Dubzion wrote: Scott wrote:
I remember discussing these things during high school history lessons. Imperialistic aspirations back then were just as much about publicity stunts as they were about materialistic gains. You absolutely have to remember that many of the aristocracy, for example, were basically above the financial world, so for them honor and prestige offered by such actions offered more than simply conquering more land to farm etc.
A minor clarification is in order: recent studies in the history of British mountaineering are generally in agreement that as things got serious, it was not at all the aristocracy, but one step down, the often very wealthy upper class of more recent earned, not inherited, wealth and lack of noble status who provided the mountaineers. Dubzion's primary point remains solid here, however, that there was extraordinary value placed upon the 'publicity stunts' (only a slight exaggeration!) of achieving first ascents. See, e.g., Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind
and Isserman and Weaver's Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes
. I rather doubt that the climbers themselves saw their efforts as 'stunts,' but more as honorable accomplishments to the greater glory of the realm.