Geologic Resources and the Evolution of Societies in Western Europe

This course will explore the importance of certain extractions from the earth in the development of political dominion in Western Europe. Four specific cases will provide instances of this connection. Chert (flint) from the limestone massifs in France and England allowed Cro Magnon to develop “toolboxes” that facilitated hunting/gathering techniques and led to leisure time for cultural development. Cornwall’s tin provided early Britons with the resource to produce bronze (a copper/tin alloy), enhancing their technology. Regional trade led to great wealth and development of a theocracy which constructed such monuments as Stone Henge. The chance discovery in Peru of mercury by the Spanish facilitated refinement of the gold and silver ores, reducing weight and allowing transport over great distances. The Spanish kings used this treasure in disastrous attempts to gain hegemony in Western Europe, increasing national debt and leading to frequent bankruptcies. Even so, Spain became the first global power. Coal allowed Britain to “Rule the Waves”. It provided the energy to develop major steel and textile industries—leading to breakthrough inventions. Commercial expansion resulted in occupations of countries in the underdeveloped world, allowing Britain to become the second global empire.

Instructor: Jelle Zeilinga de Boer

Four Mondays, May 2, 9, 16 & 23; 4:30-5:30pm
Butterfield Room - $70

This course is full and closed to further registrations.

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer
JELLE ZEILINGA DE BOER is Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science emeritus and 2015 Joe Webb Peoples Award recipient. He was raised in Indonesia, studied in the Netherlands, and taught earth science at Wesleyan from 1965 to 2005. Lately, he has focused on the role geologic phenomena played in Greek mythology, specifically at the Oracle site at Delphi and Apollo temples in southern Anatolia. He has published Volcanoes in Human History (2002) and Earthquakes in Human History (2005), both with Donald Sanders ’52. Stories in Stone appeared in 2009 and deals with the influence geology has had on Connecticut’s history. In 2013 he published New Haven’s Sentinels; The Art and Science of East Rock and West Rock with John Wareham.