How Did Medical Technology Factor Into Western Imperialism?

September 11, 2023
David Sunnyside

Medical technology is the technologies used to diagnose, treat and/or improve a person’s health and wellbeing. It can be as simple as sticking plasters, syringes and medical thermometers or as high tech as implantable devices such as pacemakers. It’s also an industry that’s constantly evolving and transforming people’s lives.

One of the key reasons behind the huge expansion of European empires in the late 1800s is arguably technological advances such as modern steel, electrical generators and steamboats. These allowed European powers to take advantage of existing kingdoms, tribes and cultures and impose their own over them. This process is known as imperialism and it reached its zenith in Africa in the Scramble for Africa.

The brutality of this period is well documented – colonial-era genocides such as those in the Congo and Namibia are iconic examples. But what often gets overlooked is the role that technological advancements played in this.

New European medicines enabled people to survive the harsh colonial conditions and this, along with other factors such as exploitation of natural resources and power-struggles between major countries, fueled the rise of empires across the globe.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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