Ship Building and Engineering through History

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:History

Document 1

The ‘discovery’ of America by the Spaniards, which later lead to the formation of one of the greatest Western countries, the United States, was facilitated through the development and engineering of ships. Throughout the history of Western civilization, be it during the Roman Empire, the medieval times, or the period of Renaissance, ships have always played an important role and the way the ships were built and engineered determined the kind of impact and success the civilization experienced at the time. 400BCE to 200CE is one of the most significant time periods in the history of Western civilization because it was within this period that the Roman Empire thrived and spread throughout the Mediterranean and some inner parts of Europe. Rome was at the center of everything in the West at this time in history.

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Rome was at the center of trade, culture, and of military might in the region. This produced a strong hull that was flexible in the small ship5. The northern Europeans also used sails more than the Mediterranean. This is because of the cyclonic storms that are found year-round I the Baltic Sea and the North Sea latitudes as well. This shows that the conquest of foreign lands by the Roman Empire was important because through that, they gained exposure to new and different ways of engineering their ships. Science was not a major factor at the time. The Western civilization is one of the most progressive civilizations in history. Even in the roman times, this progressiveness in society to incorporate new ideas was not only seen in the way they engineered their ships, but also within the whole society.

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We can see this from when the empire used to persecute minorities such as Christians and yet they stopped afterwards7. The mediaeval times were a time of war in the European continent. It was a time when the most prominent figure in the world to the Europeans at the time was lost. The technical excellence of the Scandinavians cannot be ignored. The romans acknowledged them in the development of strong and swift boats and yet again, they shone in the medieval times again. They had a real talent for hydrodynamics and construction with clinker, and more solid designs. The other group that also needs to be acknowledged is the Byzantines. The Byzantines was what remained of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire that did not fully collapse when the Western part of the Empire.

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What followed after was the spread of the Navas, Cogs and Hulks from the year 800 CE. This was due to the great European exploration at the time. Nevertheless, it was not until almost at the end of this period that great inventions were made and later led to the conquest of America. The development of ships in this time period shows that it was not a dark age at all. The people were not back in terms of their thinking. In the Northern part of Europe, the standard northern mercnat ship was the cog. It was roomier than the ships of the Mediterranean vessels. It was also suitable for rougher weather in the Northern parts of Europe, more than the ships of the almost tieless Mediterranean10.

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This period also saw the royals of Europe heavily invest in royal funded ships. One of the aspects that enabled the European nations were able to conquer world was due to their improved technology in weaponry and construction of ships11. Without it so many things could not have happened. We see this this in the Roman era, where without the ship was important in spreading the ideologies of western civilization throughout Europe and lead to the spread of the works of Western Europe. We also see how the collaboration of different places within the Western civilization, particularly the Mediterranean nations and the Northern nations, lead the spread of its beyond the frontiers of Europe and into the Americas. Ship engineering and building is also the reason why the Western civilization was able to be successful during the renaissance period where they were able to pave way for the colonization of the world and this has greatly enriched Western civilization.

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