For six hundred years, the nations of Europe and North America have periodically attempted to coerce, invade, or conquer other societies. They have relied on their superior technology to do so, yet these technologies have not always guaranteed success. Power over Peoples examines Western imperialism's complex relationship with technology, from the first Portuguese ships that ventured down the coast of Africa in the 1430s to America's conflicts in the Middle East today. Why did the sailing vessels that gave the Portuguese a century-long advantage in the Indian Ocean fail to overcome Muslim galleys in the Red Sea? Why were the same weapons and methods that the Spanish used to conquer Mexico and Peru ineffective in Chile and Africa? Why didn't America's overwhelming air power assure success in Iraq and Afghanistan? In Power over Peoples, Daniel Headrick traces the evolution of Western technologies--from muskets and galleons to jet planes and smart bombs--and sheds light on the environmental and social factors that have brought victory in some cases and unforeseen defeat in others. He shows how superior technology translates into greater power over nature and sometimes even other peoples, yet how technological superiority is no guarantee of success in imperialist ventures--because the technology only delivers results in a specific environment, or because the society being attacked responds in unexpected ways. Breathtaking in scope, Power over Peoples is a revealing history of technological innovation, its promise and limitations, and its central role in the rise and fall of empire.
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For six hundred years, the nations of Europe and North America have periodically attempted to coerce, invade, or conquer other societies. They have relied on their superior technology to do so, yet these technologies have not always guaranteed success. This title examines Western imperialism's complex relationship with technology.
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Acknowledgments ix Introduction Imperialism and Technology 1 On Imperialism 1 On Technology 3 The Goal and Organization of This Book 6 Notes 9 Chapter 1: The Discovery of the Oceans, to 1779 11 Five Seafaring Traditions 11 The Portuguese and the Ocean 20 Navigation 27 The Spanish Voyages 32 Completing the Map of the Oceans 41 Conclusion 50 Notes 51 Chapter 2: Eastern Ocean Empires, 1497-1700 59 The Portuguese in the Indian Ocean 59 The Ottoman Challenge 68 The Limits of Portuguese Power 74 The Dutch and the English in the Indian Ocean 79 China, Japan, and the Europeans 84 Conclusion 87 Notes 89 Chapter 3: Horses, Diseases, and the Conquest of the Americas, 1492-1849 95 The First Encounter: The Caribbean 96 The Conquest of Mexico 101 Peru and Chile 112 Argentina and North America 118 Disease and Demography 123 Conclusion 131 Notes 132 Chapter 4: The Limits of the Old Imperialism: Africa and Asia to 1859 139 Sub-Saharan Africa to 1830 139 India to 1746 147 The Military Revolution 151 Plassey and After 154 Reaching the Limit: Afghanistan and the Punjab 158 Reaching the Limit: Algeria, 1830-1850 163 Russia and the Caucasus 167 Conclusion 169 Notes 170 Chapter 5: Steamboat Imperialism, 1807-1898 177 Steamboats in North America 179 Steamers in South Asia 186 Routes to India 188 The Euphrates Route 191 The Red Sea Route 194 Britain and China 197 The Nemesis 200 Steamboats on the Niger 206 Steamboats and the Scramble for Africa 212 Conclusion 216 Notes 217 Chapter 6: Health, Medicine, and the New Imperialism, 1830-1914 226 Medicine and Africa in the Early Nineteenth Century 226 The Discovery of Quinine Prophylaxis 229 Public Health at Mid-Century 234 From Empirical to Scientific Medicine 237 Science and Tropical Diseases 239 Health and Empire at the Turn of the Century 243 Conclusion 249 Notes 251 Chapter 7: Weapons and Colonial Wars, 1830-1914 257 The Gun Revolution 257 Guns in Africa 265 The Scramble for Africa 269 North America 276 Argentina and Chile 284 Ethiopia 289 Conclusion 291 Notes 292 Chapter 8: The Age of Air Control, 1911-1936 302 The Beginnings of Aviation 303 Early Colonial Air Campaigns 306 Great Britain in Iraq 311 Air Control in Action 314 Spain in the Rif 321 Italy in Africa 324 Conclusion 327 Notes 329 Chapter 9: The Decline of Air Control, 1946-2007 334 France in Indochina 335 France in Algeria 337 The United States in Vietnam 340 The Soviet Union in Afghanistan 349 U.S. Military Aviation after Vietnam 353 The Gulf War 357 The Iraq War 359 Conclusion 363 Notes 364 Conclusion Technology and Imperialism Redux 370 Notes 373 For Further Reading 375 Index 381
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"Headrick destroys the simplistic notion that technological advances alone can explain the historic limits of Western global hegemony."--Choice "For professional historians--and especially for those dealing with the events of the early modern and modern world and with the progress of technical advances most of the latest book by Daniel R. Headrick might seem like a comforting walk through a very familiar landscape. The road's main twists come as no surprise, but it is good to see them yet again, surveyed with a macroscopic perspective that captures all important features and, here and there, highlights interesting details."--Vaclav Smil, American Historical Review "Daniel R. Headrick is right to think that insufficient attention has been paid to how technological change and environment shape imperialism, and his work is an excellent attempt to remedy that deficiency."--Peter Cain, The Historian "This is an interesting, clearly-written, and well-researched book. In an era of academic specialization, it is also attractive for its willingness to tackle one of the largest and oldest questions of world history. While technology is the theme, the author carefully frames and qualifies his argument so as to avoid the pitfalls of reductionism. While this book should find a place in courses on economic history, the history of technology, and the economics of imperialism, its accessibility should also make it attractive to the reading public."--Robert E. Prasch, Journal of Economic Issues "Headrick provides a magisterial and highly readable survey... The work is perhaps most eye-opening in describing conflict in regions often left out of more sweeping accounts--colonial expansion in sub-Saharan west Africa or Algeria, or conflict in southern Latin America... [T]his book will enable [historians] to understand the place of technology in broader narratives of change all the more effectively."--Paul Warde, Cultural and Social History "[T]his is a major contribution from an important academic built on decades of experience. I am a better scholar for having read it, and chances are that you will be too."--James Daschuk, Environmental History Journal
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"This is a major contribution to historical studies, as well as the study of technological change and economic history. Headrick asks a set of questions that are infrequently discussed, and analyzes them in an interesting way. This will be an important and widely cited book."—Stanley L. Engerman, University of Rochester
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Princeton University Press
567 gr
235 mm
152 mm
UP, 05
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Biographical note

Daniel R. Headrick is professor emeritus of social science and history at Roosevelt University. His books include The Tools of Empire and The Earth and Its Peoples.