswracks in der Straße von Mosambik verloren. Madagaskar ist eine notorische Schiffwracks Insel, wo Schiffbrüchige von den indischen Unternehmen, aber auch Piraten gelitten hatten. In 1506 wurde São Vincente ein der ersten portugiesischen Schiffe, die, in ihrem Versuch Madagaskar zu entdecken, zerstört wurde.[23]

Die äußerst lange und gefährliche Passage vor südafrikanischen Kaps und der saisonale Einfluss der Monsune erzeugten als eine Notwendigkeit die Ostindischen Unternehmen, mit ihren Unterständen rund um den Indischen Ozean. Die Reisen von Lissabon fingen in der Regel am Ende des Februars oder Märzes an. Sie segelten von Goa zurück nach Portugal am Ende Dezembers. Die große Mehrheit der Schiffswracks trat auf der Heimfahrt, vor die Karacken das Kap der Guten Hoffnung umherzufahren zu können.

In den etwas mehr als achtzig Jahren von Vasco da Gamas erster Reise bis zu der Vereinigung der spanischen und portugiesischen Kronen, segelten 620 Schiffe aus Portugal nach Indien. Davon blieben 256 im Osten, 325 kehrten wohlbehalten nach Portugal zurück und 39 gingen verloren. In den nächsten etwas mehr als vierzig Jahren – von 1580 bis 1612 – 186 Schiffe segelten, 29 blieben im Osten, 100 kehrten wohlbehalten zurück, 57 gingen verloren. Deshalb, erreichten, in dem ersten Zeitraum, ihr Reiseziel sicher 93 Prozent der Schiffe, die aus Portugal segelten; in dem zweiten Zeitraum fanden nur 69 Prozent Hafen.[24]

Ein sehr häufiges Artefakt, das in vielen spanischen Schiffswracks gefunden war, ist der Oliventopf. Aber die ersten europäischen Objekten, die in der Neuen Welt entdeckt wurden, waren ein Kruzifix aus massivem Gold, ein Goldbarren, Silberplatten, Kanonen und drei äußerst selten Astrolabien des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts, aus dem Wrack des Espiritu Santo in Padre Island, USA, im Jahre 1967 entfernt.[25]


Kolonialistische Rivalität, Utilitarismus und Mythos

Ein berühmtes Thema der frühen modernen Kartographie war die Umsegelung der Welt von Ferdinand Magellan und Francis Drake. Im Jahre 1505 folgte Magellan die Almeida Expedition, die portugiesischen Küstenfestungen in Sofala, Kilwa, Anjediva und Cannanore über dem Indischen Ozean eingerichtet hatte. Die Erfassung des Gewürzhandels und die Einrichtung eines portugiesischen Vizekönigs benötigten eine Handvoll von heftigen Kämpfen in den Indischen Ozean. Der dramatische Konflikt wurde von Venedig in einer Koalition mit ägyptischen und indischen Gegnern der portugiesischen Expansion entflammt.

Der weltweit erste Weltumsegler war Ferdinand Magellan; oder sein Schiff Victoria. Das Weltumsegeln wurde von 1519 bis 1522 im Dienste der spanischen Krone unternommen. Der einzige aus erster Hand bekannte Bericht von der Reise ist das Tagebuch des venezianischen Adligen und Gelehrten Antonio Pigafetta (um 1480-1534).

Weder die bedeutende Magellanstraße, noch das Kap Horn wurden als gewöhnliche Handelslinien eingesetzt, weil der Pazifische Seehandel von dem Vizekönig Neu-Spaniens organisiert werden sollte. Die regelmäßige Seeverkehrsverbindung zwischen Manila und Acapulco im Jahr 1571 wurde auch neulich als der Abschluss eines globalen Netzwerks und eines kohärenten Weltmarkts pointiert.[26]

Dennoch wurden die Instabilität und die Feindseligkeit immer dominiert, als der Frieden von Cateau-Cambrésis fiel zusammen mit den räuberischen Angriffen und dem Sklavenhandeln von englischen Freibeutern wie Hawkins, Frobisher und Drake. In 1569-1572, schnitt die Allianz zwischen niederländischen, Hugenotten und englischen Freibeuter die Kommunikation zwischen Spanien und den Niederlanden ab. Der Konflikt zwischen England und Spanien wandelte sich zu offenem Krieg. Die Tragik sollte vor und nach dem Krieg, noch einmal aufgetaucht werden, nicht nur mit den Schiffswracks, sondern auch von vielen britischen gewalttätigen Übergriffen gegen die Französisch-Amerikanischen Hugenotten.

Das mythische Element war in den Schiffbruch-Erzählungen, wegen des Fehlens vom frühen modernen technischen Schiff-Zeichnungen und Schiffsarchäologischen Beweisen, weiterhin hervorgehoben. Im Gegenteil wurde die utilitaristische Option der Meinung in Werken wie Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedos Historia general y natural de las Indias Occidentales (1535) ausgedrückt.

Gold und Silber, Perlen, Diamanten, Bernstein, Moschus, Teppiche, Ebenholz, Kaliko, Gewürznelken, Pfeffer, Zimt, Muskatblüte und Muskatnuss bestehen als wertvolle Rohstoffe des ozeanischen Handels, wie beispielsweise die Beute der englischen Piraten aus der portugiesischen Galeone Madre de Deus im Jahre 1592 an den Azoren. Pfeffer vor allem aus Südwest Indien, dominierte den Gewürzhandel. Darüber hinaus, Ingwer, Safran, Rhabarber, in China kultiviert, Edelsteine, Smaragde aus Indien, Rubine aus Burma, Saphire aus Ceylon usw.[27]

Unter den Begriff „Würze“ fallen alle Arten der orientalischen Luxus Produkte – Piment und Ingwer (medizinisch genutzt), zusammen mit Sandelholz (als adstringierendes und Blutreiniger verwendet), die orientalische Gummiharz bekannt als Galbanum (von den Frauen sehr geschätzt), Wermut, Ambra, Kampfer, Elfenbein und verschiedene anderen seltenen Rohstoffe, alle wertvolle und einige bisher in Europa nicht ruchbar.[28]

Schätze wie Ambra, wurden in Madagaskar gesucht, Kakao und Xocolatl wurden aus Südamerika importiert. Eine niederländische Fracht nach Batavia um 1735 könnte aus Holz, Mauerziegel, Eisen, Schießpulver und Wein sowie Truhen mit Gold und Silber Dukaten bestand werden.[29]


Der Aufstieg der transatlantischen Welt

In den ersten Jahrhunderten des Mittelalters basierte nicht nur die feudale Wirtschaft, sondern auch die städtische auf dem persönlichen Verbrauch. Die Produktion für den Zweck des Austausches begriff erst im Entstehen, als die globalen Seeverkehrsbeziehungen den Rohstoffhandel für die schwere Bergbau-und Hüttenindustrie öffneten. Die großen ozeanischen Entdeckungen erleichterten den globalen Handel und den Austausch.

Ein weiterer Indikator des Übergangs zu der Frühen Neuzeit war die Schießpulver Revolution und die Transformation der Gepanzerten Soldaten durch die Einführung von Kanonen aus Bronze und Messing, Pistolen und Musketen, nach dem 14. Jahrhundert.[30] Abgesehen von den Chinesen und den Muslimen, die ersten Europäer, die Salpeter Mischungen beschrieben hatten, waren Roger Bacon („Epistola de Secretis operibus artis et naturae“), Mark der Grieche und Albert von Köln.[31]

Nach dem Mittelalter, während des vierzehnten und fünfzehnten Jahrhunderts, die Entwicklung von Bergbau und Industrie in Europa stieg die Nachfrage nach Gold, Silber, Eisen, Kupfer und anderen Materialien. Das Wachstum der Börsen in den nächsten Jahrhunderten, die durch die Entdeckungen verursacht wurde, machte die Nachfrage nach Edel- und Industriemetalle enorm. Später basierten Benjamin Franklins Forschungen auf den Studien des Magnetismus von William Gilbert am Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts, und auf der Entdeckung des elektrischen Schlags und der Leiden Flasche von Pieter van Musschenbroek (1745).[32]

Die Ära der ozeanischen Entdeckungen war eine Zeit der bedeutenden Migration, Interaktion und Wettbewerb. Brasilien wurde nach und nach eine wertvolle Quelle für Informationen über die Naturgeschichte, Medizin, Geologie, Mineralogie und Geographie. Alexander von Humboldt und Herbert I. Priestley präsentierten die Zivilisationen der alten Bewohner von Amerika (Tolteken, Cicimecks, Acolhuans, Tlascaltecks, Azteken usw.) und ihre kulturellen und historischen Bauwerke, wie die mexikanischen teocallis, Häuser der Götter mit Pyramidenform.

Durch die Begegnung von verschiedenen Zivilisationen, traten kulturellen Asymmetrien in Lateinamerika auf, wie bei der Verwendung der khipu Knotenschnüren für die Darstellung eines dezimalen Zahlensystems für die Tribute und die Aufzeichnungspflichten des Inka-Reiches.[33] In einer anfälligen postkolonialen Welt, waren die inhärenten Unterschiede in Reichtum und Produktion, zwischen Regionen wie Peru und Rio de la Plata, ebenfalls wichtig.[34]

Die Niederländer reisten auch nach Osten mit Linschotens Segelanweisungen, nach 1595, und handelten Helme, Rüstungen, Waffen, Glas, Samt und deutsche Spielzeuge. Die Gründung von Handelsgesellschaften, wie die Vereinigte Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company) im Jahre 1602, war eine weitere Folge der ozeanischen Entdeckungen. Der Wettbewerb zwischen Spanien und Holland führte holländische Kaufleute den Handel aus dem Ostseeraum und dem Atlantik, nach Russland, Italien, Westafrika, Amerika und Asien zu entwickeln. Ihre traditionellen Lieferungen von Getreiden, Salz, Hering und Wein wurden mit luxuriösen Textilien, Zucker, Metallen, Schmuck, Waffen, Gewürzen ergänzt. Diese Expansion führte zur Verbreitung der Teileigentumsverhältnisse oder Anteilbesitze, die einen entscheidenden Einfluss im Finanzbereich ausübten.

Im frühen 17. Jahrhundert hatten die Portugiesen Nagasaki erreicht, während die Niederländer einen Flottenschützpunkt in Hirado behielten. Die Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie organisierte Freibeuter-Angriffe gegen Portugiesische, Spanische und neutrale Schiffe entlang der Haupt Manila und Macao Routen.

Der San Antonio Vorfall bezieht sich auf die erste Beute von VOC, die in den Shogun Gewässern gefangen war.[35] Mit diesen Methoden ersetzte der niederländische Kolonialismus die Portugiesen in Malakka (1641) und Ceylon (1658). Allerdings sind die Netzwerkstrukturen zwischen Gebern und Bevollmächtigten schwach bewiesen, wegen Unsicherheit und Machtkämpfe, die die niederländische Vorherrschaft untergruben und den Weg für den Aufstieg des englischen Reiches öffneten. Die englische East India Company wurde im Jahre 1600 gegründet, mit Hauptsitzen in Bombay, Madras, Kalkutta, usw. Sie wurde durch einem Generalgouverneur oder Präsidenten und einem Rat von Senior Kaufleuten geleitet. Dennoch blieb die englische Metropole die zentrale Position in der englischen East India Company, während die Batavische Hoche Regierung hielt eine privilegierte Lage in VOC.[36]

Fast ein Fünftel der VOC Schiffswracks, das heißt etwa fünfzig Wracks in Malacca, Gabun, St. Helena, Mauritius, Kapstadt, Skilly Inseln usw., von 1606 bis 1795, wurden entdeckt. Im Jahre 1611 hatte der niederländische Kapitän Brouwer einen schnelleren Seeweg nach Ostindien durch die niedrigeren Breiten der Roaring Forties und dann nach Norden bis zum Australien eingeführt. Australiens ältestes bekanntes Schiffswrack wurde 1969 gefunden und gehört zum englischen East India Company Schiff Trial. Die Wracks der Trial 1622, Batavia 1629, Vergulde Draeck 1656, Zuytdorp, Cervantes und Georgette waren in West Australien identifiziert.[37]

Von den großen Entdeckungen des Abel Tasman und des Willem Schouten, wurden Wissenschaftler, wie Bernhard Varenius von Geographie angelockt. Sie untersuchten die mathematischen Daten der Bewegungen und Dimensionen der Erde, die Solare Zuneigung zur Erde, die Sterne, das Klima, die Jahreszeiten, Karte-Konstruktion, Längengrad usw.

Spanien war zerbrechlich im Pazifik; die Holländer kämpften an der Portugiesen und verdrängten die Engländer. Japan legte offen für niederländische, portugiesische und englische Händler, aber das Shogunate kontrollierte die Vermarktung der chinesischen Seide. Die Nordöstliche Pazifikküste wurde bis in die 1770er Jahre isoliert. Dann hatten Ladungen von Fellen aus Vancouver in die entrepôt von Macao zu segeln begonnen.[38]



Die Installation von Handelskolonien entlang der Routen von Amerika, Afrika, Indien und Asien, setzte die Nutzung der größeren Spannbreite von wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen, natürlichen Ressourcen, Wirtschaftsplanung und politischen Denken voraus. Die Reisen des James Cook kombinierten die Kolonisierungspläne mit der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, sondern auch mit Handel, Industrie, Transport und militärischen Zwecken.

Abgesehen davon, segelten, vor dem elften Jahrhundert, Perser und Araber von Bagdad direkt an Guangzhou, nach jüngsten archäologischen Beweisen von einem Wrack, das vor der Küste Belitung, Indonesien entdeckt ist.[39] Die chinesischen Ansätze in den Indischen Ozean waren nicht selten. Bis zum vierten Jahrzehnt des 15. Jahrhunderts besuchten chinesische Dschunken die Häfen am Persischen Golf und das Rote Meer und zwischen 1405 und 1433 reisten große chinesischen Armadas von Java nach Malindi in Ostafrika. Doch in 1621 wurde eine chinesische Sammlung von Grafiken und Segelanweisungen für die Reise von Nanking nach Ostafrika veröffentlicht.

Am Ende der Frühen Neuzeit, fand Captain James Cook, in seiner dritten Reise in den Pazifik (1776-1780), in Tonga Segelkanus. Die Errungenschaften der Navigatoren Ozeaniens, Ägyptens, präkolumbianischen Ecuadors, Putun Mayas stellen wichtige Nachweise von Langstrecken-Seehandel lang bevor dem globalen Segeln dar. Darüber hinaus hatten die Ureinwohner Nordamerikas alle Arten von Gefäßen, wie Kajaks, Kanus, Umiaks, beplankte Boote und baidarkas entwickelt.

Der Aufstieg der Briten beruhte auf Piraterie, Sklavenhandel und intensive Sklavenarbeit in den Zuckerkolonien der Plantagekomplexe, z.B Brasilien, Jamaika, Barbados und Saint Domingue.[40] Der Siebenjährige Krieg (1756-1763), der Vertrag von Paris im Jahre 1763, die britische Kontrolle über die Bengalische Schießpulver Produktion, der Anstieg der Industrieproduktion, die Einrichtung der Bombay-Werft in 1675 für die Produktion von Schiffen aus indischen Teak, brachten auf den Anstieg der britischen Seemacht ein.[41]

Deswegen ist die transozeanische Welt eine bewegende und verwandelte Welt mit verschiedenen interkulturellen Einflüssen und Wechselwirkungen.[42] Das heißt, jede Wirtschafts-historische Erläuterung des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen auf der Grundlage einer Nachfrage nach Zucker, Gewürzen und Goldbarren, soll auch auf den kritischen Widerspruch zwischen den globalen Austauschen und Unterschieden erweitert werden, sowie die Globalisierungsverträge, das Mare Liberum und den multikulturellen und dynamischen Charakter der ozeanischen Entdeckungen. Zusätzlich ist die Rolle der Wissenschaft von großer Bedeutung in der Fischereien und in der Entwicklung der Ozeanographie, Hydrographie, Naturgeschichte und Umweltwissenschaften.



[1] Alfredo Pinheiro Marques, The Discovery of the Azores and its First Repercussions in Cartography. In: ARQUIPÉLAGO, História, 2ª série, vol. 1, nº 2 (1995), S. 7-15,

[2] Raleigh A. Skelton, Explorers’ Maps: Chapters in the Cartographic Record of Geographical Discovery, New York 1958, S. 28.

[3] John H. Parry, The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715: Trade and Exploration in the Age of the Renaissance, New York and Evanston 1961, hier S. 13-28.

[4] Maria M. Portuondo, Cosmography at the Casa, Consejo, and Corte during the Century of Discovery. In: Daniela Bleichmar – Paula De Vos – Kristin Huffine – Kevin Sheehan (Hrsgg.), Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500-1800, Stanford 2009, S. 57-77, hier S. 61.

[5] David Goodman, Science, Medicine, and Technology in Colonial Spanish America: New Interpretations, New Approaches. In: Daniela BLEICHMAR – Paula DE VOS – Kristin HUFFINE – Kevin SHEEHAN (Hrsgg.), Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500-1800, Stanford 2009, S. 9-34, hier S. 12.

[6] Víctor Navarro Brotons, Astronomía y cosmografía entre 1561 y 1625: Aspectos de la actividad de los matemáticos y cosmógrafos españoles y portugueses, <Cronos: Cuadernos valencianos de historia de la medicina y de la ciencia>, ISSN 1139-711X, <Vol. 3, Nº. 2, 2000>, S. 349-380.

[7] Parry, The Establishment, hier S. 74.

[8] Antonio Barrera-Osorio, Experiencing Nature: The Spanish American Empire and the Early Scientific Revolution, Austin 2006, hier S. 29-55.

[9] Diogo Gomes, De insulis primo inventis in mari oceano occidentis, zitiert von Edgar Prestage, The Portuguese Pioneers, London 1933, S. 28; Aurélio de Oliveira, As missões de Diogo Gomes de 1456 e 1460. In: Facultade de Letras da Universidade do Porto (Hrsg.), Estudos em Homenagem a Luís António de Oliveira Ramos, 1. Bd., Porto 2004, S. 805-814.

[10] Anthony Disney, Prince Henry of Portugal and the Sea Route to India. In: Historically Speaking 11, H. 3 (2010), S. 35-37.

[11] Skelton, Explorers’ Maps, S. 59.

[12] Christine R. Johnson, Renaissance German Cosmographers and the Naming of America. In: Past & Present 191 (2006): S. 3-43.

[13] René Tebel, Das Schiff im Kartenbild des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit; Kartographische Zeugnisse aus sieben Jahrhunderten als maritimhistorische Bildquellen, Bremerhaven 2012, S. 59.

[14] María M. Portuondo, Secret science: Spanish cosmography and the new world, Chicago 2009.

[15] Andrew Taylor, The World of Gerard Mercator: The Mapmaker who Revolutionized Geography, London 2004.

[16] Mercedes Maroto Camino, Producing the Pacific: Maps and Narratives of Spanish Exploration (1567-1606), Amsterdam 2005.

[17] Andreas Fuchsluger, Seefahrt zwischen der Iberischen Halbinsel und der Neuen Welt in der frühen Neuzeit (1500-1700) als Träger der Protoglobalisierung, Wien 2013 (= Diplomarbeit, University of Vienna, Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät),

[18] Alexander Marboe, Zur Einführung: Schiffsbau und Nautik im vorneuzeitlichen Europa. In: Alexander Marboe and Andreas Obenaus (Hrsgg.), Seefahrt und die frühe europäische Expansion, Wien 2009, S. 18.

[19] John H. Parry, The Age of Reconnaissance, Cleveland 1963, S. 53; Marboe, Zur Einführung, S. 11-35.

[20] Eyüp Özveren, The Shipbuilding Commodity Chain, 1590-1790. In: Gary Gereffi and Miguel Korzeniewicz (Hrsgg.), Commodity Chains and Global Capitalism, Westport 1994, S. 20-34.

[21] David L. Conlin and Larry E. Murphy, Shipwrecks. In: Charles E. Jr. Orser (Hrsgg.), Encyclopedia of Historical Archaeology, London and New York 2002, S. 500-502.

[22] Josiah Blackmore, Manifest Perdition: Shipwreck Narrative and the Disruption of Empire, Minneapolis 2002, S. 22. Die evangelische Nachricht wird übertragen: „mit Einigkeit [Concórdia] die kleine Dinge wachsen groß, während bei Uneinigkeit [Discordia] die große Dinge zurückgehen und verringern“ (Ibid. S. 35-36).

[23] Pierre van den Boogaerde, Shipwrecks of Madagascar, Durham 2010.

[24] John H. Parry, The Establishment of the European Hegemony, 1415-1715: Trade and Exploration in the Age of the Renaissance, New York and Evanston 1961, S. 95.

[25] Charles E. Orser Jr., Padre Island Shipwrecks, Texas, USA. In: Encyclopedia of Historical Archaeology, edited by Charles E. Orser Jr., London and New York 2002, S. 412.

[26] Dennis O. Flynn und Arturo Giráldez, Born with a ‘Silver Spoon’: The Origin of World Trade in 1571, Journal of World History 6, no. 2 (1995): S. 201-221; Benedikt Vogl, Die Amerikapolitik Karls V., Wien 2013 (= Diplomarbeit, University of Vienna, Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät),

[27] Felipe Fernández-Armesto, 1492: The Year Our World Began, New York 2009.

[28] Cecil Roth, Doña Gracia of the House of Nasi, Philadelphia 1977, S. 21.

[29] Tine Missiaen, Ine Demerre und Valentine Verrijken. Integrated assessment of the buried wreck site of the Dutch East Indiaman ’t Vliegent Hart, Relicta 9 (2012): S. 191-208.

[30] William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000, Chicago 1982, S. 79-102.

[31] Vanoccio Biringuccio, Pirotechnia, New York 1943, S. x, xvii, xxiii, 404-408; Alan Williams, The Knight and the Blast Furnace: A History of the Metallurgy of Armour in the Middle Ages & the Early Modern Period, Leiden 2003, S. 737, 842-851.

[32] Fritz Fraunberger und Jürgen Teichmann, Das Experiment in der Physik: Ausgewählte Beispiele aus der Geschichte, Braunschweig-Wiesbaden 1984.

[33] Amanda Kenney, Encoding Authority: Negotiating the Uses of Khipu in Colonial Peru, Traversea 3 (2013), S. 4-19.

[34] Maria Juliana Gandini, Fuerzas locales, espacios atlánticos, horizontes globales: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca conectando mundos, Traversea 3 (2013), S. 32-47.

[35] Adam Clulow, Pirating in the Shogun’s Waters: The Dutch East India Company and the San Antonio Incident, Bulletin of Portuguese-Japanese Studies 13 (2006), S. 65-80.

[36] Oscar Gelderblom und Joost Jonker, Completing a Financial Revolution: The Finance of the Dutch East India Trade and the Rise of the Amsterdam Capital Market, 1595-1612, The Journal of Economic History 64, H. 3 (2004), S. 641-672.

[37] ABC, Shipwrecks in WA, Shipwrecks in Australia, 2003,

[38] Barry M. Gough, The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and Discoveries to 1812, Vancouver 1992.

[39] Jennifer L. Gaynor, Ages of Sail, Ocean Basins, and Southeast Asia, Journal of World History 24, H. 2 (2013).

[40] Philip D. Curtin, The Rise and Fall of the Plantation Complex: Essays in Atlantic History, Cambridge 1990.

[41] Brenda J. Buchanan, Gunpowder, explosives and the state: a technological history, Bath 1996.

[42] Kenyon Zimmer, Transatlantic History: Locating and Naming an Emergent Field of Study, Traversea 3 (2013), S. 77-86.



Science, Technology, and Society during the Great Oceanic DiscoveriesVasileios Evangelidis


Centers, Peripheries and Technical Progress


Published in: Global Humanities
Studies in Histories, Cultures, and Societies
On the Correlation of Center and Periphery



This article investigates the history of technology, trade and industry, from the viewpoint of the periphery-center redistribution. Some of the most significant historical examples of the centre-periphery contradiction were given by technical revolutions, which began in particular naval countries and spread to the periphery: Shipbuilding, banking, efficient production and industrialization were essential prerequisites to the emergence of global trade, during the Genoese, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, British periods of accumulation, with the Industrial Revolution, and so on.[1]

Thereafter, in center-capitalistic-countries, market, commerce, financialization and competitive accumulation were strongly and increasingly connected with each other; while the peripheries still provided alternatives for market, e.g. the agrarian systems in Eastern Europe.[2]


Prolonged Productive Continuities versus Militaristic Ruptures

There is a well-known controversy among historians, concerning the issue of ‘technological determinism’ and the categories related to ideological aspects of modernization. The ambivalence between instrumental, contextual and social approaches is obvious in these disputes.

Technology may be defined as the ‘tool-making’ ability, which characterizes humans and intelligent apes.[3] Since prehistoric times, technical skills were used mainly for collective work. But if the agrarian and urban communities were the organizations facilitating the productive activities of their members, the wars were destroying this cyclical procedure. Regardless the differences in access to technology between peace and wartime, the latter was particularly seldom and true in Southeastern ancient populations, which were well acquainted with Asiatic despotism,[4] rural and urban civil war.

In the precapitalistic societies, the primal distinctive marks of the exercise of power were the division between worker and warrior, the significance of the dispersed copper and tin ores and ingots, furthermore, the importance of long distance trade and ‘organized robbery’, the introduction of taxes, rents and administrative systems for military victuals.[5]

Like failures of agrarian communities to innovate production, so state formation was not always merging commercial and military spirit. Critical improvements, such as the spoked wheel, the chariots and wheelwrights, archery and bowmakers, facilitated the barbarian conquests between 1800 and 1500 B.C. Chariot warriors’ élites formed aristocratic, slaveholding societies, which remained stable until the introduction of iron, around 1200 B.C. Not only iron weaponry but also iron plowshares, made realistic a widespread diffusion of cheap metal applications.

In fact, cities, such as Troy, markets and state formation were critical frameworks for the interaction between technologies and communities. Crossroads and gateways, especially Dunhuang, were also important sites for connecting peripheries. Cities and countries between China and Syria were joined by the old Silk Roads.[6] Cultural, artistic and religious monuments, such as the Diamond Sutra,[7] verify this significant instrumentality:

Dunhuang is only one of many Buddhist cave complexes along the Silk Road. Others of almost equal importance are the complexes at Bezeklik, northeast of the Taklamakan Desert, and Kizil in western Xinjiang. In 1906, the German explorer Albert von Le Coq removed many of the most important of Bezeklik and Kizil’s murals, which he then deposited in Berlin. A significant number of them were destroyed in the bombings of World War II; the survivors are today in Berlin’s Museum of Asian Art. Fragments of the murals also made their way to Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States.[8]

Regarding the Silk Road, the economic policies of the Song (960-1276), Yuan (1271-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties had influenced global trade, as it was shown by the historic travels of Zheng He (1371-1433), the voyage around Africa, up to Portugal, before Henry the Navigator’s expeditions.[9]

Meanwhile, after the invention of the stirrups (fifth-sixth centuries A.D.), feudal reorganization had been introduced in the West, with Charles Martel’s new style of cavalry, in A.D. 732; whereas in the Byzantine East only after A.D. 900. However, the rise and diffusion of Islam proves, according to McNeill,[10] the influential impetus of ideas, with their preference to urban, mercantile and bureaucratic principles, against the feudal ones.


Technological Invention and Slaveholding Centers

A prominent theme of the debates upon ancient history is the relationship between slavery and technological invention. According to Farrington,[11] the ancient Greek and Roman societies lacked technological inventions, because slavery rendered cheap labour-force overabundant, while the philosophy of Plato and other Greek scholars focused rather on mathematics and astronomy than labour-saving technology.

This argument was rejected by Drachmann,[12] who supported that slavery cannot suffice as a justification for the technological delay until 1759, whereas in antiquity the slaves increased the competition between large companies, especially in technological matters, with a wide range of applications and machinery production.

Technology in antiquity, thus between 900 B.C. and 500 A.C., had reached to the stage of replacing slave labour with animal and water power, as Drachmann argued. Simultaneously, technological applications were disseminated in the uses of fire, agriculture, taming domestic animals, building houses with wood, clay tiles and stones, spinning and weaving, wheel, shipping, pottery, extraction and processing of metals, especially iron, and writing.

In the peripatetic Problemata Mechanica, we read about the simple tools known in ancient times, i.e. lever, pulley, balance, wedge, screw, wheel and axle.[13] The development was really gradual from the ancient to the classic and modern culture, by the Pythagorean belief that things are numbers, the corpuscular theories, the invention of the concept of energy, the contributions of Latin and Islamic Science, etc. The transfers between centres and peripheries were often:

When, in the year 529, the last school of ancient philosophy in Athens was closed by the Emperor Justitinian and Alexandria, at about the same time, lost its importance as a cultural centre, the ancient sources for the light of science became in fact extinguished, but this light itself by no means disappeared; it had already reached, long ago, other centres, which should emit it once again from the beginning.[14]

Byzantium, of course, became a center for centuries, while other centers such as Chartres, Antioch, Baghdad, Damascus, Cordova, Toledo and Salerno were also famous. An insightful, therefore, retrospective view to the power-antagonisms from the antiquity and the Middle Ages, until the eve of the modern laborious era, is helpful to understand the historical roots of our topic, with the great transformation achieved.


From Archimedes’s to Leonardo da Vinci’s Peripheries

The argument that we want to support, insists that the making of world centers, in other words, the systematic concentration of knowledge and power, was based on three main sources of scientific and technological advance: Measurement, Experiment and Construction, lately incorporated in global business systems.

Construction, in scientists such as Heron, was critical for the discovery and representation of the intuitive, synthetic and analytical methods leading to proof. Heron’s works are an excellent example of the constructivist transformation of space. Furthermore, Archimedes’s experiments are certainly the most representative instances of this new innovative science. Measurement by construction, experiment and observation became exact only after Archimedes’s and Heron’s approaches that facilitated a physical science fully justified, because it measured, for the first time, liquids, air and gases.

However, these contributions require very broad exchanges between cultures. Babylon, Egypt and Greece, at least in ancient times, were central places in the continuous quest for practical and theoretical discoveries. The benchmarks of this concentration of knowledge were mainly the advances in mechanics, navigation, geography, astronomy and geometry.

Colonization was an important factor of this creative movement. The plans of the communities for survival, the trading activities, the wondering about the unknown were natural attitudes, always accompanying the scientific practice. The confidence for the infinity of space was increased by maritime commerce and colonization. Optimistic beliefs were related with various theoretical and empirical conceptions of space, for instance, with the early establishment of geometry and geography, as expressed in the worldviews of the Egyptians, during their practical achievements since the 18th dynasty.

Further historical fields of argumentation emerge in antiquity, concerning novel sciences and technologies, e.g. metallurgy, medicine, linguistics, numismatics etc., while the interaction between knowledge, production, centers and peripheries was always dynamic.

Apart from the political and social circumstances, the aforementioned instrumental aspect of the scientific exploration of space is very important. The ancient scientists used various instruments, such as sundials, heavenly spheres, diopter, the astrolabon organon, the parallactic instrument and the mural quadrant.

The conscience of this progress appears again, as Homo Universalis, in Leonardo’s mechanics and in Galileo’s kinetics. At the same time, the founders of the enlightenment movement supported a European and global international cooperation; for example, the destinations of Leibniz’s correspondents were ranging from London to Beijing.[15]


Capital Accumulation in the “Real Home of Capitalism”

After the Dark Ages, during the fourteenth and fifteenth century, the development of mining and industry in Europe increased the demand for gold, silver, iron, copper and other materials.

The Industrial Revolution, from 1771, the age of steam and railways, the introduction of steel, electricity and heavy engineering in England, USA, Germany, and so on, built a global market and a world system, which was further diversified in the age of oil, automobile and mass production.

Along with modernity, the foundation of public electric and telecommunications utilities, the introduction of new technology and machinery, accelerated as never before the division of labour, formulated internal markets and promoted commercialization. The industrialization appeared as a revolutionary force (with the introduction of electricity, internal combustion engine, pumps, roller mills, cement, steel constructions, transportation, land reclamation, chemical industry, tractors, etc.). Thus, technology transformed radically the community life, by repetitively introducing and transferring multifaceted innovations.

Competition, interaction, peripherization, subsidiarity, decentralization, border regions, financialization, “disengagement from and integration into the world market” are characteristic aspects of the modern age.[16] In parallel, imperialism had been a continuous process from antiquity up to the industrial epoch, although decolonization processes were accelerated after 1945.[17]

Around 1880, Ethiopia, Liberia, Japan, China and Thailand were the only sovereign states in Asia and Africa, while Japan was also imperialistic. Uprisings for territorial liberation were widely disseminated from Cuba, to West and East Africa, up to Philippines, with an increasing frequency.

From this aspect, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Russia, Middle East and Greece may constitute significant case studies of the centre-periphery historical and geopolitical issues, in correlation to the maritime exchanges, the agrarian nexus to mechanization and industrialization, e.g. mechanical engineering industry, the energy-production transformation, the proposed answers to economic depression, and the presumed transition from closed or semi-closed economies to the shaping of an internal global market.

These relevant historical explanations have to analyze the framework of the transition from the city-centred economies to the emergence of capitalism and neo-colonialism, i.e. the interstate competition for mobile capital; because the global sequence of leading capitalist states consists of units of increasing size, resources, and world power.[18]


Non Complementary Development in the Peripheries

The specific difference among centre and periphery is expressed as a contradiction between capital-intensive production in the highly industrialized countries and labour-intensive production in the periphery; in terms of redistribution between centre and periphery, the developed countries import raw materials, cheap labor, acquire profits from direct capital investments, gain periphery’s markets for exports, etc.[19] This uneven redistribution and inequality is caused by the demand for endless accumulation of capital, which requires high profits through monopolized commodity chains.[20]

When a region supports “free trade and freedom of movement for labour-force and enterprises”[21] and distributes a high per capita income, then it is called industrial core-region. However, the core-regions were developed only at the time that “direct producers were losing their direct access to the means of subsistence and therefore becoming dependent upon markets for their access to subsistence goods”.[22]

Therefore, the analysis of internal markets should not presuppose peasantry’s unwillingness to trade, but look to the other side, stressing the inherent tendency of the commercial capital to move abroad; to prefer liquidity and financial expansion.[23] For instance, the role of London and Manhattan maritime companies is crucial today, as their leaders – most of them Greek ship-owners – are among the most mature in the global naval sector.

Rising shifts in global trade and exchanges are compatible with capital-intensive production in the highly industrialized countries and with labour-intensive production in the periphery countries. The centre obtains access to a large quantity of minerals, e.g. the African gold,[24] skilled professional labor through migrations etc., facilitating, this way, its own technological superiority. Moreover, periphery has no other choice than increasing imports from developed countries, but not from other periphery countries, because dependent industrial enterprises are neither complementary to each other nor with agriculture. Almost all other productive sectors, apart from international trading, remain non complementary in peripheries.

The so-called capitalist globalization has not surpassed, in developing countries, the fragmented industrialization, causing thus a growing trend for vital industrial imports: Raw industrial materials; Intermediate products; Mechanical equipment; Industrial consumer products, as a result of urbanization.

An example of the non-complementarity of the periphery’s industrial infrastructure is the following: During the second half of the 20th century the Greek industrial production included some basic metal industries: mainly aluminum, ferronickel, to some extent, and steel. However, the entire nickel production and 85% of aluminum were exported. The aluminum industries which were settled in Greece, processed only in the first two stages of the bauxite, and exported the aluminum abroad, e.g. to France, for further processing.

All this happens because, in the context of globalization, the penetration of capital is based on the comparative advantages of each country, and does not take into account the needs of the country hosting the investments. The forms of control employed by the capital are: Direct equity participation. Assigning labels and similar agreements. Subcontracting, e.g. clothing, footwear, and textiles. Multinational firms, for instance, outsource clothing production for the final stages of processing, which are labour-intensive processes, to periphery countries with low wages. Thus, in 1983, 43% of the total Greek exports in clothing and shoes were subcontracted products. Immigrant laborers from Asia, Middle East, Africa and the Balkans work in these jobs. At the same time, “unpaid subsistence- and domestic work, underpaid work in informal and precarious conditions, shadow work, slave- and other forced labor” coexist.[25]

However, throughout the period 1950–1980, the export orientation and the increasing imports were leading the Greek economy to face international competition. The result was to prevail ultimately capital-intensive techniques (investment in buildings, structures and machines), and to curb the growth of employment in marginal sizes.[26]

Furthermore, the global powers are economically diversified, highly industrialized, specialized in information, finance and high-technology, powerful in military, and so on. That is to say, the core countries dominate in the fields of production, trade and finance. Greece, Africa, or Middle East, of course, under such criteria, cannot be considered as belonging to the centre. What is more, the periphery countries lack diversified social-political organization, while the leading capitalist states develop “political structures endowed with ever-more extensive and complex organizational capabilities”.[27]

There are different theories upon that: According to the ‘dependency’ theorists – who emphasize on revolutionary practices in developing countries, e.g. in Latin America – the redistribution refers to wealth and resources, exploited by the centre.[28] On the contrary, from a world-system perspective, what is redistributed is surplus value from the periphery to the wealthy countries. This uneven distribution and inequality is caused by the demand for endless accumulation of capital, which requires high profits through monopolized commodity chains.[29]


Maritime Trade and Global Repositioning

Additional starting points of research might be not only the significant issue of agrarian capitalism or of the agrarian origins of capitalism, with all the similarities and differences between Western Europe, Asia, Africa, Russia, Balkans, etc., but also the related problems of technology transfer and global transition e.g. from the sail to the steamships, gas, railway, electricity, oil, automobiles, informatics and biotechnology.

On regard of Greece and its broader region, the main feature was the investments in transportation and steamships, during the second half of the 19th century, and especially seagoing ships, in the second half of the 20th century. The transport-communications sector presented, since 1950, a remarkable increase among the overall investment activity, public or private, which soared from 2.62 billion drachmas in 1958 to 22.97 billion drachmas in 1974. The transport and communications sector displayed larger public than private gross investments just because the seagoing ships were not included in the tables.[30]

Concerning, however, the proportion of shipping in private investments, we must consider the upgrading of the role of the Greek entrepreneurs, in the Anglo-American commercial antagonism, raising from the position of regional dependant (e.g. Greek communities in Egypt) to the status of the assets teammate (e.g. Greek ship-owners), which was the result of: a) The high technological advances that accelerated the internationalization of markets, b) the war reparations that reached to 500% of the value of the entire commercial fleet, and c) the 100 Liberty ships endowed by the U.S. to the Greek ship-owners in 1947. These Liberties tripled the capacity of the fleet. Thus, the ship-owner Laimos[31] was arguing that the value of the ships of the Greek commercial navy was $5.5 billion in 1967, while the country’s national wealth without shipping deserved $10.5 billion.[32] Clearly, in this certain space-time, territorialism was not the case:

In the territorialist strategy controls over territory and population is the objective, and control over mobile capital the means, of state- and war-making. In the capitalist strategy, the relationship between ends and means is turned upside down: control over mobile capital is the objective, and control over territory and population the means.[33]

But the fact remains, that neither global cities nor territorial self-maintenance offer a sufficient strategy against monocentric maldistribution, as expressed with the enormous differences in GDP per person between Luxemburg, Norway and Switzerland, in the highest rank, and Ethiopia, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, in the lowest.[34]


Hegemony or Polycentrism?

The transatlantic contribution to European economic and scientific development, was similar and decisive in many countries, during the second half of the 20th century, by promoting and monitoring the international advancements in science and technology,[35] while posing critical questions concerning Hegemony, e.g. with the Rockefeller Foundation.[36]

The corresponding challenge today, however, is the redefinition of intellectual and moral leadership;[37] the international cooperation in the fields of information technology and communications, eased by unlimited and free bandwidth, processing, speech technology, videoconferencing etc.[38]

Regardless the disputes over historicists’ arguments, it is clear that the innovative transformations are possible only in the level of global cooperation, which emerged after the birth and the expansion of global trade.[39] The transition however cannot be fruitful, without a substantial progress in democratic and economic reforms, whereas entire regions and productive sectors are being categorized as ‘problematic’.

Therefore, the repositioning should become not only regionally but also globally questioned, without ‘exceptions’ e.g. placements in shipping, which constantly cover 80% of global transports, while benefited by the internationalization of markets, rather than the development of local economies. The reformers should stress the common experiences, repetitive in time, across the transatlantic horizons, such as the historical examples of printing, cotton industry, rotary kiln, railroadization and electrification, which managed to unify the scattered populations and to bridge the gaps in development.

That is, the answer to the current threat of unequal development, visible from Greece to Africa, Middle East, Russia and Asia, passes only through an “integration to the extent of combining mining, rail-roads, docks, and fleets” with information revolution and international, transatlantic cooperation.[40]




  • Andrea, Alfred J.: “The Silk Road in World History: A Review Essay”. In: Asian Review of World Histories 2, 1 (2014), pp. 105-127.
  • Antonopoulou, Sofia. The After War Economy and the Housing Phenomenon (Special Lessons of City Planning I, 7th Semester). Department of Architecture Engineering, Sector: City and Social Practices. Athens: National Technical University, 1989.
  • Arrighi, Giovanni: The Long Twentieth Century. Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London, New York: Verso, 1994.
  • Braudel, Fernand: Civilization and Capitalism 15th–18th Century. 1 [: The Structures of Everyday Life]. London: Collins und Harper and Row 1981.
  • Brenner, Robert: “Economic Backwardness in Eastern Europe in Light of Developments in the West”. In: Daniel Chirot (ed.). The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe: Economics and Politics from the Middle Ages until the Early Twentieth Century. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1991.
  • Collins, Michael: “Decolonisation and the ‘Federal Moment’”. In: Diplomacy & Statecraft 24, 1 (2013), pp. 21-40.
  • Dijksterhuis, Eduard J.: “Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes”. Physikalische Blätter 11 (1956), S. 481–494.
  • Drachmann, Aage G.: Große Griechische Erfinder. Zürich: Artemis, 1967.
  • Gill, Stephen (ed.): Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations, Cambridge: University Press 1993.
  • Farrington, Benjamin: Greek Science. Its Meaning for Us. Nottingham: Spokesman, 2000.
  • Finster, Reinhard / Gerd van der Heuvel: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1990.
  • Frank, André Gunder: Kapitalismus und Unterentwicklung in Lateinamerika. Frankfurt a. M:Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1972.
  • Gaudillière, Jean-Paul: “The U.S. in the Rebuilding of European Science”. In: Science, 317 (2007), S. 1173–1174.
  • Gilman, Henry: “Some General Observations Related to Organometallic Chemistry in the U.S.S.R.”. In: Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 26, 5, (1962), pp. 585–589.
  • Gunst, Péter: “Agrarian Systems of Central and Eastern Europe”. In: Daniel Chirot (ed.). The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe: Economics and Politics from the Middle Ages until the Early Twentieth Century. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1991.
  • Haller, Max / Höllinger, Franz: “Zentren und Peripherien in Europa: eine Analyse und Interpretation der Verschiebungen zwischen dem ersten und dritten Viertel des 20. Jahrhunderts”. In: Historical Social Research 20, 2, (1995), pp. 8-54.
  • Heintel, Martin: Einmal Peripherie – immer Peripherie? Szenarien regionaler Entwicklung anhand ausgewählter Fallbeispiele. Abhandlungen zur Geographie und Regionalforschung Band 5. Wien: Institut für Geographie der Universität, 1998.
  • Hellenic Republic. National Accounts of Greece, 1958-1975. Athens: Ministry of Coordination, General Administration of National Accounts. 1976.
  • Hopkins, Terence K. / Immanuel Wallerstein (coordinators): The Age of Transition. London: Zed Books 1996.
  • Kennedy, Paul: The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. New York: Random House 1987.
  • Komlosy, Andrea: “Arbeit und Werttransfer im Kapitalismus. Vielfalt der Erscheinungsformen und Operationalisierung”. In: Geschichte Online 9 (2012), pp. 36–62.
  • Laimos, Andreas. The Navy of the Greek Nation (2 volumes). Athens: Tsikopoulos. 1969.
  • Lammers, Konrad: Die Osterweiterung aus raumwirtschaftlicher Perspektive-Prognosen regionalökonomischer Theorien und Erfahrungen aus der bisherigen Integration in Europa. HWWA Discussion Paper Hamburg: Hamburgisches Weltwirtschaftsarchiv, 2002.
  • Landes, David S. The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750. Cambridge: University Press. 1969.
  • Lucky, Robert: “The Quickening of Science Communication”. In: Science 289, 5477 (2000), 259–264.
  • Malowist, Marian: “Quelques observations sur le commerce de l’or dans le Soudan occidental au moyen âge”. In: Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations. 25e année, N. 6 (1970), pp. 1630–1636.
  • Paine, Lincoln P.: “Maritime History”. In: W. H. McNeill et al. (eds). Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History, Vol. 3. Massachusetts: Great Barrington, 2005, pp. 1188–1195.
  • Perez, Carlota: “Finance and Technical Change: A Neo-Schumpeterian Perspective”. In: H. Hanusch and A. Pyka (eds). The Elgar Companion to Neo-Schumpeterian Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar 2004.
  • Psyroukis, Nikos: History of Modern Greece. Athens: Epikairotita 1975.
  • Schmid, Christine / Christine Unrau: “Territoriale Zentren und Peripherien”. In: Dorothee Koch (ed.) / Arbeitsgruppe “Zentrum und Peripherie in soziologischen Differenzierungstheorien”: Mythos Mitte. Wirkmächtigkeit, Potenzial und Grenzen der Unterscheidung ‘Zentrum/Peripherie’. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 2011.
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  • Sen, Tansen / Victor H. Mair: Traditional China in Asian and World History. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, Inc., 2012.
  • Wallerstein, Immanuel: The Modern World System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600–1750. New York: Academic Press 1980.
  • Weber, Max: General Economic History. New York: Collier 1961.
  • Wood, Ellen Meiksins: The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View. London: Verso 2002.
  • Wood, Frances / Mark Barnard: The Diamond Sutra: The Story of the World’s Earliest Dated Printed Book. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Žmolek, Michael Andrew: Rethinking the Industrial Revolution. Five Centuries of Transition from Agrarian to Industrial Capitalism in England. Leiden: Brill 2013.





[1] Giovanni Arrighi: The Long Twentieth Century. Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London, New York: Verso, 1994; Carlota Perez: “Finance and technical change: A Neo-Schumpeterian perspective”. In: H. Hanusch and A. Pyka (eds). The Elgar Companion to Neo-Schumpeterian Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar 2002; Michael Andrew Žmolek: Rethinking the Industrial Revolution. Five Centuries of Transition from Agrarian to Industrial Capitalism in England. Leiden: Brill 2013.

[2] Péter Gunst: Agrarian Systems of Central and Eastern Europe; Robert Brenner: Economic Backwardness in Eastern Europe in Light of Developments in the West. In: Daniel Chirot (ed.). The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe: Economics and Politics from the Middle Ages until the Early Twentieth Century. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1991; Max Haller / Franz Höllinger: “Zentren und Peripherien in Europa: eine Analyse und Interpretation der Verschiebungen zwischen dem ersten und dritten Viertel des 20. Jahrhunderts”. In: Historical Social Research 20, 2, (1995), pp. 8-54.

[3] David E. Nye: Technology Matters, Questions to live with. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press 2006.

[4] John Milios: “Asiatic Mode of Production”. In: Phillip Anthony O’Hara (ed.): Encyclopedia of Political Economy. Routledge Publishers, London 1999, pp. 18-20.

[5] William H. McNeill: The Pursuit of Power. Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000. The University of Chicago Press 1982.

[6] Alfred J. Andrea: “The Silk Road in World History: A Review Essay”. In: Asian Review of World Histories 2, 1 (2014), pp. 105-127.

[7] Frances Wood / Mark Barnard: The Diamond Sutra: The Story of the World’s Earliest Dated Printed Book. London: British Library, 2010.

[8] Alfred J. Andrea: “The Silk Road in World History: A Review Essay”. Ibid. here p. 110.

[9] Tansen Sen / Victor H. Mair: Traditional China in Asian and World History. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, Inc., 2012; Paul Kennedy: The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. New York: Random House 1987.

[10] The Pursuit of Power. Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000. The University of Chicago Press 1982.

[11] Greek Science. Its Meaning for Us. Nottingham: Spokesman, 2000.

[12] Große Griechische Erfinder. Zürich: Artemis, 1967.

[13] Eduard J. Dijksterhuis: “Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes”. In: Physikalische Blätter 11 (1956), pp. 481–494.

[14] Eduard J. Dijksterhuis: Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer, 1983, here p. 121.

[15] Reinhard Finster / Gerd van der Heuvel: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt 1990.

[16] Martin Heintel: Einmal Peripherie – immer Peripherie? Szenarien regionaler Entwicklung anhand ausgewählter Fallbeispiele. Abhandlungen zur Geographie und Regionalforschung Band 5. Wien: Institut für Geographie der Universität 1998.

[17] Collins, Michael: “Decolonisation and the ‘Federal Moment’”. In: Diplomacy & Statecraft 24, 1 (2013), pp. 21-40.

[18] Max Weber: General Economic History. New York: Collier 1961.

[19] Immanuel Wallerstein: The Modern World System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750. New York: Academic Press 1980.

[20] Terence K. Hopkins / Immanuel Wallerstein (coordinators): The Age of Transition. London: Zed Books 1996.

[21] Konrad Lammers: Die Osterweiterung aus raumwirtschaftlicher Perspektive-Prognosen regionalökonomischer Theorien und Erfahrungen aus der bisherigen Integration in Europa. HWWA Discussion Paper 195. Hamburg: Hamburgisches Weltwirtschaftsarchiv, 2002, here p. 3.

[22] Michael Andrew Žmolek: Rethinking the Industrial Revolution. Five Centuries of Transition from Agrarian to Industrial Capitalism in England. Leiden: Brill 2013, here p. 3.

[23] Giovanni Arrighi: The Long Twentieth Century. Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London, New York: Verso, 1994, here p. 14.

[24] Marian Malowist: “Quelques observations sur le commerce de l’or dans le Soudan occidental au moyen âge”. In: Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations. 25e année, N. 6 (1970), pp. 1630-1636.

[25] Andrea Komlosy: “Arbeit und Werttransfer im Kapitalismus. Vielfalt der Erscheinungsformen und Operationalisierung”. In: Sozial.Geschichte Online 9 (2012), pp. 36–62.

[26] The After War Economy and the Housing Phenomenon (Special Lessons of City Planning I, 7th Semester). Department of Architecture Engineering, Sector: City and Social Practices. Athens: National Technical University, 1989.

[27] Giovanni Arrighi: The Long Twentieth Century. Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London, New York: Verso, 1994, here p. 15.

[28] André Gunder Frank: Kapitalismus und Unterentwicklung in Lateinamerika. Frankfurt a. M: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1972; André Gunder Frank: Latin America: Underdevelopment or revolution: Essays on the development of underdevelopment and the immediate enemy. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969; Immanuel Wallerstein: The Modern World System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600-1750. New York: Academic Press 1980.

[29] Terence K. Hopkins / Immanuel Wallerstein (coordinators): The Age of Transition. London: Zed Books 1996.

[30] Hellenic Republic: National Accounts of Greece, 1958-1975. Athens: Ministry of Coordination, General Administration of National Accounts 1976, Table 17.

[31] Andreas Laimos: The Navy of the Greek Nation (2 volumes). Athens: Tsikopoulos 1969.

[32] Nikos Psyroukis: History of Modern Greece. Athens: Epikairotita 1975.

[33] Giovanni Arrighi: The Long Twentieth Century. Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London, New York: Verso, 1994, here p. 35.

[34] Christine Schmid / Christine Unrau: “Territoriale Zentren und Peripherien”. In: Dorothee Koch (ed.) / Arbeitsgruppe “Zentrum und Peripherie in soziologischen Differenzierungstheorien”: Mythos Mitte. Wirkmächtigkeit, Potenzial und Grenzen der Unterscheidung ‘Zentrum/Peripherie’. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 2011.

[35] Henry Gilman: “Some General Observations Related to Organometallic Chemistry in the U.S.S.R.”. In: Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences 26, 5, (1962), pp. 585-589.

[36] Jean-Paul Gaudillière: “The U.S. in the Rebuilding of European Science”. In: Science 317 (2007), pp. 1173-1174.

[37] Stephen Gill (ed.): Gramsci, Historical Materialism and International Relations, Cambridge: University Press 1993.

[38] Robert Lucky: “The Quickening of Science Communication”. In: Science 289, 5477 (2000), pp. 259–264.

[39] Lincoln P. Paine: “Maritime History”. In: W. H. McNeill et al. (eds.). In: Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History, Vol. 3. Massachusetts: Great Barrington, 2005.

[40] Joseph A. Schumpeter: Business Cycles. A Theoretical, Historical and Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process. New York: McGraw-Hill 1939.

Mobility for the Mainland: The Contribution of the Railway to the Emergence of the Age of Speed



Railway – not only as a means of transport, but also as a technological invention and a social construction – was mainly responsible for the diffusion of the Industrial Environment. With the Railways broadly disseminated in space, the natural environment was innovated. In England, especially, the transition was gradual, surpassing the previous slow rates of the canals transportation. By contrast, in developing areas such as the Balkans, the gap between pre-industrial and railway transport was enormous, because, until then, the chances for continental mobility were quite uncommon. In general, however, Railways and Industry provoked novel theoretical conceptions such as calculations of risks relating to technology, problems of governance and control of technical systems, energy policy, environmental issues, computational technology, scientific management, globalization and many other areas of development of the technological systems.

Keywords: Railways, Mobility, Globalization

1. Introduction: From the Mines to the Rail

With the exploitation of Steam, the natural environment started being metamorphosed into innovative Power and Speed networks. The steam engines appeared in the seventeenth century: Denis Papin produced a piston steam engine, the first steam-powered vehicle and the first steam cylinder. Thomas Newcomen combined the ideas of Thomas Savery and Denis Papin, to build the first practical steam engine for pumping water, the predecessor of all subsequent thermal engines, including internal combustion engines. At the same time, Isaac Potter manufactured steam engines in distant Slovakia. Mårten Triewald manufactured also a famous steam engine in Sweden, using wood as fuel, and later came to England, where he worked with Newcomen’s assistant to build four new engines (Cardwell, 2004).

Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that the steam engine was first built by James Watt, who tried to reduce the excessive steam loss. Watt thought that the condensation of vapour should occur in an isolated space, the separate condenser, which communicates with the cylinder and allows reducing the losses of latent energy. Around 1780, Watt using gears turned reciprocation of the steam engine to rotary motion. In 1782, he introduced double-acting engine and in 1784 he perfected it with parallel motion of assembled rods. In 1788, he applied the centrifugal speed governor and in 1790 he incorporated the manometer in the steam engine.

George Stephenson built in 1815-16 two improved steam locomotives. Since 1814, he started – with the assistance of R. Trevithick – the manufacture of locomotives connecting transport sectors of production. In 1818, he made the first scientific studies on the resistance of the rail line in connection with the loadings and intersection. In 1823, he founded the world’s first locomotive factory. Later he built the locomotive Rocket, which reached a speed of 50 km.

In fact, the railroads were the centuries-old useful means of transportation of raw materials, usually horse-drawn. But even in 1860 there were many who believed that travelling by train may have adverse effects on the head, heart and lungs, especially to the infirm. Until 1870, trains were moving with luggage tied to the roof racks of wagons. Others preferred to use steam only in carriages on public roads, not in rail. They considered the trains too long (Quinn, 1998). The satirical Punch was distinguishing the two great powers, the steam and the electricity, emphasizing their value for the improvement of wellbeing (Freeman, 1999).

The expansion of the railway was historically depended on its effectiveness. It is often thought that an investment in rail is profitable when there is a large amount of cargo for movement, i.e. orders of millions per year; thus, in case of high density transport and huge volumes. In addition, the railway transport predominates firmly in middle distances, i.e. from 400 to 1500 km. With the guidance of vehicles in their orbits, trains have – for the same deck width – a much larger capacity than car.

2. Industrial Revolution and Railroad: The Stage of Dissemination

Railway became popular because it is useful, cheap and affordable for all class strata. It is indeed a wonderful way for recreation and daydreaming. Simultaneously, it is an irreplaceable means for the transportation of heavy loads over long distances. Accordingly, railway is related to the emergence of mass consumption society, which is coupled with bulk sale and mass production. At the end of the nineteenth century, the railway and the postal service created large economic areas, as Vahrenkamp (2011) contends.

In the West, the nineteenth century was marked by the emergence of the industrial revolution, which brought about the victory of capitalism, a development that was associated with a number of factors, such as revenues from big trade, population growth, increasingly efficient machines, prevalence of the steam engine, mechanization of the production, development of the textile industry, and generally industrial production (Berstein and Milza, 1997; Papayannakis, 1991).

The change in the means of production became evident in every latitude and longitude by: a) the use of new forms of energy, e.g. where coal is associated with the steam engine. b) The mechanization of production and the emergence of a modern metallurgy. c) A significant growth (around 2% per annum) of innovative industry and a new organization of work that replaced the traditional system of crafts with concentration of capital and people in large production units.

Clearly, with the development of industry in late 18th and 19th century the structure of traffic loads had fundamentally changed; thus, large shipments of building and many other materials became necessary. The emergence and spread of the railroad is arguably the most characteristic change of the industrial revolution. Transferring large volumes at low cost is the groundbreaking and valuable component that renders important economic value in commodity production and circulation. Freight costs with the first rails were four to seven times smaller than with wagons, which reached low speeds, only sixteen km per hour. The railway cost was also smaller than the cost of transportation by boat through shallow rivers and canals.

The first public railway was the line Stockton – Darlington, built in 1825 by Stephenson. In 1830 a railway between Liverpool and Manchester was built. In late 1827, the canal Delaware – Hudson was constructed for the transportation of coal from north-eastern Pennsylvania. The first sixty miles had to be covered by railway, because the trail was uphill (Larkin, 1995).

In 1835 there were 1,600 km of railways in the U.S. and 14,500 km in 1850. In 1837, a railway was built in Russia. In the 1830s railroads appeared in Austria, Germany, Belgium, France and other countries. Between 1850 and 1870, railway construction started in Canada, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia.

The largest increase in the construction took place between 1880 and 1890 and prior to the First World War, when over 20,000 km of railway lines were being built annually. In 1904, the Trans-Siberian started; very important for the Japanese market also. In the early twentieth century, the rail network around the world exceeded one million kilometres.

The railways were the cumulative effect of basic capitalist industries of coal, iron and steel, and the more staring indicator of world trade growth. The railway boom was a blow-up of industrialization in general. Not only boosted a huge demand of coal and many industrial goods; but also, allowing commodities to move faster from the factory to the railway station, it reduced the time needed to sell. This meant faster returns on invested capital, money that could be reinvested to produce more commodities.

Gradually, with the opening in the whole world market, to an extent that has never been reached before, the rise of the railways caused the production of adequate quantities of material goods in order to ensure the early windup of the industrialization of the West (Burns, 1984).

In the mainland, paved road was pushed to the backstage by rail; in the sea the slow and infrequent sailing vessel was displaced by the rapid and frequent steamship. The steam served the need for large shipments of iron, ore, coal, lumber, building materials and many other commodities. Thus, the duration of one consignment to East Asia, which in 1847 was taking at least twelve months, was soon being limited to an approximately equal number of weeks (Marx, 1979).

The new global transport system was reducing the cost and time of transport, while the opening of the interior of new states, provided the European industry with additional markets and increasing quantities of cheap raw materials and foodstuff.


2.1 Caravans, Camels and Railways in the Ottoman Empire

The railway construction in the Balkans was introduced after the War in Crimea, with the construction of the lines from the Black Sea to Danube, from Niš and Sofia to Adrianople and Constantinople, and also the lines Thessaloniki-Belgrade, Thessaloniki-Bitola, Thessaloniki-Istanbul, Izmir-Aydin and Izmir-Cassaba. All these projects were scheduled by the Ottoman government’s involvement and assistance, aiming especially at the expropriation of land (Gounaris, 1993).

In April 1869, the Sultan granted to a group of Austrian entrepreneurs the permission to build 1,500 miles of Balkan railways from the Austrian border to Niš, Sofia, Adrianople and Istanbul. This line, an investment of the Austrian Hirsch, was completed between 1872 and 1888.

The Ottoman Ministry of Public Works was founded in 1865. Then, the Ottoman roads were divided into 4 categories: Imperial (width about 7.5 meters), Metropolitan (about 5.5 meters), Regional (about 4.5 meters) and other smaller (about 3.5 meters). But, for example, the imperial road Thessaloniki-Yannitsa was grooved in the summer, muddy in winter and miserable all the time. Approaching the Serbian border, the road was barely crossed. The imperial road leading to Bitola was in a similar condition.

In the nineteenth century Ottoman Macedonia, sometimes one stumbled upon herds of camels driven by the unchanging little donkey, loaded with packages of goods, passing slowly along the road, as Gounaris (1993) envisages; horses and mules also, with similar freights; occasionally a caravan of heavy Bulgarian carts dragged by buffaloes; the wheels were never greased and they were squeaking, groaning and screeching with an unbelievable way for civilized countries.

In Southern Greece, however, there was neither rural wagon, not even the two wheeled cart; there were no roads, but only beasts of burden and paths. The road Athens-Corinth is crossed today in 1-2 hours. In the early 20th century it was 4 hours; before the construction of the railroad, in 1880, it was three days in the summer, shore to shore by the Saronic Gulf, and 4 days in winter – in groups only, in daylight, for the fear of robbers.

The other big road from Athens to Thessaloniki, which is covered today in 6-8 hours, it was 2-3 days in 1914; before the construction of the railway to Larissa, it was often 7 days in the summer and 14 days in winter, because passengers were threading along the Aegean Coast or waiting to cross swollen rivers.

In 1903, the zoologist Gottfried Stransky, from Vienna, spent three days, with the steamer of the Austrian Lloyd, to reach Saranda from Trieste. After Saranda, he spent two and a half days, riding on a horse, to get through a good and maintained road to Ioannina, as Enepekidis (1984) conveyed. In the early nineteenth century, the journey from Bitola to Skopje was 28 hours; from Bitola to Kastoria 16 hours, and to Kozani 21 hours. Moreover, only with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the distances England – India and France – Indochina were reduced by 40% and 50% respectively. In 1934, the Greek owned cargo ship St. Thalassini made two months, to get from Buenos Aires to Dakar. It took another eighteen days to arrive in Londonderry, Ireland. In 1963 the route Odessa – Cuba was taking still about fifty days. The much shorter trip from Navarino to Port Said was taking three days. The passage through Suez was three hours and fifty minutes long (Harlaftis, 2003).

2.2 An Attempt for Industrialization through Rail and Steam

In 1832, political refugees, supporters of Saint-Simon, arrived in Nafplio, Greece. The most famous of them, Gustave Eichtal, was appointed to the Finance Council of State, while Francois Grailland was the one who organized the Greek gendarmerie. These political refugees and optimists proposed to the Greek government a whole range of infrastructure projects such as the opening of the Isthmus of Corinth and the construction of roads. Saint-Simon believed that the acceleration of the transportation was the key for economic progress.

Around 1856, Greece introduced the steam shipping. The general capacity of the merchant marine fleet went from 330,000 tons in 1866, to 404,000 in 1870, while falling to 262,032 in 1875, due to the abandonment of the sail. Legislation was also introduced, to facilitate ship-owning and commerce: building and repairing ports, telegraph (1859), postal services (1862), construction of a limited road network, etc.

Furthermore, the factors that pushed road building were: economic growth, faster rates of urbanization, creation of central railways, and development of internal trade. The inhibitors were the big construction cost of mountain roads and the competition of maritime transport. Other important public works of the period were the drainage of large areas covered by lakes, the digging of the Corinth Canal (1881-1893), the coupling of the Strait of Euripus and the construction of lighthouses.

In 1835, the French Francis Feraldi had proposed the construction of the railway from Athens to Piraeus, gaining the overall approval of the press. At the same time, in England, the railway was the symbol of modern times and the synonym of development. On 16th June 1855, Mavrocordatos’s government introduced the bill for the Athens-Piraeus railroad. From 1857 to 1867, four different companies were undertaking the railways task. Eventually, the railroad Athens – Piraeus was completed (8.5 km) in February 1869, within 12 years.

In August 1869, Vitalis, a genius engineer who built the line Calabria – Sicily proposed a 305 km project, which would link Athens to Thebes, Kopais and Parnassus to Kravasara in Amfilochia, where steamships would ensure connection with the Italian line. His plan, however, was dismissed as wacky, as Papayannakis (1982) comments. Proposals were rejected one after another, while the developers couldn’t manage to form a company.

The political discussions over railways emerged from the following events: In the 1850s the national railway networks were formed. In the decades from 1850 to 1860, national networks were linked between each other. From the late 1860s onwards the states started seeking for new outlets in transportation.

International competition around transportation referred to two different commercial routes: a) the BritishFrench, who reached up to Marseilles or Brindisi; and by ship to Suez, and from there to India, b) the GermanAustrian line Vienna – Istanbul – Baghdad (with a deviation to Thessaloniki).

3. The Origins of the Trikoupian Positivism

In 1882, with Trikoupis’ government, a decade of railways started. During this first decade (1883-1892) the average annual increase in active network was 91 km per year. In the second decade (1893-1902) the increase did not exceed 15 km per year. Thus, in 1902, a total of 1,065 km operated, whereas the final contracts for another 520 km were signed, to be constructed gradually until 1910 (65 km per year).

Those twenty years were stamped by the Trikoupian positivism, as Papayannakis (1982) noted. But Trikoupis was a political expression of a general trend of an epoch insisting in favour of progress, technological development and rational social life.

The main backer of the railway construction was the state, borrowing from foreign credit institutions and individuals (by 30%). The total cost reached 250 million drachmas. Until 1893, only 145 million had been spent, while the state’s participation was 5 million per year, i.e. 5% of the annual budget or 13% of the public debt. The railway investment demanded a 2.5% of national income. 65% of the funding came from sources outside Greece (mainly English), i.e. mostly public and private loans.

Meanwhile, in 1895, a quite strange book was being published in London, unsigned: The true history of the Piraeus-Larissa Railway and Refutation of the Published by Messrs. Eckersley, Godfrey & Liddelow, Concerning the Greek Government.

According to the anonymous authors, the Greek government had entrusted the project to English investors who had neither experience nor the necessary prerequisites. Then, the investors assigned parts of the project to subinvestors, and they to other sub-investors etc. However, Trikoupis had treated them leniently, consenting to pay for the rails and bunks an amount of 3,000,000 francs, long before works begin.

All Greek governments of that period dealt the specific investors with the utmost mildness and indulgence, even though defective constructions were being identified in many parts of the line, as in Lianokladi. The authors of the book (The true history, 1895), two years before the Greek-Turkish war, catch up even to inform brokers and readers that Greek civil personnel were anxious to complete the railway taking any risk.

3.1 The construction and its results

The first five years falsified initial hopes, as only 540 km had been given to traffic. Overall, in the decade 18821892, some 900 km of railway lines were built. Trikoupis could not foresee that the network would take 25 years to built, and not five, as calculated.

After the bankruptcy, followed by the war in 1897 and the International Auditing, the project completed only in 1909; then, from 1901 to 1909 another 600 kilometres were built. In 1914, the Greek State had 1,371 km of railways. In March 1918, the first train from Athens reached Thessaloniki. In July 1920, the first Simplon – Orient Express was launched from Paris to Athens.

But the railroad, attracting for a short time (during construction) a large percentage of workers, could not quickly compensate the expenses made for payroll. Once recruited, thousands of workers had to be paid for a heavy manual labour; manufacturers were forced to make pauses in the progress of the projects and to expect the gradual operation of small parts of line to cover the capital deployed.

A second explanation for the lower proportion of profits refers to each and every large business. The funds of these companies are the biggest ones; but compared with the smaller funds and large (per cent) profits of small companies, the huge companies may not present big profits.

Very large companies with extremely high contribution of fixed capital, such as railways, do not yield the average profit rate, but only a part of that. Otherwise, the general rate of profit would fall even further down. This is why, in railways and other large technical systems, a great mass of capital finds a direct field of action by the form of shares.

3.2 Ports, mainland and rail

The railroad offered broad and regular transport services to scattered ports and inland towns. Thus, an important characteristic of the Greek network were the lines linking towns with ports. These lines connected: Pyrgos with Katakolo; Lavrio with Athens; Volos with Larissa; Kalambaka with Volos; Messolongi with Kryoneri; Piraeus with Patras; Kyparissia with Kalamata; Isthmus with Nafplio; Athens and Thebes with Chalkis.

Among all Greek ports, however, only Piraeus expanded largely. This phenomenon is another side of what is usually called unidirectional or uneven development. Anyway, the development of transportation infrastructure requires, among other, thriving urban centres, developed cities. But under the feudal system of Byzantium the city languished; furthermore, the withering of the city worsened by the Ottoman feudalism, with a subsequent impact on transport. For example, while in classical times the journey from Athens to Corinth was lasting two days; and while in Roman times, even with cobblestones streets, it was lasting fifteen hours, nevertheless, during the next centuries absolutely no progress was made, but, on the contrary, regression.

Therefore, ‘the effort to endow the country with roadway was able to flourish only around the small towns located on or near ports, in seafarers’ towns that live and work focusing on the overall game of local exchanges’, as Synarelli (1989) stressed.

Railroad, however, was the first utility that gave non-discriminatory, fair, broad and regular transportation to the scattered Greek ports and inland cities such as Tripoli, Lamia, Thebes, Livadia, Larissa etc. Thus, not only met local development needs of coastal areas, but offered a serious network of concentration and coordination of the ‘backbone’ of the country.

3.3 Banks and Ship-owners

Not only ports, islands and towns changed, but also villages, countryside, agriculture, manufacture and trade were being also metamorphosed. The change in circumstances with the appearance of the train offered illustrious images: ‘Perhaps the same people – or at least the same type of entrepreneur – who a few years ago invested part of their funds in a small steam mill or olive press, or even spinning manufacture, now they build these big depots along the railway line, where the selection of qualities, the weighing and packaging of raisins take place’, as Agriantoni (1986) elucidates.

Papayannakis, moreover, identifies two additional reasons that accelerated the construction of railways in late nineteenth century Greece: a) The phylloxera epidemic in the French vineyards was pushing France to request raisins for their cheap wines. This event opened up a huge market from 1872 to 1892. Thus, the production and export of raisins, which constituted the bulk of Greece’s total exports, increased dramatically. b) The economic crisis that broke out in 1873 and contracted the global economy over the last quarter of the nineteenth century, although enforcing political isolationism and aggressive imperialism, turned, however, investments towards new markets and innovative profitable placements. Hence, an investment shift was directed to the dependent countries, where interest rates were 5 or 6 times larger.

This development led to place funds in the form of loans in dependent countries such as Greece, and support their industrialization. Lending to the Greek government is, nevertheless, characterized as ‘predatory’ by Dertilis (1977). Clearly, there was a flow of funds to Greece and, despite the difficulties in the years 1883-1888, development started because of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the Corinth Canal in 1891, the international trade, e.g. export of Ukrainian wheat in Greece, and the further increase in commodities exchanges.

This progress contributed to the creation of a new ruling class, consisted of steam-ship owners. Meanwhile, the global recession and the foreign trade crisis had the paradoxical effect of creating for the first time a domestic market in Greece, facilitated in 1884 by a tariff war.

However, resale economy and imperialism maintained their significance for the country: From 1881, banks in Frankfurt and Dresden involved in major railway loans. Ottoman Greek businessmen participated also, such as Syggros, who built mines and railways and established banks for the control of credit and public annuities.

Simultaneously, around 1904, Germany managed to create another pole of influence in Greece, through the collaboration between Deutsche Bank and National Bank of Greece for the joint establishment of the Bank of East; an ambitious investment program that extended beyond the Greek territory, throughout the Ottoman Empire and the Christian Balkans, claiming to jeopardise the leadership of Great Britain and France, as Moskov (1978) insisted.

4. Evaluation of the Greek Railway Project

After a short period of growth, the average number of passengers per kilometre remained remarkably stable; the volume of goods transported per kilometre showed a slight upward trend; the average distance in transfers remained stable, both for passengers and for freight. The mobility was decreasing in the hinterland, regarding both passengers and goods. With the exception of exportable commodities, the transported goods consisted of surplus production and the minimum necessary for survival goods that could not be produced by the village. All these indicate that the Greek province had not yet been liberated from pre-capitalist relations, such as the small family farm, the home consumption, the limited exchange relations and low mobility.

In the late 1880s to 1890s, the military and railway activity delimited the available funds. There was also the factor of the lack of raw materials. At the same time, from the early 18th century until the 19th century, the English iron production became twentyfold bigger and the Belgian tenfold. On the contrary, in Greece, the construction of railways didn’t fulfil the purpose for which it was decided. In developed countries, in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the construction of railways contributed to capitalist transformation and industrialization. In Greece, however, the majority of raw materials were imported, and also the technicians were French and Swiss.

Dertilis (2005) saw this irony in the myth of the Greek Railways: such an investment could not become productive, since Greece does not have enough iron and coal to generate network industries and rail materials. In fact, many historians, such as Dertilis, believe that shipping competes, degrades and defeats trains.

Of course, this is a false and careless remark, since: a) Shipping only benefits could derive from the extension of the railway. b) Competition may be well managed to prove beneficial. c) The modernization procedure is – first and foremost – synchronization of the production and transport.

But how could we explain this miscalculation? Dertilis believes that the funds invested in the railway halted the capacity of the Greek commercial fleet from 1860 to 1901. Thus, he underestimates the great feat that was achieved during that same period, i.e. the transition from sail to the steam. The defectiveness of his analysis is clearly illustrated by his claim that the most promising area of the Greek economy [shipping] and the wealthier segment of the domestic bourgeoisie [the ship-owners] were sentenced to a long hibernation by the appearance of the railway!

However, it is completely misleading and simplistic to identify and isolate a supposed issue of unfair competition between rail and shipping. The fleet of steamships was growing rapidly: 8,244 tons in 1875, 44,500 tons in 1890, 144,975 tons in 1895, 492,500 tons in 1914 and 893,650 tons in 1915, corresponding to 475 ships. A partnership with the railroad, both in Greece and in the Mediterranean, only positively might motivate the shipping business.

5. Railway: The First Large Technical System

The railroad had a vital role in the emergence of the new industrial world. It was the first large technical system. The term Large Technical System (LTS) denotes elaborated and vast technological networks, which are broadly disseminated in space, acquiring a complex social and technical character; for example, electricity, railroads and telephone networks. These systems include industrial companies, utilities, investment banks, books, articles, academic teaching and research programs, legislation, natural resources, raw materials, coal, turbine generators (turbo), transformers, transmission lines, etc.

In the generalized model of the LTS there are three main phases: The first phase begins with a radical invention, supplying new technological systems, which are developed, mainly with public access and integration in the economic and political field, in order to become viable. During the invention and development phase, the inventors – engineers solve critical problems. This first phase ends with the promotion of innovation in such a way that it acquires effective use. The second phase, which may occur at different times in the entire history of the systems, is diffusion. The third phase maximizes systems through competition and stabilization, which means: Rationalization, Effectiveness, and Intensification of capital.

During innovation, competition and maximizing, the manager and the engineers take crucial decisions. Later however, during stabilization and rationalization, the funders – engineers and the consulting engineers, especially those who have political influence, often solve the critical problems associated with the size and momentum of the system (Joerges, 1988).

The development of large technical systems, hence, introduces many different factors into play and especially large-scale factors, such as equity funds, banks, and governments. These inventors, organizers, and governors of technological systems prefer more hierarchy, so the schemes tend over time towards a hierarchical structure.

The large technical systems are social constructions but, simultaneously, they formulate society (Cooper, 2011). This is also a belief of the engineers, who related apprenticeship in engineering education with the work of engineering and human relations (Quinn, 1998). A similar view of the function of the LTS is presented by Edward W. Constant II (1987). Technological knowledge is in the hands of the community. Collectives of artisans and other professionals may work together to create a system. The completion of this multifaceted process involves a complex organization, which the author identifies with techno-structure, theoretical term introduced by John Kenneth Galbraith (1967).

We can find a primal depiction of the aforementioned concepts in the works of Grenville M. Dodge and his associates (Dodge, 1910). In his book How we built the Union Pacific Railway, he describes, with a rough vernacular, the stages of the expansion of the railroad in the U.S. In the photos included in the book, we can see the huge bridges and other structures, but also the fiery look of the creative leading builders of the railway.

Dodge was one of the most important railwaymen in nineteenth century and Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railway from 1866 to 1870. He supported the construction of the project by the state and met, for this purpose, with President Lincoln. The president promised to help and support but did not want to fund it. Finally, this railway was constructed privately.

The contemporary themes of historiography around the large technical systems are very broad and diverse; including problems of detection of risks that could be caused by technology; problems of governance and control of technical systems, of energy policy, defence issues, safety of flight, computational technology; and they are extended to many other areas of development of technological systems.

5.1 A construction shift and a revolution in the perception of time

Modern rail transport is the result of a long process of network development and processing of individual parts such as rails, stations, wagons, traction, signalizing devices and media. Mining, metallurgy and large-scale industry are closely linked to the beginning of the railway. Apart from fuel and water, railways use tons of metal, especially iron and steel.

During the interwar period, iron was being imported from Belgium, where prices were cheap and machining facilities very young. In the late nineteenth century, steel became replacing iron. This does not mean that innovation always enters properly and according to the needs. The modernization, for instance, was satisfactory in signalizing, which became effective in the twentieth century. But in the case of brakes, innovations were not progressing: In 1893, 90% of U.S. freight wagons lacked the appropriate air brakes. In the event of a decoupling of wagons, the air pipes were cut and the brakes were not working in the decoupled part of the train.

With railroads, the need for fast transmission of information intensified. The electric telegraph was born to respond to the requirement to control the movement of trains. The first railway telegraph was installed at the Great Western Railway of Britain. In 1842, the Great Western Board ordered an advanced telegraph. Around 1848, 1,800 miles and 200 cities had been covered by the Great Western Telegraph in Britain.

Samuel F. B. Morse built the experimental telegraph in 1844, along the railway Baltimore – Ohio. However, the manager of the company treated him with suspicion. In 1849, in Erie railways, Charles Minot tried to build the telegraph line New York – Erie. But his successor, Daniel McCallum, tapped fully and highlighted the importance of the telegraph for railway. In France, the electric telegraph was first tested at St. Germain. In fact, electricity was introduced in France with signalizing.

The telegraph was associated with another change brought by the railroad, a revolution in the perception of time. Watches existed for centuries, but before nineteenth century, the concept of fixed (standard) time was not yet introduced. Meanwhile, Hans Christian Andersen argued that the railroad was a ‘magical horse’ disappearing space. The abbreviation of space by time should be one of the most popular concepts of the nineteenth century.

In fact, the ‘fixed time’ was an invention of the railroad. Timetables with arrivals and departures were fundamentally important for the railways and became a necessity for passengers. Especially when commuter trains emerged in the urban centre of Boston. The result of all these developments was that in 1849 all railways were synchronized with the so-called ‘Boston time’. Later, on November 18, 1883, six hundred civic railroads abandoned 53 different arbitrary times and adopted a fixed train time with the, familiar to us, time-zones (Salsbury, 1988).

5.2 Diffusion in the Age of Steel. Globalization

The British transport policy until 1830 was organized mainly around the family and the local community, developed along the canals financed by local businesses, without any homogeneous urbanization. But in the middle of the Victorian Era, the railways became the emblem of managerial capitalism, in which ownership and control were completely separated.

In England, by 1830, there were already 1,500 miles of railways. In 1837, the Grand Junction Railway started up, and in 1838 the company line London – Birmingham. The first line-trunk to Scotland opened by the Edinburgh – Glasgow line, in 1842 (Ransom, 1998). The British network reached 2,570 km length in 1842, and 9,790 km in 1850. But only in the late nineteenth century, a complete and increasingly urbanized society of big cities became manifest. Then, the railroad was incorporated in the body of a new compensatory culture, coinciding with the emergence of significant social forces, expressed clearly and visibly in the reforms of 1832 and 1867 (Freeman, 1999).

On the other side, the special case of the Italian railways shows all the characteristics of romantic optimism in favour of national progress and prosperity. With railways, the Italians hoped to increase national income, gain internal integration and bridge the gap between rich north and the poor south, altogether with integration and inclusion of Italy in the group of large economic powers of Europe.

During the 1860s the Italian Statistical Office, led by the internationally recognized statisticians Pietro Maestri and Luigi Bodio, began collecting information for development in the Italian region. The same time, in Lombardy, farmers were investing in improving their crops and researching on advanced agricultural practices (Schram, 1997).

In the first decade after unification, benefits from access to the Italian market were mainly gained by the rich regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. On the other side, the small population and the small number of cities in the south prevented the thickening of the railway network. In 1885-6, there were 4,022 km of railway lines, in the south of Italy, and 45,914 km of roads; while in the limited centre of the country there were 2,176 km of rail lines and 23,612 km of roads, and in the north 5,004 km of rail lines and 61.241 km of roads. Italy, quite early, in 1905, nationalized its network.

In the USA, after the war in 1812, the successors of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, had doubts about whether the Constitution allows the Federal Government to participate in the construction and operation of canals and main roads. Therefore, such plans were left to the states. By the time the railways were becoming an alternative means of transport, many states experienced financial difficulties with overly ambitious plans for canals. Hence, the vast majority of the first railways were the result of private efforts, sometimes undertaken in partnership with local cities or occasionally in collaboration with local governments (Salsbury, 1988).

In the 1850s, the public railroad in the U.S. had four trunk-lines: Baltimore – Ohio, Erie, New York Central and Pennsylvania. The first two, were receiving direct government support at the start. The railroads were promoted because they acquitted merchants from expenses to carry from ship to ship, canal, lake or river.

By 1860, 48,000 km of lines had been built in the U.S. and in 1869 the line Council Bluffs, Iowa – Sacramento, California was built, from the shore of the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Nevertheless, in England, before the eruption of the scandals with railway shares, the financial participation of the state was brushed aside as unnecessary; in France the state started the project and cooperated with private capital. In 1842-46, 50% of rail investment in France was made by the English capitalists of the company London & South Western.

In Belgium, the young state took only the construction, as in the multi-divided southern Germany. In Prussia, however, the initiative belonged to the private capital. In 1855, Germany had 7,500 km of railway, mainly public.

The nationalization took place in 1875 in Bavaria, in 1876 in Saxony and until 1887 in Prussia. In AustriaHungary also, the state eventually prevailed. Meanwhile, the railroads appeared in other countries: Switzerland’s first line, with a length of twenty-four km, from Zürich to Baden, was opened in 1847. In Russia, in 1847, St Petersburg was connected to Moscow. In 1854, steam railways opened in India and Australia.

The first railway line in Japan, connecting Tokyo with Yokohama, 27 km, opened in 1872. Although this country lacked heavy industry, in 1907 Japan had already acquired 10,760 km of railways and 2,000 locomotives. Japan accomplished also to manufacture its own steam engines, thus in 1915 stopped nearly all imports (Ransom, 1998).

In August 1895, with the introduction of steel, the average speed of the train London-Aberdeen reached 63.5 miles per hour. The maximum speed was being developed in Wellington, reaching 100 miles per hour (Bond and Nock, 1975).

6. Conclusions

Mobility and Globalization became and remained permanent characteristics of the Industrial World. An environment without mobility had already been unconceivable. The role of Railway was critical to this transformation. Railway mania, looms, banks, bonds, urbanization and liberalism were openly interrelated throughout the industrial era (Wallerstein, 2011). The centralisation of the modern states, e.g. the USA, with the intra-city transportation, the bridges, the train-ferries and the telegraph, were also business and products of the Age of Steel and Railways (Martin, 1984).

On the contrary, the backwardness of underdeveloped areas such as Eastern Europe was evident until the liberation of the serfs and the participation in the international trade, after the construction of the railway network. This also caused a shift from wine to grain production, which made Budapest, together with Minneapolis, the world’s largest milling centres (Chirot, 1991). However, bureaucracy and military expenditures prevented the expansion of the railways network.


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Vasileios Evangelidis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, on 27th December 1969. In 1995-1996 he participated in the project Registration and Utilisation of Historical Industrial Buildings, organized by the National Research Institute of Greece. Next, in 1996-1997, he carried out research at the project Hellenomnemon for the digital recording of scientific works of the Greek Enlightenment. In 2008, he completed his Master in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (dissertation on the History of Greek Railways). Subsequently, in 20082012, he continued for Ph.D. on the History of Electrification of Rural Greece, investigating the Historical Archives of the Public Power Corporation, the personal archive of E. Tsotsoros (former member of PPC), Oral Testimonies selected by M. Mavroeidi, and other relevant archives, statistics, etc. He is also awarded with an MA in Special Education Needs.


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