Since humans began to travel long distances to move beyond the primitive hunter-gathering camps of our forebears we have needed to develop more and more impressive transportation technologies to increase the height of each new plateau in our evolutionary development. Early on in the history of transportation, humans primarily moved objects and supplies by hand, and while many cultures still do so today, this is the least efficient method and it is generally avoided unless there is no other choice. Humans are not good pack animals.
Compared to horses, cows, donkeys, llamas, camels, and other domesticated livestock, we are weaker and require more varied diets, than these grass eaters. The first development in the history of transportation was the domestication of these large herbivores whose muscle power we eventually adapted to become both food, tool, and weapon. The dog was by far the first animal to be domesticated, and some scientists believe Canis Lupus Familiaris to have taken its modern form as early as 30,000 BCE. While the horse is probably best known in the Western world for its uses in both war and peace, all of these animals have found uses throughout human history. The horse, however, is probably the best for reasons of diet, endurance, speed, and power. Traditionally, horse-riding peoples have tended to dominate less mobile armies throughout history. Some notable examples include the Huns in Central Europe, the Mongols in China, and the Spanish in Peru.
Many people have often noted with curiosity that Julius Caesar and George Washington employed the same transportation technology when making war. Those people have unfortunately not paid enough attention to the history of transportation. If they had, they would have noted where each of these famous generals were making war. George Washington, a man of European ancestry like Julius Caesar, fought across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe against a country whose homeland was across that very sea. Therefore, Washington’s 18th century Western civilization possessed far greater sea transportation than that of the Roman Republic, who rarely ventured out of the Mediterranean. Europe’s seagoing technology was developed in Portugal during the 16th century to deal with the subcontinent’s relative isolation, as Europe was considered a backwater compared to the more prosperous China, India, and Middle East at this time. Eventually politics in these regions shut off major sea exploration at the same time Europe was perfecting its long-distance ocean vessels, which led to Europe’s domination of the world until the mid-20th century.
This economic domination would manifest itself in the history of transportation through further innovations on land and air travel. European engineers would eventually develop the train, the car, the zeppelin, and then finally, the airplane. While none of these except perhaps the airplane could rival the qualitative shifts that were brought about through domestication and developments in sea travel, the world was still changed in incredible ways with each new innovation.
With each development in the history of technology the world has become smaller and smaller. The ability to move people and objects across the world at very high speeds is now being rivaled by lightning fast speed at which ideas can be transferred from place to place via the Internet. The possibilities are endless in this globalized world.