The Arts & Humanities/science & Technology: Historical Bedfellows

By Giscombe, Peter A. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

The Arts & Humanities/science & Technology: Historical Bedfellows


Giscombe, Peter A., Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Introduction

History marks the beginning of sculpture, as occurring during the Paleolithic period around 25-20,000 B.C.E. It was around that same time that we believe human kind first began using stone tools. In the caves of Charvet, Lascaux and similar sites in France and Spain a multitude of soot/charcoal drawings and paintings have been discovered. We know these works were done by torch light {also during the Paleolithic) probably not long after the mastery of fire. The use of stone tools closely followed by the appearance of stone sculptures and the regular use of fire followed by soot/charcoal drawing and other paintings deep within caves: These occurrences are but early parts of patterns that are not unusual in the way they relate. Similar linkages over centuries and millenniums can be identified to make associations. Even if we start out theoretically, we are bound to be conclusive in their relationships.

There are countless stone sites, carving and constructions throughout the world that we know were made with the aid of some type of technology: though in a lot of cases we haven't a clue what those technologies were. Whether these sites take the form of cromlechs in Southern England, the menhirs in Brittany, the Olmec heads in Mexico, the Moai of Easter Island, or the pyramids of ancient Egypt and Meso-America the arts and the humanities have historically been bedfellows with various branches of sciences and technology.

Just as it is nearly impossible to identify a non-nature created item that did not involve the input of an artist or designer, so too is it difficult to disengage the science and technology from the arts and humanities. The connections that exist across these seemingly different disciplines are quite profound when closely examined.

The end of the thirteenth into the beginning of the fourteenth century in Europe: that time of transition from what is referred to as the "Middle Ages", ushered in an era of social, economical and political stratification in western culture as the Gothic and the Reformation eras ended. The age of pilgrimage was also on the wane with many of the former travelers choosing to remain where they 'found' themselves, rather than re-embarking on long journeys back to their place of origin. Bad harvests led to famines: the Hundred Year War (1337-1453) erupted between France and England: the plague swept across Europe "wiping out as much as forty percent of the population". (1) Agrarian based economies became transformed into those centered on trade, manufacturing and (later) industry. As a result, European society was to have in its midst a new and powerful entity; one that, as more changes took place within the newly forming societies, would push for even greater privileges and increased material acquisitions. This new group which emerged at the dawning of fifteenth century Europe will forever be referred to as the "middle class": that socio-economical group bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.

From the onset of their emergence the middle class longed to enjoy what was historically reserved for the nobles and clergy: literature, disposable cash and access to the arts. As more and more people left their farms in search of new opportunities, the cities grew and became even more important as centers of trade and banking. With more entrepreneurs and merchants more lawyers and bankers became available to serve their needs. (2) The exploration of new territories for markets and materials was also encouraged and supported by the various monarchies (i.e. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain who financed Columbus's voyage to the 'new world' in ships owned by the Medici) (3) as a way to satisfy the influx of new willing investors. This would give rise to the Age of Exploration, Imperialism, Colonialization and Slavery as institutions.

Secularism spread across early fifteenth century Europe, primarily in the north, although it was not view in such a way because religion and the church continued to play an active role in the lives of the people. …

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