James Cook's Contribution to the Development of the British Empire

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JAMES COOK'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE

I) Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to describe the life and the contribution to the development of the British Empire of one of the most important English explorers. It was in the second half of the 18th century when James Cook, originally a poor farm boy, explored and mapped vast uncharted areas of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. However, James Cook was not ‘only' an explorer. He can also be called a scientist – he managed to introduce new principles into seafaring and cartography.

For better understanding, the paper is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is the introduction, which throws light on the purpose and structure of the paper.

The second chapter is a brief introduction to the situation in Great Britain in the 18th century. It helps to explain why and how the so called "the First British Empire" was built up and later destroyed, and what led to the creation of "the Second British Empire".

The third chapter deals with Capt. Cook's life and his three unique expeditions to the Pacific.

The fourth part of the paper summarises Cook's achievements and his contribution to the development of the British Empire.

The fifth chapter forms the conclusion of the paper.

II) A brief introduction to the situation in Great Britain in the 18th century.

Great Britain became a great world power in this period. Under the leadership of William Pitt the Elder, Britain's Prime Minister and at the same time a man who believed that the strength of the nation's economy depended on overseas expansion, the country gained vast territories all over the world and the so called "the First British Empire" was founded.

The reasons why Great Britain was so successful can be divided into four groups: •"Revolutions" – the Industrial Revolution, a financial revolution and a revolution in agriculture made Britain the leading power in Europe. The creation of the Bank of England in 1694 helped to raise capital for colonial wars and to support British trade. At the beginning of the 18th century a series of mechanical inventions enabled the building of the world's first mechanised factories. A steam engine invented in1769 provided the power to drive machinery and thus enabled mass production of goods. The new ways of making products more quickly and inexpensively together with the extension of new markets also caused a commercial revolution. The structure of commerce changed: imports of raw materials were rising and ever more finished products were exported. Such a structure of commerce enabled the immense growth of wealth of the country. •An imperial enthusiasm – the British found out that they could grow rich from the trade with their colonies. As a result it led to a constant, unending search for new markets for British products, new trading centres and eventually, new lands to settle their surplus criminals and poor, unemployed citizens. •New inventions in navigation – these inventions had a profound influence, not only upon Britain, but even upon much of the rest of the world. John Hadley's invention of the reflecting quadrant made it possible to determine the latitude at noon or by night. Extremely accurate, it was quickly adopted by the admiralty (1730). John Harrison's ship chronometer was to revolutionise the world's shipping (1736). A new method of combating scurvy was found – James Lind recommended to use citrus juice (1747) and finally, John Campbell introduced the new sextant to the Royal Navy (1757). All of these inventions helped to create Britain's naval supremacy. •A new philosophical approach - the 18th century in Western Europe is the beginning of the Age of Reason, the philosophers and scientists stressed the value of global discovery, of learning more about the earth and of collecting unusual flora and fauna from around the...
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