The Expansion Of Great Britain Essay Research

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The Expansion Of Great Britain Essay, Research Paper Many opinions exist regarding the origin of Great Britain s expansion in the 1700 s. Many people believe that the expansion was a result of the pursuit of trade routes to foreign countries. Others believe that it was driven by the patriotic hearts of British citizens; volunteering for government jobs to better their country. These theories, while not totally devoid of logical thought and true fact, are based on facts which, in turn, relied on the invention of an accurate clock. The expansion of the British Empire in the 1700 s relied more on the invention of an accurate clock than all the social, economical, and financial reasons combined. The reason for this is simple: For every 15. that one travels Eastward, the local

time moves one hour ahead. Similarly, travelling West, the local time moves back one hour for every 15. of longitude. Therefore, if we know the local times at two points on Earth, we can use the difference between them to calculate how far apart those places are in longitude, East or West.(1) This idea was very important to sailors and navigators in the 17th Century. They could measure the local time, wherever they were, by observing the Sun, but navigation required that they also know the time at some reference point, eg. Greenwich, in order to calculate their longitude. Although accurate pendulum clocks existed in the 17th Century, the motions of a ship and changes in humidity and temperature would prevent such a clock from keeping accurate time at sea.(2) Because of this,

Great Britain s trade was confined to only those countries that could be reached by coastal sailing , or sailing along the coast of a body of land. This hampered Great Britain s attempt to build a more powerful economy, and it confined the British empire to expand only within the same parameters of its trading options. Therefore, the inability to calculate one s longitude at sea was a serious problem for Great Britain, and serious measures were taken to correct it. King Charles II founded the Royal Observatory in 1675 to solve the problem of finding longitude at sea. If an accurate catalogue of the positions of the stars could be made, and the position of the Moon then measured accurately relative to the stars, the Moon’s motion could be used as a natural clock to calculate

Greenwich Time. Sailors at sea could measure the Moon’s position relative to bright stars and use tables of the Moon’s position, compiled at the Royal Observatory, to calculate the time at Greenwich. This means of finding Longitude was known as the Lunar Distance Method. In 1714, the British Government offered, by Act of Parliament, 20,000 for a solution which could provide longitude to within half-a-degree (2 minutes of time). The methods would be tested on a ship, sailing and should prove to be reliable. A body known as the Board of Longitude was set up to administer and judge the longitude prize. They received more than a few weird and wonderful suggestions. Like squaring the circle or inventing a perpetual motion machine, the phrase “finding the longitude” became a

sort of catch-phrase for the pursuits of fools and lunatics. Many people believed that the problem simply could not be solved. The longitude problem was eventually solved by a working class joiner from Lincolnshire with little formal education. John Harrison took on the scientific and academic establishment of his time and won the longitude prize through sheer determination and an extraordinary talent and technical insight. Harrison was born in Foulby, near Wakefield, in Yorkshire in 1693 but his family moved to Barrow, in Lincolnshire, when he was quite young. His father was a carpenter and John followed in the family trade. He built his first longcase clock in 1713, at the age of 20. The mechanism was made entirely from wood, which was not a curious choice of material for a