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Issue 1 - History

Colonialism and the disciplines[edit]

Irma, Yujin, Elisa, Henry

In an attempt to identify the ways in which colonialism and disciplines reciprocally shaped and influenced each other, the following questions act as a guiding thread for our reflection: -How did disciplines contribute to colonialism? -How were the disciplines shaped by colonialism? -How do disciplines deal with the issue of colonialism today?

Social Sciences[edit]

A brief history of Social Theory

Few disciplines are as closely related to colonialism as sociology. In fact, it seems adequate to say that sociology was built within a culture of imperialism. In his paper ‘Why Is Classical Theory Classical?’, Connell argues that global expansion and colonization gave sociology its main conceptual framework and much of its data, key problems, and methods. [1]

Sociology as a discipline was constructed around the foundation narrative of European men theorizing sociology as a response to changes in a new industrial society due to the Industrial Revolution, urbanisation, class conflict, alienation and the emergence of the modern nation-state. In this view, sociology arose from the experience of modernity and aimed to make sense of the new society being built. Following this myth, Durkheim, Weber, and Marx were established as the founding fathers whose texts form today’s sociological canon. However, such a narrative lacks the support of adequate evidence: the literature early sociologists themselves wrote and read. If some 28% of pre-world war one reviews focused on the problems emerging from the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority were concerned with the differences between the metropoles, the West and the “others” - the “Primitives”. The idea of 'progress' from primitive to advanced fascinated sociologists, who saw in remote societies a reflection of the early stages of societal development.

Methodologies that embody the imperial gaze

The way in which Eurocentrism influenced sociology prevails in the methodologies it adopted, and the data researchers selected as evidence to support their theories.

How did Durkheim know of the Kabyle’s situation in Algeria? It is upon the analysis of the archives from the Arab Bureau that he based his work on the concept of segmental social organization. A military institution conceived to assure the intellectual conquest of Algeria, the Bureau gathered information about Algerian society, which in turn determined the focus of French scholar research. While it must be recognized that the Bureau made a rigorous effort to accurately record all facts relating to different aspects of society, from religious customs and public morality to local and general laws [2], this research was certainly not disinterested. The knowledge gathered served the colonial agenda. In fact, the representation of the native aimed to identify the most efficient ways of establishing French governance in Algeria. Abdelmajid Hannoum argues in Colonialism and knowledge in Algeria: The archives of the Arab Bureau, History and Anthropology: knowledge is a means by which and through which an institution not only justifies its practices but also rules others. To govern one needed to know and knowing is nothing more than representing. What the natives were like, also meant in this context, what was the proper way to govern them in the most efficient way. [3]


Because literature is made up of a range of different authors from different backgrounds, there will rarely be consensus within literature as a whole. However, certain trends have developed at different points through out the history of colonialism.

There were two main ways that literature contributed to colonialism at the time. Firstly, books would reflect and spread the view that the indigenous populations were subhuman by portraying them as beasts and savages. An example of this is Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe from 1719, where the people who live on the island are cannibals. The interactions between Crusoe and the character Friday is also seen by some to give legitimacy to colonialism. Crusoe gives him a new name, teaches him English and introduces him to Christianity, which closely mirrors the process colonists went through when colonising. Secondly, native voices were silence in this period, both through being marginalised and by not having the language necessary to reach a larger audience.

Colonialism shaped literature by expanding themes like nationality, identity and race. The analysis of these works became part of the wider formulation of post-colonialism in the 1980s and 1990s. The theory deals broadly with power structures between groups, most often with aspects of European imperialism and its consequences. There were also more specific effects of colonialism om literature. For instance, there is a range of narratives around slavery in the US. An example would be the anthology of poems Amazing Grace.

Literature today mainly deals with colonialism through the lens of post-colonialism. There are two main parts of this. One is revisiting canon literature, such as Brontë's Jane Eyre, and and analysing the power structures within the narrative. A few concepts that have been developed to aid this analysis are: hybridity, third-space, mimicry and difference. The other is an increase in literature that deals with the consequences of colonialism. A few examples of these narratives are: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

  • The economic reasons for colonialism

As Fred M. Gottheil points out, 'Colonialism represents a set of structures that are imposed upon a nation by another in order to affect international distributions of income and wealth.'[4] Colonialism is closely related to the economy. The first economic factor that gives birth to colonialism is that some countries attempt to look for new markets overseas to sell domestic products. The second economic reason is that colonists seek to exploit the natural resources and labor in the colonised countries to accumulate more wealth. The third economic consideration is that the price of raw materials is usually relatively low in the colonised countries which as a result allows the invaders to gain more profits.

  • The economic impacts of colonialism

One of the most prominent economic impacts of colonialism is the immense economy inequality[5]. Many of the underdeveloped countries are still under the economic domination of the developing countries. A great amount of the natural resources of the colonised countries were taken way by the colonising countries, which becomes a huge hindrance to their economic development. Some researchers claim that colonialism is the major cause of income inequalities across different countries. For example, Acemoglu states that the different colonisation strategies adopted by the European settlers in the colonies have an important effect on the institutions today, which in turn determines the economic conditions of these colonised countries.[6]

  • How colonialism shaped economy

Many economists try to explain the colonial system through different perspectives, which gives rise to various kinds of economic theories.

  • How economy deals with the issue of colonialism today

Economists are mainly studying colonial policies to understand long-term patterns in development and inequalities, which will help devise economic policies. However, Yannick Dupraz and Valeria Rueda emphasize that economic studies of colonialism should not ignore its inherent racism and violence.[7]


Colonialism had a clear effect on the influences of art, both in the colonising countries and the nations that were colonised. It greatly increased access for European artists to foreign techniques and art history, and in turn did the same for artists in the countries that were colonised. It is more than likely that the effect of colonisation played a significant role in the creation of whole genres of Western Art.

The Effect of Colonialism on European Art

The subject of Colonialism and the foreign mystique contemporarily associated with it, was rife in the Western Art of the time.

There was patriotic and jingoistic art such as 'Lord Clive Meeting with Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey' (1757) by Francis Hayman. It is unsurprising that colonisers see themselves as the glorious conquerers, and this belief of superiority is reflected in some of the art of the time. In the case of 'Lord Clive Meeting with Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey' the artist is overtly portraying the British colonisers as compassionate victors, the painting making reference to the defeated general pledging his forces to the victorious Lord Clive. Hayman had never visited India and the painting was a patriotic celebration of a British military success and the resulting cooperation with the Indian population.

Over the following centuries, as attitudes changed towards colonialism and imperialism, such art has come in and out of favour in art galleries. This is due to the changing outlook towards the connotations of such art. Indian 'cooperation' in Haywood's painting was seen more as subjugation for example. 'The remnants of an army' (1879) by Elizabeth Butler, which was once a main attraction in the Tate spent 50 years in a regimental museum in Somerset, in an effort to reduce the signs of colonialism.

There was also a clear effect of colonial influences on incredibly famous European artists. Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were very strongly influenced by African sculptures and masks around the years of 1907 to 1909. Picasso in particular (although he later denied any influence reportedly for Iberian patriotic reasons) took heavy influence from the statues' non-anatomical portrayal of the human form. Picasso was apparently very struck by a visit to the ethnographic museum at Palais du Trocadéro in 1907, a museum brought into existence by French colonialism. His years between 1907 and 1909 are known as his African period and contained 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon', one of his more famous pieces and a very important artwork in early modernism.

In a similar way artists like Manet and Van Gogh were strongly influenced by Japanese prints and African and other 'primitive' art (on top of it's influences to Picasso's cubism) was an important influence to American Abstract Expressionism.

The effect of Colonialism on the art of the colonised countries

During the times of colonial rule there was a tendency to imitate techniques from Western art and in order to gain respect, many local artists would go abroad to be classically trained in a Western country. In the aftermath of the colonial powers leaving, different effects can be seen in the art of different places.

There was often later a drive to rediscover more traditional techniques and styles, in the wake of interest from the colonisers. The effect of this in tandem with a greater importance being put on identity in the indigenous psyche towards the end of imperial rule and with the context of independence and rediscovery of what came before European intervention.

In some cases though, the changes to the social make up of the society was significant enough to change the outlook towards art. Some of the best examples of this happening are in post-colonial Africa where in parts the change in religion (to the monotheistic religions of Islam and Christianity) brought about through the foreign influences of colonialism caused some of the purpose of art to change. The change of outlook can of course be seen in some of the

It is worth mentioning though, that 'traditional' African art is a loose concept as African cultures were not isolated in pre-colonial times and there was always an exchange of ideas and a progression in techniques.



Scientific achievements as proof of European superiority -> contributed to justifying imperialism However, science could be used as a tool to tear down the premises of colonial rule.

Economics and Psychology[edit]

Streams within Economics and Psychology[edit]

Two streams exist within the studies of Economics and Psychology, with similarities being present in both streams:

  • Theoretical: In theoretical streams, scientific methods such as mathematics, statistics and computational modelling are mostly used. Such methods of data collection in theoretical development have been especially relevant in 21st century Psychology where the biological approach is the dominant approach at present due to advances in technology that have allowed for more objective methods such as brain scanning technologies that allow for greater validity and reliability in experiments. This represents an increased convergence between the two disciplines. Empiricism is present in both disciplines in the evidence used in supporting theories. Theories are largely made on the basis of evidence from sensory experience (observations) where economic theories are created from events such as financial crises while most psychological theories stem from observational studies and experiments.

  • Practical: Theorietical knowledge is used in both disciplines is translatable to practical outcomes. In Economics, theoretical knowledge is used by governments and financial institutions in policies. For instance, governments and central banks have used theories of fiscal and monetary policies respectively in altering taxes and interest rates to influence levels of economic activity.



Economics, as described by Oxford Dictionary, is a “branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth."[8] In the 1800s economics was a topic of interest for few academics and members of the elite, but it did not have such a presence in the world as it does today.[9] The definition of economics has evolved through the years, which shows how language and lexicon play an important role in the formation of a discipline. For example, the first definition of economics by Alfred Marshall had great overlaps with the topics that psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists study. Especially since the idea of ‘wealth’ and ‘well-being’ could be considered a threshold concept, which is studied by plethora of disciplines. Although the definition of economics has gone through many changes, economists through the ages have tackled similar questions: what determines the prices of goods, labour and resources. Since the 19th century, the study of Economics has branched off into Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Within these two branches schools of thought emerged, such as Classical Economics (eg Adam Smith), Neoclassical, Keynisian and Marxist economics. The more recent additions to the study of economics include Environmental Economics, Econometrics and Behavioural Economics.

Theoretical History[edit]

Several disparate schools of thought exist, with different academics being pivotal in the rise and fall of each. Theories started from the ancient world and are still being formulated up to the present day. The dominant viewpoint has changed throughout history, with significant events (ie. financial crises) being key drivers in these changes.

Key thinkers:

  • Adam Smith
  • Marx and Matheus
  • Keynes
  • Friedman

Ideological viewpoints:

  • Classical (18th-19th century)
  • Neoclassical (19th and early 20th century)
  • Keynesianism (20th century)
Methodological History[edit]

Formal modelling started in the 19th century, using differential calculus as a means of explaining economic behaviour such as utility maximisation. Until the latter half of the 20th century, methods became increasingly mathematical but qualitative methods such as game theory were subsequently introduced to complement existing methods.

'Core journal' articles in the 20th century were largely written by economists where an assessment of mathematical techniques in these showed a decrease in articles using qualitative methods.

Econometrics emerged as a result of advances in mathematical and statistical methods in economics. It uses statistics as a means of validating mathematical theories.

Other examples of early uses of mathematics in economics:

  • Henry L. Moore - mathematics as a means of investigating the relationship between productivity and elasticity in agriculture.
  • Walras - use of models and theories in General equilibrium theory.
  • Alfred Marshall - mathematical modelling of economies and introduction of new concepts (Economies of Scale, Marginal Utility, Real Cost Paradigm).
  • French physiocrats built on the work of Adam Smith and carried out the first methodical study of how economies work.



Psychology is the discipline that concerns itself with the study of the mind and its processes. Why we think the way we think, why we act the way we act, and basically what is the origin of our personalities. Tracing back to Ancient Greece, the field of psychology was a subset of philosophy but never received the full undivided attention it deserved. Psychology is therefore a very recent science because it didn’t emerge as a separate discipline until the 1800’s.

In 1873, Wilhelm Wundt published “Principles of Physiological Psychology“ which can be seen as the birth of the discipline because it was the first ever book to solely focus on the study of the mind. Wundt started carrying out experiments at the Universirty of Leipzig that set the stage for psychology in general by focusing on a process called introspection: examining one’s one conscious experience as objectively as possible. Wilhelm Wundt’s main objective was to identify the overall structure of consciousness and its mechanisms. This attempt to understand the processes of the mind by breaking it down into parts is called structuralism.

However, this approach to psychology faded out as Wundt’s students realized that introspection was unreliable because individual subjects were subjective to their one experiences. Edward Tichtener, one of Wundt's students therefore opened of the first school's of thought


1879, Leipzig, Willem Wundt- first official university laboratory for the study of psychology 1883 - first journal of experimental psychology (Wundt) - early philosophical roots

Economics and Psychology[edit]

Merger between both the disciplines[edit]

Economics is fundamentally closely linked to the study of human psychology, as it is based on the presumptions of rationalities and principle of utilities. Hence ever since the classical period of microeconomics, which has a main focus on individual behaviour and decisions, economics has had an inseparable connection with psychology.

Nevertheless, neoclassical theories in microeconomics are based around the assumption that people make rational decisions, which always maximise their profits. This idea is challenged by Behavioural economists, who look at deviations from the idea of “the rational man” and construct new behavioural models. Research from other disciplines, especially psychology, social science and cognitive science is used to make their models more reliable. Overall, the overlaps between the two disciplines led to the creation of a new interdisciplinary branch of study.

Where they merge[edit]

Scientific methods. - empiricism, use of statistics and computational methodologies to make predictions about behaviour and formulate theory. Economics utilises models - the most well-known of which being the model illustrating market changes with Demand and Supply whilst Computational Cognitive Neuroscience also utilises computational/mathematical models of neurons, circuits and cognitive functions with the same purpose of predicting behaviour/outcomes.
Practical outcomes. Most outcomes of theoretical knowledge from both Psychology and Economics are facilitated by the same body - the government, in the same field of social policy. This is primarily seen in the area of welfare (welfare benefits and their effects on incentives, policies concerning education).
Co-existence of different schools of thought. Where competing schools of thought (Keynesianism and Neoliberalism) exist in Economics, different psychological approaches use and stress the need for very different methods (The Biological Approach in Psychology takes a reductionist view where phenomena is studied as its constituent parts whereas the Humanistic Approach sees the need for holism in studies, taking the view that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, directly opposing the Biological Approach).
Philosophical connections. The merger between Economics and Psychology is not limited to the relatively new field of behavioural economics but these disciplines may have originated from the same area - Philosophy. To date, methods and theories are still subject to the same type of philosophical evaluation in the field of Philosophy of Science.


  • Aristotle, Socrates, Plato: Discussed topics such as pleasure, pain, knowledge, motivation, rationality, mental illness and the origins and psychological forces of these.
  • In the 17th century, the concept of Dualism was introduced by Descartes where the Body and Mind were viewed as separate entities - physical and spiritual respectively and were only connected through the pineal gland.
  • Hobbes and Loke opposed dualism (Monism) where the brain was believed to be a host to physical processes such as thoughts, images, sensations, feelings.
  • Wilhem Wundt founded experimental psychology in 1879 on the basis of being a self-conscious field of experimental study - introspection.


  • Different schools of thought and ideological perspectives are formed on the basis of varying political and social philosophies held by key thinkers, with resultant policy decisions reflecting such philosophies. Such political and social philosophies include ideas about freedom, rational and social choice, welfare and equality of opportunity.

Methodology in both disciplines and philosophy Methodology in psychology and economics is open to philosophical enquiry in the field of epistemology. Epistemology concerns itself with the methods in which knowledge is acquired and ‘truth claims’ made by theories - whether what the theory suggests relates to perception or reality, how a given theory can be proven - must every theory be verifiable by empirical means.

History of how they merged[edit]
  • Realisation of abstract mathematics and assumptions - could not be applied reliably on human behaviour - mainstream economics distorted, detached, from reality?
  • ‘Animal spirits’ shown in the financial crisis (Keynes) - importance of psychology and decision making in econonmics - people are not always rational.
  • Continuous market failures in spite of solutions based on theory (based on assumptions)
  • a) The ‘07 financial crisis would have been deemed as being impossible, as implied by risk models utilised by Goldman Sachs.
  • b) Continuous privatisation regadless of repeated failures - eg care services, railways.


On the other hand, both disciplines have a lot of differences and cannot be used in combination in all situations. Economists examine concrete actions and deal with institutions, meanwhile psychologists look at mental states and individual factors.

Climate change[edit]

Throughout history, different periods of weather greatly affected the earth and the life on it. At the beginning of our era, three main periods stand out: The Medieval Warm Period, The Little Ice Age, and the current climate change. We have studied these different periods with a particular focus on the impacts these climate changes have had on the biodiversity and on human lives and societies.

Medieval Warm Period (900–1300)[edit]

This climate change lasted for around 400 years and heavily influenced life on earth. It is represented by increased temperature of 1°C in the first 100 years. Increase of solar activity, changes in thermohaline circulation and decreased volcanic activity were the reasons for a Medieval Warm Period.


Warm period had effects on genetic diversity of animals. Because of changing climate, droughts animals had to adapt to different weather or migrate to other places, therefore, some populations decreased. Fall of populations had various impacts on species. There were species as gophers, which genetic variation had fallen, because of decline of population. However, in some cases climate change had reverse consequences. Migration of animals influenced rise of genetic diversity, because of bigger diversity of breeds in one place. This was the case with voles, even though their population had fallen. These observations show that climatic change has influence on genetic diversity, however, it did not cause speciation.


Communities had adapted to changing climate differently. As some societies had a positive impact on agriculture which helped to develop faster, for others it was a challenging period that made it difficult to survive and change their lives drastically. Prolonged droughts had huge effect on North America, especially California, Great Basin. Shortage of water made it more complicated to grow food and get drinkable water, which resulted in settlement disruption, difficulties in agriculture, trading and communities movement. In Northern Europe Medieval Warm Period made different impact. Because of temperature changes people were able to grow warmer climate crops in northern countries. Cultivation of grain crops rose, wine grapes could be grown in northern areas. During that period a plethora of new cities were built and population had significantly increased.

Little Ice Age (1300–1800)[edit]

Contrary to its name, the little ice age was not a true ice age but a period of dramatic climate changes, mostly cooling, between the medieval warming period and the late 19th century warming. Cooler temperature were more evident in Europe resulting in advancing glaciers and harsher conditions for flora and fauna.

Social Impacts[edit]

Land Occupation[edit]

Alpine glaciers advanced downwards which resulted in forced migration of many villages in northern Europe towards warmer and lower regions, such as Greenland in the early 15th century. Another Norse colonies cut off from rest of Norse civilisation The western colony collapsed due to starvation The eastern colony abandoned

Social structure[edit]

The little ice age is believed to have contributed towards a shift in social order away from feudalism towards a more liberal state. Failing harvests due to cool weather led to a significant reduction in resources, which in turn caused social unrest and uprisings. As peasant farmers no longer had surplus grain from their crops, they were no longer able to supply to their feudal lords hence resulting in the collapse of the feudal system. As farmlands perished, cities with higher presence of trade flourished as resources were exchanged. As the Little Ice Age had a more evident impact in Europe and North Atlantic regions whilst other areas experienced relatively stable climate, it may have also contributed towards the rise of colonialism as affected nations were forced to look outwards for resources.

Technological Developments[edit]

Climatic pressure caused by harsh winter drove a need for innovation and exchange of information during this period, especially evident in science and agriculture. The desire for foreign resources and trade due to cooler weather restricting the production of certain goods led to substantial developments in shipbuilding and maritime navigational technology. New crops were adopted in different regions, such as potatoes in Ireland, as previous crops(mostly cereal) failed to survive harsh winters. The increase of trade furthered the exchange of ideas which was another driving factor of the paradigm shift away from the stagnation of the medieval period into the age of discovery.

Culture and Religions[edit]

The changing climate conditions inspired many works of art and literature such as the depict of harsh in winters Pieter Brueghel the Elder's "The Hunters in the Snow" and Dickens A Christmas Carol. One of the most significant cultural responses to the Little Ice Age was the rise of witch hunts. Widespread unrest due to famine combined with a poor knowledge of climatology, many people turned towards religion and superstition in order to understand the changing weather. This led to beliefs such as the cold winters being a punishment from God for tolerating witchcraft, causing many women to be tried and prosecuted for the practice. Harsher weather conditions coincided with an increase in witch trials, and a similar decrease was seen when warmers weathers were experienced (Oster, Emily, 2004 pages 215–228)

Current climate change[edit]

After the Industrial Revolution (the burning of fossil fuels, increase in consumption and production…), the temperature has significantly increased. Until recently, the population didn’t grant much importance to the effect of climate change on the Planet Earth. However, the global warming that has been observed since the industrial revolution is starting to threaten the population’s wellbeing and the future generations.

Impact on geography

With higher temperature, ice is starting to melt (in particular Antarctica), causing a rise in sea levels. This is a threat to some lands and islands such as the Maldives which are predicted to be underwater by the end of this century. Furthermore, the increase of a few degrees will considerably modify some environments: some spaces will become dry and arid, precipitations will increase, as well as natural disasters. For example, this can already be seen in the Sahara: the desert is expanding to the South as the climate is getting hotter and dryer. All of these modifications will lead to impacts on the flora and fauna, as well as on the population.

Impacts on the flora and fauna Changes in the environments and landscapes are truly disturbing the biodiversity. Many species are disappearing, leading to an interruption in the food chain. For example, bees are endangered, and it is becoming commonplace to realize that this type of extinction could have a real impact on all biodiversity as well as human beings. In addition, global warming has an impact on the sedentarity of animals. some populations of animals no longer support the conditions of their environment that have changed and must migrate to another place (e.g. Some types of fish had to change seas to find waters that are less polluted and colder). The impact on the fauna and flora will definitely impact human beings.

Impacts on humans and society

Once the food chain is disturbed, there will be great changes in our behaviours. This is already visible: the part of the population that is vegan is growing everyday. People are becoming aware that global warming is an important problem we have to adress or else we and the future generations will greatly suffer the consequences.


To conclude, the impacts of climate change through history have shaped human's perception on the importance of the biodiversity. As time goes by, the evolution of the scientific and social disciplines helped raise awareness and people are starting to take action.

Patterns and Analysis[edit]

  1. Why Is Classical Theory Classical? R. W. Connell Source: American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 102, No. 6 (May 1997), pp. 1511-1557
  2. (Bugeaud and Daumas 1844:79)
  3. Abdelmajid Hannoum (2001) Colonialism and knowledge in Algeria: The archives of the Arab Bureau, History and Anthropology, 12:4, 343-379, DOI: 10.1080/02757206.2001.9960939
  4. Gottheil, Fred M. “On an Economic Theory of Colonialism.” Journal of Economic Issues, vol. 11, no. 1, 1977, pp. 83–102. JSTOR,
  6. Acemoglu, Daron, Simon Johnson, and James A. Robinson. 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation." American Economic Review, 91 (5): 1369-1401.