The Impact of Science on Politics and Economics

The scientific revolution brought about an imagined order which laid the foundation for all modern science. At the same time, this change in the scientific process occurred both economics and politics were also changing. Politically European empires were beginning to expand across the world by installing colonies in all corners of the world. This allowed European scientists unseen access to different parts of the world and greatly benefited multiple fields of science. However, the science done by these thinkers was also benefiting imperialism. Take Captain Cook’s expedition for example; the cook expedition brought back an immense amount of data that had both scientific and political benefits including a cure to scurvy. This discovery helped Britain gain control of the world’s ocean. “Additionally, the cook expedition laid the foundation for the British occupation of the southwest-Pacific Ocean.” (Harari, 277). This had a devastating impact for the native people of the southwest pacific, “In the following century Australia and New Zealand were settled by Europeans and their native populations fell by up to 90%.” (Harari, 278). At the end of this section Harari poses a simple question, was cooks ship a scientific expedition protected by a military force or a military expedition with a few scientists tagging along.”(Harari, 278), I believe many people today would think the latter.


Science is also intrinsically connected to economics. As we have seen funding is essential to science. Science also has the ability to change economics, in the late 20th century, “American firms realized that they could use advance transportation and communication technologies to access natural resources and cheap labor markets in far distant lands.” (Elmore, 155). Take the example of Monsanto; the company was reliant on the cheap by-products of fossil fuel productions to make its products. “Without cheap oil, Monsanto could not thrive, so it got to work investing in new biotechnology future centered on feeding the world.” (Elmore, 158). This is a prime example of how economics changed the course of scientific advancement in the private sector.


2 thoughts on “The Impact of Science on Politics and Economics

  1. I agree with your view that Cook’s ship seemed to be more military based than scientific. However, despite that, it is undeniable the contributions scientists made throughout European colonization and military exploration. It is hard to imagine what the world would be like today had there been no scientists traveling with the military expeditions. Certainly, we would not have the science and technological understanding we do today. Additionally, those discoveries made during colonization would have been severely delayed and we would currently be in a time of scientific discovery that we have already passed. I also agree with your observations of Monsanto; economic pressures force scientists and companies to get creative and find new ways to achieve their goals.


  2. I think there is a fascinating connection between modern companies’ outsourcing and historical imperialism. I wonder what the world would look like today if scientific/military expeditions like Cook’s never occurred, would modern companies exploit cheap international labor? It is interesting to try and see the modern stains of imperialism through globalization and outsourcing. As for how science benifitted imperialism I liked how you touched on mapp making and “scientific” expiditions. It is easy to assume that scientific thinking would lead to a more progressive mindset which is somewhat true but to see that science helped influence imperialist expansion is quite interesting.


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