'The Golden Age of Exploration'

Following the success of the British Scientists Award we are considering a series of special events connected with the 'Golden Age of Exploration'.

This would feature the exploits of many British and European explorers and merchant adventurers, their expeditions of discovery, as well as some of the more controversial episodes which together have created the world we now live in.

Superficially, commemorating the voyages and discoveries of Sir Walter Raleigh, Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus), or Martin Frobisher, re-tells the tales of navigational skill and luck, but there is a deeper darker side.

Exploration has often been a step on a path towards colonisation, exploitation, suppression of indigenous people, war and slavery in one form or another. Almost without exception, all societies and cultures have acted in these ways at some point in their evolution. This goes back to the origins of 'civilisation' itself with the supposed competition between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, the rise of Mesopotamia and far Asian civilisations, the Roman Empire, and the rise of European powers and their global influence.

We cannot hide from our history, and to point fingers of accusation at races, culture, nations and descendants of historical 'game-changers' is rather superficial because exploration, colonisation, exploitation are fundamental to the 'human condition' - they are in our DNA. It is what powered the first humans migrations: without them we would not have evolved into the most important species in our planet - for good or bad.

We can argue about the past for ever, but we do need to recognise that it's the future that really matters, and if the past tells us something about ourselves as humans it cannot be a bad thing.