A continuation or follow on of previous post. I realized the framework given there is relevant for more or less modern societies or civilizations. But many of the 4X games I criticized have a historical or pre-modern context.
This post will use the terms of Research and Application as given in previous, you can look them up there.
So how did research work before there was science?
Most importantly, Research mattered less. Many Applications were invented and refined through trial and error. Knowledge was passed on without being formalized or even written down. For example, boats and ships were built long before Archimedes.
The one exception was mathematics and geometry. As it applied to many highly practical matters - trade and architecture being foremost. But Applications in these fields were also highly dependent on local geography and resources.
The other spheres were Research did matter were the softer sciences of philosophy. Types of government, the responsibilities of rulers and citizens, such things are hard to experiment on. And most people would not just accept them without some explanatory or justifying doctrine. Research here was highly overlapped with religion and tended to be based on the teachings of specific persons rather than principles or patterns.
The main inputs for Research were:
- supported centers of learning such as libraries or courts
- social mobility so that talented people were not locked into some other caste or trade
- (partial) tolerance from political and religious authorities
Most Applications, as already noted, tended to advance without any Research as such. Instead the main inputs for Applications were:
- climate and resources that allowed its use. For example available ores.
- sufficient social organization for the Application to be used on an ongoing basis. That is, people who worked on/with an Application for a living. For example a shipwrights guild in a city.
- advancement generally scaled with organization. A guild of potters in regular contact would over time achieve more than a single hereditary line of pot makers in some village.
- stability. Much knowledge was passed directly. So even one missed generation due to war or some disaster could result in much being lost. Written works too were hard and expensive to reproduce.