The mechanical galleon

09.20.2010 - By A History of the World in 100 Objects

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Neil MacGregor's world history as told through things. This week he is exploring the impact of Western European travel, trade and conquest between 1450 and 1600. He kicks off with an exquisite miniature version of the sort of high tech vessel that was to take Europeans right around the world. Today's object is a small clockwork version of the type of galleon that the Spanish sent against England in the Armada and that they sent across the high seas. This one was made for a grand dinner table - it could move, make music, tell the time and fire tiny cannons. Neil discusses the significance of this new breed of sailing ships and describes the political state that this galleon symbolises - the Holy Roman Empire. The marine archaeologist Christopher Dobbs compares the tiny galleon to the Mary Rose in Portsmouth and the historian Lisa Jardine considers the European fascination with mechanics and technology throughout the 16th Century.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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