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Britain in the XVIII century

4) Navigation and slave-trade

Britain is the sea country. XVIII century was marked by the successes of navigation, geographical discoveries, and the unprecedented scale of slave-trade. There were more slaves in the world in the XVIII, than in the period of the Roman empire.

First about geographical discoveries. The most famous English seafarer and discoverer of new lands was certainly James Cook. He was born in a poor family in a village. At the age of 17 Cook left to the city and began working in shop of a fishmonger. In the city he saw the sea for the first time and dreamt of travel. Cook was a ship’s boy on the trading ship, and at his leisure time a ship-owner taught him mathematics and navigation. Many years later he became the British navy captain and headed two expeditions to the unknown southern land.

  1. many centuries geographers were intricated with an empty place on the map of the southern hemisphere. They put there the possible land and named it “Terra Australis Incognita” - the unknown southern land. In the beginning of the XVII century the Dutch seafares discovered that land, but didn’t investigate it. None still knew if it was rich or poor. It was hoped that there might have been gold and jewelleries, as in India. British Admiralty sent Cook for searching this land and its possible reaches. In 1770 Cook's expedition landed on the eastern coast of Australia, investigated and mapped 4000 km of the coast line. It was an important scientific achievement. But Cook has made a mistake. He didn’t penetrate the inner part of the continent, and thought, that there wasn’t fresh water. So the land was unsuitable for life. It was not so. Nevertheless he proclaimed Australia the possession of the British crown. In 18 years the first party of the Britons arrived. But they didn’t arrive on their own will. They were convicts. The British government decided to check on them if life was possible in Australia. So convicts were the first European settlers on the continent.

It was the first Cook's expedition, he had two more, all three were more successful than the expeditions of his contemporaries, ho lost many people during long expeditions. As for Cook, he managed not only reaching the lands, but he had enough time to research them. He didn’t lose his people. Sailors often died in that period of scurvy. This illness is caused by the lack of vitamin C. Refrigerators didn’t exist then. All food of seamen consisted of corned beef, crackers and boiled beans. And the travels lasted for years. Cook began to take sauerkraut aboard. It was the only product which preserved vitamin C for a long. He made his sailors eat it every day. Besides he made his people wash hands.

After the arrival from his travel to Australia James Cook became a celebrity. But he was dissatisfied himself. He found the land, but he didn’t find the riches as in India. He believed one more continent to lay to the south of Australia. He hoped to find there riches as in India. In 1772 he went to search this possible land. He was attracted with the empty place on the map. He went southwards as far as possible. But heavy ices have prevented from moving further on the south, and Cook had to turn back. He wrote that it was impossible to move on the south further, than he had done, and most likely, there was no land near the southern pole.

This conclusion was refuted 48 years later by the Russian expedition of Bellinsgauzen and Lazarev. In January 1820 Antarctic continent was discovered. This navigation used the materials of Cook’s expedition. The idea was to navigate on the contrary to Cook's route: on the south, where he navigated on the north and on vice versa.





If the land existed it might exist in the places which hadn’t been visited by Cook. Navigating strictly on the contrary with Cook's route, the Russian expedition discovered Antarctic continent. Thus, Cook had laid a way to the discovery. In his third expedition Cook was searching the way round America to Asia, from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic to reach Cnina. He found the way, but on his back way he was killed by the natives on one of the islands.


James Cook made two attempts to find unknown southen continent. He researched Australia. The idea to navigate on the contrary to Cook's way led to the discovery of Antarctic by the Russian expedition. Cook’s innovations with sauerkraut and washing hands saved sailors and made expeditions successful.


Besides geographical discoveries, the other side of English navigation of this time was a slave trade. The first slaves were brought from Africa to America by the Portuguese. But after the “War of the Spanish Succession” England received a monopoly for slave trade in the Spanish colonies, which occupied the bigger part of American coast. England became the main country in the slave trade. From each four ships transported slaves, three were the English ones.

There was a triangle: industrial goods from England - slaves to American plantations – the results of their work - to England.






From England merchants carried knifes, beads, fabrics. The African tribes conducted the wars for the captives. The captives were exchanged for knives and beards. The English sea captains carried the captives to America to sell to plantators. They tried to fill the ship with as many people as it was only possible. Many people died with lack of space and epidemics. Depending on weather the navigation across the ocean lasted from 6 to 20 weeks. If navigation dragged on and there wasn’t enough water and food, the extra slaves were thrown out into the ocean. The data about the perished differ between the historians, varying from 15% to 75%. The price of the slave sold in American colonies was 10 times as much as the price of his getting and transportation. The incomes from the slave trade were put in equipment of the factories in England. So slave trade was one of the foundations of the industrial revolution and English economic miracle of the XVIII.

The English society of that period saw slavery as a norm of life. But in the end of the century began the movement against slavery. The supporters of the idia to abolish slavery were called the abolitionists. The movement was based on idea that it was immoral. It was the first movement which involved women and children. According to the existed rules they had to meet separately from men. The member of Parliament William Wilberforce addressed the House of Commons with the numerous speeches against slavery. In 1807 “Slave Trade Act» was adopted in Parliament. It abolished slave trade. But since that time there was a long struggle between the British navy and the British captains who transported slaves. While meeting navy ships the captains threw out the slaves not to be caught and fined


¾ of slaves were brought to America by the English ships. From 15% to 75% of slaves perished during the way. In 1807 the abolitionists obtained “Slave Trade Act» prohibited slave trade.


5) Science

May be the most important English scientific achievement of the XVIII century was the creation of the mean preventing smallpox. The author of it was Edward Jenner. The natural smallpox was one of the greatest troubles in the history of mankind. In the areas of epidemics death rate made 10 %-15 %. One of three deceased died. The survived had the scars on their faces for the rest of their lives. Many people lost sight, became blind.

During the smallpox epidemics of 1776 the English doctor Edward Jenner was sitting in a coach with the peasant girls and he heard their conversation. One of the girls, who was a milkmaid proved, that she couldn’t catch a human smallpox as she had been ill before with the cow smallpox. Jenner got interested and found out in conversations, that the milkmaids used to catch caw smallpox. After that they never caught human smallpox. The cow smallpox proceeds easily with people and have no dangerous consequences. Jenner put forward an idea to inoculate cow smallpox to people to prevent human smallpox. But before making experiments it was necessary to check up the idea. For 20 years Jenner inoculated cow smallpox to people and observed, whether they catch a human smallpox or not. In 1796 the decisive experiment was held out. Jenner inoculated 8-years boy James Phipps with a cow smallpox. The boy fall ill and recovered easily. Then Jenner infected him with a human smallpox. It didn’t develop. The boy remained healthy. The experiment proved the safety of inoculation. Later on grateful Jenner built the house for James Phipps and himself planted roses in his garden.

So the method of preventing dangerous diseases was discovered. Jenner named the discovered method, having formed a word from Latin "cow"How did he name it? - vaccination (the cow is vakka in Latin)

First the reaction for his discovery was very aggressive. The “anticaw” committees were created. They let out pictures[1], representing people with horns and hoofs. It meant, that people "humiliated" themselves, receiving a material from caws. But the epidemic began in England. People inoculated on Jenner’s method survived. Jenner’s enemies had to retreat. Jenner had lived till his discovery was recognised.

The main idea of Jenner was using the weakened microbes. Step by step the principles put forward by him began to be used in a struggle against the other diseases. Sometimes Jenner is called the father of immunology. As to smallpox, the last case of it in the world was fixed in 1980. The microbe of smallpox doesn’t exist more. Inoculations against smallpox aren’t done nowadays. It is the only example, when the microbe was destroyed artificially.


The method of preventing smallpox was discovered by Jenner. He named it vaccination from Latin "cow". The idea of Jenner was used to prevent some other dangerous diseases.

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