The Industrial Revolution
Formation of Planet Earth and the Origin of Life
History of Humankind (Speciation)
History of Humankind (Domestication)
History of Humankind (Civilization)
History of Humankind (Industrialization)
History of Humankind (The 20th Century)
Despite tremendous complication in detail, it is not difficult to discern the main thrust of European development in the field of politics between 1500 and 1648. As compared with the tangle of overlapping jurisdictions that had prevailed in medieval times, power tended to concentrate at relatively few centers. The European landscape came to be partitioned into a series of well consolidated states, each controlled by a central and usually monarchical government. In the most successful cases, the scale of consolidation was nation-wide: France, Spain, England, Sweden. In central Europe, smaller units seized sovereignty: city states, princely states, and ecclesiastical states. But even here, each separate state gathered authority and power toward a single center in the same way that the larger nation states were doing. In eastern Europe the pattern became weaker, for there, in some cases, noble and town privileges remained embedded in national monarchies. This was true, for instance, of Poland and Hungary. In other cases—Russia and Turkey—political centralization ran beyond the limits of a single nationality, subjecting peoples of diverse language and religion to a single imperial rule.
Within the borders of each successful state, the powers of government expanded radically. Matters which had once been strictly local came within the cognizance of agents of the central government. Kings and princes also acquired authority in matters of ecclesiastical administration and patronage, even in countries that remained Catholic and continued to recognize papal headship of the church. Noble rights and immunities together with town and village autonomies suffered drastic curtailment. Every sort of local authority based on inherited personal status crumbled before demands made in the name of a distant sovereign by officials whose power depended on royal or princely appointment.
This process of political consolidation may be looked at in a number of different ways. In one sense, it amounted to the application north of the Alps of techniques of government which had been first worked out in Italian city-states. Thus, for example, the merging of noble and burgher classes into a single (if tumultuous) body politic had been pioneered in Italian cities like Florence about two hundred years before French and English kings began to make much progress in that direction. Or, again, the use of standing professional armies to back up the will of the ruler was commonplace in Italy long before 1500, but became practicable in Spain and France only after that date. In the important instances, of course, state-building north of the Alps proceeded on a much enlarged territorial scale as compared to anything Italy knew. With this territorial enlargement the effective power of the leading European governments increased enormously, and the whole scale of interstate politics underwent corresponding magnification.
From another point of view, however, the complex overlapping jurisdictions of medieval political life were dissolved far more by the violent deeds and emotions connected with the Reformation than by slow seepage of Italian political practices north of the Alps. Assuredly, the effort to renew the church and make it holy had an enormous and immediate impact upon politics. Sustained and serious effort to make human life conform to God's will as revealed in the Bible changed men's minds and altered their behavior. Wholesale violence sanctified by dogmatic differences quickly erupted, and for more than a century Europe was convulsed by wars fought in the name of Christian truth —though scarcely in accordance with its precepts. Amid all the violence and bloodshed, secular sovereigns unceasingly inched their power forward. In the principal states that became Protestant the government took over most of the properties formerly owned by churchmen, and acquired the right to appoint, or at least to approve the appointment of, leading clergymen. Almost the same fate befell the church in countries that retained their allegiance to the pope. The fact that land and other property was not confiscated outright did not prevent Catholic rulers in Spain, France, and Austria, for example, from appointing the dignitaries and taxing the lands of the church within their domains.
From still a third viewpoint, the consolidation of political power in a comparatively small number of centers reflected the rapid elaboration of military technology. As weapons became more complicated, the exercise of organized violence became prohibitively expensive for local nobles and impossibly complex for universal authorities. The medieval knight, once he acquired a horse, armor, and training, was almost self-sufficient, or, more accurately, wherever he went he could find what he needed in the way of food and minor repairs to his equipment without much difficulty. If threatened by some superior force he could retire behind castle walls, where, if the castle were well provisioned, he could wait safely enough until the enemy went home. But when artillery and infantrymen armed with pikes and guns drove the knight first from his castle and then from the battlefield — a process lasting from about 1350 to 1550 — military organization became vastly more complicated. Supplies of powder and shot, transport for heavy guns, the arts of discipline, and money to pay for everything an army needed were not within the reach of most merely local authorities and, as it proved, were too disparate for any universal monarch to muster effectively across the whole of Europe.
Dependence upon a growingly complex system of land armaments also tied governments to the sources whence such complicated devices came: that is, to artisan shops and manufactories, mining and metallurgical entrepreneurs, capitalists, bankers, and generally, to the urban element in society which alone could assemble the necessary raw materials, produce the weapons, and deliver them to the soldiery in the right assortment and at the right time. Hence, really powerful governments were those in whose territories a sufficient urban development had occurred to sustain the complex demands of the new military technology. Territorially great states like Poland, for example, in which such a development failed to occur, were unable to take advantage of their size to become correspondingly powerful.
Each of these three points of view is surely valid. Their interplay over a century and a half, acting amidst the innumerable unpredictable acts of individual men who found themselves in critical situations facing new and unparalleled choices, gives the political history of this period an unusually intense, chaotic quality. At the time, the eventual victory of the royal and princely governments over both local and universal rivals for sovereignty was far from obvious. In some of the eastern and northern parts of Europe, for example, aristocrats and clan chieftains retained or even enhanced their liberties. This was done both in the name of Calvinist reform of church and state, as in Hungary and Scotland, and in the name of a restored and reinvigorated Catholicism, as in Poland and Lithuania.
In the Dutch provinces and in England similar political developments proceeded from very different causes, for there the royal power was dismantled by townsmen and commercial farmers who found in legal precedent and Calvinist doctrine suitable justification for their defiance of the centralizing authority. The Dutch revolt against Philip II of Spain began in 1568 and attained definite success by 1609, when a truce was concluded that ended large-scale campaigning. The rebel provinces worked out a loose federal union in the face of the exigencies of the war against Spain. The union survived the war, and, despite recurrent friction between urban and rural elements, sufficed to make the Dutch into a world power of the first rank.
In the next generation the English civil wars (1642—48) also ran counter to the trend toward monarchical absolutism. It was the parliamentary opponents of modern, efficient royal bureaucracy who prevailed. Like the Reformation itself, the parliamentary cause was radically reactionary, for it rested both on a reaffirmation of the traditional liberties of Englishmen (Magna Carta and all that) and upon relentless Puritanical striving after a government of saints. But like other successful revolutionaries, the Puritans in power were compelled to betray their program. English liberties and a government of saints degenerated after the execution of King Charles I (1649) into an open military dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell (d. 1658). His earnest efforts to re-establish a parliamentary form of government ran afoul of the stubborn fact that the vast majority of Englishmen repudiated the Puritanical ideal that inspired Cromwell's armies. After Cromwell died, King Charles II's restoration (1660) resolved the impasse; but the new king did not attempt to build up royal power as Charles I had done. Sovereignty remained with Parliament; and the English Parliament managed to balance local and national interests in such a way as to make the central government reasonably responsive to changing circumstances.
Yet, however pregnant English parliamentarianism and Dutch federalism may have been for later times, they were exceptional and entirely atypical of the age. By giving political expression to the stubborn localism of landowners and burghers, the English and Dutch governments seemed to be defending a lost cause. Only the fact that their security vis-a-vis other states rested on naval rather than on land forces explains how it was that these two maverick nations were able to play roles as great powers without submitting to the bureaucratic centralization which in other lands proved to be the price of military strength, or indeed of political survival.
The most spectacular aspect of European politics between 1500 and 1648 was not the incessant wearing down of local jurisdictions by representatives of some central authority. However important, administrative centralization proceeded by means of innumerable petty local quarrels and decisions. Far more dramatic was the conflict at the other end of the political scale, which pitted the two great universal institutions of Latin Christendom—papacy and empire—against the emerging territorial sovereigns of western and central Europe. It seems clear, at least in theory, that Renaissance rationalism and the Reformation effort to apprehend and enforce a complete truth that could save men from uncertainty and error might both have been harnessed to support a universal state and a single church—if any single sovereign had been able to exploit the increasing technical complexity of warfare in order to organize a power so strong as to overwhelm all political rivals and hunt down all heretics.
Nothing of the sort happened. Yet in 1519, when Charles V of Hapsburg added the tide and powers of Holy Roman Emperor to his already magnificent inheritance, it certainly seemed that universal monarchy might indeed prevail. For through a fortunate marriage alliance, Charles V inherited not merely his family's lands in Austria and nearby regions of Germany, but a magnificent Burgundian inheritance as well that extended southward from the Low Countries in an irregular strip of territory lying between France and Germany. In addition, he fell heir to the Spanish crown in 1516. To this was soon added the vast new empire of the Americas, which emerged before Europe's startled eyes as first Cortez (1521) and then Pizarro (1535) unlocked the dazzling wealth of the New World. As though this were not enough, Charles's brother Ferdinand, whom he entrusted with the administration of his Austrian possessions, inherited the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary in 1526, when his brother-in-law, the Hungarian king, died without heirs when fleeing the Turks after the disastrous battle of Mohacs.
Charles's enemies were as numerous as his subjects, however, and his subjects never united for any sort of prolonged common effort. The result was therefore first stalemate, and then weakening of the imperial power, even in Germany. But a long and stormy passage intervened between the time of Charles's coronation as Holy Roman Emperor (1519) and his descendants' reluctant acknowledgment in the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) of the sovereignty of local German princes.
The king of France and the sultan of Turkey were the most consistent opponents of the Hapsburg imperial power. (Their treaty of alliance, 1536, though seldom effective in the field, was a constant reproach to the Most Christian King of France.) In addition, Charles tangled violently with the papacy, and his soldiers sacked Rome in 1527. From the 1560's, however, after Spanish arms and Spanish piety had invaded Italy, captured the papacy, and inspired the Counter Reformation, the popes began to co-operate with the Hapsburgs. The resulting alliance between empire and papacy proved capable of reconverting nearly all the inhabitants of the Austrian, Hungarian, and Polish lands which had briefly proved hospitable to Protestantism.
In Germany, however, the Reformation enormously strengthened and intensified the opposition of local princes to any consolidation of the imperial power. After initial hesitation, Charles V declared himself firmly against Martin Luther and his followers; but wars with the French and Turks, fought mainly in Italy and the Mediterranean, kept him so busy that he never had time to marshal his full force against the Lutherans. He confessed his inability to restore religious uniformity to Germany by making peace with the Lutheran princes in 1555, guaranteeing them the right to protect Lutheran forms of worship and doctrine. In the next year, Charles abdicated, transferring Spain and its empire together with the Burgundian lands to his son, Philip, but endowing his brother, Ferdinand, with Austria and the imperial title.
Yet even this division of the inheritance did not, in the end, permit consolidation of either part. Germany remained divided and its princes nursed a lively suspicion of Hapsburg imperial ambitions. For a long time Ferdinand and his heirs followed a cautious policy, while the greater power of Spain under Philip II Struggled vainly first to consolidate and then to hold dominion over the Low Countries. The success of the Dutch revolt (1568-1609) and the English victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 did not prevent the Spaniards from retaining the rest of the Burgundian lands in Europe and dominating most of Italy while staving off the Turks in the Mediterranean, establishing their empire over a vast region of the Americas, and even, for a while, annexing Portugal and the Portuguese empire (1580-1640).
Only after Philip's death (1598) did Spanish predominance begin to fade. France had been distracted by a series of religious wars which pitted rebellious Protestants against the royal authority, but emerged again as a strong and united state under Henry IV (1589—1610). Meanwhile industrial stagnation or even retrogression diminished Spain's capacity to equip the armies and navies needed to maintain her imperial position. As a result, leadership of the Hapsburg and Catholic cause in Europe passed to the Austrian branch of the family, descended from Charles V's brother Ferdinand I. His namesake, Ferdinand II (reigned 1619—37), was a far more energetic and ruthless monarch than his predecessors had been. His agents set out in the name of Catholic restoration to overthrow local rights and immunities. The result was to fan a revolt in Bohemia (1618) into thirty years of violent war that convulsed most of Europe. The collision between Protestant and Catholic forms of Christianity envenomed the conflict, but just as much at stake were the conflicting princely and imperial claims to sovereignty. When Ferdinand's forces seemed likely to win, first the Danes, then the Swedes, and finally the French intervened against the Hapsburg imperial cause. Brutal devastation of parts of Germany ended with the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which guaranteed the emptiness of the imperial tide by recognizing the sovereignty of the separate German princes. Thenceforward, for more than two hundred years, Germany remained divided among scores of local rulers whose courts and governments imitated but could not rival the really great power that emerged from the Peace of Westphalia—that is, France.
European Colonization and Trade
The upshot of Europe's political, military, and religious history between 1500 and 1648 was, therefore, almost as confused as the events themselves. Plural sovereignties still divided the landscape, and their relations were complex and changeable as ever. Papal power remained real in much of Europe; Spain retained most of her empire both in the Americas and in Europe; and even the imperial power of the Austrian branch of the Hapsburg family found ample scope in consolidating and strengthening its administrative control over hereditary lands in Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary. The French dominance that emerged in 1648 was therefore very limited, even on the continent of Europe. When one considers naval power and overseas empire, French preponderance disappears, for England and the Dutch had both become formidable sea powers, superior to the French. They used their ships to encroach upon the Spanish and Portuguese overseas empires, dispatching traders to the Indian Ocean and colonists to the Americas.
The establishment of the Dutch and English East India companies (1600, 1601) gave a lasting and effective mercantile organization to the enterprises of these two nations in Indian and Far Eastern waters. At first it was the Dutch who won the most spectacular successes. From an initial venture in 1594, within a mere fifty years they drove the Portuguese from Malacca and Ceylon and established their power in Java, thus becoming the masters of the spice trade. Early English lodgments along the west coast of India were relatively modest.
In the Americas, however, the balance was reversed, for the English colonies in Virginia (founded 1607) and Massachusetts (founded 1620) soon outstripped the Dutch colony at New York (founded 1626). French colonization of Canada started almost simultaneously at Quebec (founded 1608). But by far the most lucrative European ventures across the Atlantic in the seventeenth century were directed toward the smaller islands of the Caribbean, where sugar plantations, worked by slaves imported from Africa, provided a commodity in high demand at home. By the i64o's, English, French, and to a lesser extent Dutch entrepreneurs had taken the lead in this trade, overtaking the Portuguese and Spaniards, who had first experimented with sugar along the Brazilian and Caribbean coastlines.
This very rapid expansion of European settlement and trade attested the restless growth of European power vis-a-vis other less volatile peoples and civilizations. All the futilities and confusions of European politics, the brutal clash of arms, and the impassioned struggle after theological certainty which constituted the stuff and substance of European experience in these years were not entirely in vain. Men seldom accomplished what they desired, but their struggles did very greatly increase Europe's capacity to mobilize wealth, manpower, and ingenuity for political and economic purposes. The consolidation of sovereignty and the expansion of the scope of governmental activity constituted one important aspect of this evolution. The rise of joint stock companies like the Dutch and English East India companies— and of other large-scale business enterprises—was another. Equally, in the intellectual and artistic realms, a reckless pursuit of truth and of beauty, enhanced and sometimes stimulated by advances of technology (e.g. printing, the telescope), imparted to European culture a greater variety and toughness than the comparatively parochial outlook and limited knowledge of the medieval age had allowed. We must consider these changes next.
The twin yet rival movements of Renaissance and Reformation emphasized different aspects of the European cultural inheritance. Men inspired by the ideal of giving rebirth to the knowledge, skills, and elegance of pagan antiquity magnified the Greco-Roman constituent of Europe's past, whereas believers anxious to reform religion on Biblical lines drew their main inspiration from the Judeo-Christian component of Western civilization. A few single-minded advocates in either camp sought to repudiate the other entirely; yet this was unusual, for a complex cross-play always existed between the two movements. Some of the greatest reformers were skilled classical scholars and found the techniques which had been developed for establishing the correct texts of pagan authors applicable to Biblical studies too. Similarly, the artists and men of letters of the Renaissance remained deeply concerned with religion and questions of theology, not least, when, as with Machiavelli (d. 1527), they expressly renounced the Christian faith. The Renaissance had, of course, taken form in Italy, from about 1350. A return to antiquity, with its memories of Roman greatness, naturally had strong appeal to Italians. More than that, Italian towns harbored secularly minded commoners and princely patrons who deliberately turned their attention toward things human and away from things divine.
The Italian Renaissance reached its peak just about the year 1500. Leonardo da Vinci's (d. 1519) restless probing of the natural world through his art and through minute observation of men and things, together with Niccolo Machiavelli's ruthless analysis of the nature and use of political power based upon personal experience and study of classical authors, well represents its culmination. Only a little later, Michelangelo Buonarroti (d. 1564) and Nicholas Copernicus (d. 1543) — who though he died in Poland drew his intellectual stimulus from the University of Padua where he had been trained—gave up the radical reliance on human rationality which seems implicit in the work of both da Vinci and Machiavelli. Michelangelo suffered torments of doubt about practically everything, even about the value of his art; and Copernicus' heliocentric system of astronomy, which assumed a circular instead of an elliptical orbit for the planets, was inspired by neo-Pythagorean number mysticism and actually flew in the face of observational data.
The attractions of the Renaissance ideal of beauty as created by human skill and of truth to be discovered by untrammeled exercise of human faculties were not lost on the rest of Europe. Aristocratic and courtly circles were particularly receptive north of the Alps; but wherever urban growth had created a substantial middle class—as in Holland, the Rhineland, England, and France—commoners, too, were soon attracted by local efforts to imitate or surpass Italian models. The result was the development of distinct national schools of literature and to some extent also of painting. Thus, for example, Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (d. 1616) and the plays of Lope de Vega (d. 1635) gave literary definition to the Spanish language. Modern French acquired its literary form through the labors of three utterly diverse men: Francois Rabelais (d. 1553), who mocked what he could not alter, John Calvin (d. 1564), who strove relentlessly to reform and sanctify all human life, and Michel Eyquem, seigneur de Montaigne (d. 1592), who recommended an aloof moderation in the face of human shortcomings. English owes its literary definition to Elizabethan writers— William Shakespeare (d. 1616) above all—and to the King James Bible (1611). Modern literary German is the creation of Luther's translation of the Bible. Most of the other tongues of Germanic Europe (Dutch, Danish, Swedish) took form also as a by-product of Protestant translations of the Bible into the vernacular.
The other leading characteristic of Europe's cultural life in this age was the reassertion of religious concerns despite the charms of rampant secularism toward which the thought and sensibility of Renaissance Italy seemed to be moving. Reform and reinvigoration of the Roman Catholic Church had been undertaken repeatedly in medieval Europe. By their very nature such" movements challenged constituted ecclesiastical authorities, who were always tempted to declare their critics heretical. This had been the fate of John Wycliffe (d. 1384) in England and Jan Hus (d. 1415) in Bohemia, each of whom nevertheless attracted a considerable body of followers. The healing of the Great Schism in 1417 through the restoration of papal monarchy at the Council of Constance made it harder for heresy to flourish in the following century. In Spain, particularly, religious conformity and political loyalty tended to coincide. The crusading spirit, fanned by centuries of war against the Moors (driven from Granada only in 1492), continued to inspire the Spanish imperial effort both in Europe and overseas. A uniquely close relationship between church and state resulted. Elsewhere, pope and monarch usually collaborated in taxing the clergy, but were otherwise as often at odds as in alliance.
The papacy itself claimed sovereignty over part of Italy, and some popes allowed their pursuit of political advantage in the peninsula to outweigh the spiritual headship over Christendom their predecessors had so vigorously asserted. Elsewhere in Italy and Germany bishops and abbots often followed the pope's example. Amidst such a tawdry religious scene, Martin Luther's (d. 1546) conviction, based on poignant personal experience of how a sinful man might still win through to salvation, flashed like the sword of an avenging angel. Luther initially challenged the validity of the sale of indulgences. Sales of these documents, which purported to relieve suffering souls from the torments of Purgatory, had been organized in a thoroughly commercial spirit as part of a campaign to raise money to build a new St. Peter's cathedral in Rome.
According to the conventions of traditional scholastic debate Luther publicly denied the value of indulgences by posting 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg in 1517. But instead of remaining a matter of academic controversy, Luther's views spread like wildfire through Germany. Public debates with champions of the papacy rapidly drove Luther toward more radical and complete exposition of his convictions. Three eloquent pamphlets written in 1520—An Appeal to the Nobility of the German Nation, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Freedom of a Christian Man—defined the heart of Lutheranism. Subsequent controversy developed numerous differences in doctrinal formulation between Catholics, Lutherans, and other kinds of Protestants. At the center of this theological strife was the question of the source of religious authority. Luther rested his case on the Bible and his own personal experience of what he felt to be the freely given grace of God. He further denied that the clergy had any necessary mediating role between the individual sinner and God, and boldly proclaimed the priesthood of all believers.
The printing press spread Luther's views rapidly and widely through Germany and adjacent lands. His protest speedily gathered other discontents behind the banner of church reform. Luther's attack on the papacy, for example, attracted many in Germany who felt aggrieved at being taxed and exploited by foreigners; but this expression of German nationalism was soon stifled by the refusal of the emperor, Charles V, and of other important rulers in Germany to become Lutheran. Instead, therefore, of becoming German, the Protestant movement became European, particularly after John Calvin established his head- quarters in Geneva (1541) and made it the center of a vigorous propaganda. England, for example, broke with the pope in 1534, but the Church of England became Protestant in doctrine only by degrees, very largely under stimulus from Geneva. Simultaneously the Dutch and Scots made Calvinism dominant in their countries. In France, on the contrary, the government remained Catholic. French Protestantism, after a promising start, lost its elan about 1600. In Italy, Protestantism never commanded wide support and withered quickly when the force of revived Catholicism became apparent. Scandinavia, on the other hand, became Lutheran, along with almost half of Germany. Local nationalisms, which were beginning to emerge all over Europe, played important parts in determining each of these results.
Social and economic protest also made a brief appearance in Lutheran dress. But when rebellious peasants took Christian liberty to mean relief from dues and rents, Luther denounced them violently (1525). Thereafter, social unrest and religious radicalism found expression among Anabaptists and other sects. These groups met severe persecution, and survived mainly among the poor, and often as secret or semi-secret groups.
The drastic nature of the social and economic changes that came to Europe between 1500 and 1648 contributed powerfully to religious controversy- Yet it would be wrong to forget that the search for an absolutely certain religious truth gathered enormous energy behind it simply because of the inherent attractiveness of a definite and coherent world view. Peace of mind required authoritative and adequate answers to the uncertainties that daily experience thrust so remorselessly upon a large proportion of Europe's population. Luther was sure about how he himself had gained God's grace. This was one of the secrets of his success, since others wished desperately to achieve a similar state of inward grace and assured salvation. When a man did achieve certainty, he naturally wished both to communicate the saving truth to others and to denounce error in all its guises. A great outpouring of preaching and writing, aimed at such explication, was soon supplemented by systematic schooling in carefully drawn-up catechisms. Defenders of the papacy presently developed Roman Catholic counter-propaganda. All across Europe a far greater knowledge of Christian doctrine and an emotionally deeper commitment to chosen or inherited forms of the faith resulted.
One of the ironies of Protestantism was its tendency to split into sects and sub-sects. The reformers never abandoned the ideal of a single Catholic church embracing all Christians. But the Bible—their sole source of religious authority—was capable of diverse interpretation. Truths that seemed self-evident to one man did not always seem so to others who were just as sincere and equally eager for the certainty of salvation. In such a case each was compelled to denounce the other as a preacher of false doctrine, and often did so with-more vigor than charity. Yet as the white heat of the first generation of reform receded, efforts to build a church organization and enforce doctrinal conformity met with success in most parts of Protestant Europe. In England the process was more drawn out. Piecemeal reform under the Tudors (1534-1603) failed to satisfy a powerful group of rigorists, or Puritans. Their effort to make over all human life in accordance with God's will did not exhaust itself until after the utter failure of the government of saints under Oliver Cromwell (1658).
The Roman church reacted slowly to the Protestant challenge. At first many hoped that reconciliation could be achieved. Pious and educated Catholics, who were best capable of meeting the Protestant movement on its own terms, often hesitated to divide Christendom even more deeply by counter-attacking against the Lutherans. Yet the passionate drive for theological certainty which armed the Protestants could also be harnessed to the Catholic cause. St. Ignatius Loyola (d. 1556) did so. After a conversion experience as poignant as Luther's, he set out to preach the truth as a soldier of the pope. He soon collected a group of like-minded young men around himself and then organized them into the Society of Jesus, which speedily became a most effective agent for the defense and propagation of Catholicism, both in Europe and overseas. When the Jesuit order was still in its infancy, the Council of Trent (1545—63) assembled. After lengthy and thrice-suspended sessions, it succeeded in decreeing a number of practical reforms and defined disputed points of doctrine in a firmly anti-Protestant sense.
Thereafter the initial ambiguity of the appeal for church reform faded, and men everywhere in Europe were confronted by the spectacle of a comparatively well-organized, united, and reformed Roman Catholic church locked in combat with an equally determined but not nearly so tightly organized Calvinist movement, while Lutherans and conservative churchmen in England looked on with a general distaste for both of the protagonists. Eventually, the failure of pope and emperor in the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) and the almost simultaneous failure of the Puritan revolution in England (1640-60) turned many men's minds away from religious controversy, which, in the course of both conflicts, had often become a transparent disguise for ignoble political and economic interests.
The Growth of Science
As a matter of fact, throughout the Reformation period a small but important company of men had not permitted the quest for theological certainty to eclipse other, more mundane concerns. Galileo Galilei (1564—1642), for example, lived through the height of Europe's religious conflicts, yet found it preferable to devote himself to physical and astronomical investigations. His defense of Copernican astronomy on the basis of telescopic observation and mathematical reasoning, and his ingenious efforts to give mathematical expression to carefully recorded observational data, inaugurated lines of inquiry which physicists and astronomers have not yet exhausted. Rene Descartes (d. 1650) was another who deliberately turned his back on theological controversy and instead set out to create a mathematically rigorous philosophy which would, with sublime impartiality and on the basis of reason alone, provide answers to metaphysical as well as to all other questions about which men had quarreled so bitterly and desperately since the time of Luther and before.
Other intellectual traditions were active and fruitful too. Paracelsus (1541), Andreas Vesalius (d. 1564), and William Harvey (d. 1657) successfully challenged the authority of Galen in medical matters, as much on mystical and neo-Platonic grounds as upon the basis of more exact observation of human anatomy. Similarly, a superstitious mystic, Johannes Kepler (d. 1630), strove vainly to discover the harmonic ratios among the orbits of the planets, but did, after vastly laborious computation, discover a mathematical formula that exactly described the elliptical motions of each separate planet in its orbit—thus, incidentally correcting Copernicus and removing one of the most important objections to the Copernican hypothesis. Still another tradition, optimistic and empirical, was represented by Francis Bacon (d. 1626), who argued that careful observation and systematic collection of information would allow men to unlock nature's secrets without the help of either religious revelation or mathematical reasoning.
Invention of a number of new instruments, particularly the telescope (c. 1608) and the microscope (c. 1590), the pendulum clock (c. 1656), thermometer (c. 1654), and barometer (c. 1643), gave the observations and experiments of the small company of natural philosophers much greater precision than had been possible in earlier ages. This, together with the vast influx of miscellaneous information flooding into Europe from overseas, provided a rich diet for those who preferred such studies to the controversies of theologians. Hence, when (after 1648) hostile religious camps came to be widely discredited among reflective men, the natural philosophers were ready and primed to offer a world view less complete perhaps but scarcely less fascinating than the rival theologies that had dominated the attention of earlier generations.
Yet it would be wrong to suggest that science supplanted religion. On the contrary, the Reformation age left behind a heightened religious concern in all walks of life. Science and other secular inquiries did not expressly oppose the claims of religion, which had been pitched so very high by reformers of both Protestant and Catholic persuasions. Rather, secular investigation grew up and throve in the interstices of knowledge which were treated as matters of indifference by theologians. Later, after about 1650, scientific investigation attained enough respectability that scientists and men of learning— at least those who lived in the most active centers of European civilization— no longer had seriously to worry about how their discoveries would fit into the frame of official theology. Quarrels continued to arise. But neither clergymen, defending Christian truth, nor scientists, arguing some new idea, were able to suppress or overthrow those who disagreed with them. Both appeal to force and appeal to the necessity for universal agreement on matters of importance, which had seemed self-evident and necessary in the Reformation age, slowly ceased to carry much conviction to politicians and the public.
Emergence of Cultural Pluralism
Thus the upshot of Europe's long travail between 1500 and 1648 was strangely contrary to what almost all the great men of the age had desired. Instead of discovering and enforcing a universal truth, Europeans discovered that they could agree to disagree. Intellectual pluralism established itself on European soil more flagrantly than ever before. No official hierarchy of knowledge provided a complete scheme for understanding the world — as had been the case, in theory if not in practice, in medieval times. Each separate church, nation, and profession was in a position to pursue truth according to its own lights. Such diversity assured the continued and very rapid development of European thought down even to our own time.
Art and letters also exhibited an increasing pluralism. The rise of the vernacular which had occurred at the beginning of our period created separate national schools of literature. Painting, too, tended to diverge from the pattern established by the great Italians, so that Spanish (Velasquez, d. 1660; El Greco, d. 1614), Dutch (Rembrandt, d. 1669), and Flemish (Rubens, d. 1640) schools, each with distinctive traits, developed within the general European tradition. Architecture remained less variable. In all of Catholic Europe a baroque elaboration of Renaissance styles prevailed, whereas in most Protestant lands variations upon Gothic held the ground.
The trauma of emergence from the medieval mould was enormous. Never since have Europeans faced more agonizing or more pervasive uncertainties. Yet the severity of the experience called forth human genius and individual achievement on a most unusual scale. Columbus and Cortez, Luther and Loyola, Leonardo da Vinci and Descartes, Copernicus and Galileo—to name only a few of the greatest —were makers of the modern world in a more profound sense than were men of earlier or later generations who did not confront, as these men did, the challenges of a new world—both literally and metaphorically—opening before their startled eyes. The surpassing success with which these and scores of thousands of other Europeans rose to meet this unprecedented opportunity is best attested by the subsequent career of Western civilization, of which we and all the world are heirs.
The volcanic passions loosed in Europe by the Reformation and Counter Reformation subsided after 1648. Leaders of both church and state recoiled from the attempt to enforce total conformity to theological or any other sort of truth. Carefully skirting both the heights and depths of human passion, the leaders of European society preferred to rely on the competence of trained professionals, whose grasp on truth could only be partial and whose temper was seldom fanatic. Tepid professionalism therefore found new scope at every strategic position in society: in barracks, pulpits, law courts, universities, schools, government bureaus, and even in the offices of such new-sprung instruments of power as chartered companies and banks. By providing a secure niche and useful function for these and still other specialized professions, European society opened wide the door for pluralism of thought and sensibility as never before. Each profession, pursuing its own limited vision of the truth, advanced and elaborated upon the work of earlier generations, and felt no pressing need to erect or conform to any overarching grand synthesis of all truth and knowledge. So long as their own professional autonomy and dignity were not called in question, Europe's men of affairs found it perfectly possible to let others in other walks of life think and, within limits, act as they pleased.
Pluralism and compromise had of course been present in European as in every other civilized society from the time civilization first began. Indeed, one definition of civilization is a society in which occupational specialization exists. What was new in the second half of the seventeenth century in Europe, therefore, was not so much the fact as its recognition, and a willingness to tolerate discrepancies and divergencies which the most strenuous reforming efforts of preceding generations had been unable to remove. Moderation, balance, manners: these could replace the impassioned striving after metaphysical certainty which had for so long inspired Europeans to denounce and destroy one another. Logic certainly suffered from such compromise, but common sense and the fact that it worked supported the new professionalized piecemeal approach to problems of truth and morals.
Moderation, balance, and manners even infected interstate relations. Something approaching a code of professional conduct for diplomats and soldiers defined itself in the decades after the close of the disastrous Thirty Years' War. Formalization of warfare reached its peak, perhaps, at the battle of Fontenoy (1745), when French and English officers courteously offered one another the privilege of firing first. Thereafter, the intensity of European warfare tended again to increase. Weapons became more destructive and the political stakes larger, until French revolutionary leaders once again armed and unleashed popular passions upon the battlefield.
Between 1653 and 1689 France enjoyed a definite superiority over her rivals. In his boyhood, King Louis XIV (reigned 1643 — 1715) witnessed the failure of the last aristocratic effort to assert noble rights against the king by armed rebellion (the so-called Fronde, 1648—53). As a grown man, he set the victorious royal armies the task of winning for France the "natural boundaries" of the Rhine and Pyrenees. His initial successes at the expense of the tattered Spanish empire ground to a halt when the Dutch and English (1689) entered into alliance with the Hapsburgs to check French aggression. Thereafter, England and France conducted a series of wars in which dominion over North America and India were at stake, while on the European continent the Austrians reaped the major fruit of the final dismemberment of Spain's European empire by taking over Spain's position in Italy and the southern Netherlands (Wars of the Spanish Succession, 1701—14). By 1763 England (become Great Britain through union with Scotland and Ireland in 1707) won decisive victory overseas in India and Canada— a success only partly undone in the next generation when French aid (1778-83) allowed rebellious British colonists to make good their effort to establish an independent nation in North America.
While western Europe experienced these tumultuous yet limited actions, eastern Europe witnessed a more drastic realignment of power. After 1648, Poland and Sweden, like the Dutch in western Europe, ceased to be able to defend their status as great and imperial powers. Instead, Austria, and a new-sprung German state, Brandenburg-Prussia, competed with Russia for Swedish and Polish territories (1648—1721). Later the same three powers wiped the Polish Kingdom from the map entirely by partitioning Poland between them (1772—95). Central Europe remained a sort of bridge (and not infrequently a convenient theater of war) between Europe's western and eastern balances of power. The small states into which Italy and Germany had been divided by the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) continued to incline either to a French or to an anti-French alliance, depending on local conditions and rivalries, dynastic ties, and—at least sometimes— upon straightforward sale to the highest bidder.
Balancing Intranational Interests
Within each of the sovereign states of Europe, the government recognized no legal limits to its freedom of action in matters of foreign policy. Yet in fact calculations of the balance of power restricted any one ruler's freedom of maneuver within rather narrow bounds. Similarly, each European monarch, even when claiming absolute power over his subjects, was in fact limited by a tangle of countervailing interests and privileges, traditionally distributed among different groups and classes. Moreover, these diverse interests usually had some sort of corporate organization that could and did give them effective political weight.
Thus the stately grandeur of Louis XIV's court and his proud boast, "L'etat, c'est moi," disguised a very different reality. Even in Louis's youth, when energetic officials in his service sought to carry through a systematic centralization of French administration, the countervailing force of corporate privileges, some of long standing (e.g. the provincial representative assemblies or "Estates" of France), and others newly established (e.g. the French East India Company), severely limited the practical success French bureaucrats achieved. Nevertheless, royal policy attained its central aim: the taming of the aristocracy. But King Louis XIV secured this end as much through a judicious distribution of pensions and court offices, as by direct suppression of noble rights and privileges.
After Louis XIV's death, the French aristocrats set out to reclaim some of their former independence, but did so by legal process and argument rather than by attempting, as their forefathers had so often done, to resort to force. Military and civil administration had advanced to such a point that any other course had become wildly impractical. For ordinary men, the effective reduction of violence and the establishment of a regimen of law in the countryside were the central and basic achievements of the Old Regime in France, and in other west European countries.
The precise equilibrium between competing interests and corporate groups varied from state to state and from time to time, creating an ever-changing pattern of politics. Generally speaking, the Hapsburg lands, both in Spain and Austria, lagged perceptibly behind the French. In these lands the centralizing drive of bureaucratic reform, seeking to reduce or eliminate local differences, found its main expression not in the seventeenth century, as in France, but in the eighteenth. The Church retained far greater independence in the lands under Hapsburg jurisdiction than was the case in France, where Gallicanism—that is, the doctrine that there was and should be a separate French church within the Roman Catholic fold—had prevailed from medieval times. In practice, Gallicanism meant a close subordination of bishops and other dignitaries of the French church to the royal government.
Toward the outer edges of western Europe, two quite atypical governments assumed distinctive form between 1640 and 1688. By a remarkable coincidence it was precisely during these years that English parliamentarianism on the one flank and Prussian militarism on the other achieved their decisive formulations. The English civil wars (see above) were the crucible from which parliamentary sovereignty emerged; but a workable adjustment between old-fashioned localism (so vigorously represented by the squires and burgesses of the House of Commons) and the requirements of national policy was made only after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. During the reigns of Charles II (1660-85) and his brother James II (1685-88), the restored Stuart monarchs not unnaturally found it difficult to trust Parliament, and, in fact, accepted subsidy from France to allow them to get along without too slavish a dependence on parliamentary grants. Successful national policy could scarcely be conducted under such conditions.
Circumstances changed abruptly with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which brought James's sister, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, jointly to the English throne. William was also Stadholder of Holland, and his interests focused on the Continent where he became leader of the diplomatic-military coalition forming against Louis XIV. He was perfectly prepared to leave the government of England to Parliament, if parliamentary leaders would supply him the necessary means for keeping Louis XIV in check. Thereafter, until George III mounted the throne in 1760, no English monarch attempted to evade or control parliamentary leaders, who thus developed the habit of and created the needful institutions for governing the country with a nice respect for the competing demands of local, national, and international concerns.
To meet these requirements, English politicians and parliamentarians developed two important new institutions, cabinet government and the national debt. The cabinet was appointed by the crown, to be sure, but was responsible to Parliament, The cabinet's ability to pass legislation by securing the votes of a parliamentary majority was based upon a loose but real clique-and-party system of alliances among the members of Parliament. Despite occasional fumbling and frequent rumblings of dissatisfaction on the part of the worsted party, this system of government had the virtue of being able to register incessant changes in the assortment of interests represented in Parliament. No centralized bureaucracy of the eighteenth century could adjust so sensitively to social changes. In this lay the essential superiority of parliamentary government as practiced in eighteenth-century England. It was not in the least a democratic regime, for the unpropertied majority together with religious dissenters had no representation at all. Rotten boroughs and political patronage allowed men of wealth and birth to dominate Parliament completely.
The success of parliamentary government in England after 1688 also owed a great deal to the invention of a new instrument of credit, the national debt. This allowed public borrowing to meet emergency expenses on very advantageous terms. The key idea was to make Parliament responsible for repayment. Previously, governmental borrowing had been in the king's name, and his debts were treated as personal obligations, to be repaid, if at all, by the king in person by whatever means he could find. In 1694, however, Parliament established the Bank of England. One of its most important functions was to lend money to the government on the understanding that repayment would be guaranteed by Parliament and by whatever taxes Parliament might decide to levy. In this way the costs of a war could be spread out over many years. More important, interest rates went down as the assurance of repayment increased, and the English government became able to borrow from foreigners as well as from its own subjects. Other governments, lacking the Parliamentary guarantee of repayment, were seldom able to borrow on such favorable terms. The rapid rise of England's power was enormously facilitated by this fact.
Brilliant success against the French in the Seven Years' War (1756-63) proved how formidable such a government might be. Correspondingly, the failure of King George Ill's effort to control Parliament by developing a King's party that would rise above petty and selfish interests was sealed by his embarrassing defeat in the War of the American Revolution (1776-83). Hence, by piecemeal and entirely unsystematic evolution, the pattern of English (after 1707, British) government diverged increasingly from the norm of bureaucratic monarchy which prevailed on the continent. Particularly after 1763, there were Frenchmen and others on the continent who came to believe that British parliamentarianism, which had seemed an archaic and disorderly survival from a medieval past in 1640 and 1688, might in fact provide a useful model for the reorganization of their own more rigid governmental system.
Prussia's development was very different. Under stern and unremitting prodding from Frederick William, the Great Elector (ruled 1640-88), the scattered territories he had inherited from his Hohenzollern ancestors were welded together into a tightly centralized and strictly disciplined state. The drastic experience of the Thirty Years' War, when Brandenburg (which lay at the heart of the Hohenzollern possessions) had been repeatedly subject to devastation by Swedish and other foreign troops, disarmed local resistance to the Great Elector's policy. He aimed to achieve sufficient military strength to repel attack and was prepared to pay almost any price. The cost was certainly high, for his lands were poor and not very thickly inhabited. Yet, he was able by severest parsimony and unremitting care to create a standing army powerful enough not only to defend, but to enlarge his territories. His successors carried on the same policy, with no less success though with an increasingly relaxed temper. At his death, Frederick II, the Great (reigned 1740-86), left a much enlarged and territorially consolidated state, the kingdom of Prussia, which had become one of the great powers of Europe, rivaling Austria in the Germanics and dealing with Russia, the colossus of the east, on even terms.
Hohenzollern rulers showed systematic concern for economic development. Prussia's kings well knew that manufactures and population provided the sinews of victory in war. So successful were they in developing the unpromising sandy soils and limited mineral resources under their administration that Prussia began, by the end of the eighteenth century, to assume more of the social complexity familiar to more westerly lands. Artisans, merchants, professional men, and other urban classes became more numerous and influential. As this occurred, the barracks atmosphere, which had been so distinctive in the time of the Great Elector and his immediate successors, faded. Yet it did not disappear from Prussian life. It merely retreated within the narrower circle of the professional officer corps, which was recruited mainly from among younger sons of the landowning squirearchy ("Junkers") of East Prussia and adjacent Baltic lands.
Advances in Agriculture and Technology
Europe's economic life underwent continued rapid escalation throughout the period of the Old Regime. Agriculture remained basic, and the great majority of the population continued everywhere to work as farmers, even in the most highly urbanized countries. In wide regions customary patterns of cultivation continued. Wherever the manorial style of collective cultivation had rooted itself, there were great obstacles to making any important changes in familiar routines, since overlapping property rights were likely to require unanimous (or nearly unanimous) consent for any important alteration. Nevertheless, even within old rhythms of work great increases of harvest could come from such simple procedures as systematic seed selection, or by improvements in plow design.
Some important departures took place in westernmost Europe. New crops like clover and turnips came into use, providing adequate winter fodder for horses and cattle—always the vulnerable point of medieval agriculture. Turnips required careful cultivation, which eliminated weeds from the fields just as efficiently as plowing a fallow field had traditionally done. In this way fallowing could be eliminated entirely and agricultural productivity expanded proportionately. In addition, clover helped to improve soil fertility by the fixation of nitrogen on its roots. The spread of potatoes was, however, the single most important change in European agriculture, for it very greatly enlarged foodproducing capacity. On the sandy soils and in the cool climate of Baltic Germany, for example, as much as four times the number of calories could be had from a crop of potatoes as from grain. This permitted a dramatic upthrust of German population and prosperity, which began to manifest itself from about 1750, when potatoes first became important in central Europe. Maize played a similar role in the Balkans and in Hungary; but northern Europe was too cool for maize to thrive, and western Europe too wet.
Manufactures and communications saw a similar improvement. France took the lead in developing all-weather roads and a system of canals that linked all the important river systems of the country into a single network. Only after 1750 did the English begin to catch up. In manufactures, however, the relationship tended to be reversed, for private enterprise and empirical inventiveness found freer scope in Britain than in the more tightly regulated economies of the continent. In addition, English coal fields were abundant and easily exploited. The invention of coking (c. 1709) permitted the use of coal for smelting iron ores. Then in turn, a more abundant supply of iron and steel allowed the substitution of metal for wood in the working parts of many machines. The most significant departure, however, was the development of powerful engines, using steam pressure derived from the burning of coal to produce mechanical energy. As early as 1712 Thomas Newcomen invented a crude steam engine to pump water from mine shafts. It depended on atmospheric pressure working against a partial vacuum produced by the condensation of steam. In 1769 James Watt patented a much-improved engine, which used live steam to drive a piston in a closely fitted cylinder. Since Watt's engine did not require alternate heating and cooling as Newcomen's had done, it was vastly more efficient. Very quickly it was put to work providing power for factories and mines, and before long for transportation too.
Among the most spectacular uses for Watt's steam engine was the driving of textile machinery, whose size and complexity had grown rapidly throughout the eighteenth century. The result was a tremendous increase in the amount of cloth that could be produced in a given period of time and the rapid cheapening of the final product. By 1789, indeed, English mills using cotton grown in India and imported to England around the Cape of Good Hope were able to undersell the Indian handweavers in India itself! No more startling demonstration of the technological advance brought by England's eighteenth-century success in harnessing coal, iron, and mechanical ingenuity could be conceived, for the skill of Indian weavers and the cheapness of their labor had previously excelled all rivals in the entire world. Changes, sometimes small, sometimes fundamental, came to nearly all the traditional crafts of Europe. In addition, new crafts were created by systematic and deliberate imitation of the products of other lands. The most spectacular instance of this enrichment of European skills was the way in which craftsmen, scientists, entrepreneurs, and government officials collaborated to duplicate Chinese porcelain. The Chinese guarded their trade secrets well, and it was only after prolonged trial and error that Europeans learned how to produce porcelain almost indistinguishable from the Chinese.
At least as important as any of these technical improvements was the simultaneous development of organizational forms that permitted Europeans to mobilize greater and greater resources for undertakings requiring long exertion and the co-operation of large numbers of persons. The importance of chartered companies for European overseas operations was mentioned above. In addition, such important fiscal devices as central banks and national debts were introduced during the Old Regime, thus beginning to free economic relations from restrictions imposed by limitations on the supply of gold and silver, and introducing an initially ill-understood and very violent cyclic fluctuation into the price system. Indeed, the first runaway credit boom (South Sea Bubble, 1718-20) so discredited joint stock companies that they were made illegal in all leading European countries—a situation that continued to prevail until the nineteenth century.
Europeans also explored the potentialities of another powerful device for coordinating industrial processes by learning how to supplement craftsmen's manual skills with the precision of mathematical measurement. The boring of cannon and of musket barrels required close accuracy, if the finished weapon were to fire properly. Equally, Watt's steam engines required a close fit between pistons and cylinder walls, and a general matching up of gear wheels, screw threads, bearings, and other moving parts. Clocks, watches, telescopes, and microscopes could only be made by specialists who were able to cut parts to specified dimensions so that the separate pieces could be assembled into a whole that really worked. This required dexterity of hand and eye, but also depended on a more and more precise mathematical definition of each task and accurate measurement of the product at each stage of manufacture. These aspects of European economic organization remained rudimentary in 1789, and found their major application only later. Nevertheless, the start had been made, the idea was known, its practicability had been demonstrated. The possibilities of radical rationalization of manufacturing processes had been foreshadowed, to Europe's enormous advantage and further enrichment.
Mathematics and Sciences
During the second half of the seventeenth century, Europe's intellectual energies, which had been concentrated on religious debate for more than a century, shifted focus rather abruptly. Mathematics had been undergoing rapid development throughout the Reformation age, when men like Johannes Kepler (d. 1630) and Galileo Galilei (d. 1642) were active. New notations helped to broaden and simplify calculations and induced new concepts. In particular, the sciences of geometry and algebra, which had been studied separately since the time of the Arabs, began to merge, thereby creating analytic geometry. Analytic geometry in turn gave rise to "fluxions," or the calculus, which enlarged the scope and refined the power of mathematical reasoning, and had important applications in the study of physics.
So great was the vogue for mathematics that many men felt sure that appropriately rigorous and careful application of the techniques of mathematical reasoning to any and all questions of the human condition might reach true and universally acceptable conclusions. Rene Descartes (d. 1650) was the first influential man to make this bold attempt. His deductive reasoning from axioms and self-evident first principles, in the manner of the geometricians, was so persuasive that a school of enthusiastic Cartesians rapidly developed in France and elsewhere. They vigorously popularized and defended Descartes's views. Others were fired by the same vision of mathematical certainty, but, alas, came to different and mutually incompatible conclusions. Baruch Spinoza (d. 1677) in Holland and Thomas Hobbes (d. 1679) in England were among the most famous of these philosophers. In the next generation, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (d. 1716) nourished the same ambition.
These philosophers lacked any satisfactory way of settling their differences, for there was no empirical test by which disinterested experts could choose between their rival views. The matter was otherwise with the magnificently elegant analysis of physical and astronomical motions developed by Isaac Newton (d. 1727) in his book Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematics, published in 1687. Like his predecessors, Newton sought to reduce observed multiplicity to mathematical order. To explain the behavior of moving bodies, both in the heavens and on earth, he hypothesized a mysterious force— universal gravitation. This he supposed operated in space according to an absurdly and delightfully simple mathematical formula— diminishing between any two bodies with the square of the distance.
Some of Newton's contemporaries boggled at the mystical implications of a force acting at a distance. Newton's efforts to clarify the issue by speaking of an ethereal substratum and, in another passage, of space as "the mind of God," did not help much to relieve such anxieties. But what did convince almost everyone was the fact that Newton's theory could be tested empirically. Newton's laws of motion had originally been generated through his effort to express mathematically the motion of the moon. But there were innumerable other moving bodies that could be used to test the accuracy of his formulas. On the basis of such observations and measurements it soon appeared that the formulas did work. Reality in fact conformed to Newton's laws of motion.
In our own time, scientific prediction and the operation of natural law are usually taken for granted. It requires, therefore, an act of the imagination to understand how extraordinary and exciting such discoveries were when they were new. Men who had been brought up to conceive the universe as ruled by a very active, personal God, who might intervene in any situation at any moment to work a miracle of conversion or to forgive a past transgression, found the Newtonian vision of the universe both liberating and frightening. God, it appeared, was a mathematician and had chosen to create the universe accordingly. In such a universe it seemed almost beneath God's dignity to work a miracle, for that would involve the local and temporary cancellation of his own decree, and a confession of the inadequacy of natural law to achieve all good and necessary aims. A starker contrast with the world view of Luther or Loyola, which turned upon an intensely personal and completely unpredictable relationship between God and each single human soul, could scarcely be imagined.
Yet most men, even after they had been persuaded to accept a Newtonian view of the natural universe, remained Christian. Newton himself wrote Biblical commentaries in which he attempted to discover hidden meanings in Holy Writ; and his long lifetime (1642—1727) was particularly prolific of new religious movements that emphasized personal relation with and experience of God. Within Protestantism, for example, the Quakers and Methodists of England and the Pietists of Germany got their start while Newton was still alive. Among the Roman Catholics, Jansenism and Quietism achieved their greatest influence in Newton's time. Official reprobation by the papacy resulted in the eventual disappearance of both these schools of piety, but the three Protestant movements, despite all intervening changes, continue to flourish today.
Other sciences proved rather less amenable to definitive mathematical formulation. Much was done to collect information about the various forms of plant and animal life, and new knowledge about distant human societies, both civilized and savage, poured into Europe as missionaries and other men of learning recorded their observations. Yet a mathematical formulation of the biological and social sciences failed to emerge from the cloud of new information. To be sure, a Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus (d. 1778), hit upon a system of classifying plants which has remained standard since, and a school of "physiocrats" in France, with Adam Smith (d. 1790) in Scotland, did attempt, with rather impressive success, to deduce what would happen to trade and industry if governments refrained from interfering with individuals' natural behavior. Believing that men were motivated by rational self-interest, they concluded that wealth as well as liberty would be advanced by such a policy. Unlike Newton's laws of motion, such laissez- faire theories were never put to the test of experience, since governments and men persistently declined to behave rationally,
Political Theories, Historiography, and Empirical Philosophy
Two other dimensions of social thought underwent very significant change. First, a new theory of political legitimacy had to be developed by men who no longer could take it for granted that God did intervene in everyday human affairs. A king claiming to rule by divine right was a mere usurper unless God had in fact chosen him for his office from among all available candidates. Men who accepted the Newtonian view of the universe certainly found it hard to believe the older theory, particularly since so many kings seemed grossly unfit for their office. Solution to this problem was found in the idea of a social contract whereby tacitly or in some more active and definite way all the human beings living within a particular state were assumed to have reached agreement as to the forms and powers of government.
Obviously, by assigning different terms to such a contract very different practical conclusions could be drawn. Thomas Hobbes, for example, argued that men, being nasty and brutish by nature, had been able to establish civil society only by delegating unlimited power to an absolute sovereign. John Locke (d. 1704) on the contrary held that the contract lay between the public and the ruler, so that if the ruler overstepped specified bounds the people were justified in rebelling against his usurpation. In this way Locke was able to defend the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which had driven an undeniably legitimate monarch from the English throne to the scandal of many Englishmen who clung to old-fashioned ideas of Divine providence and feared a new outbreak of the recently concluded civil wars. Across the Channel a far more radical view was propounded in the next century by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (d. 1778), who held that the social contract justified rebellion whenever the sovereign failed to satisfy the people, in whose Common Will resided inalienable and indefeasible sovereignty.
The other major change in men's view of themselves was a byproduct of the patient labors of numberless philologians, numismatists, historians, and other scholars. Their perseverance in sorting out Europe's complex heritage of literary and historical manuscripts, discovering how to translate dates from one calendrical system to another, and arranging reigns, battles, and other historical events into a reliable chronological sequence, gave a depth and accuracy to historical knowledge which had never before been approached. The greatest single figure in this world of scholarship was Jean Mabillon (d. 1707), who established a sophisticated knowledge of the different types of handwriting used in different ages and at different monasteries and royal chanceries in the early Middle Ages so that it became possible to discover—sometimes at a glance—where a given manuscript came from and approximately how old it was. The same expertness of course allowed detection of the numerous forgeries which had been inserted into the historical record at various times in the past for various purposes, and provided European scholarship with tools and concepts which were later to be applied to the study of other civilizations. Just at the end of the eighteenth century, the first exciting fruit of this venture came to public attention, when William Jones (d. 1794) discovered that Sanskrit, the sacred language of India, was closely related to the languages of Europe, and so very old that it promised to provide an eager European world with fresh insight into the nature of their own most primitive ancestors!
These scholarly labors allowed men to write far more accurate and fuller histories than ever before. Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published 1776-88), is the most famous instance of what had become possible; but other historians, like Voltaire (d. 1778) and David Hume (d. 1776) were almost as popular at the time. By inserting between their own age and the time when Christianity had first been established a long and complex human history, with all its variety of episodes and fluctuations of moral as well as of theological standards, the historians in their way also dampened the fires of religious controversy. For with a fuller vision of the historical past in mind, an immediate return to apostolic conditions in church and state—which had been the great hope of the Reformation age —ceased to seem possible or. perhaps, in view of the conduct of some of the Roman emperors, desirable!
While political theory and history flourished mightily, metaphysics passed through the needle's eye of empirical criticism and emerged strong and healthy, if a bit abstruse and far removed from day-to-day concerns. The confident deductive reasoning of Descartes and his fellow seventeenth-century philosophers came under the scrutiny of a group of English empiricists. First John Locke (d. 1704) and then David Hume (d. 1776) asked the embarrassing question of how sense experience is related to human ideas, and came up with the conclusion that certain knowledge about anything is impossible. Immanuel Kant (d. 1804) accepted Hume's conclusions, but turned his critical logic around by arguing that careful analysis of the structure and capacities of the human mind would give us accurate and necessary knowledge about the nature of all possible sensory experiences, since the unknowable thing-in-itself could only come to consciousness by conforming to human sensibilities and modes of thought. In this fashion Kant opened the door wide for nineteenth-century German philosophers to anatomize the Spirit, whose creative role in defining knowable reality Kant had so persuasively pointed out.
The Arts, Classical and Romantic
By comparison with the progress of natural and social science, which inaugurated a new era in the second half of the seventeenth century, the fine arts, with the exception of music, remained conservative. Styles came and went, national schools rose to eminence or suffered comparative eclipse, and all along the way a tendency to add to an already richly various cultural inheritance manifested itself. But nothing as radically novel as the Newtonian world view emerged from such vigorous, but traditional, activity.
At the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, the prestige of French culture reached its height. Admiration for the power and grandeur of Louis XIV's government mingled with an equal or greater admiration for French literature, manners, taste. Classicism, which rested upon a belief that rules for artistic excellence could be discerned and should be followed, prevailed in both the visual and literary arts. In the hands of a great artist, such rules were no hindrance. Architect Christopher Wren (d. 1723) in London, or the three great classical dramatists of France, Pierre Corneille (d. 1684), Moliere (d. 1673), and Jean Racine (d. 1699), for example, conformed with grand effect to rules of correctness, which in lesser hands became heavy baggage indeed.
In the eighteenth century, European music entered upon one of its greatest periods. New or newly perfected instruments and a physico- mathematical analysis of musical pitch gave musicians new technical range and variety. With so much that was new to digest, the "classical" rules of harmony and composition did not act as hampering limitations, as such rules sometimes did in literature, but instead stimulated creativity by focusing attention on a manageable range of variables. The work of Johann Sebastian Bach (d. 1750) and of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (d. 1791) established a norm for subsequent European music which became almost as fundamental, though not so enduring, as the norm created for European painting by the invention of linear and aerial perspective in the fifteenth century.
In literature the classical ideal tended to wear thin after the middle of the eighteenth century, particularly in Germany and England. Researches into the national and medieval past, and persuasive investigations of the palpitating flux of feeling nicknamed the human heart, combined to persuade many Germans and some Englishmen that true literary greatness could only be achieved by giving free rein to spontaneous impulse. This romantic point of view was associated with a new valuation for the language of the common folk and of the nation. Johann Gottfried Herder (d. 1803), for example, argued with passion that Germans could achieve national and literary greatness only by using German, not French. A similar interest in the national springs of literature inspired Thomas Percy (d. 1811) to compile and publish traditional English and Scottish ballads in his book Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (published 1765).
Yet it would be erroneous to put too much weight upon the traditional classification of Europe's cultural history into a classical followed by a romantic age. At all times a great diversity of taste and artistic creativity prevailed. In the history of English literature, for example, John Milton (d. 1674) wrote his great Christian epic Paradise Lost precisely when William Wycherley (d. 1716) was producing bawdy Restoration comedies; and toward the close of our period the artful simplicity of Robert Burns (d. 1796) confronted with equanimity the periodic sentences of Dr. Samuel Johnson's (d. 1784) sesquipedalian prose. Similarly, Luther's Bible and Shakespeare's plays never passed out of fashion in their respective countries, while the classical literatures of ancient Rome and Greece irradiated the separate national literatures of Europe by providing all educated men with a common stock of knowledge and range of sentiments upon which writers and artists could play, knowing that casual allusions to the Greek and Latin classics would be easily and immediately understood.
Roots of Europe's Dominance
Richness, variety, vigor, and a readiness to grapple with any novelty that might swim within man's ken distinguished the cultural life of Europe in the days of the Old Regime. No other part of the world exhibited anything like such an adventurous spirit. For the first time, therefore, Europe began conspicuously to pull ahead of the other, more conservative civilizations of the Old World—not merely in matters technological and military, but in science, philosophy, history, and scholarship. Where unabashed and untrammeled application of reason to the matter in hand was not decisive—as in the realm of fine arts generally—Europe cannot be said to have enjoyed any clear and unmistakable superiority. Indeed, the refinement and stylistic coherence of Chinese and of Moslem artistry remained greater than anything Europeans ever managed to produce with their restless multiplicity of styles.
Yet the rise of the West to world dominance had clearly begun. In the following chapters we must trace the fashion in which Europe's new-found superiority undermined and in the end overthrew the cultural autonomy of other great civilizations of mankind.
The Transformation of Western Civilization by the Industrial and Democratic Revolutions, 1789-1914, W. McNeill
Beginning in the late eighteenth century, European society entered upon twin transformations. Political revolution, centered in France, broke through the complex corporate privilege of the Old Regime, and thereby unleashed the energies of innumerable individual citizens. Government and people entered into a closer partnership than before. By guiding and at the same time following the will of the people—expressed through elections and in riots, demonstrations, journalism, and, not least, by acquiescence in existing leadership—government became vastly more powerful. Millions were mobilized for war—more or less willingly. Scope for innovation in economics and politics was enlarged; legal obstacles to individual initiative withered.
This "democratic revolution" spread haltingly but inexorably from France to other countries of Europe. In time, new forms of corporate privilege arose in France itself; and various half-way houses between liberal, democratic theory and actual practice arose in other European lands. The New, or as we may better call it, the Bourgeois Regime, inaugurated so hopefully in 1789, thus grew old; and new socialist challenges to prevailing institutions gathered force as the nineteenth century drew toward its close.
At the time when France entered upon profound political revolution, the economy of Great Britain had begun to alter through the application of mechanical power to manufactures. Steam-drivenmachines for spinning and weaving cotton were the most spectacular early instances of the new technological resources that ingenious mechanics and eager entrepreneurs began to exploit. This "industrial revolution" also spread, haltingly but ineluctably, to other countries of Europe, and in time to lands beyond Europe as well. Fresh invention, systematically harnessed to scientific theory from about 1870, added ever new dimensions to the industrial revolution. Under these circumstances, the wealth and power—military as well as economic—at the disposal of Western industrialized nations increased by leaps and bounds.
During World War I and World War II these two fundamental changes flowed together. That is to say, the enhanced power of goverments, sustained by democratic forms, reorganized the technical processes of industrial production to serve political ends. Winning the war was the initial goal; since 1945 more complex purposes have competed for priority. Higher standards of consumption rivaled armament, price stability, capital investment, and, most recently, preservation of the natural environment as goals of economic-social-political management.
The vastly enhanced power that thus came to Western nations made it easy for Europeans and Americans to beat down traditional obstacles to their activity that other peoples offered. Distance shrank as transport and communication improved. During the second half of the nineteenth century all important parts of the habitable earth entered into a single globe-girdling commercial net. Political and military as well as intellectual and cultural interrelationships became as inescapable as the ties of economic interchange. For a few decades, European empires extended over nearly all of Africa and much of Asia; after World War II these empires shrank back more rapidly than they had grown. But this did not mean withdrawal or exclusion of the "new nations" from cosmopolitan modernity as it had been defined in the Western world since 1789. Political independence, on the contrary, planted the traits of modernity deeper in all parts of the non-western world.
Such rapid and far-reaching changes in human society involved much violence and sharp political as well as ideological changes. The old and famous states of Europe dominated the scene throughout the nineteenth century: Great Britain, France, Prussia (Germany from 1871), Austria, and Russia. In 1917 the Communist revolution in Russia and the proclamation of a rival American remedy—"national self-determination"— for the world's ills, brought powerful new political ideologies to the fore. But both the United States and Russia deliberately withdrew from world affairs in the 1920s, until new upheavals, centering in Germany and Japan, provoked World War II and a massive reassertion of Russian and American power. Since 1945 these two super-powers have continued to dominate the world's political and military scene. Yet the stubborn efforts to achieve fuller political and cultural autonomy by other nations, particularly by the Chinese and other anciently civilized peoples of Asia, kept world politics from any simple polarity between Communist and non-Communist regimes.
Science, technology, and the natural desire of weaker states and peoples to borrow from richer and stronger nations the secrets of their power tended to unite the world. Geographical differences, linguistic barriers, and the wish to preserve local cultural traditions acted in the opposite sense. How varied and how uniform subsequent generations may become remains, therefore, an open question. In all parts of the world, local cultural continuity with past generations has been profoundly challenged. Changes in everyday life with urbanization, industrialization, bureaucratization, and automation are so far-reaching and still so new that no one can yet expect stable human adjustments to the new conditions of life to emerge. Such an age of swift and fundamental change may be uncomfortable to live through; but in time to come men will probably look back upon these centuries as a period of extraordinary achievement, when global cosmopolitanism first became a reality.
Until about 1870, the industrial revolution had its primary seat in Great Britain. Then Germany to the east and the United States to the west began to catch up with British industrial technology. After 1789, the primary seat of the democratic revolution was in France, where the defects of royal bureaucratic government and the critical temper of the public combined to provoke a long-drawn-out, impassioned, and deliberate effort to remake traditional political institutions in accordance with reason and the (presumed) will of the people. Each of these great movements tended to spread from its primary center throughout the Western world, and, ere long, beyond the borders of Western civilization also. As this occurred, older patterns of society, culture, and government altered drastically—so much so that some observers are inclined to treat modern industrial civilization as different in kind from anything that went before, whether in Europe or anywhere else. On the other hand, one may regard this vast alteration in the way men live as the most recent in a long series of self-transformations of European (Western) civilization. Both views are plausible, and we of the twentieth century simply lack sufficient depth of time perspective to be able to choose firmly between them, if a choice must be made.
We begin, however, to be far enough removed from the interval between the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the beginning of World War I in 1914 to see some of the main lines of Western man's development during this period. Throughout the 125 years involved, the Western nations of Europe and overseas were able to expand their power and wealth enormously. This was partly due to continuation of older processes of colonization and trade expansion that had started as long ago as the year 1000. Thus, for example, millions of pioneer farmers pressed westward through the North American continent—some coming from Europe, some from the eastern parts of the United States and Canada. In this fashion, the entire breadth of the North American continent was brought firmly within the body social of Western civilization by the close of the nineteenth century.
Similar colonization took place in parts of South America (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay), in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. But these movements overseas were considerably less massive in scale than the eastward and southward movement of Russian peasants and pioneers that populated vast regions in the lower Volga basin, the lands between the Black sea and the Caspian, as well as parts of Siberia all the way from the Ural mountains to the Pacific. By the end of the nineteenth century most good agricultural land in Central Asia as well as in European Russia had been broken to the plow, just as was happening at the same time in North America. As they pushed southward from northern forests, Russian settlers met expanding Chinese-, Korean-, Turkish-, Persian-, or Rumanian-speaking agriculturalists, and sometimes intermingled with these populations. Similarly in New Mexico, American settlements lapped up against Spanish and Indian farming communities and intermingled with them without driving them from the land. More primitive hunting and gathering folk, in Siberia no less than in the Americas, melted away before the advance line of settlers without offering any effective resistance.
The upshot of this vast movement of colonization, therefore, was that the geographical base of Western civilization expanded from the core region in western Europe literally round the earth, for the Ameri- can westward movement met the Russian eastward movement in Alaska, which was transferred from the Tsar's sovereignty to that of the United States by purchase in 1867. To be sure, both Russia and the United States retained important marks of their frontier position. In particular, oppressive systems of compulsory labor continued to exist in both countries until the Russians abolished serfdom in 1861 and the United States abolished slavery in 1863. The struggle over slavery was acute in the United States. President Lincoln, in fact, issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the midst of a bitter civil war (1861—65) that pitted the slave-holding Southern states against the rest of the country.
The elimination of slavery from the United States that resulted from the victory of the Northern forces in the Civil War was part of an anti-slavery movement that affected the entire Western world. The first great victory for this movement came in 1833, when Great Britain abolished slavery in all territory under British rule; the last Western country to follow suit was Brazil, where slavery became illegal in 1888. In the more conservative Moslem countries—Yemen for example—slavery lasted until very recently, but in most parts of the world rapid population growth in recent times means that there are plenty of willing hands available to do even the nastiest work. Unskilled individuals scraping a living in a crowded labor market may not be much better off than slaves were in former times. Nevertheless, the legal prohibition of slavery quite properly counts as one of the positive achievements of the past two centuries.
The continuing territorial expansion of Western types of society was sustained and hastened by truly revolutionary changes taking place in the heartlands of Western civilization. A surge of technological improvements, that became particularly dramatic in the second half of the eighteenth century, has come to be generally known as the "industrial revolution," ever since an English historian coined the term in the 1880s. In addition, Western governments and nations underwent far reaching internal reorganizations. These changes can be summed up as a "democratic revolution," although this phrase is newer (invented in the 1950s) and less well established than the older term. But the industrial and the democratic revolutions deserve to be paired with one another all the same, because both of them allowed Westerners to mobilize men and materials on an ever-increasing scale and across longer periods of time and greater distances than had ever been possible before.
No other peoples underwent any remotely comparable kind of transformation. Hence the preponderance of the West as against other civilizations of the world, which had existed already under the Old Regime, became so great in the course of the nineteenth century that after about 1850 all traditional barriers against Western penetration collapsed. Westerners took advantage of their new-found power to surge into every part of the habitable globe. The world thus for the first time in human history entered upon an adventure in global cosmopolitanism. We in the twentieth century still flounder amidst its early phases.
It is convenient to analyze the transformation of Western civilization from the Old to the Bourgeois Regime under three heads: (1) economic, (2) political, and (3) intellectual. But any such scheme is artificial and imperfect, tending to obscure relationships that run across these classifications. There is, for example, a sense in which both the industrial and democratic revolutions were simply applications of human reasoning power to economics and politics respectively. But, conversely, the industrial revolution provided a greatly increased margin of wealth which allowed more men to spend more time in intellectual and artistic pursuits than had been possible previously; and the democratic revolution, by breaking through status barriers, opened careers in business, politics, and the arts to anyone with requisite talent. Thus economic, political, and intellectual changes interpenetrated each other in a very complex and intimate fashion, so that all three aspects of the Western experience in fact constituted a single whole.
In the eighteenth century, spectacular technological improvements in Great Britain centered especially in the textile trades and, after 1769, when Watt's first patent was granted, in the development of steam engines powerful enough to drive the new machinery of textile mills. During the nineteenth century, radical technological changes not only spread to almost every established branch of manufacture, but also created vast new industries and products which had no traditional existence whatever.
There were two phases. Until about 1870, practical invention was mainly the work of ingenious mechanics and hard-driving entrepreneurs who relied more on common sense and traditional skills than on systematic research or theoretical science. This was the age of coal and steam, when the railroad conferred a new speed and efficiency upon overland transport, and when improvements in ocean shipping led to the substitution of steel hulls and steam-driven water screws for wood and sail. This was also the age when British leadership in every phase of technology and industry remained unquestioned. Textile machinery and steam engines, railroads and steamships, together with the coal and steel industries that provided the necessary basis for the new technology, all were first introduced or attained their earliest large-scale development in Great Britain.
The rise of the chemical industry, swiftly followed by the development of electrical technologies, marked a change in the character and direction of the industrial revolution. To be sure, the old sort of haphazard invention continued. In the United States, for example, Henry Ford introduced his automobile (1903) and the Wright brothers built an airplane (1903) after prolonged and ingenious tinkering. But this sort of isolated, individual invention more and more gave way to systematic research, conducted in well-appointed laboratories by staffs of engineers and scientists who kept in close touch with scientific theory on the one hand and with technological processes on the other.
Germany was the country where linkage between theory and practice first became habitual. Germany's flourishing school and university system assured a flow of well-trained theorists; an artisan tradition provided abundant practical skills. The rewards were sometimes very great. By the beginning of World War I, for example, Germany had become the sole supplier of many industrial chemicals, and the German electrical industry likewise led the world in technological ingenuity and efficiency. Elsewhere, and in older, better-established industries, it still seemed quixotic for a firm to pay out good money to maintain a body of men whose job was to make the machinery and techniques on which the profits of the company depended useless. As a result, systematic interplay between scientific theory and technological practice had barely begun to show its potentialities before 1914. Deliberate invention first came decisively into its own during the two great wars of the twentieth century, not before.
Nevertheless, the rush of technical discoveries and improvements in the nineteenth century was tremendous when compared to changes that had occurred at any earlier time. Such familiar aspects of our twentieth-century lives as photography, bicycles, typewriters, sewing machines, telephones, electric lights, automobiles, phonographs, and motion pictures were all invented in the nineteenth century, though later improvements and changes in design make the earliest models of these devices scarcely recognizable today. Radio and airplanes achieved the same pioneer status before 1914 too, but their major development took place only during World War I and after. Each important new product characteristically required or allowed other new industries to get started. The automobile, for instance, revolutionized the rubber business by the demand for tires; and the electrical industry did the same for copper, which became the usual conductor for electrical current.
As industries multiplied in this fashion, older manufacturing processes also underwent fundamental changes. Generally speaking, what happened was that handicrafts gave way to machine production. This involved standardization in the machinery of production and in the end product; standardization, too, of the workers in the sense that everybody had to get to work at the same time and perform his assigned part in the production process at the proper speed to allow the whole factory to work smoothly. Any tie-up or breakdown, whether of machinery or of men, became far more costly than before. Relatively vast quantities of raw material, capital, and labor had to be assembled for the new mass production, and a stoppage immobilized everything.
But the increased vulnerability of complex machine manufacturing processes to interruptions was more than made up for by increased productivity when everything went right. The flow of goods became a torrent, sweeping away old handicrafts, not only in the Western world but in other societies and civilizations too. All over the globe, weavers, metalworkers, and innumerable other artisans quickly found that they could not compete with cheap mass-produced machine-made goods. Thus the first and most obvious characteristic of the industrial revolution was a vast expansion of scale. More power, more raw mate- rial, more end product, more waste, more transport, more clerks to keep track of the industrial and commercial processes, more consumers to buy and more salesmen to sell, and bigger firms with larger capital and larger work forces, all came rapidly into action. Older, simpler forms of manufacture were superseded by the cheapness and, sometimes, also by the improved quality of factory production.
Escalation of the scale of industry required enormous intensification of transport and communication. Distant supplies of raw materials and distant markets for the end products were vital to the success of machine mass-production. Improvements in roads and canals were important in many parts of Europe and the United States of America. But the construction of a railroad net, which got under way in the 1840s, reached boom proportions in the 1850s and 1860s, and continued to absorb large sums of capital until the eve of World War I (trans-Siberian railroad completed 1903; Berlin-to-Baghdad railroad under construction in 1914 and never since completed), far eclipsed all other forms of land transportation. The railroads opened up inland regions, and allowed transport of bulk materials like iron ore and coal across comparatively long distances. The coal fields of Silesia and of Pennsylvania were among the first to expand production because of the new possibilities opened by overland railroad transport. Other coal fields located deeper in the American and Russian interiors came into large-scale operation at somewhat later periods—a process continuing in western Canada and in central Asia as recently as the 1950s.
Revolution in oceanic transport came rather more slowly. Robert Fulton built the first successful steam boat as early as 1807, but for a long time their wasteful use of coal meant that steam vessels could not compete with sailing vessels on the long ocean runs. Not until after about 1870 did better boilers and larger steel hulls allow steamships to come into regular use for transoceanic cargo carrying. One result was the flooding of Europe with grain raised (with the powerful help of new machines) on the broad and fertile plains of North America, Argentina, and Australia.
The shape of the habitable world was altered, quite literally, by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and of the Panama Canal in 1914. Air transport, on the other hand, was no more than an exercise of the imagination before World War I. Communication was almost as important as transport in linking together t he participants in the newly intensified industrial process. The establishment of the public penny post in Great Britain (1840) pioneered the development of modern mail systems. National mail delivery systems achieved trans-national integration as a result of the International Postal Agreement of 1875. The electric telegraph was invented in 1837. Since stringing wires from place to place required relatively modest expenditure, telegraph systems spread very rapidly throughout the Western world (first trans-Atlantic cable, 1866). Wireless telegraphy by radio also very rapidly achieved practical importance for long-distance communication after its first practical demonstration by Guglielmo Marconi in 1895. Improved communication provided a flow of news that sustained mass circulation newspapers, which came into being during the 1850's. This in turn affected politics and diplomacy, making it necessary or advantageous for statesmen to play upon and respond to public opinion as generated and expressed in the pages of newspapers.
In general, the industrial revolution greatly increased the wealth of the Western world, and allowed fundamental improvement in standards of cleanliness, health, and comfort. In its initial stages, to be sure, the crowding of factory hands into new industrial towns and the rapid growth of older cities created social problems with which traditional institutions could not cope. This provided the basis for Karl Marx's (d. 1883) vision of a proletarian mass growing ever poorer in the midst of plenty until a socialist revolution solved the problem. In 1848, when Marx first clearly formulated his main idea, such a view was indeed plausible. Revolutionary violence, drawing its strength from the urban poor, had in fact been an effective force in Europe's political experience since 1789, when a mob assault on the Bastille in Paris had ignited the torch of the great French Revolution itself.
In 1848-49, however, a series of similar crowd risings ended in failure. Soon thereafter, a variety of social inventions began to control and ameliorate the hardships and ugliness of early industrial society. Such an elemental instrument of modern public order as the urban police force came into existence only during and after the 1840s. No less important were sewer systems, garbage collection services, parks, hospitals, health and accident insurance schemes, public schools, labor unions, orphanages, asylums, prisons, and a great variety of humanitarian and charitable enterprises aimed at relieving the sufferings of the poor, sick, and unfortunate. Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century these and other inventions came into operation almost as fast as the swelling towns created the need for them. As a result, revolutionary feeling tended to recede in the most highly industrialized countries, and remained vivid only along the expanding edge of industrialism— most spectacularly in Russia, where tsarist bureaucracy reacted slowly and unsympathetically to the needs of an industrializing society.
A second basic feature of the industrial revolution was the accelerated growth of population. In Europe, for example, the population of the entire continent in 1800 was about 187 million. By 1900 it had increased to about 400 million, despite the fact that nearly 60 million had emigrated overseas during the nineteenth century and an unnumbered host had also crossed the Urals from European Russia into Siberia and central Asia. A drastically reduced death rate was the main factor promoting such rapid multiplication of population; and this in turn depended partly on improvements in medical science and public sanitation, partly on the enlargement of the food supply, and partly on a general improvement in the material conditions of life.
Before World War I only Great Britain saw a majority of its population leave the land and enter urban occupations. In every other important state the age-old tie to the soil and the rhythms of planting and reaping continued to govern the lives of the majority until after 1914. Nevertheless, the shift from field to factory and from village to city had made itself manifest everywhere in the Western world. This implied a shift away from a mode of life whose basic rhythms had been established in neolithic times, and toward a new pattern of life whose potentialities and limits we are still trying to discover.
It seems likely that the change in ordinary everyday human experience and habit implied by wholesale flight from the fields will alter society as fundamentally as it was altered when men ceased to be simple predators and began to produce their food. If so, it is difficult to overemphasize the historical importance of the industrial revolution and impossible to believe that the social organization and styles of life that will eventually prove to be best attuned to industrialized economies have yet clearly emerged.
The principle that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and from that alone had been trumpeted to the world in 1776 by American rebels against King George III. This democratic notion continued to guide American constitutional experimentation during and after the war of independence. Such an idea had strong appeal in many countries of Europe—not least in Great Britain itself, where ever since 1688 parliamentary supremacy had meant the supremacy of a limited body of property holders who had the right to vote for members of Parliament. But it was in France that the new political doctrines stimulated dramatic revolution against royal absolutism.
During the eighteenth century, French government became hidebound. The king remained absolute in theory; but in fact almost all efforts at administrative reform were stopped in their tracks by the opposition of one or another special interest, operating usually from within the bureaucratic machine itself. Failures in war matched this dismal record at home; and when in 1778-83 the French did succeed in humbling British pride and helping the Americans toward independence, the result was to thrust the government into hopeless insolvency. This was not surprising, for in the absence of administrative changes, tax income remained inelastic whereas the expenses of warfare kept on multiplying with the elaboration of armaments.
Louis XVI (reigned 1774—92) sympathized in a small way with the idea of governmental reform, and agreed that a closer link between his government and the people at large would be desirable. When his efforts to increase tax receipts met with the usual crippling resistance, he therefore decided to revive the ancient representative assembly of France, the Estates-General, in hope of persuading that body to authorize new taxes and thus relieve the government's financial embarrassment. But when the Estates-General met on May 1, 1789, many of its members felt that before any new taxes were authorized far-reaching reform in government should be carried through. Their general aim was to make the French government responsible to the people, meaning, in practice, to property holders.
Reform sentiment was strongest among the representatives of the third estate, i.e. commoners. But a few clergymen and nobles favored the reform program also, and, in the absence of firm and consistent royal policy, this tipped the balance. Accordingly, during the month of June the Estates-General transformed itself into the National Assembly and undertook the task of preparing a constitution for the kingdom of France. Advocates of reform soon generated widespread popular excitement. Rumors that the king was preparing to suppress the National Assembly precipitated a mob attack on the Bastille (July 14). This event was later celebrated as the birthday of the Revolution. Thereafter, Paris organized a revolutionary government—the Commune. Its leaders rested their power directly on the people of Paris, whom they summoned to mass demonstrations in times of crisis. The Paris crowd was frequently able to over-awe anyone who opposed or seemed to oppose the majesty of the people, with whose voice they claimed to speak.
From Paris, excitement spread to the countryside. During the months of July and August peasants began to burn noble chateaux and refused to pay traditional dues and rents. The National Assembly reacted by annulling feudal rights and obligations in a burst of emotion on the night of August 4, 1789. This had the effect of winning a majority of the peasants for the cause of revolution—a fact of fundamental importance in the following years. The task of making a new constitution for France proved difficult, and the Assembly frequently interrupted its work to deal with pressing immediate problems. In particular, the financial bankruptcy of the government called for remedy. The assembly decided to issue a paper currency—assignats—against lands confiscated from the church, with the idea that as these lands were sold the assignats would be retired from circulation. In fact, however, more and more paper currency was printed, and prices spiraled upward. Wages, as always, lagged behind. Real economic suffering thus gave a cutting edge to the crowd demonstrations in Paris, since it was easy to persuade poor wage-earners that higher prices were the work of "enemies of the people."
By 1791 the new constitution was ready. It established a limited monarchy, resting supreme authority in a Legislative Assembly, to be elected by all active citizens, i.e. those paying more than a certain amount of money annually in taxes. The most enduring aspect of the constitution of 1791 was the abolition of innumerable local administrative peculiarities which had long hampered the French government. Instead, France was divided into new geographical units of roughly equal size, called departements. Administrative, judicial, and ecclesiastical jurisdictions were made everywhere to coincide with the new and quite artificial departement boundaries.
The most controversial aspect of the constitutional settlement of 1791 was the arrangement prescribed for the church. Bishops and priests were to receive salaries from the state, and were to be elected by the citizens of each diocese and parish, quite like any civil magistrate. The pope and most bishops and priests denounced this departure from canon law and demanded the return of confiscated church property. Thereafter the "Civil Constitution of the Clergy," as the laws affecting the church were called, divided Frenchman sharply between those who supported the new ideas and those who adhered to the ancient traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.
The constitution's greatest weakness, however, lay in the fact that it entrusted extensive powers (suspensive veto, appointment of army officers, etc.) to King Louis XVI, who had long since lost all sympathy with the revolutionary cause. He had, in fact, begun to conspire actively with foreign courts (Austria, Prussia) and with emigre nobles who had fled from France. War against Austria and Prussia broke out in April 1792 and the French armies suffered initial defeats. This aroused suspicion against the king, until in August 1792 the Paris crowd intervened decisively again, and induced the Legislative Assembly to suspend Louis XVI from the exercise of his constitutional powers. A new assembly, the Convention, was elected, and charged with the task of making another constitution.
This inaugurated a second and much more radical phase of the Revolution. The Convention declared France a republic, executed King Louis, and instituted a reign of terror against "enemies of the people," in the course of which several thousand persons were summarily judged guilty and beheaded with scientific efficiency, thanks to Dr. Guillotin's machine for cutting off human heads. Executive authority was concentrated in committees of the Convention, the most im- portant of which became the Committee of Public Safety. Energetic efforts to enlist all able-bodied citizens for the defense of their country soon began to produce results, and French armies presently reached the Rhine, spreading revolutionary principles into Belgium and western Germany as they advanced.
Simultaneously, an impassioned and effective propaganda was organized within France as rival political cliques sought to justify and consolidate power. In 1793 and the first half of 1794, the most successful of these groups was the Jacobin Club, where active and ambitious revolutionaries gathered to hear the impassioned oratory of Maximilien Robespierre (1758—94) and others who sought in the name of republican principles to inaugurate a reign of Virtue. Rival factions were not content to settle their differences by words and votes on the floor of the Convention. Mob demonstrations and the guillotine were called upon to assist Robespierre and his allies to defeat and destroy one group of "traitors" after another. But as the revolutionary armies rolled back the foreign invaders, justification for such high-handed violence faded. The members of the Convention reacted to the new tone of public affairs in July (Thermidor by the revolutionary calendar) 1794, when an unexpected vote in the Convention led to Robespierre's arrest and death. Though some at least of Robespierre's enemies had not intended it, the removal of the man who had become a symbol for revolutionary extremism triggered a widespread reaction, and the Committee of Public Safety was soon disbanded.
The Convention finally completed the task of drawing up a new constitution for France in 1795. The Directory, which thus came into existence, governed the country for the next four years. In 1799 a coup d'etat brought a successful young general, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769—1821), to power. He engineered a series of constitutions, each of which gave him greater and more absolute authority than its predecessor. Even after he crowned himself Emperor of the French in 1804, Napoleon continued to claim that his power rested on the will of the people and he took considerable pains to prove his popularity by holding plebiscites to ratify each of his successive constitutions. In fact, Napoleon was in many respects a true heir to the revolution. He completed the reorganization of the laws of France (Code Napoleon) which translated into everyday legal practice many of the principles enunciated in general terms by revolutionary orators, e.g. freedom of contract, civil marriage and divorce, and abolition of class differences before the law. The Code Napoleon offered a convenient model for legal reform in other lands as they were brought under French influence by the victories of Napoleon's armies. Once such changes had simplified the daily routines and legal relationships of a region or country it proved practically impossible to restore the complications and special privileges of the Old Regime.
Hence, even when Napoleon at length met with defeat at the hands of a coalition of almost all the powers of Europe (1812-15), traces of the revolutionary upheaval through which Europe had passed could not be removed. Indeed, by !8i5 the revolutionary imprint had stamped itself upon Napoleon's most inveterate enemies. For it was only after the monarchs of Europe had learned how to stir patriotic enthusiasm by imitating the French and appealing to the sentiments and interests of their subjects that their armies and peoples became capable of meeting and overthrowing Napoleon's forces.
To be sure, the peace settlement that emerged from the Congress of Vienna (1815) failed to unite Germany into a single state, as many German patriots had hoped, and put a politically divided Italy under Austrian and papal influence once again. Prince Clemens von Metternich, chancellor of Austria and one of the principal architects of the Vienna settlement, tried to balance defeated France against insurgent Russia, whose tsar, Alexander I (ruled 1801-25), toyed with the thought of reorganizing Europe even more drastically than Napoleon had done. Metternich was successful in thwarting Tsar Alexander's radical aspirations, and within a few years convinced him that careful restraint was required to prevent popular revolution from once again disturbing the peace of Europe.
Yet liberal and revolutionary aspirations remained alive, particularly among educated men of the middle class. In 1830 and again in 1848-49, popular risings overthrew constituted authority in important parts of the continent. Yet the revolutionaries failed to create either a united Germany or a united Italy as they had hoped to do. France became a republic again (1848-52) until Napoleon III imitated his uncle the great Napoleon by converting his election as presi- dent into a personal empire, guaranteed by plebiscite. Great Britain escaped revolution, but launched upon a policy of piecemeal reform, expanding the franchise by degrees between 1832 (Reform Bill) and 1884, when almost complete manhood suffrage was introduced.
The failure of the revolutions of 1848 led many to despair of achieving really fundamental political change by reliance upon the will of the people. Yet Napoleon III in France (governed 1852-70) as well as a number of influential British statesmen felt that export of liberal and parliamentary government to other peoples of Europe was a good thing and ought to be encouraged. After 1848, Russia became the main prop of the political status quo in central Europe. When the Russians blundered into war with Turkey (1854), France and Great Britain came enthusiastically to the Turks' rescue, and defeated the Russians on their own ground in the Crimea.
This demonstration of an unexpected weakness in the tsarist autocracy allowed two daring political gamblers, Count Camillo Cavour (d. 1861) of Sardinia and Count Otto von Bismarck (d. 1898) of Prussia, to unite Italy and Germany around their respective monarchies between 1859 and 1871. Bismarck's success was achieved by means of three brisk, victorious wars against Denmark (1864), Austria (1866), and France (1870—71). The first two left no enduring scars; but the Franco-Prussian war of 1870—71 and the peace terms the victorious Germans dictated (transfer of Alsace and Lorraine from France to Germany) left all patriotic Frenchmen eager for revenge. As long as Bismarck remained in control of German policy, however, the French were unable to find allies on the continent of Europe; and party struggles weakened the Third French Republic which had arisen from the debris of Napoleon Ill's defeated empire.
In Italy a constitutional monarchy prevailed despite unrelenting opposition from the pope, who resented his loss of territorial sovereignty over central Italy. In Germany, however, Chancellor Bismarck established a constitution for the new imperial Germany (1871—1918) which combined incompatible political ideas in an ingenious but, as it turned out, unstable fashion. Democratic principles were accepted in the form of a Reichstag, elected by universal manhood suffrage, to which budgetary authority was granted. Yet the autocratic principle (rule by divine right) was not surrendered. The German King-Emperor retained full authority over the army and foreign affairs; and the chief minister, the Chancellor, was responsible not to the Reichstag but to the Emperor alone.
Unlike their Prussian rivals, the Hapsburg emperors of Austria found it impossible to come to terms with nationalism and the liberal demand for popular representative government. The numerous nationalities inhabiting their empire quarreled with one another so bitterly that no democratic consensus could emerge. Nevertheless, in 1914 some sort of parliamentary elective body existed in every important European country, even in Russia (from 1906); and every government tried to establish effective partnership between official policy and "public opinion" as expressed and generated through newspapers and political parties.
On the surface this constituted a tremendous victory for the ideals of popular government, ideals which in 1789 had seemed to most men of affairs to be no more than wild and impractical dreams. But in reality as they spread across Europe, liberal and democratic principles suffered drastic dilution by admixture with elements from the Old Regime. This was especially true in central and eastern Europe, where bureaucratic control from the top remained a far more vigorous reality than the parliamentary trappings of the Austrian, Russian, and German governments suggested. Major changes in east European society usually came as a by-product of official actions, e.g. the abolition of serfdom (Austria, 1848, Russia, 1861) and the establishment of wide political autonomy for Hungary (1867). Railroad building and major mining and industrial developments, which became important in Russia from the 1880's, also depended in very large measure on official initiatives and/or on special concessions arranged by the government.
In the more truly liberal countries of western Europe, a wide variety of special interests—corporations, cartels, labor unions, political parties, churches, special occupational groupings like army officers, bureaucrats, lawyers, and others—grew up in the course of the nineteenth century in such a way as to hedge round the theoretical sovereignty of the people as effectively as the theoretical sovereignty of the king of France had,been hedged around on the eve of the Revolution itself by a similar tangle of vested interests. As this occurred, of course, the revolutionary drive for liberal, democratic government which had inspired so many bright hopes at the beginning of the nineteenth century wore itself out. The democratic ideal and the tarnishing realities of power had rubbed off on one another. Special privilege, far from fearing revolutionary unmasking by champions of the people, was more likely to have learned, like Bismarck, how to extend and entrench its power by manipulating the levers of democratic mass politics from behind the scenes.
Revolutionary ardor (or at least revolutionary rhetoric) passed therefore from liberal into socialist channels after the middle of the century. In 1848, Karl Marx (1818—83) and Friedrich Engels (1820—95) proclaimed in the Communist Manifesto their vision of how an international revolutionary proletariat was destined to seize power and thereby inaugurate true liberty and equality. However attractive in itself, Marx's vision proved difficult to realize. Tumultuous quarrels accompanied the early stages of the international socialist movement, and it was not until after Marx's death that a somewhat more stable organization, the Second International Workingmen's Association (established 1889), came into existence.
But the emergence of large and relatively well-disciplined socialist parties meant that these organizations, too, began to settle toward a modus Vivendi with the parliamentary regime of the age. Hence in 1914 when war came to most of Europe, German and French socialists rallied to their respective national colors and fought against one another despite professed internationalism. Only a tiny fringe of extremists refused to violate the principles of international class solidarity to which the whole socialist movement was officially committed.
Looking at this political evolution as a whole, it seems clear that the French revolutionaries and their liberal heirs accomplished two things. First, the revolutionaries demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that governments were indeed man-made, and could be altered and manipulated more or less according to plan. The older idea that government was divinely instituted, and that some men were appointed by God to hold dominion over others, seemed less and less plausible in the face of the success that came to regimes professing to derive their powers from the will of the people. The idea that social reform was an ongoing process grew out of the liberal political outlook. More and more men began to feel that if hardship or injustice existed, steps could and should be taken by deliberate action to remedy the situation. Society thus came to be looked upon as indefinitely pliable, to be altered bit by bit as changing standards of propriety and need came to be recognized.
All this was very different from older notions. Before 1789, most people had taken it for granted that they lived within a stable social structure whose institutions had been established by God's will and which, therefore, neither could nor should be altered. Hence, as the new liberal frame of mind spread, effective response to the social needs created by rapidly industrializing societies tended to come faster, and aroused less strenuous resistance than before.
Second, the political experience of the French revolution itself and of all European governments in succeeding decades showed that if political leaders were skillful enough to win the support of the majority of the population under their control, then government could command far greater power than rulers of the Old Regime had been able to do. Universal military service was the most striking example of the way in which a government enjoying the sympathy of the population as a whole could conscript manpower on a scale no monarch of the Old Regime ever dreamed of doing. A steadily mounting scale of taxation was an almost equally striking demonstration of the enlarged scope available to popular governments as against those which failed —as happened, for instance, in Austria—to establish an effective rapport with their subjects.
Enhanced political flexibility and expanded power were thus the upshot of Western civilization's democratic revolution. It therefore constituted a true twin of the industrial revolution, which in its own sphere also enhanced flexibility and vastly enlarged the power available to Westerners. Taken together, the result was to raise the power and wealth of the Western style of life so far above those familiar to other civilizations as to make resistance to Western encroachment no longer possible.
Between 1750 and 1914, world history was dominated by growing European imperialism. These were the decades in which Western civilization (embracing much of North America as well as western Europe) experienced the Industrial Revolution, which transformed the bases of production through new technology and new sources of power. European dominance in the world economy became almost overwhelming. In contrast to the early modern period, when Western power on land was limited, no area could escape the possibility of extensive European or United States penetration. Africa, previously able to resist Western political and military power, was carved up into a patchwork of colonies. The West's new hegemony was also expressed through growing commercial penetration of areas such as China and the Ottoman Empire that were not held as colonies. Finally, Western hegemony was expressed in the need for leaders in every civilization to decide what Western institutions and values to imitate and how.
International commercial contacts increased steadily. They were enhanced by major technological innovations, notably the steamship, railroad, and telegraph. Cultural contacts reflected Western power as well. Just as Christianity and commercial penetration went hand in hand in Latin America during the early modern period, by the end of the 19th century religious conversion began to accompany imperialist entry into Africa's heartlands, and Western science and new ideas such as nationalism spread even more widely. By the 1850s, the leading issues in all civilizations began to revolve around what to do about the West's new power: how and whether to resist, and what could or should be imitated. Common responses included growing interest in military reforms and in establishing new kinds of schools and, often, even parliaments and constitutions.
With Western industrialization under way, signs of its impact on the wider world followed quickly. In 1798, a modest French expeditionary force seized Egypt from its Muslim rulers—a clear sign of a new power balance in the eastern Mediterranean. In the 1820s, Britain's hold over India began to intensify. In the 1830s, the West forced open China's markets, using insistence on the right to sell opium in China as its entering wedge. In the 1850s, Britain and France defeated Russia in a war in its own Crimean backyard, while the United States and Britain pried open Japanese markets under threat of naval bombardment. The American Civil War (1861-1865) saw the industrial North prevail over the slaveholding South. Also in the 1860s, the scramble for new African colonies began. In the 1870s, a new level of commercial penetration started to transform the Latin American economy and social relationships. Between the 1850s and 1900, the islands of Polynesia were brought under Western control as colonies, and the Maoris of New Zealand were subjected to a government of European settlers. The industrial-imperialist period drew to a close with the outbreak of World War I in 1914 simply because, in the wake of this massive conflict, the West's world hold began to recede. Revolutions in Russia, Japanese expansion, and the beginnings of colonial revolt signaled the end of the undisputed dominance of the industrial West.
The essence of the Industrial Revolution was technological change, particularly the application of coal-powered engines (or, later, engines powered by other fossil fuels) to production. The new engines replaced people and animals as the key sources of energy in many branches of production. They were joined by new production equipment that could apply power to manufacturing through more automatic processes. Thus, spindles were invented that wrapped fiber automatically into thread, and looms mixed threads automatically without direct human intervention. Engines were also used in sugar refining, printing, and other processes. The British Industrial Revolution resulted from a host of factors, including favorable natural resources. Industrialization was fed also by the late 18th-century population crisis. Population pressure forced innovations at all social levels. The Industrial Revolution also built on previous trends in Western society, including the growth of the large manufacturing sector and the huge advantages in world trade. Prior development in science set a basis on which creative artisans could widen their efforts at technical innovation. Governments already committed to policies of economic growth also supported industrialization by instituting laws encouraging new inventions and new trading and banking systems. Finally, Europe's dominance in the world economy generated both investment capital, from profits on trade, and market opportunities.
The key inventions of early industrialization developed in Britain during the 18th century. Automatic machinery in textiles initially was intended for manual use in the domestic system. Then, in the 1770s, Scottish artisan James Watt devised a steam engine that could be used for production, and the Industrial Revolution was off and running. Within a decade in Britain, the domestic production of key materials, such as cotton thread, was converted to factory-housed machines at the expense of thousands of home workers, mostly women.
Additional inventions followed, for a key feature of the Industrial Revolution was recurrent technological change. Early machine spindles were expanded, enabling a given worker to supervise even faster output. American inventors devised a production system of interchangeable parts, initially for rifles, that helped standardize and so mechanize the production of machinery itself. Metallurgy advanced by use of coal and coke, instead of charcoal, for smelting and refining, allowing the creation of larger furnaces and greater output. Technological change was applied quickly to transportation and communication, which became essential because there were more goods to be moved and more distant markets to contact. The development of the telegraph, steam shipping, and the railway, all early in the 19th century, provided faster movement of information and goods. The Industrial Revolution depended on improvements in agriculture. Industrialization concentrated increasing amounts of manufacturing in cities, where power sources could be brought together with labor. City growth was dizzying during the first decades of industrialization. Sleepy villages such as Manchester, England, grew to cities of several hundred thousand people. This kind of growth depended on better agricultural production, accomplished through improved equipment and seeds and the growing use of fertilizers.
Industrialization also meant a factory system. Steam engines had to be concentrated because their power could not be widely diffused until the later application of electricity. Factory labor separated work from the home—one of the basic human changes inherent in the Industrial Revolution. It also allowed manufacturers to introduce greater specialization of labor and more explicit rules and discipline, which along with the noisy machines permanently changed the nature of human labor. Industrialization had profound and complex environmental impact. Use of coal and iron reduced pressure on Europe's remaining forests. But smoke pollution in factory areas was an early issue, and both factory wastes and growing cities quickly affected water quality. Industrial demands for raw materials created desolate slagheaps around mines, both in Europe and in areas where raw materials were produced. The Industrial Revolution, and particularly its new uses of energy, transformed human use of nature, with an accelerating impact that stretched through the 20th century.
The Industrial Revolution was a Western phenomenon for several decades, though it built on the West's preexisting position in the world economy. But the revolution quickly had world impact. It increased the West's military power by generating new weapons technology, the mass production of guns with standardized parts, and new forms of transportation, such as steamboats that could transport troops upriver into the interior of places like Africa and China. Here, in turn, was the key foundation for the burst of Western imperialism.
Industrialization also redefined the world economy. It increased Western dominance in the economy. It pushed dependant areas, like Latin America, to become even more dependant, in supplying cheap raw materials and foods for export while relying on cheap labor. Slavery and serfdom were increasingly repealed by law, but working conditions typically remained depressed. Areas that previously had profited from world trade while retaining some independence, like China, were now forced to open their economies. Places like India, China, and Latin America, which had previously had flourishing manufacturing sectors, now experienced a "de-industrialization," as Western factory goods flooded the market with cheaper wares. In the longer run, however, industrialization also pushed many societies to additional kinds of change. Some tried to industrialize outright, in the Western image, and a few succeeded in launching this process before 1914. Others experienced changes in work and leisure patterns, inspired by industrial conditions, even when full industrialization remained elusive; modern European sports, for example, spread more widely than the Industrial Revolution did. In the ways it transformed the West, in inspiring efforts to change, and in forcing new relationships on literally the entire world, the Industrial Revolution provided the context for most of the fundamental developments of the 1750-1914 period in world history.
Western industrialization and imperialist expansion were not the only major developments in the world between 1750 and 1914. A major surge of popular conversion to Islam began in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of the 18th century, marking an important shift in the continent's religious map. Latin American nations, for the most part winning freedom from Spain and Portugal by the 1820s after a series of wars for independence, launched an important process of new nation building. Significant developments elsewhere echoed more traditional themes. Thus, in China, major social unrest in the mid-19th century recalled earlier periods of dynastic decline in which rural elements rose against the hardships caused by population pressure and unchecked control by landlords. From the global standpoint, the principal complexity in describing the period from 1750 to 1914 lies in detailing the diverse reactions to the growth of Western military and industrial might. One reaction was incorporation into an expanded Western civilization. The West enlarged during the 19th century through the emergence of strong immigrant societies in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, each with its own important modifications of basic Western patterns.
Two societies, Russia and Japan, underwent dramatic internal change, imitating key Western gains without becoming entirely Western. China and the Ottoman Empire both lost territories to Western imperialism but preserved a degree of independence amid growing weakness, outside interference, and agonizing indecision about the most effective way to counter the challenge from the West. Latin American nations that were newly independent also grappled with reform currents, but under intense economic constraints. Most of the rest of the world, including north Africa, was colonized outright. Colonial rule was not a constant, having somewhat different effects in India, for example, than in Africa, where imperialism was a later arrival and where a harsher racism characterized Western policy.
New transportation and worldwide trade and military pressures made isolation more difficult for any civilization (although renewed efforts surfaced after 1918). With contacts and growing Western dominance also came new forms of international relations. Independent nations began to exchange diplomatic representatives worldwide. Furthermore, from the 1860s onward, international agencies arose for the first time, setting rules for such matters as postal exchange and commercial licensing across national boundaries. These agencies, soon joined by other groups such as the Red Cross and a new Olympic committee, were long dominated by the West, but they created unprecedented conduits for relationships between states.
New technologies—the telegraph, steamship, railroad, and, by 1900, radios and telephones linked by undersea cables—provided the basis for unprecedented speed and volume in global trade and communication. The opening of the Suez and then the Panama canals (1869 and 1914, respectively) added greatly to the speed of global travel. Many corporations, though based in western Europe or the United States, now had branch production outlets in Latin America, Russia, east Asia, and elsewhere. These international companies avidly sought both raw materials and markets around the world. Political responses to globalization lagged behind technology and commerce. Nevertheless, key international agreements from the 1860s onward provided arrangements for worldwide postal service as well as international rules governing the treatment of civilians in wartime. An International Court was set up in the Netherlands to deal with disputes, though its effective powers were limited. The establishment of the International Red Cross and the revival of the Olympic games represented other organizational efforts to respond to globalization. Most efforts, to be sure, rested on Western initiative and control; other societies were pressed to join in with little or no voice in the process.
Two themes dominate the complex history of Western society between 1750 and 1914, both operating within the unfolding of the Industrial Revolution. Political upheaval was most obvious, highlighted by the age of revolution, 1775-1848. The second theme involved the exportation of western European institutions and values to settier societies such as the United States and Australia, which expanded Western civilization's geographic range. Change is measured by befores and afters. In 1750, western Europe consisted almost entirely of monarchies. By 1914 many monarchies had been overthrown, and everywhere powerful parliaments, based on extensive voting systems, defined much of the political apparatus. In 1750, North America was a minor player in Western and world history. By 1914, the United States and other settler societies made an increasing mark on the economy and politics of the West.
The Age of Revolution
Against the backdrop of intellectual challenge, commercial growth, and population pressure, the placid politics of the 18th century were shattered by the series of revolutions that took shape in the 1770s and 1780s. This was the eve of the age of revolution, a period of political upheaval beginning roughly with the American Revolution in 1775 and continuing through the French Revolution of 1789 and other movements for change up to 1848. The wave of revolutions caught up many social groups with diverse motives, some eager to use revolution to promote further change and some hoping to turn back the clock and recover older values.
Three forces were working to shatter Europe's calm by the mid- 18th century. The first of the forces was cultural, for intellectual ferment was running high. Enlightenment thinkers challenged regimes that did not grant full religious freedom or that insisted on aristocratic privilege, and a few called for widespread popular voice in government. Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued for government based on a general will, and this could be interpreted as a plea for democratic voting. A gap had opened between leading intellectuals and established institutions, and this played a role in the revolutions that lay ahead. Enlightenment thinkers also encouraged economic and technological change and policies that would promote industry; manufacturers and political reformers alike could take inspiration from these ideas.
Along with cultural change, ongoing commercialization continued to stir the economy. Businesspeople, gaining new wealth, might well challenge the idea that aristocrats alone should hold the highest political offices. They certainly were growing interested in new techniques that might spur production. Commercial practices might also draw attack, from artisans or peasant villagers who preferred older economic values. This could feed revolution as well. A final source of disruption was occurring more quietly at all social levels. Western Europe experienced a huge population jump after about 1730.
Within half a century, the population of France rose by 50 percent; that of Britain and Prussia rose 100 percent. This population revolution was caused by better border policing by the efficient nation-state governments, which reduced the movement of disease- bearing animals. More important was improved nutrition resulting from the growing use of the potato. These factors reduced the death rate, particularly for children; instead of more than 40 percent of all children dying by age 2, the figure by the 1780s was closer to 33 percent. More children surviving also meant more people living to have children of their own, so the birth rate increased as well.
The American Revolution
When Britain's Atlantic colonies rebelled in 1775, it was primarily a war for independence rather than a full-fledged revolution. A large minority of American colonists resisted Britain's attempt to impose new taxes and trade controls on the colonies after 1763. Many settlers also resented restrictions on movement into the frontier areas. The colonists also invoked British political theory to argue that they should not be taxed without representation. The Stamp Act of 1765, imposing taxes on documents and pamphlets, particularly roused protest against British tyranny.
With the start of the American Revolution, colonial rebels set up a new government, which issued the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and authorized a formal army to pursue its war. The persistence of the revolutionaries was combined with British military blunders and significant aid from the French government, designed to embarrass its key enemy. After several years of fighting, the United States won its freedom and, in 1789, set up a new constitutional structure based on Enlightenment principles, with checks and balances between the legislature and the executive branches of government, and formal guarantees of individual liberties. Voting rights, though limited, were widespread, and the new regime was for a time the most advanced in the world. Socially, the revolution accomplished less; slavery was untouched.
Crisis in France in 1789
It was the French Revolution that most clearly set in motion the political restructuring of western Europe. Several factors combined in the 1780s in what became a classic pattern of revolutionary causation. Ideological insistence on change won increasing attention from the mid-18th century onward, as Enlightenment thinkers urged the need to limit the powers of the Catholic church, the aristocracy, and the monarchy. Social changes reinforced the ideological challenge. Some middle-class people, proud of their business or professional success, wanted a greater political role. Many peasants, pressed by population growth, wanted fuller freedom from landlords' demands.
The French government and upper classes proved incapable of reform. Aristocrats tightened their grip in response to their own population pressure, and the government proved increasingly ineffective— a key ingredient in any successful revolution. Finally, a sharp economic slump in 1787 and 1788, triggered by bad harvests, set the seal on revolution.
The French Revolution
In 1799 the final phase of the revolution was ushered in with the victory of Napoleon Bonaparte, a leading general who soon converted the revolutionary republic to an authoritarian empire. Napoleon reduced the parliament to a rubber stamp, and a powerful police system limited freedom of expression. However, Napoleon confirmed other liberal gains, including religious freedom, while enacting substantial equality—though for men, not women—in a series of new law codes. To train bureaucrats, Napoleon developed a centralized system of secondary schools and universities.
Driven by insatiable ambition, Napoleon devoted most of his attention to expansion abroad. A series of wars brought France against all of Europe's major powers, including Russia. At its height, about 1812, the French Empire directly held or controlled as satellite kingdoms most of western Europe, and its success spurred some reform measures even in Prussia and Russia. The French Empire crumbled after this point. An attempt to invade Russia in 1812 failed miserably. French armies perished in the cold Russian winter even as they pushed deep into the empire. An alliance system organized by Britain crushed the emperor definitively in 1814 and 1815. Yet Napoleon's campaigns had done more than dominate European diplomacy for one and a half decades. They had also spread key revolutionary legislation—the idea of equality under the law and the attack on privileged institutions such as aristocracy, church, and craft guilds—throughout much of western Europe.
The revolution and Napoleon encouraged popular nationalism outside of France as well as within. French military success continued to draw great excitement at home. Elsewhere, French armies tore down local governments, as in Italy and Germany, which whetted appetites there for greater national unity. And the sheer fact of French invasion made many people more conscious of loyalty to their own nations; popular resistance to Napoleon, in parts of Spain and Germany, played a role in the final French defeat.
The Revolutionary Legacy
Britain and the United States also participated in the process of political change, though without revolution. Key states in the United States granted universal adult male suffrage (except for slaves) and other political changes in the 1820s, leading to the election of a popular president, Andrew Jackson, in 1828. In Britain, the Reform Bill of 1832, a response to popular agitation, gave the parliamentary vote to most middle-class men. By the 1830s, regimes in France, Britain, Belgium, the United States, and several other countries had solid parliaments (Congress in the United States), some guarantees for individual rights against arbitrary state action, religious freedom not only for various Christian sects but also for Jews.
Industrialization and the Revolutions of 1848
By the 1830s and 1840s, industrialization began to add pressures to Europe's revolutionary ferment. The 1832 Reform Bill in England, for example, responded in part to growing working-class agitation, though it did not extend the vote to workers and led to further political protest. By this time France, Belgium, and Germany, as well as the United States, were fully engaged in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, based in part on copying British models. These developments spurred some direct unrest among factory workers. They raised even more concerns among artisans, worried for the future of traditional skilled labor, and these groups provided much of the muscle that went into the final phase of the age of revolution....The revolutionary fires burned only briefly. The social demands of artisans and some factory workers were put down quickly; not only conservatives but middle-class liberals opposed these efforts.
The substantial failure of the revolutions of 1848 drew the revolutionary era in western Europe to a close. Failure taught many liberals and working-class leaders that revolution was too risky; more gradual methods should be used instead. Improved transportation reduced the chance of food crises, the traditional trigger for revolution in Western history. Bad harvests in 1846 and 1847 had driven up food prices and helped promote insurgency in the cities, but famines of this sort did not recur in the West. Many governments also installed better riot control police. By 1850, an industrial class structure had come to predominate. Earlier revolutionary gains had reduced the aristocrats' legal privileges, and the rise of business had eroded their economic dominance. With industrialization, social structure came to rest less on privilege and birth and more on money. Key divisions by 1850 pitted middle-class property owners against workers of various sorts. The old alliances that had produced the revolutions were now dissolved.
The Consolidation of the Industrial Order, 1850-1914
In most respects, the 65 years after 1850 seemed calmer than the frenzied period of political upheaval and initial industrialization. Railroads and canals linked cities across Europe and spurred industrialization and urbanization. City growth continued in the West; indeed, several countries, starting with Britain, passed the 50-percent mark in urbanization — the first time in human history that more than a minority of a population lived in cities. City governments began to gain ground on the pressing problems growth had created. Sanitation improved, and death rates fell below birth rates for the first time in urban history. Parks, museums, effective regulation of food and housing facilities, and more efficient police forces all added to the safety and the physical and cultural amenities of urban life. Revealingly, crime rates began to stabilize or even drop in several industrial areas, a sign of more effective social control but also of a more disciplined population.
Adjustments to Industrial Life
Material conditions generally improved after 1850. By 1900, probably two-thirds of the Western population enjoyed conditions above the subsistence level. People could afford a few amenities such as newspapers and family outings, their diet and housing improved, and their health got better. The decades from 1880 to 1920 saw a real revolution in children's health, thanks in part to better hygiene during childbirth and better parental care. Infancy and death, separated for the first time in human history: Instead of one-third or more of all children dying by age 10, child death rates fell to less than 10 percent and continued to plummet. The discovery of germs by Louis Pasteur led by the 1880s to more conscientious sanitary regulations and procedures by doctors and other health care specialists; this reduced the deaths of women in childbirth. Women began to outlive men by a noticeable margin, but men's health also improved.
In little more than a decade, between 1860 and 1873, the number of corporations in western Europe doubled. The rise of corporations, drawing on stockholder investment funds, was a major change in business and organizational life. Important labor movements took shape among industrial workers by the 1890s, with massive strike movements by miners, metalworkers, and others from the United States to Germany. The new trade union movement stressed the massed power of workers. Hosts of labor leaders sprang up amid detested work conditions and political repression. Many workers learned to bargain for better pay and shorter hours.
Political Trends and the Rise of New Nations
Western politics consolidated after the failed revolutions of 1848. Quite simply, issues that had dominated the Western political agenda for many decades were largely resolved within a generation. The great debates about fundamental constitutions and government structure, which had emerged in the 17th century with the rise of absolutism and new political theory and then raged during the decades of revolution, at last grew quiet. Many Western leaders worked to reduce the need for political revolution after 1850. Liberals decided that revolution was too risky and became more willing to compromise. Key conservatives strove to develop reforms that would save elements of the old regime, including power for the landed aristocracy and the monarchy.
The new conservatives also began to use the force of nationalism to win support for the existing social order. Previously, nationalism had been a radical force, challenging established arrangements in the name of new loyalties. Many liberals continued to defend nationalist causes. However, conservative politicians learned how to wrap themselves in the flag, often promoting an active foreign policy in the interest of promoting domestic calm. Thus, British conservatives became champions of expanding the empire, while in the United States, by the 1890s, the Republican party became increasingly identified with imperialist causes.
Other key political issues were resolved at about the same time. The bloody American Civil War—the first war based extensively on industrial weaponry and transport systems, carefully watched by European military observers—was fought between 1861 and 1865. The war resolved by force the simmering dispute over sectional rights between the North and South and also brought an end to slavery in the nation. France, after its defeat by Germany in 1870, overthrew its short-lived echo of the Napoleonic Empire and established a conservative republic with votes for all men, a reduction of church power, and expansion of education, but no major social reform... Almost all Western nations now had parliamentary systems, usually democracies of some sort, in which religious and other freedoms were widely protected. In this system, liberal and conservative ministries could alternate without major changes of internal policy.
The Social Question and New Government Functions
Accompanying the quiet revolution in government functions was a realignment of the political spectrum in the Western world during the late 19th century. Constitutional issues were replaced by social issues—what people of the time called the social question—as the key criteria for political partisanship. Socialist and feminist movements surged to the political fore, placing liberals and conservatives in a new defensive posture.
The rise of socialism depended above all on the power of grievance of the working class, with allies from other groups. It also reflected a redefinition of political theory by German theorist Karl Marx. Early socialist doctrine, from the Enlightenment through 1848, had focused on human perfectibility: Set up a few exemplary communities where work and rewards would be shared, and the evils of capitalism would end. Marx's socialism, worked out between 1848 and 1860, was tough-minded, and he blasted earlier theorists as giddy Utopians. Marx saw socialism as the final phase of an inexorable march of history, which could be studied dispassionately and scientifically.
History for Marx was shaped by the available means of production and who controlled those means, an obvious reflection of the looming role of technology in the industrial world forming at that time. According to Marx, class struggle always pitted a group out of power with the group controlling the means of production; hence, in the era just passed, the middle class had battled the feudal aristocracy and its hold on the land. Now the middle class had won; it dominated production and, through this, the state and the culture as well. But it had created a new class enemy, the propertyless proletariat, that would grow until revolution became inevitable. Then, after a transitional period in which proletarian dictatorship would clean up the remnants of the bourgeois social order, full freedom would be achieved. People would benefit justly and equally from their work, and the state would wither away; the historic class struggle would at last end because classes would be eliminated.
Marx's vision was a powerful one. It clearly identified capitalist evil. It told workers that their low wages were exploitive and unjust. It urged the need for violent action but also ensured that revolution was part of the inexorable tides of history. The result would be heaven on earth—ultimately, an Enlightenment- like vision of progress.
Key developments in popular culture differentiated Western society after 1850 from the decades of initial industrialization. Better wages and the reduction of work hours gave ordinary people new opportunities. Alongside the working class grew a large white-collar labor force of secretaries, clerks, and salespeople, who served the growing bureaucracies of big business and the state. These workers, some of them women, adopted many middle-class values, but they also insisted on interesting consumption and leisure oudets. The middle class itself became more open to the idea that pleasure could be legitimate. Furthermore, the economy demanded change. Factories could now spew out goods in such quantity that popular consumption had to be encouraged simply to keep pace with production. Widespread advertising developed to promote a sense of need where none had existed before. Product crazes emerged. The bicycle fad of the 1880s, in which middle-class families flocked to purchase the new machine, was the first of many consumer fads in modern Western history. People just had to have them. Bicycles also changed previous social habits, as women needed less cumbersome garments and young couples could outpedal chaperones during courtship.
Mass leisure culture began to emerge. Popular newspapers, with bold headlines and compelling human interest stories, won millions of subscribers in the industrial West. They featured shock and entertainment more than appeals to reason or political principle. Crime, imperialist exploits, sports, and even comics became the items of the day. Popular theater soared. Comedy routines and musical revues drew thousands of patrons to music halls; after 1900, some of these entertainment themes dominated the new medium of motion pictures. Vacation trips became increasingly common, and seaside resorts grew to the level of big business.
New Directions in Artistic Expression
The central artistic vision, beginning with romanticism in the first half of the century, held that emotion and impression, not reason and generalization, were the keys to the mysteries of human experience and nature. Artists portrayed intense passions, even madness, not calm reflection. Romantic novelists wanted to move readers to tears, not philosophical debate; painters sought empathy with the beauties of nature or the storm-tossed tragedy of shipwreck. Romantics and their successors after 1850 also deliberately tried to violate traditional Western artistic standards. Poetry did not have to rhyme; drama did not necessarily need plot; painting could be evocative, not literal. (For literal portrayals, painters could now argue, use a camera.) Each generation of artists proved more defiant than the last. By 1900, painters and sculptors were becoming increasingly abstract, and musical composers worked with atonal scales that defied long-established conventions. Some artists talked of art for art's sake, arguing essentially that art had its own purposes unrelated to the larger society around it.
At neither the formal nor the popular levels, then, did Western culture produce a clear synthesis in the 19th century. New scientific discipline and rationalism warred with impulse—even with evocations of violence. The earlier certainties of Christianity and even the Enlightenment gave way to greater debate. Some observers worried that this debate also expressed tensions between different facets of the same modern mind and that these tensions could become dangerous. Perhaps the Western world was not put together quite as neatly as the adjustments and consolidations after 1850 might suggest.
Western Settler Societies
The Industrial Revolution prompted a major expansion of the West's power in the world. Western nations could pour out far more processed goods than before, which meant that they needed new markets. They also needed new raw materials and agricultural products, which spurred the development of more commercial agriculture in places such as Africa an Latin America. The vast ships and communication networks created by industrial technology spurred the intensification of the Western-led world economy.
Industrialization also extended the West's military advantage in the wider world. Steamships could navigate previously impassable river systems, bringing Western guns inland as never before. The invention of the repeating rifle and machine gun gave small Western forces superiority over masses of local troops. These new means combined with new motives: European nations competed for new colonies as part of their nationalistic rivalry, businesspeople sought new chances for profit, and missionaries sought opportunities for conversion. Haltingly before 1860, then rapidly, Europe's empires spread through Africa, southeast Asia, and parts of China and the Middle East.
Many of the same forces, and also massive European emigration, created Western settler societies overseas in areas where indigenous populations were decimated by disease. Some settler societies maintained sizeable local populations, sometimes even a considerable majority. But some societies filled with an overwhelming majority of immigrants, mostly of European origin, and also brought in so many institutions and beliefs from Europe that they gained a close link with Western history. Some, perhaps, were part of the West outright. The most important overseas Western nation, and the only one to become a major world force before 1914, was the United States.
Emerging Power of the United States
The country that was to become the United States did not play a substantial role in world history in its colonial period. Its export products were far less significant than those of Latin America and the Caribbean. The American Revolution caused a stir in Europe, but the new nation emphasized internal development through the early 19th century. The Monroe Doctrine (1823) warned against European meddling in the Americas, but it was British policy and naval power that kept the hemisphere free from new colonialism. American energies were poured into elaboration of the new political system, internal commercial growth and early industrialization, and westward expansion. The Louisiana Purchase, the acquisition of Texas, and the rush to California rapidly extended the United States beyond the Mississippi. The nation stood as a symbol of freedom to many Europeans, and it was often invoked in the revolutions of 1848, as in the earlier Latin American wars for independence. It began to receive a new stream of immigrants, particularly from Ireland and Germany, during the 1840s. Its industrialists also borrowed heavily from European investors to fund national expansion.
The crucial event for the United States in the 19th century was the Civil War, fought between 1861 and 1865. Profound differences separated the increasingly industrial North, with its growing farms, from the slaveholding South, with its export-oriented plantation economy and distinctive value system. Disputes over slaveholding led the Southern states to try secession; the North opposed these actions in the interests of preserving national unity and, somewhat hesitantly, ending the slavery system. The Civil War produced an anguishing level of casualties and maimings. The North's victory brought important gains for the freed slave minority, although by the late 1870s, white politicians in the South had begun to severely constrain the political and economic rights of African Americans.
The Civil War also accelerated American industrialization. Heavy industry boomed in a push to produce for the war effort. The completion of a rail link to the Pacific opened the west to further settlement, leading to the last bitter round of wars with Native Americans. Economic expansion brought the United States into the industrial big leagues, its growth rivaling that of Germany. After the Civil War, American armaments manufacturers began to seek export markets. Other industrial producers soon followed as the United States became a major competitor worldwide. American firms, such as the Singer sewing machine company, set up branches in other countries. American agriculture, increasingly mechanized, began to pour out exports of grain and meats (the latter thanks to the development of refrigerated shipping), particularly to European markets where peasant producers could not fully compete.
Diplomatic Tensions and World War I
The unification of Germany and its rapid industrial growth profoundly altered the power balance within Europe. Bismarck was very conscious of this, and during the, 1870s and 1880s, still a skilled manipulator, he built a complex alliance system designed to protect Germany and divert European attention elsewhere. France, Germany's deepest enemy, was largely isolated. But even the French concentrated on imperialist expansion in Africa and Asia.
By 1900, however, few parts of the world were available for Western seizure. Latin America was independent but under extensive United States influence, so that a new intrusion of colonialism was impossible. Africa was almost entirely carved up. The few final colonies taken after 1900—Morocco by France and Tripoli (Libya) by Italy—caused great diplomatic furor on the part of other colonial powers worried about the balance of forces. China and the Middle East were technically independent, but were in fact crisscrossed by rivalries between the Western powers and Russia (and in China's case, Japan). No agreement was possible on further takeovers.
Yet imperialist expansion had fed the sense of rivalry between key nation-states. Britain, in particular, grew worried about Germany's overseas drive and its construction of a large navy. Economic competition between a surging Germany and a lagging Britain added fuel to the fire. France, eager to escape the Bismarck-engineered isolation, was willing to play down its traditional rivalries with Britain. The French also took the opportunity to ally with Russia, when after 1890 Germany dropped this particular alliance because of Russian-Austrian enmity.
The New Alliance System
By 1907, most major European nations were paired off in two alliance systems: Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy formed the Triple Alliance, and Britain, Russia, and France formed the newer Triple Entente. Three against three seemed fair, but Germany grew increasingly concerned about facing potential enemies to the east (Russia) and west (France). These powers steadily built up their military arsenals in what turned out to be the first of several arms races in the 20th century. All powers save Britain had instituted peacetime military conscription to provide large armies and even larger trained reserves.
Artillery levels and naval forces grew steadily—the addition of a new kind of battleship, the dreadnought, was a key escalation—and discussions about reducing armament levels went nowhere. Each alliance system depended on an unstable partner. Russia suffered a revolution in 1905, and its allies worried that any further diplomatic setbacks might paralyze the eastern giant. Austria-Hungary was plagued by nationality disputes, particularly by minority Slavic groups; German leaders fretted that a diplomatic setback might bring chaos. Both Austria and Russia were heavily involved in maneuverings in the Balkans, the final piece in what became a nightmare puzzle.
Small Balkan nations had won independence from the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century; as Turkish power declined, local nationalism rose, and Russian support for its Slavic neighbors paid off. But the nations were intensely hostile to one another. Furthermore, Balkan nationalism threatened Austria, which had a large southern Slav population. Russia and Austria nearly came to blows on several occasions over Balkan issues. Then, in 1912 and 1913, the Balkan nations engaged in two internal wars, which led to territorial gains for several states but satisfied no one. Serbia, which bordered Austria to the south, had hoped for greater stakes. At the same time, Austria grew nervous over the gains Serbia had achieved. In 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated an Austrian archduke on behalf of Serbian claims. Austria vowed to punish Serbia. Russia rushed to the defense of Serbia and mobilized its troops against Austria. Germany, worried about Austria and also eager to be able to strike against France before Russia's cumbersome mobilization was complete, called up its reserves and then declared war on August 1. Britain hesitated briefly, then joined its allies. World War I had begun, and with it came a host of new problems for Western society.
Diplomacy and Society
The West had long been characterized by political divisions and rivalries. In comparison with some other civilizations, this was an inherent weakness of the Western political system. In a sense, what happened by the late 19th century was that the nationstate system got out of hand, encouraged by the absence of serious challenge from any other civilizations. The rise of Germany and new tensions in the Balkans simply complicated the growing nationalist competition.
This diplomatic escalation also had some links to the strains of Western society under the impact of industrialization. Established leaders in the West continued to worry about social protest. They tended to seek diplomatic successes to distract the people. This procedure worked nicely for a few decades when imperialist gains came easily. But then it backfired: Around 1914 German officials, fearful of the power of the socialists, wondered whether war would aid national unity. British leaders, beset by feminist dissent and labor unrest, failed to think through their own diplomatic options. Leaders also depended on military buildups for economic purposes. Modern industry, pressed to sell the soaring output of its factories, found naval purchases and army equipment a vital supplement. Mass newspapers, which fanned nationalist pride with stories of conquest and tales of the evils of rival nations, helped shape a belligerent popular culture.
Thus, just a few years after celebrating a century of material progress and peace, ordinary Europeans went to war almost gaily in 1914. Troops departed for the front convinced that war would be exciting, with quick victories. Their departure was hailed by enthusiastic civilians, who draped their trains with flowers. Four years later, almost everyone would have agreed that war had been unmitigated hell. However, the complexities of industrial society were such that war's advent seemed almost a welcome breath of the unexpected, a chance to get away from the disciplined stability of everyday life.
In the industrial era, from roughly 1800 onward, the things that Europeans sought in the outside world as well as the source of the insecurities that drove them there changed dramatically. Not spices or manufactured goods but raw materials were the main products the Europeans sought overseas—metals, vegetable oils, dyes, cotton, and hemp were needed to feed the machines of Europe. Industrialization began to transform Europe into the manufacturing center of the world for the first time. As a result, overseas markets for machine-made European products became a key concern of those who pushed for colonial expansion. Changes in power relationships followed as well. It was only by around 1840, as a result of industrialization, that Europe began to be able to sell more goods to many Asian markets than it imported. It thus broke through the balance of payments imbalance that had affected its global trade for centuries.
Cultural and political connections changed in this context. Christian missionaries, by the 19th century as likely to be Protestant as Roman Catholic, still tried to win converts overseas. But unlike the rulers of Portugal and Spain in the early centuries of expansion, European leaders in the industrial age rarely took initiatives overseas to promote Christianity. In part, this reflected the fact that western Europe was no longer seriously threatened by the Muslims or any other non-European people. The fears that fueled European imperialist expansion in the industrial age arose from internal rivalries between the European powers themselves. Overseas peoples might resist the European advance, but different European national groups feared each other far more than even the largest non-European empires.
The contrast between European expansion in the preindustrial era and in the age of industrialization was also reflected in the extent to which the Europeans were able to build true empires overseas. Industrial technology and the techniques of organization and discipline associated with the increasing mechanization of the West gave the Europeans the ability to reach and infiltrate any foreign land. Few peoples were remote enough to be out of reach of the steamships and railways that carried the Europeans to and across all continents of the globe. No culture was strong enough to remain untouched by the European drive for global dominance in this era. None could long resist the profound changes unleashed by European conquest and colonization.
The Consolidation of British Rule
From the first decades of the 19th century, India was clearly the pivot of the great empire being built by Britain on a global scale. Older colonies with large numbers of white settlers, such as Canada and Australia, contributed more space to the total square miles of empire the British were so fond of calculating. But India had by far the greater share of colonized peoples. Britain's largest and most powerful land forces were the armies recruited from the Indian peoples, and these were rapidly becoming the policemen of the entire British Indian Empire. In the mid- 19th century, Indian soldiers were sent to punish the Chinese and Afghans, conquer Burma and Malaya, and begin the conquest of south and east Africa. Indian ports were essential to British sea power east of the Cape of Good Hope. As the century progressed, India became the major outlet for British overseas investments and manufactured goods as well as a major source of key raw materials.
Industrial Rivalries and the Partition of the World, 1870-1914
In the first half of the 19th century, industrial Britain, with its seemingly insurmountable naval superiority, was left alone to dominate overseas trade and empire building. By the last decades of the century, Belgium, France, and especially Germany and the United States were challenging Britain's industrial supremacy and actively building (or in the case of France, adding to) colonial empires of their own. Many of the political leaders of these expansive nations saw colonies as essential to states that aspired to status as great powers. Colonies were also seen as insurance against raw material shortages and the loss of overseas market outlets to European or North American rivals.
Thus, the concerns of Europe's political leaders were both political and economic. The late 19th century was a period of recurring economic depressions in Europe and the United States. The leaders of the newly industrialized nations had little experience in handling the overproduction and unemployment that came with each of these economic crises. They were deeply concerned about the social unrest and, in some cases, what appeared to be stirrings of revolution that each phase of depression created. Some political theorists argued that as destinations to which unemployed workers might migrate and as potential markets for surplus goods, colonies could serve as safety valves to release the pressure built up in times of industrial slumps.
In the era of the scramble for colonial possessions, political leaders in Europe played a much more prominent role in decisions to annex overseas territories than they had earlier, even in the first half of the 19th century. In part, this was because of improved communications. Telegraphs and railways made it possible to transmit orders much more rapidly from the capitals of Europe to their representatives in the tropics. But more than politicians were involved in late 19th-century decisions to add to the colonial empires. The development of mass journalism and the extension of the vote to the lower middle and working classes in industrial Europe and the United States made public opinion a major factor in foreign policy. Although stalwart explorers might on their own initiative make treaties with local African or Asian potentates who assigned their lands to France or Germany, these annexations had to be ratified by the home government. In most cases, ratification meant fierce parliamentary debates, which often spilled over into press wars and popular demonstrations. Empires had become the property and pride of the nations of Europe and North America.
Colonial Regimes and Social Hierarchies in the Tropical Dependencies
As the Europeans imposed their rule over tens of millions of additional Africans and Asians in the late 19th century, they drew heavily on precedents set in older colonies, particularly India, in establishing administrative, legal, and educational systems. As in India (or in Java and Senegal), the Europeans exploited longstanding ethnic and cultural divisions between the peoples of their new African or Asian colonies to put down resistance and maintain control. In west and east Africa in particular, they used the peoples who followed animistic religions (those that focused on the proposition of nature or ancestral spirits) or those who had converted to Christianity against the Muslim communities that existed in most colonies.
As had been the case in India, Java, and Senegal, small numbers of Europeans lived mainly in the capital city and major provincial towns. From these urban centers they oversaw the administration of the African and Asian colonies, which was actually carried out at the local level mainly by hundreds or thousands of African and Asian subordinates. Some of these subordinates, normally those in positions of the greatest authority, were Western educated. But the majority were recruited from indigenous elite groups, including village leaders, local notables, and regional lords
Shifts in Methods of Economic Extraction
The relationship between the colonizers and the mass of the colonized remained much as it had been before. District officers, with the help of many "native" subordinates, continued to do their paternal duty to settle disputes between peasant villagers, punish criminals, and collect taxes. European planters and merchants still relied on African or Asian overseers and brokers to manage laborers and purchase crops and handicraft manufactures. But late 19th-century colonial bureaucrats and managers tried to instruct African and Asian peasants in scientific farming techniques and to compel the colonized peoples more generally to work harder and more efficiently. These efforts involved an important extension of dependant status in the Western-dominated world economy.
A wide range of incentives was devised to expand export production. Some of them benefited the colonized peoples, such as cheap consumer goods that could be purchased with cash earned by producing marketable crops or working on European plantations. In many instances, however, colonized peoples were simply forced to produce, for little or no pay, the crops or raw materials that the Europeans wanted. Head and hut taxes were imposed that could be paid only in ivory, palm nuts, or wages earned working on European estates. Under the worst of these forcedlabor schemes, such as those inflicted on the peoples of the Belgian Congo in the late 19th century, villagers were flogged and killed if they failed to meet production quotas, and women and children were held hostage to ensure that the men would deliver the products demanded on time.
The profits from the precious metals and minerals extracted from Africa's mines or the rubber grown in Malaya went mainly to European merchants and industrialists. The raw materials themselves were shipped to Europe to be processed and sold or used to make industrial products. The finished products were intended mainly for European consumers. The African and Asian laborers who produced these products were generally poorly paid—if they were paid at all. The laborers and colonial economies as a whole were steadily reduced to dependence on the European- dominated global market. Thus, economic dependence complemented the political subjugation and social subordination of colonized African and Asian peoples in a world order loaded in favor of the expansionist nations of western Europe.
A European-Dominated World Order
The Industrial Revolution not only gave the Europeans and North Americans the motives, but it also provided the means for them to become the agents of the first civilization to dominate the entire world. By the end of the 19th century, the Western industrial powers had directly colonized most of Asia and Africa, and indirectly controlled the remaining areas through the threat of military interventions or the manipulation of local elites. Political power made it possible for the Europeans to use their already well-established position in world trade to build a global economic order oriented to their industrial societies. In many ways the first phase of globalization in the most meaningful sense of the term occurred in the four or five decades before the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
The communications and commercial networks that undergirded the European colonial order made possible an unprecedented flow of foods and minerals from Africa, Asia, and Latin America to Europe and North America. Western industrial societies provided investment capital and machines to run the mines, plantations, and processing plants in colonized areas. European dominance also made it possible to extract cheap labor and administrative services from subject populations across the globe. Western culture, especially educational norms—but also manners, fashions, literary forms, and modes of entertainment—also became the first to be extensively exported to the rest of the world.
The European colonizers assumed that it was their God-given destiny to remake the world in the image of industrial Europe. But in pushing for change within colonized societies that had ancient, deeply rooted cultures and patterns of civilized life, the Europeans often aroused resistance to specific policies and to colonial rule more generally. The colonizers were able to put down protest movements led by displaced princes and religious prophets. But much more enduring and successful challenges to their rule came, ironically, from the very leaders their social reforms and Western-language schools had done so much to nurture. These Asian and African nationalists reworked European ideas and resurrected those of their own cultures. They borrowed European organizational techniques and used the communication systems and common language the Europeans had introduced into the colonies to mobilize the resistance to colonial domination that became one of the dominant themes of global history in the 20th century.
This book is about a historical problem: why did the Industrial Revolution happen in Britain, in the eighteenth century? Theories of economic development emphasize technological change as the immediate cause of growth, and that was surely the case for industrializing Britain. The steam engine, the cotton spinning machinery, and the manufacture of iron with coal and coke deserve their renown, for invention on this scale was unprecedented, and it inaugurated an era of industrial expansion and further technological innovation that changed the world. Other features of the Industrial Revolution (rapid urbanization, capital accumulation, increases in agricultural productivity, the growth of income) were consequences of the improvements in technology. Explaining the technological breakthroughs of the eighteenth century is, therefore, the key to explaining the Industrial Revolution, and it is the first objective of this book.
My explanation proceeds in two stages. Part I of this book analyzes the expansion of the early modern (i.e. 1500-1750) economy and shows that it generated a unique structure of wages and prices in eighteenth-century Britain: Wages were remarkably high, and energy was remarkably cheap. In Part II, I show that the steam engine, the water frame, the spinning jenny and the coke blast furnace increased the use of coal and capital relative to labour. They were adopted in Britain because labour was expensive and coal was cheap, and they were not used elsewhere because wages were low and energy dear. Invention was governed by the same considerations, for why go to the expense of developing a new machine if it was not going to be used? The Industrial Revolution, in short, was invented in Britain in the eighteenth century because it paid to invent it there, while it would not have been profitable in other times and places. The prices that governed these profitability considerations were the result of Britain's success in the global economy after 1500, so the Industrial Revolution can be seen as the sequel to that first phase of globalization.
Landes characterized the period up to 1850 as one of 'continental emulation' because the French, Germans and Belgians were only beginning to use British techniques and pre-industrial practices remained dominant. The 'closing of the gap' only occurred between 1850 and 1873, when modern technology displaced traditional methods, and European industry could compete on an equal footing with British. The slow adoption of British technology on the continent had less to do with war, institutions and culture than with the economics of the new technology, which was not profitable to adopt outside Britain.
This situation did not persist, however - thanks to British efforts. British engineers studied the steam engine and the blast furnace and improved them in order to lower costs. Inputs were saved indiscriminately, including those that were cheap in Britain and expensive elsewhere. The coal consumed per horsepower-hour by a steam engine, for instance, dropped from 45 pounds to 2 pounds. This made it profitable to use steam engines anywhere — even where coal was dear. Britain's success in the early Industrial Revolution was based on inventing technology that was tailored to its circumstances and useless elsewhere. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the genius of British engineering had improved the technologies, thereby eliminating the competitive advantage they had given Britain. The cotton mill, the steam engine and the coke blast furnace were now globally appropriate technologies, and their use quickly spread outside Britain. Global diffusion marked the end of the Industrial Revolution, and it was determined by the life-story of technology.
The Industrial Revolution was preceded by the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. It started in Italy with Galileo and ended in England with Newton - a parallel to the reversal in economic leadership that occurred at the same time. Did modern science precipitate modern industry? This is a favourite theme of university presidents and vice chancellors, and, indeed, has been argued by proponents of scientific research since the seventeenth century.... The impact of scientific discovery on technology was explored thoroughly in the 1960s - and dismissed by most historians. However, there is a good case that these historians went too far, and that scientific discoveries underpinned important technology in the Industrial Revolution. The reason that Hall, for instance, could find no link between scientific discovery and new technology was because he only analyzed the period 1760-1830. In the case of Watt, Hall concluded - correctly - that the theory of latent heat contributed nothing important to the invention of the separate condenser. The trouble with this argument is that the scientific discoveries that mattered for the Industrial Revolution were made before 1700 and not after 1760.
The most important scientific discoveries related to atmospheric pressure, namely, the findings that the atmosphere had weight and that steam could be condensed to form a vacuum. How these ideas were discovered is a great story that involved many of the leading figures of seventeenth-century science - Galileo, Toricelli, Otto von Guericke, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Christiaan Huygens and Denis Papin. The culmination of these inquiries was Thomas Savery's steam pump invented in 1698 and Thomas Newcomen's steam engine of 1712. It was the technological wonder of the age, and one of the first examples of industrial technology derived from science.
The discoveries of seventeenth-century physics were necessary conditions for the invention of the steam engine, but they were not sufficient. Much of the science was done on the continent, but the steam engine was invented in Britain. Why? Turning the scientific knowledge into working technology was an expensive proposition, and it was a worthwhile investment only in Britain where the large coal industry created a high demand for drainage and an unlimited supply of virtually free fuel. Without Britain's unusual wage and price structure, the research and development (R&D) would not have been profitable, and Newton would have done as little for the English economy as Galileo did for the Italian.
Historians of science like Jacob propose that the Scientific Revolution transformed popular culture.1 'A new scientific understanding of nature preceded mechanized industry and, most important, assisted in its development.' There was widespread interest in science in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and exposure to science changed human nature. 'The most important cultural meaning to be extracted from the Scientific Revolution . . . lay in the creation first in Britain by 1750 of a new person.' This person was 'generally but not exclusively a male entrepreneur who approached the productive process mechanically'. He saw it 'as something to be mastered by machines, or on a more abstract level to be conceptualized in terms of weight, motion, and the principles of force and inertia. Work and workers could also be seen in these terms.'
The effect of this new wayof thinking was the mechanization of production. Manufacturing was done 'by using machines in place of labour'. This new culture was adopted more enthusiastically in Britain than on the continent with the result that 'industrial development occurred first in Britain for reasons that had to do with science and culture, not simply or exclusively with raw materials, capital development, cheap labor, or technological innovation'. Rather, Britain's lead over France was due to 'the marked differences in the scientific cultures found in Britain in comparison to France or the Netherlands'. The French were supposedly theoretical, while the British were practical.
This contrast between British and French engineering is deeply problematic. It is not clear that there was much difference in inventiveness between eighteenth-century Britain and France. There are certainly many examples of the French inventing. Mokyr highlights 'chemical knowledge, paper, and high-end textiles'. Why do we think the British had a more pragmatic engineering culture than the French? Because it was Brits who first smelted iron with coke, invented the steam engine, and discovered how to spin with machines. I will show that these differences in behaviour were due to differences between the countries in the profitability of doing R&D. If that argument is accepted, then cultural explanations become superfluous. Indeed, they are circular.
Mokyr has advanced an influential variant of the cultural argument in which the Enlightenment connected the Scientific Revolution to the Industrial. He coined the term 'Industrial Enlightenment' to describe the essential features. The Industrial Enlightenment emphasized the application of the scientific and experimental methods to the study of technology, the belief in an orderly universe governed by natural laws that could be apprehended by the scientific method, and the expectation that the scientific study of the natural world and technology would improve human life. The Industrial Enlightenment explains 'why the Industrial Revolution took place in western Europe (although not why it took place in Britain and not in France or the Netherlands)'.
Mokyr highlights two factors that made the Industrial Revolution British. First, the Industrial Enlightenment was more fully realized in Britain than on the continent. Communication between savants and fabricants was easier and more fruitful. Any such difference in behaviour, of course, could also be explained by the higher rate of return to inventing in Britain. Secondly, Britain was more abundantly supplied with skilled mechanical artisans than France, so it was easier for engineers to realize their inventions. In part, this is a claim about human capital, and the British were, indeed, well endowed in the eighteenth century, although perhaps not more so than people across the Channel. In part, this is also a claim that artisans were adopting the Newtonian worldview.
We are on firmer ground with three other aspects of cultural evolution that also happened to have roots in the economic changes of the time. These developments included the spread of literacy and numeracy, the emergence of consumerism as a motive for work, and the postponement or deferral of marriages when it was economically inconvenient. The full ramifications of these were, of course, not fully realized before the Industrial Revolution. Nevertheless, these cultural shifts were big steps in the emergence of modern men and women. The new culture and the economy evolved together, each supporting the other.
The growth of literacy led to profound changes in knowledge and outlook, and the spread of reading was related to economic developments in several ways. Cities, rural industry and commerce required skills that agriculture had not demanded. As a result, literacy rates in medieval Europe were much higher in cities than in the countryside, so literacy rose with urbanization. Commercial prosperity also made it easier for people to pay for education and knowledge. Beyond that, the invention of printing sharply reduced the price of books, leading to much more reading for both useful knowledge and pleasure. In England, the proportion of the population who could sign their name rose from about 6 per cent in 1500 to 53 per cent in 1800. A reading public of this size was unprecedented in world history and led to new ways of thinking in many areas.
Numeracy also increased in early modern England, although its spread is harder to measure. Commercial developments were the primary cause. While many people wanted to read as an aid to devotion or for simple pleasure, very few people learned long division for fun. Arithmetic was studied for its utility. Knowledge of arithmetic and geometry was important to keep accounts and navigate ships. The much greater level of human capital in the eighteenth century than in the middle ages is an important reason why the Industrial Revolution did not happen earlier.
The evolution of the economy also increased the incentive to work hard. This was a theme of eighteenth-century writers, who contended that the availability of new consumer goods - both English manufactures like books and clocks and imports like sugar and tea - gave people the desire to earn income....To buy these goods, people needed income, and that required them to work more. In the ancient world, 'men were . . . forced to labour because they were slaves to others; men are now forced to labour because they are slaves to their own wants'.... Although the new consumerism was not sufficient to explain economic progress, it was necessary: the frenetic pursuit of income to buy novel consumer goods, many imported from abroad as the economy globalized in the seventeenth century, was a cultural basis of the Industrial Revolution.
The popular culture of England and northwestern Europe generally was transformed in the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution. Culture possibly became more secular and more concerned with economic success. People could read and calculate. They chased after new products and worked to get the money to buy them. They refrained from marriage and limited their families when they were not economically appropriate. While the eighteenth century was not the same as the twenty-first, modern attitudes and attributes were ascendant. Many had economic roots, and they furthered the growth of the economy.
The modern culture facilitated the Industrial Revolution, but it was not enough to bring it about. Like capitalism, minimal government and the Scientific Revolution, modern culture has a fatal weakness as an explanation. These developments may have been necessary conditions for the Industrial Revolution, but they were not sufficient. Getting the institutions right, increasing knowledge of the natural world, and focusing people's minds on an empirical approach to production may have increased the supply of technology, but they would have had little impact on invention without a demand for new techniques.
This book explores how Britain's high wages and cheap energy increased the demand for technology by giving British businesses an exceptional incentive to invent techniques that substituted capital and energy for labour. I do not ignore supply-side developments like the growth of scientific knowledge or the spread of scientific culture. However, I emphasize other factors increasing the supply of technology that have not received their due, in particular the high real wage. It meant that the population at large was better placed to buy education and training than their counterparts elsewhere in the world. The resulting high rates of literacy and numeracy contributed to invention and innovation. Since high wages and cheap energy were consequences of Britain's success in the global economy, the Industrial Revolution can be traced back to prior economic success.
My view of Britain in the eighteenth century is reminiscent of Habakkuk's analysis of technical progress in nineteenthcentury America. American inventions had a labour-saving bias that accelerated the growth in output per worker. Habakkuk attributed the labour-saving bias to high American wages, which led inventors to economize on labour. High wages, in turn, were the result of the abundance of land and natural resources. In this book, I argue that Britain's extensive coal fields played a similar role in the eighteenth century. Cheap energy made it possible for businesses to pay high wages and remain competitive. High wages and cheap energy made it profitable to invent technologies that substituted capital and energy for labour. Eighteenth-century Britain was, thus, the prequel to nineteenth-century America.
Britain's unique wage and price structure was the pivot around which the Industrial Revolution turned. Logically, the next question, therefore, is how to explain Britain's wages and prices. They turn out to have been the result of the country's great success in the international economy in the early modern period. This success was partly due to changes in factor endowments and partly to commercial policy. Here is a thumbnail sketch of what happened.
Between 1500 and 1750, the economy of Europe was transformed. The manufacturing and commercial centre of Europe in the middle ages had been the Mediterranean with a small offshoot in what is now Belgium. Most of the British population lived in the countryside, and most depended on agriculture. Productivity and incomes were low. Much of the rest of Europe was similarly backward. By the eighteenth century, the economic centre of gravity shifted to the North Sea. The Mediterranean economies were in serious decline, and the Belgian economy was slipping. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Dutch Republic pulled ahead and became the economic wonder of the age. British advance was slower but steady. By the seventeenth century, British incomes pushed past those of its chief continental rivals - France and the Habsburg Empire. By the eighteenth century, Britain extended its lead and overtook the Dutch. The Industrial Revolution was the capstone to this advance.
The reconfiguration of the European economy was precipitated by an increase in international trade. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, greater market integration led to a shift in the location of cloth production from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, intercontinental trade expanded. The great gainers were the English and the Dutch, who established world empires that fuelled their manufacturing and commerce. At first, the Spanish looked like the biggest winners due to the Latin American silver they acquired, but it proved their undoing for it unleashed inflation that rendered their manufacturing and agriculture uncompetitive.
In 1500, most Europeans lived in backward economies. This is indicated, in the first instance, by the fraction of the population engaged in agriculture. About three-quarters of the people were agricultural in England, Austria-Hungary, Germany, France and Poland. This proportion was also characteristic of the less developed countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe early in the twentieth century. In terms of economic structure, western Europe was at a similar - low - level of development at the end of the middle ages.
The counterpart of a large fraction of the population in agriculture was small cities that included less than 10 per cent of the population. In 1500, for instance, only 50,000 people lived in London; other English cities were little more than market towns. Non-agricultural employment in the countryside was also limited, especially in comparison to later developments. The leading economies of Europe in 1500 were Italy, Spain and present-day Belgium. The Dutch economy also showed advanced proportions, but its population was so small that its figures are more a portend of the future than an indicator of economic importance at the time. The urban fraction ranged from 19 per cent to 30 per cent in these economies, and those cities housed the great manufacturing industries of the middle ages. The agricultural fraction was correspondingly reduced to about 60 per cent.
The economies of Europe followed a variety of trajectories between 1500 and 1800, and the countries in Table 1.1 are grouped to emphasize these divergences. England was the most successful country by far. The fraction of its population in agriculture dropped to 35 per cent - this was the biggest decline and the lowest value reached in Europe. In 1800, each person in agriculture had to feed almost three people, while his predecessor in 1500 had only fed one and a third. An agricultural revolution was part of the transformation of the English economy. The drop in the agricultural share was matched by rises in both the urban and the rural non-agricultural proportions. The latter corresponds to the 'proto-industrial' revolution.
The Industrial Revolution was the result of a long process of social and economic evolution running back to the late middle ages. The commercial and imperial expansion of Britain was a fundamental feature of this evolution, but not its totality. The path to the Industrial Revolution began with the Black Death. The population fall increased labour mobility by generating many vacant farms, and that mobility undermined serfdom. The low population also created a high wage economy. The benefits of high consumption were not confined to people: sheep ate better as well, and their longer wool was the basis for England's early modern worsted industry - the new draperies.
The enormous export of these fabrics through the port of London led to rapid growth in the city's population and the rise of the coal industry to provide the capital with fuel. The trade boom was extended to the Americas and Asia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by England's mercantilist expansion of trade and acquisition of colonies. More trade led to larger cities, and their growth was an impetus for advances in agricultural productivity. Larger cities sustained a more refined division of labour than smaller towns, so urbanization also led directly to greater efficiency and higher wages.
The expansion of the early modern economy was underpinned by favourable institutional and cultural developments. The end of serfdom and the establishment of a stable legal environment favourable to capitalist enterprise undoubtedly promoted growth. The gradual decline in superstition and medieval religion and the corresponding rise of a scientific attitude inclined more and more people to look for practical solutions to life's problems rather than trying to solve them by manipulating supernatural agents. The demands of trade and the enormous drop in the price of books spread literacy and numeracy. New products, many obtained from abroad like cotton, tea, sugar and tobacco, enlarged the aspiration to consume and increased the incentive to work and earn high income. Political institutions favourable to capitalist development, as well as the growth of literacy, numeracy and hard work, followed from the expansion of international commerce and cities. Urbanization may also have undermined medieval superstition.
The upshot of the commercial expansion of the early modern economy was the unique wage and price structure that Britain enjoyed in the eighteenth century. Wages were high and energy was cheap. These prices led directly to the Industrial Revolution by giving firms strong incentives to invent technologies that substituted capital and coal for labour. The famous technologies of the Industrial Revolution - the steam engine, mechanical spinning and coke smelting - had these characteristics. The evolution of law and culture created a favourable supply response to these incentives. Since the evolution of culture and law had commercial roots, the international expansion of Britain's economy in the early modern period made a decisive contribution to the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution was one of the great, transformative events of world history. Part I explored the high wage, cheap energy environment from which it emerged. Part II will show how and why that environment caused the Industrial Revolution. But what was the Industrial Revolution? Its essential characteristic was technological innovation. In the words of Ashton's famous schoolboy: 'About 1760 a wave of gadgets swept over England.' Some are well known (the steam engine, the spinning jenny, the water frame and coke smelting), and others less so (devices to lay out and cut the gears of watches, and foot-powered trip hammers to stamp the heads on nails). In the remainder of this book, I concentrate on the famous inventions because they unleashed trajectories of technological advance that drove the economy forward. If we can explain the breakthroughs that started these sequences of progress, we can explain the Industrial Revolution. The basic principles have broader application, however, and governed minor inventions as well. In the remainder of this book, I tackle the question of why the steam engine, mechanical spinning and coke smelting were invented in Britain, in the eighteenth century.
I shall tell the history of the Industrial Revolution in two stages: first, the birth and youth of the great inventions when they were useful in Britain but nowhere else, and, secondly, their maturation into globally useful technologies that spread from Britain to other countries. My analysis is based on two distinctions. The first is between macro-inventions and micro-inventions. Newcomen's steam engine and Hargreaves' spinning jenny, for instance, were macro-inventions. They set in train long trajectories of advance that resulted in great increases in productivity. Fundamentally for my analysis, they also radically changed factor proportions, substituting energy and capital for labour. For this reason, the macro-inventions of the Industrial Revolution were only cost-effective in Britain. Micro-inventions, on the other hand, refer to all of the improvements in the trajectory of advance that elaborated macro-inventions and realized their possibilities. Economies were made across the board - in the use of inputs with which Britain was abundantly endowed (e.g. coal) as well as in the use of inputs that were scarce in Britain (e.g. labour). As a result, the stream of micro-inventions made steam engines, cotton mills and coke blast furnaces cost-effective in more and more countries and eventually spread the Industrial Revolution around the world.
The second distinction concerns the nature of invention itself, namely, Edison's observation that 'invention was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration'. Invention involved both leaps of imagination or scientific discovery (inspiration) and research and development (perspiration). Usually, 'inspiration' is emphasized,4 but both need to be explained, and Edison's weighting suggests that we should concentrate on research and development. I will consider both inspiration and perspiration, but I will follow Edison's lead and concentrate more on the latter than has been customary. This perspective is rewarded with a deeper understanding of why the Industrial Revolution happened when and where it did.
The British Industrial Revolution was the unfolding of a particular pattern of technical change. It was a path-dependent trajectory in which each step is explained (in part, at least) by the step that came before. To understand why the technology of the British cotton industry or iron industry developed as it did, we must explain the first step in the trajectory. Those first steps were the famous macro-inventions of the eighteenth century. The macro-inventions were made in Britain in the eighteenth century since Britain's high - and rising - wage induced a demand for technology that substituted capital and energy for labour. At the end of the middle ages, there was little variation across Europe in capital intensity. As the wage rose relative to the price of capital in Britain, it was increasingly desirable to substitute capital for labour and that is what happened. Sir John Hicks had the essential insight: 'The real reason for the predominance of labour-saving inventions is surely that . . . a change in the relative prices of the factors of production is itself a spur to innovation and to inventions of a particular kind - directed at economizing the use of a factor which has become relatively expensive.'
Even though a macro-invention might have had revolutionary consequences, the first models were very inefficient from a commercial point of view. They scarcely turned a profit even under the most favourable circumstances, and they did not earn enough income to cover costs in most situations. For the same reason, their social savings (contribution to economic growth) was negligible in the beginning. Wyatt and Paul spent decades trying to make roller spinning pay, and never did succeed. Abraham Darby I could not produce pig iron that was suitable for refining into wrought iron, but he did succeed in developing a specialized niche market of thin-walled castings. The inefficiency of the early models of macro-inventions is the reason that their adoption was very sensitive to factor prices. R&D can be thought of as the process of designing a prototype that was efficient enough to cover its costs. Then it could be operated commercially and further knowledge gained through observation and modification (local learning). At that point, the phase of micro-improvements was reached. The great virtue of this phase was that it did not require specific finance since R&D was effectively funded through normal business operations. In time, the macro-invention might be so improved that it could be used everywhere and revolutionize the world. But that was not the state of play at the outset.
If innovation had stopped with the macro-inventions of the eighteenth century, the results would have been limited. While the Newcomen steam engine, for instance, was the technological marvel of 1712, it could do little more than pump water and was grossly inefficient by later standards. It took almost a century before a steam engine could directly drive machinery and a century and a half before steam was cheaper than sail on the tea route from China to Britain. This progress was the result of a vast stream of micro-inventions.
Micro-inventions differed from macro-inventions in three respects. First, micro-inventions were not generally biased technical changes that increased the demand for inputs that were abundant and cheap in Britain. Instead, micro-inventions were likely to be neutral technical improvements. In some cases, they even reversed the bias of the macro-inventions and saved inputs that were abundant in Britain. Thus, Newcomen's steam engine increased the demand for coal, but subsequent improvements like Watt's separate condenser were aimed at reducing energy consumption.
The gradual improvement of the macro-inventions had implications that we observe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At first, as the micro-inventions were made, Britain increased her technological lead over other countries. Moreover, countries with lower wages and more expensive energy still did not adopt the new British technology even though it was more modern, indeed, increasingly so. Thus, the coke blast furnace of the 1780s was more efficient that the furnace of the 1730s, but the French still did not use it. This reluctance has given rise to debates about the quality of French entrepreneurs and engineers, but the reality was that the blast furnace of the 1780s still used too much coal to be profitable in France where coal was very dear. In the next seventy years, British engineers reduced the use of all inputs - coal, ore, labour and capital - so much that coke smelting became more profitable than charcoal smelting in France. At that point, the French shifted to mineral fuel smelting very quickly: a 'tipping point' was reached.
The French jumped directly to the most advanced blast furnace technology and skipped all of the intermediate stages through which the British progressed. Britain's competitive advantage had been based on the invention of technology that benefited it differentially. It is ironic that the success of Britain's engineers in perfecting that technology destroyed the country's competitive advantage. A second difference between macro- and micro-inventions was in the inspiration for the inventions. While the ideas behind most macro-inventions came from outside the immediate industrial experience, the ideas for micro-inventions often originated in the study of that experience. Such ideas are called local learning.
I have argued that the famous inventions of the British Industrial Revolution were responses to Britain's unique economic environment and would not have been developed anywhere else. This is one reason that the Industrial Revolution was British. But why did those inventions matter? The French were certainly active inventors, and the Scientific Revolution was a pan-European phenomenon. Wouldn't the French, or the Germans, or the Italians, have produced an industrial revolution by another route? Weren't there alternative paths to the twentieth century?
These questions are closely related to another important question asked by Mokyr: why didn't the Industrial Revolution peter out after 1815? He is right that there were previous occasions when important inventions were made. The result, however, was a one-shot rise in productivity that did not translate into sustained economic growth. The nineteenth century was different - the First Industrial Revolution turned into Modern Economic Growth. Why? Mokyr's answer is that scientific knowledge increased enough to allow continuous invention. Technological improvement was certainly at the heart of the matter, but it was not due to discoveries in science - at least not before 1900. The reason that incomes continued to grow in the hundred years after Waterloo was because Britain's pre-1815 inventions were particularly transformative, much more so than continental inventions. That is a second reason that the Industrial Revolution was British and also the reason that growth continued throughout the nineteenth century.
Machinery production was the basis of three developments that were the immediate explanations of the continuation of economic growth until the First World War. Those developments were: (1) the general mechanization of industry; (2) the railroad; and (3) steam-powered iron ships. The first raised productivity in the British economy itself; the second and third created the global economy and the international division of labour that were responsible for significant rises in living standards across Europe. Steam technology accounted for close to half of the growth in labour productivity in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century.
There was a great paradox in the history of technology during the Industrial Revolution. As we have emphasized, the macro-inventions of the eighteenth century were biased improvements that increased the demand for capital and energy relative to labour. Since capital and energy were relatively cheap in Britain, it was worth developing the macro-inventions there and worth using them in their early, primitive forms. These forms were not cost-effective elsewhere where labour was cheaper and energy dearer. However, British engineers improved this technology. They studied it, modified it, and made it more efficient. This local learning often saved the input that was used excessively in the early years of the invention's life and which restricted its use to Britain.
As the coal consumption of rotary steam power declined from 35 pounds per horsepower-hour to 5 pounds, it paid to apply steam power in more and more uses. This was why mechanization spread beyond the cotton textile industry in the middle of the nineteenth century. But the decline in coal consumption meant a geographical spread as well as an industrial spread. Old-fashioned, thermally inefficient steam engines were not 'appropriate' technology for countries where coal was expensive. These countries did not have to invent an 'appropriate' technology for their conditions, however. The irony is that the British did it for them. As the steam engine became more fuel-efficient, it was taken up in more countries - even those where coal was expensive. In that way, the Industrial Revolution spread around the globe. The genius of British engineering undid Britain's comparative advantage.
British technology in the eighteenth century had much greater possibilities than French inventions or those made anywhere else. The British were not more rational or prescient than the French in developing coal-based technologies: The British were simply luckier in their geology. The knock-on effect was large, however: there is no reason to believe that French technology would have led to the engineering industry, the general mechanization of industrial processes, the railway, the steamship or the global economy. In other words, there was only one route to the twentieth century - and it traversed northern Britain.
Should historians confine their analysis to changes in industry, should they include the economy more generally or should they consider the wider notion of a changing mode of production which embodies social, political and cultural transformation? Most recent writing which has played down the extent of revolutionary change in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries has implied that 'industrial revolution' must involve, and be reflected in, a simultaneous radical discontinuity in macroeconomic indicators such as national income, industrial output, capital formation, GDP per head and productivity. But an economy experiencing widespread and rapid innovation across many sectors may not show a significant shift in output growth or productivity. Fundamental restructuring of an economy may indeed be inimical to the achievement of rapid economic growth in the short term, particularly in a pioneering industrial nation which had no example to follow.
Perhaps it is more important, in defining the industrial revolution, to stress the sustained nature of the economic growth which the period initiated rather than its speed. Of course economic change and productivity growth were not new in the late eighteenth century. But unlike earlier periods, such as the innovative century after 1540, growth was thereafter sustained and periods of unprecedented acceleration were made possible. In Hartwell's words of 1967: "On any historical accounting the industrial revolution of England began one of the great discontinuities of history marking 'the great divide' between a world of slow economic growth, in which population and real incomes were increasing slowly or not at all, and a world of much faster economic growth , in which population has increased at an almost frightening rate and in which there have been sustained increases in real income per head."
For the first time with the industrial revolution substantial growth in income per head occurred despite a sharp increase in population. Since then it has become normal for per capita real income to double every half century. Thus the economic changes of the period may be seen as revolutionary irrespective of their reflection in macroeconomic indicators because no previous society had been able to escape the barriers which preindustrial technology and culture placed on production.
Behind the sustained nature of growth lay another aspect of change which must be included in any evaluation of the industrial revolution: a radical shift in the structure of the economy - in the composition of total output, in raw material and energy inputs and in the distribution of employment. Many historians believe it is this which gives concrete meaning to the idea of an industrial revolution. The shift from agrarian and rural-based occupations to predominantly urban-based industrial and service employments accelerated markedly. It was achieved by a combination of agrarian change, population growth and urbanisation which involved a radical transformation in the way of life of a large proportion of the population both rural and urban... In Mokyr's eloquence: "More changed in Britain than just the way in which goods and services were produced. The nature of the family and household, the status of women and children, the role of the church, how people chose their rulers and supported their poor, what they knew about the world and what they wanted to know - all of these were transformed."
The term industrial revolution was widely used in England by the 1840s. It appears to have originated amongst French commentators at the turn of the century who suggested that nations were experiencing a profound economic and social transformation. Used as a direct analogy to the French revolution the term implied that radical change would occur in a definable time period and when Engels wrote his chronicle in 1844 of the effects of the new industrialism on the living conditions of the masses, the term industrial revolution was employed in dramatic manner. It was fixed in the language of historians with respect to Britain by Arnold Toynbee in his famous London lectures published in 1884. Toynbee saw a sharp break in the development process occurring around 1760 followed by a period of intensive industrialisation to 1850 when the process was essentially complete. For him the old order 'was suddenly broken in pieces by the mighty blows of the steam engine and the power loom'.
Toynbee stressed the rise of competitive market society, the rapid growth of population, and the relative (and later absolute) decline of the agricultural population made possible by increased productivity. He saw the substitution of the factory for the domestic system arising directly from mechanical innovation. He stressed the improvement of communications, the expansion of trade and the redistribution of wealth into the hands of capitalists and farmers at the expense of workers. A central element in the chronology of Toynbee's revolution, and in the eyes of most of his contemporaries, was invention.
The view that industrial change and socio-political developments were closely linked and that the magnitude of the former could not be assessed in isolation from the latter was a strong element in nineteenthcentury writing. Marx, for example, saw the industrial revolution as marking a major transformation of the way in which goods and services were produced and distributed (the mode of production). The hallmarks of this transformation were a decisive shift in the production of goods for commercial markets rather than for immediate or localised use: the divorce of labour from the land and the rise of proletarianised wage labour; the division of labour and its greater control by employers (both of which alienated labour from the satisfaction of producing a finite product); mechanisation and centralisation of work; the increasing use of industrial or fixed capital in place of merchant or circulating capital, resulting in a new type of profit generation.... Thus the earliest interpretations of the industrial revolution were of revolutionary technological change in industry and of innovation in the rest of the economy accompanied by radical shifts in society and in social relations.
After 1945 attempts were made to reconcile evolutionary, revolutionary and cyclical accounts of the industrial revolution and new textbooks were produced which emphasised the discontinuities as well as the continuities of the period. Ashton's classic work of 1948 analysed not only developments in industry, agriculture and transport but also the nature of entrepreneurship, the role of science and inventive activity, variations in the level of public debt, changes in the age structure of the population, the role of religious Dissent (particularly in education and entrepreneurship), and the importance of the rate of interest and the supply of capital in stimulating cycles of economic expansion. He stressed what had been a nineteenth-century assumption: that the changes were not merely industrial but social and intellectual. This return to the earlier broader specification of the industrial revolution made the notion of revolutionary change much more seductive.
The notion of a fundamental and once-only economic transition was sustained even more strongly by work of the 1950s and early 1960s on economic development. Against the backcloth of increasing Western prosperity the literature of this period was marked by a preoccupation with growth models which might assist development policies for the Third World, Inequalities of wealth and power between different areas of the world were largely explained by the idea that the speed and timing of industrialisation varied: England was first, others followed, and the less developed laggards would eventually catch up. The dominant idea was that any economy could achieve growth with the right policies and that industrialisation was a successful path down which all must follow.
The 1960s also saw heroic accounts of technological change, epitomised in Landes' Unbound Prometheus which conveyed a real sense of the excitement and dynamism of the age: "In the eighteenth century, a series of inventions transformed the manufacture of cotton in England and gave rise to a new mode of production - the factory system. During these years, other branches of industry effected comparable advances, and all these together mutually reinforcing one another, made possible further gains on an ever widening front...they may be subsumed under three principles: the substitution of machines - rapid, regular, precise, tireless - for human skill and effort; the substitution of inanimate for animate sources of power...thereby opening to man a new and almost unlimited supply of energy; the use of new and far more abundant raw materials, in particular, the substitution of mineral for vegetable or animal substances."
The industrial revolution is most often associated with the coming of centralised, factory production and with powered mechanised processes. Before the 1970s most accounts stressed this as a major feature of the period. Even historians like Clapham who wrote of the incomplete nature of the transition nevertheless maintained the idea that inherently less efficient dispersed and small-scale handicraft technologies were being gradually replaced with their centralised and mechanised counterparts. And this linear perspective was repeated in the bulk of the literature on proto-industrialisation which emerged in the 1970s.
According to Mendels, industrialisation was a two-stage process. The first stage was characterised by the spread of rural domestic manufacturing for distant markets (proto-industrialisation). This created a dynamic build up of capital, entrepreneurial and manufacturing skills, mercantile contacts and markets, and a growing wage-labour force. Thus successful proto-industry would develop into stage two or industrialisation proper based on the factory and capitalintensive mechanisation. The proto-industrial system had inherent limits within a competitive environment. As businesses increased in size, activities were spread over a wider geographical area and marginal costs tended to rise. Also lack of control over the often unspecialised work-force made production deadlines and uniform quality difficult to achieve, and embezzlement of materials became an increasing problem. Centralised production was seen to result because it solved these difficulties.
Classic accounts of the rise of the factory argued that the factory became necessary once machinery became too large and complex to be accommodated in smaller premises: "The industrial revolution...required machines which not only replaced hand labour but compelled the concentration of production in factories - in other words machines whose appetite for energy was too large for domestic sources of power and whose mechanical superiority was sufficient to break down the resistance of the older forms of hand production."
Interpretations of the industrial revolution as a period of radical economic and technological discontinuity and political turbulence have declined since the later 1970s in the face of new research projects and methods. As British industry has suffered more than most Western countries in the last two decades and there has been a revolution in government policy, it is not surprising that many current interpretations of the industrial revolution seek to explain the roots of Britain's contemporary decline as well as her contemporary politics. This has led historians to consider how the structure of the economy and society differs from that of other industrialised nations. In economic history, promoted by a renewed emphasis on quantitative research and economic modelling (and aided by developments in computer technology), the 1980s were dominated by macroeconomic analyses which stressed the very slow growth of the economy and particularly of industry in the industrial revolution period and beyond.
Crafts, for example, has argued that in Britain's 'idiosyncratic' industrialisation, labour transferred from agriculture to industry on a significant scale but technological change was very slow and patchy; hence productivity growth was limited and this was aggravated by insufficient investment. Britain neglected education and concentrated on producing low-wage factory fodder rather than high-wage technicians. This set a pattern repeated in the twentieth century of low home investment, slow productivity growth, and limited comparative advantage deriving from technological advance.
So long as analyses of the period rest on the movement of long-run growth indicators, other sorts of economic change will be ignored and the scope for understanding the discontinuities as well as the continuities of industrialisation will be limited. As Coleman argued almost four decades ago, we cannot deduce an industrial revolution simply from observing the existence in the appropriate figures of an increase in the growth rate. In the same way, we cannot conclude that fundamental economic discontinuities are absent where growth rates remain stable.
And with the growth figures themselves we must ask: how slow is slow? Growth rates during the industrial revolution were not low compared with earlier centuries and they accelerated sufficiently to increase the pace of per capita income growth thereafter in an unprecedented manner. They are clearly lower than some historians expected to find but looking back from the perspective of the twentieth century, the comparison of growth during the industrial revolution with growth spurts since is misleading. The potentialities and the social and cultural repercussions of waves of innovations in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries may appear to make the achievements of the 1760s to 1830s pale into insignificance. But the point to emphasise is that these potentialities (and their social and ecological dangers) are integral to economic growth in the industrialised era. This stems essentially from the nature of the classical industrial revolution.
The industrial revolution witnessed considerable innovation in the organisation as well as the finance of industry and commerce; in the knacks and work practices of production as well as in technology; in urbanisation and demographic behaviour as well as in the development and disciplining of labour. The role of government at both national and local levels was considerably transformed and the dynamism of the economy shifted firmly from agriculture to industry and trade. Some regions rapidly industrialised, others concentrated on commercial agriculture or stagnated. The industrial revolution radically affected the lives of women and children as much as those of men; it involved changing ideas of gender and ethnicity as well as class; it affected consumption and commerce as much as industry, leisure as much as work, and it involved shifts in motivations, aspirations, ideologies and aesthetics as well as changes in the labour process and in the relations of production.
Outwardly at least, England was transformed between 1783 and 1846. The development of new coalfields in South Wales, the Midlands, and Lancashire to supplement the historic collieries of the North-East, enabled total output to increase three-and-a-half times between 1775 and 1830, and helped to keep the price stable despite rising demand. As a replacement for timber, coal succeeded in galvanizing the iron industry, and it played an essential role in the development of steam-driven textile mills, but just as importantly it provided the domestic fuel without which a megalopolis such as London could not have operated. Since no other industries enjoyed the same pace of development as iron and textiles, precisely how fast the economy grew in aggregate terms remains disputed, but the value of domestic exports demonstrably increased by a factor of six-and-a-half, and that of cottons by thirty-two. Pig-iron output rose by thirty-five times, while sales abroad of iron products more or less doubled. In 1850 exports of pig- and bar iron exceeded the production of the whole of the rest of Europe, while by 1873 British output was equal to that of Europe and the United States combined. Such statistics justified this country's midnineteenth- century designation as 'the workshop of the world', and while contemporaries were only partially aware of them, they could hardly fail to notice the proliferation of steam engines, iron bridges, canals, and railways, or the haemorrhaging of population from the countryside and the corresponding growth of great towns.
This period has been described as a 'Great Transformation', and more recently a 'Great Divergence'. The terms are apt, whereas the once common designation of 'the first Industrial Revolution' now appears problematic, if only because it suggests that there was an inevitable and integrated process of transition from an organic or agriculturally based economy reliant on handicraft, to one based on manufactures and machine production. Analyses based on this latter assumption have often turned on the relative importance of supply- and demand-side factors in explaining the revolution. The former category would include the abundance of cheap labour, capital investment, technological inventions, economies of scale, improvements to internal and coastal transport, and ready access to raw materials, especially coal. Further in the background, but possibly just as important, was the vibrant entrepreneurial culture, due in part to the fact that many industrialists strove not for financial gratification but to establish their families socially, which often induced them to live frugally and to reinvest profits.
Demand-side factors included the growth of domestic consumption due to a habit of social emulation, and a surge in overseas markets thanks to colonial acquisitions and a vibrant Atlantic trade. As to their relative importance, internal demand was much the greater in absolute terms, but it could be argued that foreign commerce offered more opportunities for dynamic spurts of growth of the sort which excited entrepreneurs into more imaginative ways of doing things. Again, foreign trade provided an opportunity for a technologically superior country suddenly to seize another's export markets, or to supplant a Third World country's indigenous manufactures.
A second problem with the 'first Industrial Revolution' approach is that, in so far as the economy underwent a structural transformation, that had already taken place during the last quarter of the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth, and was based on developments in commerce, finance, and agriculture rather than manufacturing. Here the crucial variables were those of population and production. During the medieval and early modern eras, the size of the population and the level of economic activity had broadly risen and fallen together over the course of a generation or two. There had been periods (such as the early fourteenth and early seventeenth centuries) during which the population had expanded and so had the national product, but since the increased product had had to be shared among more people, welfare had collapsed, death rates had risen, and population had fallen back again. The pattern was therefore one of ups and downs rather than a rising spiral. Yet between about 1675 and 1750 demand for—and production of—goods and services increased without any significant rise in population. This was mainly because Britain was able to dominate the rapidly growing Atlantic and Caribbean trades, in particular the market for slaves and colonial groceries (coffee, tea, sugar). That it was able to do so was partly owing to its abstention from the Thirty Years War (1618-48), which gave it advantages in the carrying trade, and also to the Navigation Code (1651-63), which restricted a large proportion of imports and exports to British merchant ships. But whatever the antecedent causes, the accumulation of profits ahead of population led in the mid-eighteenth century to surplus wages, increased consumption, upward social mobility, and emulation.
The decades before 1783 thus left a benign legacy, the fruits of which would be enjoyed during the mid-Victorian boom in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. The significance of the intervening years from 1783 to 1846, however, is not that England forged ahead into self-sustained growth, but that it just about managed to avoid a demographic catastrophe. In 1783 the population of the British Isles was a little over 13 million. By 1841 it had more than doubled to about 26.7 million, an increase of 1.8 per cent per annum as compared with about 0.7 for France.... Although there was no growth in income per capita until almost the end of the period, there was throughout just enough increase in output to avoid a social catastrophe. It was an economic triumph of sorts, but it was also—to quote the Duke of Wellington's famous words on the battle of Waterloo—'a damned close run thing'.
So the question to be asked is not why this country pioneered an economic revolution and a new form of social organization, but how it managed to pull through during a period of grave economic strain. To what extent did increased productivity in manufacturing enable food and other necessaries to be purchased from abroad? How big a part did infrastructural factors play, or the service industries, or the State in both its central and local manifestations? And given the dramatic exodus from the land—agriculture employed only about 22 per cent of the workforce in 1851 compared with 35 per cent fifty years earlier — how on earth did agricultural output manage to rise to meet the needs of townsfolk? Of these four factors, the last is the most problematic since, with hand and horse power continuing to dominate arable farming, there were no major technological breakthroughs, no significant productivity gains, and no net inward investment.
It is going too far to say that agriculture 'seemed unchanging, and indeed unchangeable, in the hundred years before 1850', since the steady increase in farm size over the period must have facilitated economies of scale in the use of labour, while the hand tools used became substantially more efficient, but it is the case that this was a period of agricultural expansion rather than revolution. The number of acres under cultivation increased from about 10 to 15 million between 1770 and 1850, while the area under wheat rose from about 2.8 to 3.8 million. This was partly owing to the release of former woodland for crops — a consequence of coal substituting for timber as the main source of fuel — but most of the increase took place between 1790 and 1812, when scarcity prices due to population pressure and the difficulty of importing food in wartime led the margin of cultivation to be pushed up the hillsides.
The impulse to mechanize [may have been] a consequence rather than a cause of the movement into factories. Initially the working methods adopted in centralized production units would have been much the same as in the outworkers' cottages: Arkwright's cotton mills at Cromford from 1771 onwards were organized on factory-type lines, yet were wholly dependent on water power, while even as late as 1830 the Leeds wool merchant Benjamin Gott employed 1,300 hand-loom workers in his mills. However, once the business had been concentrated on a single site it naturally became more feasible to experiment with new processes, the most visible of which, so far as the cotton industry was concerned, was the application of the Boulton-Watt rotary steam engine to a spinning mule by Manchester's McConnel and Kennedy in 1798.
And as with centralization itself, once certain firms had introduced these laboursaving machines, rivals would have felt pressured to do the same. Historians have often wondered why British entrepreneurs should have proved so much more imaginative in adopting new industrial technology than the more scientifically oriented French, and some have put the answer down to 'uneducated empiricism' or 'inspired tinkering'. But a more convincing answer might be that, whereas the French were required to make two leaps of imagination, some Britons found technological innovation easier because they had already centralized production. However, while the spread of factories and machines (like that of enclosures) was important politically and culturally, its contribution to economic growth is more uncertain. Even in textiles, metalworking, and engineering, mechanization was fairly limited, and much of the increased production came from traditional domestic handicraft in small towns and villages... As for steam-powered machines, although the mule was adapted for cotton-spinning from 1785, there is no evidence that it was any more cost-effective than water power before the 1840s, Cotton-weaving was not seriously affected by power-looms until the 1810s, worsteds not until the 1830s, and woollens with their fragile fibres not until the 1850s. Aside from textiles, more than three-quarters of British industry remained small-scale, hand- and cottage-based throughout the period, and there were spectacular examples of deindustrialization to balance those in the opposite direction.
As for the argument about worker discipline, some historians have objected that factories merely brought new problems of control, and also that by the late eighteenth century it was unnecessary to enforce discipline on domestic workers because they were working harder anyway. Certainly, it seems that even outworkers put in considerably longer hours and took fewer casual holidays, while wives and children switched from predominantly household chores to producing goods for market. As usual, the cause of this so-called 'industrious revolution' is disputed. Perhaps workers took advantage of developing markets in order to maximize earning power, and to purchase consumer goods such as tea, tobacco, sugar, and the new 'wave of gadgets' that were available. That would be the optimistic explanation. However, it is more likely that they were driven to work harder by the pressure of rising prices from the 1790s, and the consequent squeeze on real wages.... Perhaps, as another historian has suggested, 'the triumph of the industrial revolution lay in getting a lot of workers into industry rather than obtaining high productivity from them once there'.
On Deane and Cole's reckoning, between 1760 and 1831 product per head doubled; on that of Crafts it rose by barely a quarter, an enormous difference. If Deane and Cole were right the living standards of the bulk of the population must have been barely above subsistence level in the mid-eighteenth century. On the alternative calculation, it remains reasonable to entertain the possibility that the English economy was already achieving substantial progress in the period between Tudor times and the accession of George III, a view which accords with the argument and evidence presented in earlier chapters. For example, when Henry VIII was sitting on the English throne his country was among the least urbanised in western Europe. When George III succeeded to the throne it was more urbanised than any other country apart from the Netherlands, and the urban proportion was rising far faster than elsewhere.
In Henry's day it is probable that about three-quarters of the workforce was labouring on the land, whereas in the mid-eighteenth century at least half the workforce had ceased working on the land: it was employed instead in manufacture, transport, and services. The list of similar contrasts could be greatly extended. It might seem tempting to argue, in view of this, that, while it has become clear that it is no longer possible to argue convincingly for the industrial revolution as a change which occurred abruptly and was complete within a couple of generations, all that is necessary is to change the time frame but retain the view that it was a continuous, unitary process; that two centuries should be substituted for two generations. It is right to acknowledge that the time frame should be greatly widened but, in my view, a mistake to see what happened as a unitary process, for reasons discussed in the next three sections of this chapter.
The implications of the differing conclusions of Deane and Cole on the one hand and of Crafts on the other run wide. For example, if Crafts's view is correct, the rate of growth in output per head over the period 1760-1831 was a modest 0.3 per cent annually where Deane and Cole's estimates result in a figure of 1.0 per cent. In Crafts's model the large rise in national product was primarily related to the very rapid population growth (output came close to tripling but output per head rose only by a quarter), whereas in that of Deane and Cole output per head played a much larger role (output more than quadrupled but output per head doubled). If Crafts's estimates are preferred there is no compelling reason to think that the rate of growth of national product per head was any greater in the classic period of the industrial revolution than over the preceding century.
The probability that the rate of growth in output per head was much the same in the century before the conventional period of the industrial revolution as during its 'classic' period does not mean, however, that the achievement of the economy during the industrial revolution period was other than remarkable. The misery that was to be expected if a population doubled in half a century did not happen. Both output per head and the real wage tended to rise rather than fall abruptly, as had happened in the last period of rapid population growth in the second half of the sixteenth century, even though the rate of population growth then, though high for an organic economy, was notably slower than during the industrial revolution period.
An industrial revolution is physically impossible without access to energy on a scale which does not exist and cannot be secured in organic economies. It is thus reasonable to suppose that it was most unlikely to occur in a country without any coal. Water and wind power do not suffice. In principle it is conceivable, perhaps, that access to other fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas might provide an alternative route to success, but this can only be speculation. Nor does the presence of coal carry any guarantee that industrialisation will occur. It was known and used on a small scale in many other places than England, and notably in China where indeed for a time it was mined on a substantial scale.
Coal measures occur in every continent. One question which is sometimes raised with this point in mind is the following. If coal was so important in the industrial revolution why were there not parallel developments to those taking place in England elsewhere in Europe or farther afield and perhaps at an earlier date? There can be no definitive answer to this question. It is reasonable to claim that without coal no industrial revolution was possible in the circumstances of an organic economy. The presence of coal measures, on the other hand, clearly carried no guarantee that it would be exploited.
The steadily rising production of coal in England had a dual importance. Not only did it foster sustained growth by solving one old and fundamental problem experienced by all organic economies, the limited availability of heat energy derived from wood, but it also posed a series of new problems whose gradual solution was also instrumental in fostering growth by transforming other aspects of economic life. The difficulty of pit drainage affected coal mining from an early date and offered a very strong incentive to find a means of capturing the energy in coal to overcome the problem, solved initially by the Newcomen engine. Or again, the character of coal as a very heavy and bulky raw material created novel problems and novel investment opportunities in moving it from the point of production to market. It encouraged radical improvements in both road and water transport. And once it had become clear that coal could provide heat energy on a scale and at a price which had no previous precedent, it was not surprising that attention turned to the parallel problem with mechanical energy.
Initially the growth which took place in England had been little different from comparable periods in other European economies and for centuries England was a follower rather than a leader. England lagged well behind the Netherlands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and was heavily dependent upon the Netherlands and other countries in western Europe both in acquiring more advanced productive technology and in developing more sophisticated commercial practices. Though an essential springboard to the later, distinctive phase of growth, there were few aspects of English development which set the country apart from the more advanced areas of the continent before the mid-eighteenth century other than the high and rising output per head in agriculture and the sustained and relatively rapid growth in coal output and consumption. Thereafter the effects of achieving liberation from what had been a universal constraint upon growth, and the significance of the new source of energy in making this possible, became more and more apparent. An unprecedented expansion in economic activity became possible. Rapid growth today no longer meant a brisk deceleration tomorrow.
The marginal cost of production must rise in an organic economy beyond a certain level of output. In contrast, in energy-rich, mineralbased economies it normally fell with increasing output. Increased output did not make further progress more difficult but rather the reverse.... Falling production costs encouraged a rapid growth in demand, and a virtuous circle became established, a set of circumstances which had been very difficult to secure in earlier centuries, and, even if temporarily secured, could not be long maintained.
The classic period of the industrial revolution was the key time of trial in England. National population growth rates reached a peak then and numbers were rising even in agricultural hundreds, but growth rates in these areas remained modest and the resulting stresses, though worrying to contemporaries, could be contained because of the exceptionally rapid growth of employment in a limited number of commercial centres, industrial towns, and industrial or mining villages. Towards the end of this period population growth rates eased and many more sectors of the economy acquired greatly extended productive capacities by the direct and indirect effects of the replacement of the organic economy by its mineral-based and energy-rich successor. In the decades which followed, in the Victorian era, living standards could rise as the new power to produce began to benefit the population generally.
Few aspects of the development of the English economy in the early modern period can be quantified with any precision but the general character of the changes taking place can be described with fair confidence. The first point to emphasise is the remarkable achievement of English agriculture in securing a very large increase in agricultural output while at the same time increasing output per head in the agricultural labour force in a similar ratio. Enough is known about the changing occupational structure of the country to make it clear that, although agriculture remained the backbone of the economy and increased its output markedly, it occupied a steadily declining proportion of the labour force. Whereas in Tudor times agriculture employed about three-quarters of the workforce, by the early eighteenth century the comparable figure was only one half, and in the course of the eighteenth century it declined further; in 1800 it was less than two-fifths. This implies that there was a rapid growth in other types of employment. Secondary and tertiary employment more than doubled its share of those in employment, and, since the population of the country also more than doubled, the absolute size of the non-agricultural labour force by the end of the eighteenth century had soared to at least four times its number at the end of the sixteenth century.
Urban growth can be traced with confidence and, as might be expected, runs in parallel with the changes just outlined. In the early sixteenth century only a twentieth of the national population lived in towns with 5,000 or more inhabitants. By 1800 this figure had risen to more than a quarter, and England had become one of the two most heavily urbanised of all European countries. If the definition of 'urban' is made less restrictive, and any settlement with more than 2,500 inhabitants is treated as a town, the urban percentage would be increased substantially, probably to more than a third. The great majority of town dwellers were engaged in industrial or service pursuits. An earlier chapter portrayed the stimulus which urban demand gave to agricultural production and the feedback between the two. Each was dependent upon the other if growth were to be able to continue.
An initially small but increasingly significant part in the expansion of the English economy while it was still principally an organic economy was played by elements which foreshadowed the character of its successor. In particular, the relative importance of different sources of energy had already changed radically well before the conventional dating of the industrial revolution. Whereas in the mid-sixteenth century coal provided only 11 per cent of energy consumed, by the mid-eighteenth this figure had increased to 61 per cent, and the overall scale of energy consumption per head in England dwarfed that of her neighbours, with the partial exception of the Netherlands. The presence of a cheap and abundant source of heat energy in the form of coal played a major part in facilitating expansion in a range of industries by holding down production costs as production volumes increased; brick making, glass manufacture, lime burning, brewing, dyeing, salt boiling, and soap and sugar manufacture all benefited. The traditional dependence upon wood as a heat source had vanished in almost all branches of industry apart from iron manufacture by the early eighteenth century.
Every living thing is constantly expending energy in order simply to remain alive. This is as true of mankind as of any other animal species. Additional energy was needed if a man or woman was to make an active contribution to production. To be economically active in the past, whether in wielding an axe, thrusting a shuttle, or pushing a wheelbarrow, required additional energy inputs over and above what was needed simply to sustain life. The useful energy secured might be in the form of food for the individual or fodder for draught animals, or it might consist of the production of a wide range of organic raw materials needed for manufacture, but in every case the basic problem was the same. A fixed supply of land meant an upper limit to the quantity of energy which could be tapped as long as the dominant means of securing it was from the conversion, by plant photosynthesis, of a tiny fraction of the flood of energy reaching the earth in the form of sunlight. Unless this restriction could be overcome, no exercise of ingenuity could do more than alleviate the problem; a solution was out of reach.
The problem was finally overcome by breaking free from dependence upon photosynthesis, or more accurately by finding a way of gaining access to the photosynthesis of past geological ages. Capital and labour remained as essential as ever if output was to expand, but for wider and wider swathes of the economy land was no longer a factor of central importance. Energy was still needed in every aspect of the production process and an adequate supply of raw materials remained essential, but the land could be by-passed in securing the first, and to an increasing degree the second. Land was losing its place in the trinity of factors determining production possibilities.
Coal provided the escape route. But there is a paradox in this story. There was no revolutionary change in the amount of coal a miner could dig in the course of the working day. At the coal face the tools employed and the nature of the work involved did not change greatly for long periods of time. A seventeenth-century coal miner could dig about 200 tons in the course of a year. When coal production in the UK peaked in 1913 with a total of 287.5 million tons, the number of coal miners was 1,095,200, implying an annual output per man-year of just 260 tons, hardly a dramatic rise in manpower productivity, and possibly a lower figure than half a century earlier. But this is to miss the point of the rise in coal use. The amount of energy made available by one man's effort in a coal mine was huge in relation to the energy which he expended.
The energy-magnifying effect of the use of coal was so large that the fact that the quantity of coal mined could be expanded at will, in contrast to the problem of expanding land area as a source of energy, created the possibility of escaping from the age-old constraints which had frustrated all earlier generations. However, in many industries the possibility of securing a massive increase in production because of a far more abundant energy supply could only be realised by finding ways of harnessing it effectively. The problems in many cases were far from trivial. Nevertheless tapping into the new energy source changed the production horizon in a fundamental fashion that had happened only once previously in human history, at the time of the neolithic food revolution.
If, to emphasise once again a main theme of this work, the key question regarding the industrial revolution is not why and when it started but why it did not stop, the answer must lie in gaining access to a different source of energy. In this context the timing of the industrial revolution appears in a different light. It had its slight beginnings in the sixteenth century, gradually becoming a dominant element in the expansion of the English economy over the next two centuries. It was an almost imperceptible revolution to contemporaries but with the benefit of hindsight its importance is inescapable.
Conscious recognition of coal as the arbiter of industrial success came only in the later nineteenth century, symbolised when Jevons published The coal question, in which he wondered anxiously about the brevity of British industrial supremacy given that other parts of the world had much larger reserves of coal and were already beginning to take advantage of their good fortune. When the first edition of The coal question was published in 1865, little was known about the scale of the coal resources in other countries and Jevons was relatively optimistic about the future, but by the time of the third edition in 1906 it was clear that several countries, and especially China and the United States, possessed far larger reserves, and his tone changed: 'When coalfields of such phenomenal richness are actively developed, countries in which there no longer remain any large supplies of easily and cheaply mined coal are likely to feel the effect of the resulting severe competition.'
Against this background, if the traditional question concerning timing is again raised, there is much to be said in favour of the older view of what constituted the critical phase in the transition to a new age. It is difficult to overstate the severity of the challenge posed by the rapidity of population growth between, say, 1780 and 1840 when viewed in terms of the limitations of an organic economy in a land long settled. In the sixty years in question the population of England more than doubled, a challenge of epic proportions. All past experience suggested that there must be a catastrophic decline in living standards. That this did not occur is proof enough of the emergence of an economy with capacities of a new kind which had been gradually acquired over the two preceding centuries.
The increase in the productive powers of an industrialised society were such that for the first time in human history the miseries of poverty, from which previously only a small minority were exempt, could be put aside for whole populations. Success in escaping from the constraints which affected all organic economies did not, however, mean a swift and uninterrupted move towards greatly improved material circumstances for all. The potential for such a change existed. Realising it proved to be another matter. Economic structures which divided the benefits of increasing productive power very unevenly; political ineptitude, prejudice, or mismanagement; various kinds of discrimination; and the destruction of war - all were still capable of depriving much of the population of this benefit.
Even so, the nature of the case had changed. Before the change a modest sufficiency was the most which could be hoped for, the kind of model which Goldsmith had in mind in describing the life of his 'bold peasantry', but the commonest case was a constant uncertainty for much of the population even about securing enough food to stay healthy. Organic economies necessarily operated within strict limits. The industrial revolution made it possible to escape them. But for the country in which an industrial revolution first took place the definitive release from poverty was long in arriving for much of the population. If the industrial revolution did indeed occur between c.1780 and c.1840, and if the possibility of abolishing the traditional concomitants of poverty is one of its defining characteristics, then the realisation of the promise was long delayed for much of the population.
One of the best ways of defining the essence of the industrial revolution is to describe it as the escape from the constraints of an organic economy. Civilisations of high sophistication developed at times in many places in the wake of the neolithic food revolution: in China, India, Egypt, the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Greece, and Rome, among others. Their achievements in many spheres of human endeavour match or surpass those of modern societies; in literature, painting, sculpture, and philosophy, for example, their best work will always command admiration. Some built vast empires and maintained them for centuries, even millennia. They traded over great distances and had access to a very wide range of products. Their elites commanded notable wealth and could live in luxury. Yet invariably the bulk of the population was poor once the land was fully settled; and it seemed beyond human endeavour to alter this state of affairs.
The 'laborious poverty', in the words of Jevons, to which most men and women were condemned did not arise from lack of personal freedom, from discrimination, or from the nature of the political or legal system, though it might be aggravated by such factors. It sprang from the nature of all organic economies. The neolithic food revolution had restricted the vegetable cover of much of the earth's surface to a limited range of plants which men could eat, feed to their animals, or treat as raw materials for conversion into a useful product. It meant the annexation solely to human use of plant growth which had previously been shared with all other living creatures, and made possible an immense increase in human populations. But it also meant that the plant growth in question represented the bulk of the sum total of energy which could be made available for any human purpose. The other energy sources which were accessible, chiefly wind and water, were, comparatively speaking, of minor importance. The ceiling set in this fashion to the quantity of energy which could be secured for human use was a relatively low limit because only a tiny fraction of the energy reaching the surface of the earth from the sun was captured by plant photosynthesis. Since all productive processes involved the consumption of energy, and plant growth was the predominant energy source, the productivity of the land conditioned everything else.
Achieving a scale of growth to merit being termed an industrial revolution required access to a matching growth in energy use. The proportion of the rise in energy use which could be secured from 'traditional' sources was bound to decline as growth continued, since the quantum of energy which could be secured in an organic economy was limited. The potential gap between the energy required and the energy available was met by increasing coal use in England, which in turn implies that its relative importance rose as time passed. In the later stages of the transition it was of much greater significance than in the early stages. Above all, access to coal meant that the rate of growth could be maintained or even accelerated rather than having to slow down, as was otherwise unavoidable. At a still later date other energy sources came to rival coal. Oil and natural gas in the twentieth century, and towards its end nuclear power, became major sources of energy, but the initial achievement of prolonged exponential growth in material production, the central feature of the industrial revolution, was based on coal as an energy source. The coalfields indeed were the site of much of the most spectacular industrial growth in this period.
Access to fossil fuels has brought unexampled prosperity to three continents and is rapidly transforming two more. Continued dependence on fossil fuels, however, is a recipe for disaster for two reasons. Since they are consumptibles they will become exhausted. The scale of the remaining reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas has been the subject of much examination but remains uncertain. These energy sources are, however, unlikely to be able to meet prospective energy demand for more than, say, two or three more generations, especially if the immediate problem. The release of gases which occur when a fossil fuel is burnt causes temperatures to rise and may make conditions of life intolerable for much of the globe in decades rather than generations, especially if there proves to be a 'tipping point' in the process. Of course, greater success than has been achieved to date in tapping solar or geothermal energy, combined with resolute and co-ordinated action to minimise the emission of carbon dioxide, may make these fears shortlived, but at present the problem remains pressing and the outcome unsure.
The benefits which have flowed in the wake of the industrial revolution are great and universal. Expectation of life at birth has more than doubled in England over the past three centuries and many infectious ailments which once killed on a large scale have virtually disappeared. The plea in the Lord's Prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread', may well seem quaint in an age when in advanced economies superabundant nutrition is a greater threat than malnourishment. For a large majority of the population of England and other industrialised countries, homes are warm and dry even in midwinter; and they are rarely over-run with vermin, a state of affairs beyond attainment for most families in earlier times. Literacy was once the privilege of a tiny minority of the population and formal education played no part in the upbringing of most children. Today school and other types of formal education form a major part of the lives of children for anything between a dozen and twenty years. A list of this sort could be greatly extended, and all such changes can be said to have been made possible by the creation of wealth and plenitude of resources which lie downstream from the industrial revolution.
The type of infrastructural investment which underwrites a wide range of the activities taking place in modern societies could not have been provided in the organic era. This is readily demonstrable in some contexts. The quantity of iron and steel needed to build a railway network or to construct bulk carrier ships, for example, could not have been produced even if all the forested land had been denuded of timber. But it holds true across a much broader spectrum of social and economic life, even if this is less simply demonstrable. The quantity of energy needed to build a large hospital complex or to construct hundreds of miles of motorway is, by the standards of the past, huge.
Constructing a modern city involves producing bricks, mortar, concrete, steel, and other construction materials on a massive scale, and then transporting them to construction sites. These are all activities which require the expenditure of much energy. They produce facilities from which everyone benefits but which could not have been realised previously. Even forms of human endeavour and achievement which may appear at first sight not to be closely dependent on the new power to produce might prove hard to pursue in their absence. They are feasible only with access to facilities which organic economies could not provide. They rely upon the existence of the infrastructure of contemporary industrial societies today and could not have been created or sustained without access to energy on a scale which was unattainable before the industrial revolution.
The world today faces both opportunities and dangers very different from those faced in the past. In large measure, both have been the offspring of the ability which mankind now possesses to produce goods and services on a scale beyond the imaginings of people in earlier generations. The validity of the analogy between the occurrence of the industrial revolution and the opening of Pandora's jar hinges on two points: that in both cases the changes which followed were unforeseen by those whose actions initiated them, and that the changes were of sufficient magnitude for it to be fair to say that there was hardly any aspect of life which was not greatly altered as a result.
Is the term 'industrial revolution' a misnomer? How can we identify 'the industrial revolution' as an historical phenomenon? How can we establish criteria to locate it in time and context? The term is certainly a misnomer as a metaphor insofar as it implies a single change or a changeover, as in a change of government or political regime, specific to a point in time when that discrete historical event occurred.... It is also a misnomer insofar as it implies a sudden transformation, a high-speed change. We must examine our criteria for this metaphor in relation to the speed of change. Are they historical, judging change relative to the experience of the past; or comparative, relative to the experience of other economies and other regions at the time; or retrospective, judging against later experience, whether of Britain or other industrializing countries ? We now have a longer time-span against which to judge these perspectives and also much greater knowledge, in the form of systematic quantitative data built up retrospectively by historians, to seek to make such assessments than historians even fifty years ago - let alone contemporaries living through these events. Some historians, most recently R. E. Cameron, have rejected the whole idea of an 'industrial revolution', both the term itself and what they believe it stands for as an historical process, as a violation of reality. So there is a definitional problem which is not simply a semantic issue.
To start with, let us define the meaning of the term loosely as 'the initial phases of the long-term process of industrialization' - a process which has been continuous, even if at a varying pace and with different dynamics at different times in different countries. Older, 'mature' industrial economies are now experiencing de-industrialization, but this comes largely (not entirely, because the internal dynamic of change is also involved) with the attrition resulting from successful competition by new industrializers in the world economy. The process of industrialization in this sense has been contagious, originating with Britain in the eighteenth century. More specifically, the two main criteria which are central to the definition of the industrial revolution (or the onset of the process of industrialization as a sustained trend in history) are first, higher rates of growth of the economy as a whole and second (closely linked to the first), structural change.
Taking first the issue of higher rates of growth. If this is a main criterion then we might hope to locate the industrial revolution in time and space by looking for the point of discontinuity on the relevant statistical series where that upward movement begins — the 'kink' on the curve of the graph. Where, over the long period of centuries, the economy has been stagnant, or growing on trend only very gradually, and then moves into a long-term trend of higher growth rates the phasing of that discontinuity offers the means of identification and location. Such an identification is not concerned with expansion of higher rates of growth in the very short run - on the upswing of a cyclical fluctuation or in consequence of a sequence of good harvests - but with expansion as a long-term trend... But immediately the concept of higher rates of growth has to be qualified by whether this relates to the aggregate expansion of the economy or of expansion in terms of output per head of the population - that is, higher rates of growth of the economic aggregate relative to trends in population. 'National income per capita' is the accepted conventional way in which relative wealth is measured between nations - a fragile concept in many ways but the least problematical and the most generally applicable of quantitative measures.
Economic development implies changes in the nature of the economy which allow a cumulative increase in the efficiency of the system, a trend rise in productivity which does lift income per capita. This involves, over the long term, a change in all - or at least most of - the basic economic relationships: technological advance (incorporating techniques of higher productivity), a changing resource-base, new prime movers, new sources of energy, developing institutional structures both public and private, better organization of output and distribution, the development of a transport system, higher levels of investment to incorporate higherproductivity technology, perhaps higher capital-output ratios (all capital forms considered), the development of new financial structures and institutions to embody this, and the mobilization of a labour force. In short all main aspects of economy and society, including cultural and social values (if principally only in reaction to these developments) will be drawn into the process of economic development once it becomes sustained and cumulative.
In particular this implies structural change in the economy. The economy as it expands and increases its productivity does so by way of differential change coming to different sectors; and differential sectoral change over time produces a changed economic structure. Characteristically this means a relative fall in the share of the labour force and the share of the national output derived from agriculture. Both the economy and the labour force become more differentiated. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries urbanization was integral with industrialization. This also encouraged a more differentiated institutional and economic structure with the further growth of transport and services. Throughout the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth centuries higher productivity techniques were more available in industry than in agriculture: while market demand for the products of industry was more resilient than for the products of agriculture... Structural change is thus virtually an inevitable accompaniment to faster rates of growth and a trend rise in income per capita.
To identify a phenomenon in history, as elsewhere, one must specify criteria. Only when suitable criteria are specified can the industrial revolution (or the onset of the historical process of industrialization) be localized in time and society. We return to the two main criteria proposed: sustained higher rates of growth and the onset of sustained structural change in the economy. These changes of trend are to be seen in Britain in the last quarter or third of the eighteenth century. The quantitative data are not very exact; much of the economy is not covered by reliable data (particularly for output and services destined for the home market) so the conclusions must remain rough-hewn. New quantified estimates emerge annually, changing the base dates for the onset of higher rates of growth, suggesting greater or less discontinuity; a sharper or more gradual break with previous average levels, but there is consensus in all of them that, more quickly or more slowly, these new levels are attained during the eighteenth century and that cumulative structural change is identifiable after 1770-80.
Why were growth rates so modest in eighteenth and early nineteenthcentury Britain? And why was there no sharp discontinuity experienced in a 'take-off? There is no single explanation. Growth was largely indigenous, based on domestic resources of all kinds, indigenous capital, indigenous skills, indigenous technology and indigenous institutions, all having to evolve in the light of evolving needs. Being the first economy, society, nation and government (central and local) to experience industrialization as a sustained and generalizing cumulative process, there were no major short cuts for Britain: no reliance upon accumulated capital from overseas to relieve any capital constraint (a constraint on speed and efficiency in mobilizing indigenous capital if not a constraint due to-the shortage of savings); no shortcut to advanced technology by importing high productivity techniques already evolved overseas, for major areas of technical change.
Equivalent inertia and difficulties ensured that the mobilization of a skilled, motivated, effectively deployed labour force was a long-drawn out process. The same is true with requisite institutions: a suitable legal framework for enterprise, effective company law and the like had to be built up slowly and painfully by trial and error. It was a case of learning the violin while giving the concert. Of course, this national autonomy in the process of industrialization was not absolute. A vigorous two-way traffic in ideas and formal knowledge characterized north-western Europe. Technology could be borrowed to a limited degree: the Jacquard loom, for example, was a technological import from France but of a very specialized nature. Certain banking and insurance skills and maritime expertise (as in cartography) were pioneered in the Netherlands. But broadly the momentum was indigenous to Britain; and the requirements to make industrialization a self-sustaining process evolved empirically, at the frontier of its evolution, within Britain.
Much of the industrial advance in eighteenth-century Britain, as has been stressed, came in the form of the expansion of basically handicraft industries, with enhanced but not revolutionary artisan technology. Such a process has been named 'proto-industrialization', in a seminal article by Franklin Mendels in 1972, meaning a key apprenticeship or lead-in to industrialization proper. To merit the term, such artisan technology would need to provide the basis for a scale of handicraft production involving a degree of concentra- tion of output for more than just the local market. The concept implies a commercially orientated system of production, not just local communities being serviced by their own craftsmen in a narrow nexus of supply and demand. The form of production was characteristically the longestablished 'putting-out' system with dependent artisans, working in their own households or in small workshops, being supplied with raw materials by the commercial organizers of production (if not by the merchants who eventually sold the goods in distant markets). Such a form of industrial organization characterized many sectors of the textile and para-textile industries.
Proto-industrialization contributed in several ways to industrial growth. Industrial skills were developed and a tradition of nonagricultural labour built up within a commercially orientated context at the heart of which was a money-nexus. Merchants and 'putters-out' accumulated capital and experience as entrepreneurs. A commercial infrastructure was built up in national and international markets. In the transition to large-scale technology, the organizers of production under the old system became prominent as mill owners.
At this point certain reservations about 'proto-industrialization' as an explanatory concept for the process of economic growth in eighteenthcentury England should be mentioned: this was not the only source of momentum for industrial expansion. Much of the process was based in towns and cities. London was the largest industrial centre in the country. Most mining and metal-smelting was conducted on a large scale and fell outside the ambit of proto-industrialization. So also did the 'mill' industries, such as paper, which were more heavily capitalized; and 'furnace' industries such as glass. The sequence of innovations linking coal, iron and steampower proved a critically strategic path of advance in the long-term and also lay outside the ambit of the 'traditional' rural industries - although mining and metallurgy had comparably long pedigrees. Proto-industriai growth, in England as elsewhere, was not closely associated with urbanization on the production side of the process, yet urbanization had become an integral aspect of industrialization by the early nineteenth centuiy, with profound economic effects of its own. Its effects;in productivity growth were slight.
To the continuation of most internal trends in employment (save that of a continuing increase in wage rates) after 1783 must be added the great boost to the economy given by rapidly expanding foreign trade, which was growing by 5 per cent per annum-between 1783 and 1800. Whereas, on trend, export values had remained ab'out 11 per cent of national income between 1710 and 1780, between 1783 and 1800 they rose to c. 18 per cent of gross domestic product. Moreover the foreign trade 'multiplier' to industrial growth by way of the export industries was, at last, particularly strong because the increase in exports came predominantly from the industries of the 'industrial revolution' - cotton above all and woollens (both yarn and cloth), iron and metal products.
Critical breakthroughs in technology also occurred and began a momentous path of diffusion: rotative motion in steampower; critical advances in the iron industry (with 'puddling' and rolling processes), the development of iron machinery and advances in engineering techniques, the rapid diffusion of high-productivity techniques in cotton spinning. Because these dramatic advances affected very small sectors of the economy, as has been stressed, they did not make much impact upon the national aggregates of growth. Their impact locally and regionally was much more dramatic because the industries adopting them were often highly localized.
Most industrial growth consisted of rural and urban workshops, not using power on a massive scale. The brewing industry offers an example of one such industrial structure: a handful of vast London 'factories' each with steam-engines, massive plant in utensils, piping, pumps, enormous storage capacity and stables for more than 100 horses. But most beer was brewed in small local urban brew.-houses, without benefit of steampower, or by village publicans selling over their own counters, or made and consumed outside the commercial market altogether by 'home brewing' in larger households, farms, and institutions. Nevertheless the new technology, with the new scale of output from the single plant, was symbolic of change from the past and herald also of the future, bringing in a new world of relationships. Levels of productivity and the possibilities of new levels of wealth stood to be transformed, as did new levels of work discipline and the context of work relative to family and household, with much else besides. The consciousness of the nation was certainly being transformed as the eighteenth century closed, as was consciousness about Britain in the eyes of Europe. And, it seems, the 'economic distance' with the 'technological gap' between Britain and Europe was widening after 1780, in reality as well as in reputation.
The sources of productivity enhancement within main sectors which typified advance were shifts from marginal peasants or smallholders on plots too small to keep their occupiers active for many months of the year, to increased employment for agricultural labourers on large, efficient farms; from the inefficiencies of fringe seasonal employment in the building industry to busy navvy gangs on the canals; from hand-loom weaving to operatives in the mills; from marginal peddling to full-time employment in a shop.
Such a pattern of growth, with such widely diffused sources of momentum, makes it difficult to accept the 'leading sector' analysis proposed by W. W. Rostow. He argued that the main momentum for economic growth in eighteenth-century England came from 'a big push on a narrow front', being located primarily in the cotton and iron industries, whose expansion (with all the linkages involved) provided the economy with its 'motor of growth'. This conceptual identification of the momentum of growth lay behind the 'take-off', where the process of growth was assumed to be statistically identifiable in the short-run, showing much greater discontinuity at 1783 than subsequent quantitative investigations supported. Professor Rostow clothed in modern conceptual terms a long historiographical tradition assumed much more instinctively by the older textbooks which chronicled the famous inventions and saw the industrial revolution as the story of cotton, iron and the steam engine... The main difficulty standing in the way of this hypothesis lies in the smallness of the cotton industry and the iron industry in the second half of the eighteenth century. In the 1760s cotton's net contribution to the national income was less than 0.5 per cent. It was still less than 1 per cent in 1780; with the cotton and the iron industry together adding less than 3 per cent.
The leverage exerted by the expansion of the cotton and iron industries, even at the margin, upon the national aggregates - whether by labour employed (and wages paid), by investment and profits, by inputs and outputs of all kinds - is not sufficient to explain the national experience as a whole. The economy was not being dragged forward just on the coat-tails of a single industry, however dynamic. The sources of growth were much more diffused. The widely diffused nature of industrial growth in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries accounts for the slow growth in productivity which was associated with expansion. Much industrial output, as has been stressed, came from the expansion of the 'old' world of handicraft production, hand-tools and human (or animal) energy. Although this was itself subject to technical improvement — the spinning jenny is an important example of the higher output a worker could achieve with new technology within this technological matrix - the essential fact remains that the productivity parameters of this mode of industrial growth were limited.
The 'new' world of power-driven, iron machinery and large plant technology - whether in cotton spinning after 1770 or in metal-smelting - did indeed offer unprecedented levels of productivity, but the sectors of output subject to these new techniques were extremely limited in this period compared with the sectors (and the expansion of the sectors) of 'handicraft technology'. This was true of agriculture, the construction industries and the service sectors of the economy even more than in manufacturing... In consequence much economic change in the eighteenth century has to be considered under the heading of 'economic expansion' - adding more inputs of labour, capital and resources to the economy - rather than 'economic development' - the incorporation of higher productivity techniques - although these two aspects of growth were integrally connected.
In conclusion, the concept of the 'industrial revolution' or the onset of industrialization as a cumulative, sustained process deserves a final thought. Recent debates on the phenomenon, as a concept and as a manifestation of the historical process have centred on the twin (and related) issues of rates of growth and the degree of discontinuity observable between the pre-industrial and the industrializing economy. As we have seen in the previous section, the trend of re-assessment over the last generation - at least from the publication of the first systematically quantified analysis of the eighteenth-century economy by Phyllis Deane and W. A. Cole in 19629 - has been to see slower growth and less of a sharp discontinuity at 1780-3. Lying behind this revaluation of aggregate growth rates are changed assumptions about the dynamics of growth and the process of growth. Within the time-perspective of the eighteenth century, therefore, a ''gradualist' interpretation, with widely diffused roots of economic change, now holds sway. However, this depends upon the time-perspective against which such generalizations are made and have significance. Judged in the very longest historical perspective, those initial phases of industrialization can still be identified as a great historical turning point; one of the great staging posts of human destiny, comparable in its impact to antecedent seminal historical developments such as the domestication of animals or the beginnings of settled agriculture. Across the timespan of centuries the beginnings of industrialization are identifiable as one such mega-phenomenon.
Although the term 'Industrial Revolution' is widely used in common parlance and understood in many languages, it has not been without its critics. Coined originally for Britain, in a conscious parallel with the political upheavals across the Channel known as the French Revolution, it should, in the eyes of some, have continued to be applied to the British Isles only. Indeed, recently a number of critics have been of the opinion that the term is inappropriate even for Britain and, a fortiori, undesirable for other countries.
The main cause of this scepticism is precisely the implicit comparison with the contemporaneous French Revolution. Unlike the latter, the (British) Industrial Revolution was not steered, or planned, or forced through: it happened as a result of the uncoordinated actions of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. It had no clear beginning, unlike the Pans Revolution, and no discernible end. Not one of the appropriate sets of statistics, such as national income or output per head, the proportion of people working in industry, or the investment ratio - even if reliable statistical series could be firmly established — shows a discernible break at any point in time. The available data show, at best, a smooth change in rates of growth over a longish period. Even if sophisticated statistical methods are used to find a break where the eye sees only a smooth curve, such a break depends on the formula used, and different formulae find different turning-points.
It is therefore not surprising that... not [only for Britain, but for other countries as well], there is disagreement on the exact dating of the 'Industrial Revolution', even though at the same time scholars in each of these countries agree that a breakthrough of this kind occurred, and that it could be dated. But they also agree that at the end of this period of change, breakthrough or 'take-off there were still large areas of the economy which had a traditional shape, including small-scale handicraft industry, rural industry and possibly peasant agriculture, which had survived side by side with the modern factories and mines and the associated transport sector. Moreover, as against the short, sharp events making the French, or for that matter, the Bolshevik revolutions, the time spans of industrial revolutions are counted in decades, rather than in weeks. All this has persuaded some that the whole concept is inappropriate and that the Industrial Revolution is a 'myth'.
There had, of course, been technical inventions and innovations in previous ages. The fulling mill, the stocking frame, the two-stage process of iron-making were examples of quite complicated, and in part even capital-intensive inventions which had improved the productive potential of certain industries in earlier centuries. What was different now was the emergence of an unbroken chain of inventions, or rather several chains, of much wider impact, leading to much more significant increases in productivity as well as the creation of new products altogether, but above all, introducing a mechanism contriving continuous, unending, irreversible improvements.
There were at least two aspects to this. On the one hand, the process of technical innovation itself was, in a sense, institutionalized. Inventors and tinkerers were not only welcomed and, in principle, assured of protection by the evolving patent laws, but, within engineering works and elsewhere, improvements and innovations almost became part of their daily lives. Similarly, still on the supply side, there occurred a veritable revolution in science, depending in part on the very discoveries made in workshops, but also, in turn, suggesting new paths, as well as setting limitations, to what the technicians could think up. The discovery of discovery itself became a commonplace and a major driving force. It is also evident that, as soon as inventions became widespread rather than isolated, they provided mutual support for each other, such that each could proceed only after others had been made elsewhere. Thus, deeper coal mines needed steam pumps, and the steam engine, once it was modified and put on wheels, drove railways, which in turn depended on cheap mass-produced iron but also made possible the exploitation of the coal mines which had provided the initial impetus for the improvement of the steam engine. Technology had 'taken off, and it was frequently the sheer technology to be found in Britain, rather than its precise cost effectiveness, which impressed foreign visitors and governments and induced them to try and imitate the progress of the advanced countries.
There were, at the same time, important changes in the market on the demand side. Rising productivity led to rising incomes which, in turn, assured innovators that there would be a market for their new products and processes. Technical changes in the means of transport - among the most important of the age - allowed cheaper raw material to reach the industrialists, while allowing their products to open up new markets. Thus it was, in turn, the invasion of the less-developed markets in Central and later Eastern and Southern Europe which forced their more traditional industrialists to innovate, or go under.
It is the factory system which caught the eye of contemporary observers as well as of historians. The factory could make more use of inanimate motive power, such as water-wheels and steam engines; it allowed a more logical division of labour, where necessary; and it gave the employer power to enforce a much greater degree of discipline and quality control than in the preceding domestic or putting-out system of 'proto-industry'. Factories not merely opened up greater opportunities for the introduction of new technologies, but also for innovation in labour organization, material saving and, above all, mass production. It was mass production, the repetitive output of identical items, which was behind much of the increase in productivity that characterized the Industrial Revolution. Cotton and woollen yarn, and later cloth and stamped or cast metal goods, were typical products which were immensely cheapened by such processes. Other places that were not designated 'factories' worked on the same principle of the increase in quantities handled. Thus coke smelting and puddling greatly enlarged the quantities of iron turned out by individual works, and steam pumps and mechanical transport similarly raised the output of coal mines.
Factories and other heavily capitalized places of large-scale employment changed the social relations between worker and employer, creating new social classes in the process. Instead of the simple personal relationship between the typical handicraft master and his journeyman, or the private, family-based working conditions of domestic industry, the factory was public, impersonal and limited to a pure wage nexus. Patterns of behaviour possible in earlier forms of employment, such as chatting or singing at work, taking an occasional break, idling on Mondays and speeding on Fridays and Saturdays, came under a prohibitive ban. Children worked away from their parents, there were often no skills imparted even when there were formal 'apprenticeship' contracts, and the withering away of mutual obligation of employer and worker was symbolized by mass sackings in slumps, and mass strikes as a method of collective bargaining. The issue of skills is complex. Some traditional skills were devalued as machines took over performing tasks formerly undertaken by hand. But new skills had to be developed in their place, and it was frequently the lack of skills to be found in the workforce, including the intuitive understanding of how machines worked or how metals behaved, which made the transfer of technology from the advanced countnes to the others so difficult.
Even in 1851, when the Industrial Revolution phase was certainly over in Britain, factory employment dominated at most in the cotton and woollen textile trades and nowhere else. The 'typical' British worker, if numbers are to be taken as a guide, was still an agricultural labourer, a domestic servant or a tailor, rather than an engineer or cotton spinner. Large areas of industrial employment remained of the handicraft type and small scale even by the end of the century. Next to the slow pace of change, it is this apparently partial nature of industrialization which has helped to raise much recent doubt whether an industrial revolution can be said to have occurred at all, even in Britain, the 'classic' case. But this criticism misunderstands the nature of an industrialized society. Even today small, handicraft-type enterprises have a vital role to play: indeed, they are a necessary accompaniment of the automated factory. The archetypal modern mass-production industry, the motor-car industry, may serve as an example. To be sure, a few giant factories dominate the world scene of car manufacture, but they could not exist if it were not for the thousands of small, local, repair garages.
In the period of the Industrial Revolution, ever larger sections of industry were converted to the large-scale, factory type of enterprise in a mutually reinforcing process. What was possibly most significant was that the process had become irreversible, both because technical and scientific knowledge, once gained, could not be lost, and also because its products were cheaper than those made by traditional methods and as long as some kind of trade, some kind of free market existed in Europe, producers who failed to adopt the innovations and brought their products to market at a higher price, were bound to be driven out sooner or later.
As far as Britain was concerned, contemporaries had no difficulty in recognizing that a new power and a new historical phase had arisen in these islands. A country which, a hundred years before, had scarcely stood out from the European ruck, had by its economic strength helped materially to defeat the might of Napoleon; had amassed a huge colonial empire, captured one overseas market after another, shown an unprecedented rate of urbanization and, most significant of all, was able to produce, in a whole series of key sectors, as much as the rest of the world put together. Clearly there was a force at work here that was not comparable to any that had gone before. If 'industrial revolution' is considered an inappropriate name, as some say, some other term would have to be found, for what was an unmistakable phenomenon of world importance; but any other term would have the disadvantage that it would lack the universal acceptance of the traditional one.
It is theoretically conceivable that the bundle of technological, organizational and social changes that we collectively term the 'Industrial Revolution' might have sprung up simultaneously in many areas of Western Europe which were in terms of craft skill, scientific knowledge and accumulation of savings at a similar stage of development. France in particular, might have been thought a fertile ground for such early shoots of industrial innovation. Yet such polycentric growth clearly did not occur.
Instead, despite some scattered promising initiatives elsewhere, change on a broad front occurred in one country only for the space of about half a century, before others began, with more or less conscious deliberation, to take over what had been created in Britain. It may well be that, in view of the relative poverty of European society in the eighteenth century and the limitation of world markets, it needed the concentration within a single area (rather like the necessary concentration in turn within Britain in a limited number of industrial regions), to economize on resources and by mutual support and a range of external economies speed a process which otherwise would have been too feeble to take off altogether. But the unicentric start had important consequences for Britain as well as for Europe as a whole.
Among the factors imposing their own national characteristics on what was, from one point of view, a European experience, must be the policies and the influence of governments. In national historiography these are often taken for granted and therefore treated only cursorily or omitted altogether; a European comparison, however, cannot avoid examining their role among other explanatory factors. The influence of the political authority worked at many levels. Possibly the most important was the legal framework within which entrepreneurs were permitted to operate; its effects were often reinforced by the social esteem enjoyed by businessmen, and the public attitude towards commercial ethics. In this respect the entrepreneurs of the Low Countries and of Great Britain were said to operate in a favourable environment, while societies in which the landed nobility continued to enforce rigid rules on landownership, in which forms of serfdom survived and political power lay in the hands of an autocrat — modified at most by a council representing the 'estates' in which the majority of the population failed to be adequately represented — were deemed to be hostile. Much of Eastern Europe was in that position at the beginning of the industrialization process. It may, however, be asked how far the changeover from a 'hostile' to a 'favourable' environment, in that sense, was a cause or a consequence of the rise of commercial and industrial entrepreneurship.
Another kind of impact of the political framework on the course of the Industrial Revolution was provided by the wars of the period. Not all wars had an entirely negative effect, particularly in the victorious countries, and some industries, such as the iron industry, armaments manufacture and the mass production of uniforms, as well as the mechanisms evolved in the mobilization of capital and the training in seamanship, may well have benefited the British economy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On the other hand, the French economy was very severely damaged and held back by the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The acquisition of colonies, and colonial policy including the denial of access to merchants of other nations, may be classified under the same heading.
No economy has ever been completely 'modernized', not even in the late twentieth century. This is not only because, as noted above, mass production needs appropriate service and adjustment trades to fit identical products and services to differing individual needs, nor is it merely a reflection of the uneven developments, the different pace at which mechanization and large-scale organization become available, or are economically sensible, for different branches of economic activity. It also reflects the impact of rising incomes on the structure of demand, as families, whose real income has gone up precisely because of the cheapening of their purchases through mechanization, have sufficient surplus thereby to be able to demand personally tailored services and hand-made craftsmanship.
Moreover, no economy of any size has ever had much more than half of its working population engaged in 'industry', and usually it has been well below the 50 per cent level. At the same time, there have been significant changes in the other two components of a nation's employment: agriculture and the services. While the agricultural sector has had its share drastically reduced, even in countries exporting mainly agrarian products in the international division of labour, the tertiary sector consisting of 'services' has continued to expand, as the main beneficiary of the changes introduced by the Industrial Revolution. In the process, its composition has drastically changed. Whereas in the early stages of industrialization it consisted largely of personal services, including domestic service, portering and small-scale shopkeeping, in later phases it was professional services, office-work and employment in large-scale transport and distributive enterprises which made up the bulk of its numbers. In any case, the traditional three-sector division has turned out to be misleading in various respects: people employed in drawing offices, for example, and those who teach the worker who later will man the machines, are in a way as much a part of the 'industrial' sector as those actually employed in the factories; similarly, the makers of tractors, and the producers of artificial fertilizers, should be considered as much a part of the agricultural sector as the men and women who actually work in the fields.
To sum up, it will be seen that the term 'revolution' has often been misunderstood. Nothing like the drastic turnaround and sanguinary violence of the typical political revolution was ever intended to be conveyed by it. Rather, it was meant, from the beginning, to indicate a significant break with the past, a new constellation of factors, a pervasive change affecting all aspects of social life.
One of its most significant components, arguably the most significant, consisted of 'revolutionary' changes in manufacturing industry, in mining and related transport undertakings - which justified the description of 'industrial' revolution in the first place. As noted above, at its heart were technical innovations, new machines and processes, which greatly reduced the costs, and increased the output, of the commodities produced. These, in turn, required larger concentrations of men and capital, new forms of organization and employment, a labour force of a different composition and with different skills and training. The process was usually accompanied by a rapidly rising population which was drawn into cities and towns and therefore posed its own challenges of consequential technical and organizational change. The long-term result, after a period of declining health and life expectation, was improved public hygiene, the eradication of several types of epidemics and advances in medicine which generally prolonged human life.
The demographic revolution which followed owed much to rising standards of living which percolated down to all classes of society and which, itself, provided one of the main driving forces, and the most significant result, of the Industrial Revolution. Another consequence was a bettereducated population, as training and literacy were needed for many of the new processes; at the same time rising incomes were translated by ambitious parents and by caring communities into expanding educational provisions for ever larger numbers. An educated, better-off population was also inclined to demand a more responsible and responsive government, though the link between industrialization and the rise of democracy is by no means clear.
Inevitably, beyond the tinkering and practical step-by-step improvements which characterized the early phases, the later stages of the Industrial Revolution required an ever-widening scientific understanding of the way in which materials and the environment behaved, while science itself was fed both by the experience in industry itself and by the increasing resources made available for it, encouraged by the economic benefits which it brought. Here lies, perhaps, the most significant difference between the Industrial Revolution and all other earlier historical changes: its irreversibility. Those who refused to adopt it were left behind, and could not turn back the wheel: no population will in the long run accept more expensive products when cheaper ones, of the same kind, are available. In this simple economic phenomenon lay the irresistible force of the Industrial Revolution as it swept across the European continent after breaking out of its north-western corner from the middle of the eighteenth century onwards. The timing, the sequence, the paths and the human costs were different in each country, and the political framework, indeed, could differ -widely, but the shape which society took at the end of the process was remarkably similar in all parts of Europe.
By general consent, the term 'industrialization' has come to be applied to particular changes in industrial structure and technology, together with changes in other aspects of social life associated with them. In the manufacturing sector itself, 'industrialization' implies a change from workshops to factories or other large enterprises, including shipyards or coal mines, using technologies superior to those that had gone before. These, in turn, require concentrated inanimate power sources, such as steam engines. They require substantial capitals and large markets, with appropriate means of transport to reach them. The provision of capital, in turn, does not depend merely on the accumulation of sufficient wealth in society, it also requires that those who own it are willing to invest it in economic enterprises of the appropriate kind, rather than waste it in conspicuous consumption or use it in trading only; that is to say, it requires a change in attitudes of wealth holders, as also, usually, of wage workers. The social framework is also important: at the least, security of property and the rule of law should obtain. All these, it will be evident, are interdependent and have to advance together. A broad social movement, therefore, is involved, beyond changes in big industry. Among other consequences, there will also be technical progress in small workshops and even in agriculture: paradoxically, industrialization frequently implies the transformation of agriculture, as it did conspicuously in Britain and Denmark.
What set the whole process going? From one point of view, there was no special departure point, merely a continuation of preceding developments in new directions and with new centres of gravity: recent literature has stressed the slow rate of growth of supplies in the early phases of the British Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, labour productivity growing by only 0.8 per cent and total factor productivity by a mere 0.15 per cent a year between 1760 and 1801, according to one calculation. Other historians have tended to point to the growth of demand as the major factor. However, any population will accept additional incomes, goods, and services if they can afford them because of their own rising productivity, while productivity will not necessarily rise simply because people want more goods; it is therefore difficult to give demand the primary role. In any case, even if we take the opportunities provided by growing markets as the key, our interest still lies in determining where, how, and by whom they were taken.
Most studies, therefore, begin with the changes in supply. One common starting point is to see the driving force behind the industrialization process as being essentially technological and economic: by using new machinery and novel processes to produce more efficiently and more cheaply, the new inevitably drives out the old, which then has to adapt or go under. Industrialization, therefore, is expansionary, and invention and innovation, accompanied by associated or independent progress in science, become part of the system. Output goes up, and with it national income and the spending power of individuals. Once the system 'takes off, expansion may therefore be said to be irreversible and unstoppable. Herein lies the justification for the widespread belief that industrialization opened up an entirely new chapter in the history of mankind.
Because of its unique nature and early start, the industrialization process in Britain is frequently referred to as an industrial revolution, or perhaps even as the Industrial Revolution, or its prototype which other countries then followed—though the term has recently come in for some criticism. This leads immediately to the question: Why was Britain first? Leaving aside the possibility that the breakthrough in Britain occurred by mere chance, widened by cumulative advantages arising from that lead, several explanations have been offered. The likelihood is that all contain an element of truth and that it is the conjunction of all of them which favoured Britain in such remarkable fashion. Some favourable preconditions which were conducive to economic growth in Britain existed in other parts of Europe also, especially in France, the most likely competitor. These included a certain standard of income and wealth, of industrial skills and scientific knowledge, a reasonably favourable legal framework and internal security, and expanding foreign trade links. Britain, additionally, enjoyed, among other factors, the advantages of freedom from foreign invasions, a secure monetary and tax base, the virtual abolition of guild restrictions, a long tradition of individualism, and, more concretely, a good internal transport network and excellent harbours, a situation athwart the world's major sea routes, and some valuable resources, including iron, copper, tin, and coal.
Coal was perhaps the single most important factor in ensuring a British lead. Found in several regions and in part outcropping or easily mined, coal clearly determined the locational distribution of British industry in the period of industrialization. Providing cheap, concentrated energy, it was a main component of that key aspect of the industrialization process, the substitution of relatively limited organic sources of energy and raw materials by almost unlimited mineral resources. With an output of over 2.6 million tons in 1700 and 15 million tons in 1800, Britain produced at each stage several times more coal than the rest of Europe put together.
Possibly even more important than a supply of energy was the role played by coal mining in furthering the advance of technology. Coal had allowed Britain to take the lead in some earlier innovations, such as metal-smelting by reverberatory furnaces, salt-boiling, brewing, and glassmaking. In the Industrial Revolution itself, the needs of mining and the possibilities created by it were responsible for two of the most important innovations of the age: the steam engine, generally considered to be at the heart of the industrialization process in Britain, and the railways, at its heart in much of the continent. Both lames Watt's steam engine and its predecessor, the Newcomen engine, were originally conceived as methods of pumping water out of mines, and later also for haulage work about the pits. Of 2,191 engines known to have been built in Britain by 1800—possibly ten times as many as in the whole of the rest of Europe—no fewer than 828 were erected in coal mines.
Transport also owed much to the collieries. Something like a transport revolution was a necessary accompaniment to industrialization. Road improvements were largely the work of turnpike trusts, which charged tolls to road users: by 1750, 143 trusts had been established responsible for 3,000 miles of roads. The next stage was the building of canals, mostly in two bouts, 1759-74 and the 1790s: by 1850, the system possessed 7,200 km. of them. Most of them were built for the purpose of transporting coal.
Next to coal mining, it was the textile mills which were the most extensive users of steam power. Textiles were, with coal, somewhere near the centre of the British industrialization process. Cotton spinning, a relatively new industry, became the 'leading sector' in Rostow's theory after the inventions of the 1760s and 1770s by Hargreaves, Arkwright, and Crompton, and it may be said to have originated the factory system. Early waterdriven mills were established in remote valleys in the southern Pennines and in Scotland, where land and power were cheap, but the industry soon moved to the towns of Lancashire and the adjoining portions of Derbyshire and Cheshire where coal for steam power and a larger labour supply were available. With its cotton mills, its engineering, chemical, and other works, this became the most highly concentrated industrial region in Britain.
Iron making was the third significant innovating sector. Following the earlier discovery of the coke smelting process, iron puddling, which permitted the mass production of refined forge or bar iron, was perfected in the early 1780s. Again highly concentrated in a few regions, above all the West Midlands, South Wales, and Scotland, the industry's annual output rose from 27,000 tons of pig iron in 1720-4 to 250,000 tons in 1805 and 2,700,000 in 1852, a hundredfold increase in little more than a century. The output of bar iron, which became in many ways the basic material of the Industrial Revolution, grew at about the same rate.
The industrial developments in the British Isles were observed with interest on the Continent, and governments as well as private individuals made deliberate attempts to copy them. Technical details were available from scientific journals and from the reports of industrial spies, and numerous British emigrants, entrepreneurs and skilled workers alike, found their way abroad in attempts to introduce British methods there. With rare exceptions, these had no lasting success before 1815. There were several causes for this. Some were 'natural': lack of coal or iron ore, or their inaccessible location; distance from the sea or from navigable waterways; high mountains or severe climate. Others were social or historical: governments and class systems hostile to middleclass entrepreneurs; poverty and illiteracy; the absence of industrial traditions and of established trading links; and, not least, the destruction and diversion of resources caused by war. There were also the sheer practical difficulties of mastering complex new techniques, such as steam-engine building and maintenance, and the problems faced by pioneers when associated services and skills, taken for granted in Britain, were missing in Continental locations.
When industrialization finally did take place on the Continent, it followed, in its first phases, until c. 1870, the British model: steam power, iron and coal technology, textile mechanization, the factory, and in due course the railways were the hallmarks of industrialization there, too. Only rarely did Continental technicians strike out on their own, one well-known example of this being the development of water power in France. In consequence, the regions which industrialized first were generally those with endowments closest to those of Britain.
First, the Industrial Revolution is not merely an acceleration of economic growth, but an acceleration of growth because of, and through, economic and social transformation. The early observers, who concentrated their attention on the qualitatively new ways of producing - the machines, the factory system and the rest - had the right instinct, though they sometimes followed it too uncritically. It was not Birmingham, a city which produced a great deal more in 1850 than in 1750, but essentially in the old way, which made contemporaries speak of an industrial revolution, but Manchester, a city which produced more in a more obviously revolutionary manner. In the late eighteenth century this economic and social transformation took place in and through a capitalist economy. As we know from the twentieth century, this is not the only form industrial revolution can take, though it was the earliest and probably, in the eighteenth century, the only practicable one. Capitalist industrialization requires in some ways a rather different analysis from non-capitalist, because we must explain why the pursuit of private profit led to technological transformation, and it is by no means obvious that it automatically does so.
Second, the British revolution was the first in history. This does not mean that it started from zero, or that earlier phases of rapid industrial and technological development cannot be found. Nevertheless, none of these initiated the characteristic modern phase of history, self-sustained economic growth by means of perpetual technological revolution and social transformation. Being the first, it is therefore also in crucial respects unlike all subsequent industrial revolutions. It cannot be explained primarily, or to any extent, in terms of outside factors such as - for instance - the imitation of more advanced techniques, the import of capital, the impact of an already industrialized world economy. Subsequent revolutions could use the British experience, example and resources. Britain could use those of other countries only to a very limited and minor extent. At the same time, as we have seen, the British revolution was preceded by at least two hundred years of fairly continuous economic development, which laid its foundations. Unlike, say, nineteenth- or twentieth-century Russia, Britain entered industrialization prepared and not virtually unprepared.
However, the Industrial Revolution cannot be explained in purely British terms, for this country formed part of a wider economy, which we may call the 'European economy' or the 'world economy of the European maritime states'. It was part of a larger network of economic relationships, which included several 'advanced' areas, some of which were also areas of potential or aspiring industrialization, and areas of 'dependent economy', as well as the margins of foreign economies not yet substantially involved with Europe. These dependent economies consisted partly of formal colonies (as in the Americas) or points of trade and domination (as in the Orient), partly of regions which were to some extent economically specialized in response to the demands of the 'advanced' areas (as in some parts of eastern Europe). The 'advanced' world was linked to the dependent world by a certain division of economic activity: a relatively urbanized area on one hand, zones producing and largely exporting agricultural products or raw materials on the other. These relations may be described as a system of economic flows — of trade, of international payments, of capital transfers, of migration, and so on. The 'European economy' had shown marked signs of expansion and dynamic development for several centuries, though it had also experienced major economic setbacks or shifts, notably in the fourteenth to fifteenth and seventeenth centuries.
By the sixteenth century it was fairly obvious that, if industrial revolution occurred anywhere in the world, it would be somewhere within the European economy. Why this was so cannot be discussed here, for the question belongs to an earlier era of history than the one with which this book is concerned. However, it was not clear which of the competing units would turn out to be the first to industrialize. The problem of the origins of the Industrial Revolution which concerns us here is, essentially, why it was Britain which became the first 'workshop of the world'. A second and connected question is why this breakthrough occurred towards the end of the eighteenth century and not before or after.
Explanations of the Industrial Revolution by 'historic accidents' ought also to be rejected. The mere fact of overseas discovery in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries does not account for industrialization, and neither does the 'scientific revolution' of the seventeenth. Neither can explain why the Industrial Revolution occurred at the end of the eighteenth century and not, let us say, at the end of the seventeenth, when both the European knowledge of the outer world and scientific technology were potentially quite adequate for the sort of industrialization which developed eventually. Nor can the Protestant Reformation be made responsible for it, either directly or via some special 'capitalist spirit' or other change of economic attitude induced by Protestantism; not even for why it occurred in Britain and not in France. The Reformation occurred more than two centuries before the Industrial Revolution. By no means all areas which converted to Protestantism became pioneers of industrial revolution, and - to take an obvious example - the parts of the Netherlands which remained Catholic (Belgium) industrialized before the part which became Protestant (Holland).
Lastly, purely political factors must also be rejected. In the second half of the eighteenth century practically all governments in Europe wanted to industrialize, but only the British succeeded. Conversely, British governments from 1660 on were firmly committed to policies favouring the pursuit of profit above other aims, but the Industrial Revolution did not occur until more than a century later. To reject such factors as simple, exclusive, or even primary explanations is not, of course, to deny them any importance. That would be foolish. It is merely to establish relative scales of importance, and incidentally to clarify some of the problems of countries setting about their industrialization today, in so far as they are comparable.
The technological problems of the early Industrial Revolution were fairly simple. They required no class of men with specialized scientific qualifications, but merely a sufficiency of men with ordinary literacy, familiarity with simple mechanical devices and the working of metals, practical experience and initiative. The centuries since 1500 had certainly provided such a supply. Most of the new technical inventions and productive establishments could be started economically on a small scale, and expanded piecemeal by successive addition. That is to say, they required little initial investment, and their expansion could be financed out of accumulated profits. Industrial development was within the capacities of a multiplicity of small entrepreneurs and skilled traditional artisans. No twentieth-century country setting about industrialization has, or can have, anything like these advantages.
This does not mean that there were no obstacles in the path of British industrialization, but only that they were easy to overcome because the fundamental social and economic conditions for it already existed, because the eighteenth-century type of industrialization was comparatively cheap and simple, and because the country was sufficiently wealthy and flourishing to be untroubled by inefficiencies which might have crippled less fortunate economies.
The question about the origin of the Industrial Revolution which concerns us here is not, therefore, how the material for the economic explosion was accumulated, but how it was ignited; and we may add, what stopped the first explosion from fizzling out after an impressive initial bang. But was a special mechanism necessary at all? Was it not inevitable that a sufficiently long period of accumulating explosive material would, sooner or later, somehow, somewhere, produce spontaneous combustion? Perhaps so. Nevertheless it is the 'somehow' and 'somewhere' which must be explained; all the more so as the way in which an economy of private enterprise brings about industrial revolution raises a number of puzzles. We know that in fact it did so in some parts of the world; but we also know that it failed to do so in other parts, and took a rather long time doing so even in western Europe.
Very substantial and expensive improvements in inland transport — by river, canal and even road — were undertaken from the early eighteenth century, in order to diminish the prohibitive cost of moving goods overland: in the middle of the century twenty miles' land transport might double the cost of a ton of goods. How important these were for the development of industrialism is uncertain, but there is no doubt that the impetus for them came from the home market, and more especially from the growing demand of the cities for food and fuel. The landlocked manufacturers of household goods in the West Midlands (potters in Staffordshire, makers of various metal goods in the Birmingham region) also pressed for cheaper transport. The difference in transport costs was so dramatic that major investments were patently worth while. Canals cut the cost per ton between Liverpool and Manchester or Birmingham by eighty per cent.
The main advantage of the pre-industrial home market was its great size and steadiness. It may not have promoted much in the way of industrial revolution, but it undoubtedly promoted economic growth, and what is more, it was always available to cushion the more dynamic export industries against the sudden fluctuations and collapses which were the price they paid for their superior dynamism. It came to their rescue in the 17803, when war and the American Revolution disrupted them, and probably again after the Napoleonic Wars. But more than this, it provided the broad foundations for a generalized industrial economy. If England thought tomorrow what Manchester thought today, it was because the rest of the country was prepared to take its lead from Lancashire. Unlike Shanghai in precommunist China, or Ahmedabad in colonial India, Manchester did not remain a modern enclave in the general backwardness, but became the model for the rest of the country. The domestic market may not have provided the spark, but it provided fuel and sufficient draught to keep it burning.
Between 1700 and 1750 home industries increased their output by seven per cent, export industries by seventy-six per cent; between 1750 and 1770 (which we may regard as the runway for the industrial 'take-off') by another seven per cent and eighty per cent respectively. Home demand increased - but foreign demand multiplied. If a spark was needed, this is where it came from. Cotton manufacture, the first to be industrialized, was essentially tied to overseas trade. Every ounce of its raw material had to be imported from the sub-tropics or tropics, and, as we shall see, its products were to be overwhelmingly sold abroad. From the end of the eighteenth century it was already an industry which exported the greater part of its total output - perhaps two thirds by 1805.
The reason for this extraordinary potential of expansion was that export industries did not depend on the modest 'natural' rate of growth of any country's internal demand. They could create the illusion of rapid growth by two major means: capturing a series of other countries' export markets, and destroying domestic competition within particular countries, that is by the political or semi-political means of war and colonization. The country which succeeded in taking over other people's export markets, or even in monopolizing the export markets of a large part of the world in a sufficiently brief period of time, could expand its export industries at a rate which made industrial revolution not only practicable for its entrepreneurs, but sometimes virtually compulsory. And this is what Britain succeeded in doing in the eighteenth century.
Yet conquering markets by war and colonization required not merely an economy capable of exploiting those markets, but also a government willing to wage war and colonize for the benefit of British manufacturers. This brings us to the third factor in the genesis of the Industrial Revolution, government. Here the advantage of Britain over her potential competitors is quite evident. Unlike some of them (such as France) she was prepared to subordinate all foreign policy to economic ends. Her war aims were commercial and (what amounted to much the same thing) naval. The great Chatham gave five reasons in his memorandum advocating the conquest of Canada: the first four were purely economic. Unlike others (such as the Dutch), her economic aims were not completely dominated by commercial and financial interests, but shaped also, and increasingly, by the pressure group of manufacturers; originally the fiscally important woollen industry, later the rest.
Lastly, unlike all its other rivals, British policy in the eighteenth century was one of systematic aggressiveness - most obviously against the chief rival, France. Of the five great wars of the period, Britain was clearly on the defensive in only one. The result of this century of intermittent warfare was the greatest triumph ever achieved by any state up to that time: the virtual monopoly among European powers of overseas colonies, and the virtual monopoly of world-wide naval power. Moreover, war itself- by crippling Britain's major competitors in Europe - tended to boost exports; peace, if anything, tended to slow them up.
If we are to sum up the role of the three main sectors of demand in the genesis of industrialism, we can therefore do so as follows. Exports, backed by the systematic and aggressive help of government, provided the spark, and - with cotton textiles - the 'leading sector' of industry. They also provided major improvements in sea transport. The home market provided the broad base for a generalized industrial economy and (through the process of urbanization) the incentive for major improvements in inland transport, a powerful base for the coal industry and for certain important technological innovations. Government provided systematic support for merchant and manufacturer, and some by no means negligible incentives for technical innovation and the development of capital goods industries.
If we finally return to our original questions - why Britain and not another country? why at the end of the eighteenth century and not before or after? - the answer cannot be so simple. By 1750, indeed, there was not much doubt that if any state was to win the race to be the first industrial power it would be Britain. The Dutch had retired to that comfortable role of old-established business, the exploitation of their vast commercial and financial apparatus, and their colonies. The French, though expanding about as fast as the British (when the British did not prevent them by war), could not regain the ground they had lost in the great era of economic depression, the seventeenth century. In absolute figures they might look — until the Industrial Revolution - like a power of equivalent size, but per capita their trade and manufactures were even then far behind the British.
On the other hand this does not explain why the industrial breakthrough came when it actually did - in the last third or quarter of the eighteenth century. The precise answer to this question is still uncertain, but it is clear that we can find it only by turning back to the general European or 'world' economy of which Britain was a part, that is to the 'advanced' areas of (mainly) Western Europe and their relations with the colonial and semi-colonial dependent economies, the marginal trading partners, and the regions not as yet substantially involved in the European system of economic flows.
The traditional pattern of European expansion - Mediterranean, and based on Italian merchants and their associates, Spanish and Portuguese conquerors, or Baltic, and based on German city states — had perished in the great economic depression of the seventeenth century. The new centres of expansion were the maritime states bordering the North Sea and North Atlantic. The shift was not merely geographical, but structural. The new kind of relationship between the 'advanced' areas and the rest of the world, unlike the old, tended constantly to intensify and widen the flows of commerce. The powerful, growing and accelerating current of overseas trade which swept the infant industries of Europe with it - which, in fact, sometimes actually created them — was hardly conceivable without this change. It rested on three things: in Europe, the rise of a market for overseas products for everyday use, whose market could be expanded as they became available in larger quantities and more cheaply; and overseas the creation of economic systems for producing such goods (such as, for instance, slave-operated plantations) and the conquest of colonies designed to serve the economic advantage of their European owners.
The general expansion of trading in the eighteenth century was impressive enough, in almost all countries, but the expansion of trade connected with the colonial system was stupendous. To take a single example: after the War of the Spanish Succession between two and three thousand tons of British ships cleared from England every year for Africa, mainly as slavers; after the Seven Years War between fifteen and nineteen thousand; after the American War of Independence (1787) twenty-two thousand. This vast and growing circulation of goods did not merely bring to Europe new needs, and the stimulus to manufacture foreign imports at home.... More than this, it provided a limitless horizon of sales and profit for merchant and manufacturer. And it was the British who - by their policy and force as much as by their enterprise and inventive skill - captured these markets.
Behind our Industrial Revolution there lies this concentration on the colonial and 'underdeveloped' markets overseas, the successful battle to deny them to anyone else. We defeated them in the East: in 1766 we already outsold even the Dutch in the China trade. We defeated them in the West: by the early 17805 more than half of all slaves exported from Africa (and almost twice as many as those carried by the French) made profits for British slavers. And we did so for the benefit of British goods. For some three decades after the War of the Spanish Succession British ships bound for Africa still carried mainly foreign (including Indian) goods; from shortly after the War of the Austrian Succession they carried overwhelmingly British ones. Our industrial economy grew out of our commerce, and especially our commerce with the underdeveloped world. And throughout the nineteenth century it was to retain this peculiar historical pattern: commerce and shipping maintained our balance of payments, and the exchange of overseas primary products for British manufactures was to be the foundation of our international economy.
While the stream of international exchanges swelled, sometime in the second third of the eighteenth century a general quickening of the domestic economies became noticeable. This was not a specifically British phenomenon, but one which occurred very generally, and is registered in the movements of prices (which began a long period of slow inflation, after a century of fluctuating and indeterminate movement), in what little we know about population, production and in other ways. The Industrial Revolution was generated in these decades - after the 17405, when this massive but slow growth in the domestic economies combined with the rapid — after 1750 extremely rapid — expansion of the international economy; and it occurred in the country which seized its international opportunities to corner a major share of the overseas markets.
Much of modern social science originated in efforts by late nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europeans to understand what made the economic development path of western Europe unique; yet those efforts have yielded no consensus. Most of the literature has focused on Europe, seeking to explain its early development of large-scale mechanized industry. Comparisons with other parts of the world have been used to show that "Europe"—or in some formulations, western Europe, Protestant Europe, or even just England—had within its borders some unique homegrown ingredient of industrial success or was uniquely free of some impediment.
Western Europe had by the eighteenth century moved ahead of the rest of the world in the use of various labor-saving technologies. However, because it continued to lag behind in various land-saving technologies, rapid population growth and resource demands might, in the absence of overseas resources, have forced it back onto a path of much more labor-intensive growth. In that case it would have diverged far less from China and Japan. The book thus calls upon the fruits of overseas coercion to help explain the difference between European development and what we see in certain other parts of Eurasia (primarily China and Japan)—not the whole of that development or the differences between Europe and all other parts of the Old World. A few other factors that do not fit firmly into either category, such as the location of coal supplies, also play a role.
The resemblances between western Europe and other areas force us to turn from a purely comparative approach—one that assumes essentially separate worlds as units of comparison—to one that also looks at global conjunctures3 have another significance as well. They imply that we cannot understand pre- 1800 global conjunctures in terms of a Europe-centered world system; we have, instead, a polycentric world with no dominant center. Global conjunctures often worked to western Europe's advantage, but not necessarily because Europeans created or imposed them. For instance, the remonetization of China with silver from the fifteenth century on—a process that predated the European arrival in the Americas and the export of its silver—played a crucial part in making Spain's far-flung New World empire financially sustainable; and horrific, unanticipated epidemics were crucial to creating that empire in the first place. Only after nineteenth-century industrialization was well advanced does it make sense to see a single, hegemonic European "core." Most of the existing literature, however, has remained set in an either/or framework—with either a Europe-centered world system carrying out essential primitive accumulation overseas4 or endogenous European growth called upon to explain almost everything. Given those choices, most scholars have leaned toward the latter.
Let us grant the following: few essential characteristics unite, say, Holland and the Ukraine, or Gansu and the Yangzi Delta; a region like the Yangzi Delta (population 31,000,000-37,000,000 circa 1750, depending on the precise definition) is certainly big enough to be compared to eighteenth-century European countries; and various core regions scattered around the Old World—the Yangzi Delta, the Kanto plain, Britain and the Netherlands, Gujarat—shared some crucial features with each other, which they did not share with the rest of the continent or subcontinent around them (e.g., relatively free markets, extensive handicraft industries, highly commercialized agriculture). In that case, why not compare these areas directly, before introducing largely arbitrary continental units that had little relevance to either daily life or the grand patterns of trade, technological diffusion, and so on? Moreover, if these scattered cores really had much in common—and if we are willing to allow some role for contingencies and conjunctures—it makes sense to make our comparisons between them truly reciprocal: that is, to look for absences, accidents, and obstacles that diverted England from a path that might have made it more like the Yangzi Delta or Gujarat, along with the more usual exercise of looking for blockages that kept non-European areas from reproducing implicitly normalized European paths.
This relatively untried approach at least generates some new questions that put various parts of the world in a different light. For instance, I will argue that a series of balanced comparisons show several surprising similarities in agricultural, commercial, and protoindustrial (i.e., handicraft manufacturing for the market rather than home use) development among various parts of Eurasia as late as 1750. Thus the explosion of further growth in western Europe alone during the nineteenth century again becomes a rupture to be explained. By contrast, some recent literature, by limiting itself to intertemporal European comparisons and finding similarities there (which are real enough), tends to obscure this rupture. Thus, such literature also often barely passes over important contributions to industrialization— especially conjunctural ones—which may appear as taken-for-granted "background" in a comparison limited to different periods in Europe.
The point at which western Europe became the richest economy- need not be the same as the point at which it broke out of a Malthusian world into one of sustained per capita growth. Indeed, most of what I have called the "Europe-centered" approaches argue that western Europe had become uniquely rich long before its industrial breakthrough. And if our only question were whether China (or India, or Japan) could have made its own breakthrough to such a world—i.e., if we normalize the European experience and make it the pattern one would expect in the absence of "blockages" or "failures"—it would no longer be very important to ask when Europe actually escaped a Malthusian world: it would matter far more that it had been for a long time on a path bound to lead to that breakthrough eventually. Meanwhile, the dates by which it had definitively surpassed other places would tell us little about other possibilities for Europe and only about when those other places had taken their detours into stagnation.
But if we make reciprocal comparisons and entertain the possibility that Europe could have been a China—that no place was bound to achieve dramatic and sustained per capita growth—the link between the two becomes closer. If we further argue—as I will in subsequent chapters—that some other parts of the eighteenth-century world were roughly as close as Europe was to maximizing the economic possibilities available to them without a dramatic easing of their resource constraints (like that made possible for Europe by fossil fuels and the New World), then the link between the two issues becomes closer still.
The two questions are still separable: differences in climate, soil, etc., might have given different areas different preindustrial possibilities. But it seems unlikely that Europe enjoyed a substantial edge in those possibilities over all other densely settled regions, particularly since the evidence presented later in this book suggests that it did not in fact become much better-off than east Asia until industrialization was well-under way. Or it might turn out that although Europe did not pull ahead of east Asia until the eve of industrialization, certain institutions were in place by a much earlier date that did make industrialization bound to happen after all; that even without the Americas and favorably located fossil fuels, technological inventiveness was already sufficient to sustain growth in the face of any particular local resource shortages, and without resorting to the extremely labor intensive solutions which sustained aggregate, but not per capita, growth elsewhere. But the strong assumptions that such an assertion of inevitability would requke begin to look shaky once we actually hold Europe up against the standard of some other preindustrial economies— especially since the last few centuries of European economic history before industrialization do not show consistent and robust per capita growth. Thus, two-way comparisons both raise new questions and reconfigure the relationships among old ones.
The arguments positing that western Europe's economy was uniquely capable of generating an industrial transformation generally fall into two clusters. The first, typified by the work of E. L. Jones, argues that beneath a surface of "preindustrial" similarity, sixteenth- through eighteenth-century Europe had already moved far ahead of the rest of its world in the accumulation of both physical and human capital. A central tenet of this view is that various customary checks on fertility (late marriage, a celibate clergy, etc.) allowed Europe to escape from the otherwise universal condition of a "pre-modern fertility regime" and thus from a similarly universal condition in which population growth absorbed almost all of any increase in production. Consequently, Europe was uniquely able to adjust its fertility to hard times.and to increase its per capita (not just total) capital stock over the long haul.
Thus, in this view, differences in the demographic and economic behavior of ordinary farmers, artisans, and traders created a Europe that could support more non-farmers; equip its people with better tools (including more livestock); make them better nourished, healthier, and more productive; and create a larger market for goods above and beyond the bare necessities. The central arguments underlying this position were laid out over thirty years ago by John Hajnal:16 they have been elaborated since then, but not radically altered. However, as we shall see in chapter 1, recent work on birthrates, life expectancy, and other demographic variables in China, Japan, and (more speculatively) Southeast Asia has made what Hajnal thought were unique European achievements look more and more ordinary.
The significance of these findings has not yet been fully appreciated, but they have been partially acknowledged in the one important recent addition to the demographically driven story line: the recognition that there were economic booms and rising living standards in preindustrial settings outside Europe. However, these are always treated as temporary flowerings that either proved vulnerable to political shifts or played themselves out as productivityenhancing innovations proved unable to stay ahead of the population increases that prosperity encouraged. Such stories are an important advance over much earlier literature, which argued either implicitly or explicitly that the whole world was poor and accumulation minimal until the early modern European breakthrough; among other things, it has forced scholars to look at "the fall of Asia" as well as the "rise of Europe." However, these versions of the story are often anachronistic in at least two crucial ways.
First, they tend to read too much of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century ecological disasters that have afflicted much of Asia (and the underlying problem of dense population) back into earlier periods and present eighteenthcentury Asian societies as having exhausted all the possibilities available to them. Some versions attribute this condition to all of an artificial unit called "Asia" circa 1800; but, as we shall see, India, Southeast Asia, and even parts of China still had a good deal of room to accommodate more people without either a major technological breakthrough or a decline in the standard of living. Probably only a few parts of China and Japan faced such a situation.
Second, such stories often "internalize" the extraordinary ecological bounty that Europeans gained from the New World. Some do so by assimilating overseas expansion to the pattern of "normal" frontier expansion within Europe (e.g., the clearing and settlement of the Hungarian plain or the Ukraine, or of German forests). This ignores the exceptional scale of the New World windfall, the exceptionally coercive aspects of colonization and the organization of production there, and the role of global dynamics in ensuring the success of European expansion in the Americas. The clearing of new agricultural lands in Hungary and the Ukraine had parallels in Sichuan, Bengal, and many other Old World locales; what happened in the New World was very different from anything in either Europe or Asia. Moreover, because nineteenth-century Europe found enormous ecological relief beyond its borders—both acquiring resources and exporting settlers20—such accounts rarely consider whether some densely populated core regions in sixteenth- through eighteenth-century Europe faced ecological pressures and options not radically different from those of core regions in Asia.
Although some parts of eighteenthcentury Europe had some ecological advantages over their east Asian counterparts, the overall pattern is quite mixed. Indeed, key Chinese regions seem to have been better-off than their European counterparts in some surprising ways, such as available fuel supply per capita. Moreover, Britain, where industrialization in fact began, had few of the underatilized resources that remained in various other parts of Europe. Indeed, it seems to have been no better-off than its rough counterpart in China—the Lower Yangzi Delta—in timber supply, soil depletion, and other crucial ecological measures. Thus, if we accept the idea that population growth and its ecological effects made China "fall," then we would have to say that Europe's internal processes had brought it very close to the same precipice—rather than to the verge of "take-off—when it was rescued by a combination of overseas resources and England's breakthrough (partly conditioned by geographic good luck) in the use of subterranean stores of energy. If, on the other hand, Europe was not yet in crisis, then in all likelihood China was not either.
I argue—in keeping with the finding of surprising similarities as late as 1750 and with my determination to take the question "Why wasn't England the Yangzi Delta?" as seriously as "Why wasn't the Yangzi Delta England?"—that Europe, too, could have wound up on an "east Asian," labor-intensive path. That it did not was the result of important and sharp discontinuities, based on both fossil fuels and access to New World resources, which, taken together, obviated the need to manage land intensively. Indeed, there are many signs that substantial regions in Europe were headed down a more labor-intensive path until dramatic late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century developments reversed that path. We will find such evidence in aspects of agriculture and proto-industry throughout Europe (including England) and in almost everything about Denmark.24 The East-West difference that developed around labor-intensity was not essential but highly contingent; the distribution of population growth (as opposed to its aggregate size) turns out to be one crucial variable, which in turn has much to do with market distortions in sixteenth- through eighteenth-century Europe and with migration to the New World in the nineteenth century.
Industrial capitalism, in which the large-scale use of inanimate energy sources allowed an escape from the common constraints of the preindustrial world, emerges only in the 1800s. There is little to suggest that western Europe's economy had decisive advantages before then, either in its capital stock or economic institutions, that made industrialization highly probable there and unlikely elsewhere. The market- driven growth of core areas in western Europe during the preceding centuries was real enough and was undoubtedly one crucial precursor of industrialization— but it was probably no more conducive to industrial transformation than the very similar processes of commercialization and "proto-industrial" growth occurring in various core areas in Asia. The patterns of scientific and technical development that were taking shape in early modern Europe were more unusual, but we shall see that they still did not, by themselves, guarantee that western Europe would wind up on a fundamentally different economic path from, for instance, east Asia. Second, European industrialization was still quite limited outside of Britain until at least 1860. Thus, positing a "European miracle" based on features common to western Europe is risky, all the more so since much of what was widely shared across western Europe was at least equally present elsewhere in Eurasia.
Chapter 1 draws on evidence from numerous places to show that Europe had not accumulated a crucial advantage in physical capital prior to 1800 and was not freer of Malthusian pressures (and thus more able to invest) than many other large economies. People in various other areas seem to have lived as long and as well as Europeans and to have been at least equally willing and able to limit fertility in the interest of household-level accumulation. The second half of the chapter then examines the possibility that Europe had a crucial technological edge even before the Industrial Revolution. Here we do find some differences that mattered—but which would have had smaller, later, and probably qualitatively different effects without both the fortunate geographic accidents essential to the energy revolution and Europe's privileged access to overseas resources. Technological inventiveness was necessary for the Industrial Revolution, but it was not sufficient, or uniquely European. It is unclear whether whatever differences existed in the degree of technological inventiveness were crucial to exiting a Malthusian world (technological breakthroughs could have been spread over a slightly longer period), but it is clear that the differences in global context that helped ease European resource constraints — and so made innovation along particular (land-using, energy-using, and labor-saving) paths a fruitful, even self-reinforcing, process — were significant.
Even more important, as Braudel himself emphasizes, is the point that capital was not a particularly scarce factor of production in the eighteenth century. Constraints connected to energy, and ultimately to quantities of land (particularly the shrinking forests of core areas throughout Eurasia), were a far more important looming impediment to further growth. The essence of development was that both labor and capital became more plentiful relative to land, but producing any of Malthus's four necessities of life—food, fiber (clothing), fuel, and building materials—still required land.
To some extent, capital and labor could create more land (reclamation) or make land yield more food and fiber through irrigation, fertilization, or extracareful weeding, but this was quite limited compared to what late nineteenthcentury chemical industries would make possible. And when it came to producing fuel and building materials before the massive use of fossil fuels, the ability of labor and capital to substitute for land was very limited indeed. Thus, even if Europe had an edge in assembling investment capital, this would not by itself have solved the ecological bottlenecks faced by all the most "developed" proto-industrial regions. Certainly there are enough examples of capitalrich but late industrializing areas even within Europe to make any link between greater capital accumulation and a transition to industrialism dubious. Northern Italy and Holland are obvious examples, despite their highly sophisticated commercial economies, and so, in a different way, is Spain, where a huge flood of silver into a less-developed economy may well have retarded growth.
I will argue that while neither the new forms of property created in early modern Europe (e.g., corporations and various securitized claims on future income streams) nor the domestic policies of Europe's competing and revenue-hungry states made pre-1800 Europe itself a significantly better environment for productive activity, the projection of interstate rivalries overseas did matter. Similarly, joint-stock companies and licensed monopolies turned out to have unique advantages for the pursuit of armed long-distance trade and the creation of export-oriented colonies—activities that required what were for the time exceptional amounts of capital willing to wait a relatively long time for returns. When we combine this notion of European capitalism, in which links to the state and the right to use force and preempt certain markets loom large, with the idea that advanced market economies everywhere faced growing ecological problems, a new picture emerges of what Europe's most significant differences were.
Chapter 6 then considers the dramatic easing of Europe's land constraint during industrialization. It looks briefly at the shift from wood to coal—an important story, but one well covered elsewhere—and then turns to the ecological relief provided by Europe's relations with the New World. This relief was predicated not merely on the natural bounty of the New World, but also on ways in which the slave trade and other features of European colonial systems created a new kind of periphery, which enabled Europe to exchange an evergrowing volume of manufactured exports for an ever-growing volume of landintensive products. A crucial part of this complementarity, up through the early industrial era, was the result of slavery. Slaves were purchased from abroad by New World plantations, and their subsistence production was often limited. Thus, slave regions imported much more than, say, eastern Europe and southeast Asia, where the producers of export crops were born locally, met most of their own basic needs, and had little cash with which to buy anything else.
The plantation zone also differed in critical ways from free labor peripheries such as the Chinese interior. Exporters of rice, timber, and raw cotton in east Asia had more purchasing power than did peasants in regions of coerced cashcropping and had greater flexibility and incentives to respond to external demand. But the same system of more or less free labor that produced these dynamic peripheries also allowed people to shift away from activities with diminishing returns. With time, these areas tended to undergo significant population growth (partly due to rising incomes) and proto-industrialization of their own; this decreased both their need to import manufactures and the surplus of primary products that they could export.
By contrast, the circum-Caribbean plantation zone showed much less tendency to diversify its production or to cease needing imported slaves and provisions. And since Europe acquired most of the slaves it shipped to the New World in return for manufactures (especially cloth), while much of the grain and timber sent to the Caribbean came from British North America, enabling those colonies to buy European manufactures, all of the New World's import needs—even those for grain and humans—helped Europe use labor and capital to solve its land shortage. Finally, we will also see in chapter 6 that dynamics set in motion during the colonial period created the framework for a flow of resources to Europe from both slave and free areas that accelerated throughout the nineteenth century, despite independence and emancipation.
Northwestern Europe became able, in the century after 1750, to specialize in manufactures (both proto-industrial and industrial) to an unprecedented degree and to make its spectacular population growth during this period an asset. A big part of this transformation was, of course, a series of impressive technological advances in manufacturing (which made huge amounts of relalively cheap goods available to exchange for land-intensive products) and in transportation, which greatly facilitated specialization. But these relatively well-known developments are not the whole story. Western Europe could also increase its population, specialization in manufacturing, and per capita consumption levels—when even eighteenth-century levels had seemed to many people near the limits of ecological possibility—because the limits imposed by its finite supply of land suddenly became both more flexible and less important.
This was partly because its own institutional blockages had left significant unexploited agricultural resources that could be tapped after the French Revolution and post-Napoleonic reforms in Germany; partly because far more extreme institutional blockages (above all serfdom) in eastern Europe (the counterpart to, say, China's Upper Yangzi or southwest) had left lots of slack there; and partly because new land management techniques were brought home from the empire in the early nineteenth century. In all these ways, one might argue, Europe was catching up with China and Japan in both best and average practices in agro-forestry, rather than blazing new trails. Even so, Europe's transformation also required the peculiar paths by which depopulation, the slave trade, Asian demand for silver, and colonial legislation and mercantilist capitalism shaped the New World into an almost inexhaustible source of land-intensive products and outlet for western Europe's relatively abundant capital and labor. Thus, a combination of inventiveness, markets, coercion, and fortunate global conjunctures produced a breakthrough in the Atlantic world, while the much earlier spread of what were quite likely better-functioning markets in east Asia had instead led to an ecological impasse.
Thus, chapter 6 locates the significance of the Atlantic trade not in terms of financial profits and capital accumulation, nor in terms of demand for manufactures—which Europe could have probably generated enough of at home—but in terms of how much they relieved the strain on Europe's supply of what was truly scarce: land and energy. And because it helped ease these fundamental, physical constraints, Europe's overseas extraction deserves to be compared with England's turn to coal as crucial factors leading out of a world of Malthusian constraints, rather than with developments in textiles, brewing, or other industries, which, whatever their contributions to the accumulation of financial capital or development of wage labor, tended to intensify, rather than ease, land and energy squeezes in the core areas of western Europe. And, indeed, a preliminary attempt to measure the importance of this ecological windfall suggests that until well into the nineteenth century, the fruits of overseas exploitation were probably roughly as important to at least Britain's economic transformation as its epochal turn to fossil fuels.
Thus part 1, which is essentially comparative, argues that although a combination of relatively high levels of accumulation, demographic patterns, and the existence of certain kinds of markets may separate out a few places—western Europe, China, Japan, and perhaps others—as the most likely settings for a dramatic shift in economic possibilities, they cannot explain why that shift in fact occurred first in western Europe, or why it happened anywhere. Nor can technological differences explain very much before the nineteenth century (when Europe closed the gap in land management and took a wide lead in many other areas)—and even then, only when Europe's complex and often violent relations with other parts of the globe are added to the story. In part 2, intercontinental comparisons continue, but in a context in which intercontinental connections also begin to be important. It argues that as we move toward kinds of economic activity less directly tied to physical necessity— and involving a smaller share of the population—some possibly important western European differences in culture and institutions do appear, even vis a vis other "core" regions. However, these differences are ones of degree rather than of kind, quite limited in strength and scope. They certainly do not justify any claim that western Europe, and western Europe alone, had either a "capitalist mode of production" or a "consumer society," and they cannot themselves explain the dramatic divergences that would emerge in the nineteenth century.
Part 3 begins with comparison again, showing that whatever advantages Europe had—whether from a more developed "capitalism" and "consumerism," the slack left by institutional barriers to more intensive land use, or even technological innovations—were nowhere near to pointing a way out of a fundamental set of ecological constraints shared by various "core" areas of the Old World. Moreover, purely consensual trade with less densely populated parts of the Old World—a strategy being pursued by all the core areas of Eurasia, often on a far larger scale than pre-1800 western Europe could manage— had limited potential for relieving these resource bottlenecks. But the New World had greater possibilities, in large part due to the effects of global cojunctures. First, epidemics seriously weakened resistance to European appropriation of these lands. Second, the transatlantic relations that followed conquest and depopulation—mercantilism and especially the African slave trade—made the flow of needed resources to Europe self-catalyzing in ways that consensual trade between Old World regions was not: it anticipated, even before industrialization, the self-perpetuating division of labor between primary products exporters and manufacturing regions in the modern world. Thus the world's first "modern" core and its first "modem" periphery were created in tandem—and this global conjuncture was important in allowing western Europe to build something that was truly unique upon the base of an advanced market economy whose main features were not unique. We end, then, with connections and interactions explaining what comparison alone cannot.
Population, Capital Accumulation, and Technology in Explanations of European Development, K. Pomeranz
According to Jones, "Europeans" were already uniquely wealthy before industrialization. In particular, they had vastly more capital at their disposal, especially livestock, which they accumulated by "holding back population growth a little below its maximum." This in turn allowed Europeans to "hold their consumption levels a little above those of Asia." Moreover, their capital stock was less liable to destruction, because Europe suffered fewer natural disasters and began sooner than other places to build with fire-resistant brick and stone. Thus, less of Europe's annual surplus above subsistence was needed to offset depreciation, and its advantage in capital stock grew steadily with time, even before the Industrial Revolution.
But in fact there is little evidence to suggest a quantitative advantage in western Europe's capital stock before 1800 or a set of durable circumstances— demographic or otherwise—that gave Europe a significant edge in capital accumulation. Nor is it likely that Europeans were significantly healthier (i.e., advantaged in human capital), more productive, or otherwise heirs of many years of slowly accruing advantages over the more developed parts of Asia. When we turn to comparisons of the technology embodied in the capital stock, we do find some important European advantages emerging during the two or three centuries before the Industrial Revolution; but we also still find areas of European backwardness. Europe's disadvantages were concentrated in areas of agriculture, land management, and the inefficient use of certain land-intensive products (especially fuel wood). As it worked out, some of the areas in which Europe had an edge turned out to be important for truly revolutionary developments, while the particular areas in which other societies had better techniques did not.
But even Europe's technological leadership in various sectors would not have allowed a breakthrough to self-sustaining growth without other changes that made it much freer than other societies of its land base. This was partially a result of catching up in some of the land-saving technologies in which it lagged, a process that was greatly facilitated by knowledge gained through overseas empire, and partly a matter of serendipity, which located crucial resources (especially forest-saving coal) in particularly fortunate places. It was also partly due to global conjunctures. Those global conjunctures, in turn, were shaped by a combination of European efforts (many of them violent), epidemiological luck, and some essentially independent developments. (One example of the latter is China's switch to a silverbased economy, which helped keep New World mines profitable and sustain Europe's colonial presence during the long period before other products were developed.)
These global conjunctures allowed western Europeans access to vast amounts of additional land-intensive resources. Moreover, they could obtain these resources without needing to further strain a European ecology that was already hard-pressed before the great nineteenth-century boom in population and per capita resource use, and without having to reallocate vast amounts of their own labor to the various labor-intensive activities that would have been necessary to manage their own land for higher yield and greater ecological sustainability. Without these "external" factors, Europe's inventions alone might have been not much more revolutionary in their impact on economy and society than the marginal technological improvements that continued to occur in eighteenth-century China, India, and elsewhere.
By 1850, at least northwest Europe already had a marked technological advantage over the rest of the Old World, and this cannot be entirely a nineteenthcentury creation. But as the previous sections make clear, it seems unlikely that eighteenth-century Europeans were, on the whole, more productive than, say, Chinese or Japanese; and that means we need to carefully circumscribe claims of overall European "technological superiority" circa 1750 and target our explanations accordingly. The results admit the importance of cultural and institutional factors that helped spread a "scientific culture" but leave open, pending further research, how unique this culture was. They also tend to minimize the role of more specifically politico-economic factors (from patent law to near-constant war-making to the high cost of British labor) highlighted by many other scholars. Meanwhile, such results increase the prominence of knowledge gained overseas for certain crucial technologies and of a set of "permissive factors" related to geography and resource availability. '
If Europeans were, as I have argued, not ahead in overall productivity in 1750, then it is unlikely that the average level of technology they deployed was superior; but it is more plausible that the best available technologies deployed anywhere in Europe (mostly in Britain, the United Provinces, and parts of France) for various important sectors were already the world's best. The spread of those technologies over the next century would have then narrowed the gap between Europe's best and average technologies and created much of the productivity advantage we see by 1850, (Clearly, for instance, Newtonian mechanics allowed Europeans in 1750 to devise some pumps and canal locks better than any in existence elsewhere, but the ubiquity of, say, Chinese canals probably gave them a continued edge in the average degree to which they had exploited the possibilities of inland waterways until somewhat later.) And even if one insists on the alternate position—that all of Europe's advantage in 1850 sprang from post-1750 inventions—one would want to ask what basis existed for this sudden burst of inventiveness.
Much of the credit for both the accelerated diffusion of best practices after 1750 and the burst of new innovations must go to elements of the "scientific culture" that Margaret Jacob and others have seen emerging, especially in England, in the 150 years before 1750: increased literacy and printing, the spread of scientific societies, relatively accessible public lectures, and so on. Behind these phenomena stood a strong sense that the investigation of a mechanical nature was to be encouraged, because it offered both material benefits to the individual and a socially stabilizing alternative to two other epistemologies with political implications: dogmatic "priestcraft" and/or popular assertiveness based on intuitive, revealed, or magical knowledge of a living nature, God, and social order. Some parts of this configuration were indeed unique to northwest Europe, but not all of them were.
It is worth noting, for instance, that Chinese interest in the physical sciences and mathematics increased markedly in the seventeenth century, especially afer the Manchu conquest in 1644 and that publishers found that medical books were a particularly good way to sell lots of books, fulfill a commitment to improve the world through their work, and steer clear of the post-conquest minefields of political controversy. More generally, the European configuration, however fruitful it proved, did not represent the only path to technological progress. Other areas still led or stayed even in various technologies and continued their own patterns of both invention and diffusion.
In many areas, various npn-European societies remained ahead. Irrigation, which we have already mentioned, was perhaps the most obvious; and in many other agricultural technologies, too, Europe lagged behind China, India, Japan, and parts of Southeast Asia. A Welsh agricultural improvement society founded in 1753 took this as a truism, dedicating itself to bringing closer the day in which Wales might be "as flourishing as China." Indeed, once we have seen that life expectancies were similar—making it unlikely that Europeans were vastly better nourished—the huge differences in population densities between Europe and east Asia stand as impressive testimony to the size of that difference. To this we might add the ability of Chinese and Japanese agriculture to also keep up (as European agriculture stopped doing after 1800) with soaring demand for textile fibers and evidence that even relatively backward North China was doing better at conserving the fertility of its soil better than, say, England or France.
As we shall see later, Europeans groping for ways to combat deforestation and soil degradation in their tropical colonies near the end of the eighteenth century found much to learn in both India and China, but they did not apply the lessons at home in any systematic way until well into the nineteenth century. Take away the enormous amounts of extra land that Europe gained across the Atlantic (through luck, smallpox, and violence, as well as navigational and commercial skills) and it is easy to imagine Europe's marked technological backwardness in the largest sector of eighteenth-century economies having a significance as great as whatever advantages it had in other sectors.
Overall, then, arguments that Europe in 1750 already enjoyed a unique level of technological sophistication need significant qualification. Even in the generation and use of energy—probably Europe's most important advantage in the nineteenth century (as I will argue later)—the situation was much less clear a hundred years earlier. Smil estimates that energy use per capita was probably comparable in China and western Europe circa 1700. And though the efficiency of individual power-generating machines (from waterwheels to— soon—steam engines) was probably one of Europe's greatest areas of advantage, China had an equally marked advantage in the efficiency of its stoves, both for cooking and heating.
In retrospect, it is clear that given Europe's nineteenth-century switch to available and abundant fossil fuels, European advances in finding ways to use heat had a greater revolutionary potential than China's edge in capturing heat efficiently—but only in retrospect, and only with the advantage of favorably located coal. Had fuel shortages slowed Europe's industrial growth and a breakthrough occurred elsewhere first, the wastefulness of European hearths might not appear as a minor "exception" to a story of growing technical superiority but as a prime example of technological weakness that had held this area back. Or had the New World not provided enormous amounts of textile fibers, European precocity in mechanizing spinning and weaving might seem more like interesting curiosities than the centerpiece of a great transformation, and we might be invoking the low level of per-acre agricultural yields in Europe as a sign of serious technological weaknesses that necessitated keeping most land in food crops, and thus had caused these clever but nonetheless insufficient inventions to languish until they were imitated elsewhere.
The point to emphasize fowiew is that non-European societies retained significant technological advantages in many areas even in the late eighteenth century, and it was not inevitable that they would turn out to seem relatively unimportant in the long run. Nor, even once European technology began to advance faster and on a broader front, was it inevitable that this would overcome remaining weaknesses in land management, conservation, and market extension, or do so soon enough so that development would not be directed, with lasting effects, along paths requiring precisely the sorts of labor-intensive solutions found in east Asia and a few atypical parts of western Europe (such as Denmark).
Not only did western Europe not lead in all areas of technology, but of the areas in which they did lead, only some had long-term importance. For instance, western Europeans had the world's most efficient waterwheels by this time, but this alone did not give the European industries that used water power a competitive edge capable of overcoming high transport costs (or high costs in other aspects of production) and conquering markets elsewhere. And at any rate, this was an advantage that could be deployed at only a limited number of sites and could not be expanded indefinitely even at those sites. The same was true of many, many other technologies, whether created in Europe or elsewhere.
I will argue that the most important innovations for creating sustained growth were land-saving ones in one way or another, particularly those associated with fossil fuels, which reduced reliance on forests, for energy. But it has been far more common to argue that the crucial phenomenon was the rise of a labor-saving emphasis in European technological innovation. The common argument is that economic differences (principally the fact that western European laborers were free and allegedly received relatively high wages) caused Europeans (or in some versions of the argument, Britons) to focus their attention on labor-saving innovations, while other societies saw little or no need to economize on labor.
The unique western European need to cut down on the use of expensive labor, so the story goes, ultimately led to machinery, modern industry, and vastly improved per capita productivity and living standards, while other societies were more interested in looking for innovations that economized on land, capital, or some specific scarce material. Thus, Europeans were not necessarily more creative, but high wage costs steered their efforts in the one direction that led to a real transformation. Versions of this argument have been put forward by scholars as diverse as J. B. Habbakuk (Britain versus continental Europe), Mark Elvin (China versus Europe), David Washbrook (India versus Europe), and Andre Gunder Frank (Asia generally versus Europe); and it dovetails with the common claim that Europe was already richer than the rest of the world before industrialization. But the argument does not work, except perhaps in one or two specific industries.
But even if we grant provisionally the argument that western European wages were higher than any Asian ones, there are problems with inferring that this stimulated the technological changes of the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, under early modem conditions, high wages could as easily discourage technological innovation in general as it could encourage labor-saving inventions. Joel Mokyr suggests this seemingly paradoxical conclusion based on a model that seems fairly close to eighteenth-century realities. Assume, he says, that new technology must be embodied in new capital equipment, which must be paid for. Assume further that wages make up the bulk of most manufacturers' costs and that there are few ex ante differences in technology large enough to give a firm or country with a higher wage bill lower total production costs for a particular product. Thus, those with higher wage bills will generally have lower profits than their competition. If—as was also generally true until well into the nineteenth century—bank financing for the purchase of new capital equipment is either nonexistent or, to the slight extent that it exists, dependent on a firm's earnings, then any equipment embodying new technology will have to be financed out of retained earnings—and those with higher wages will be less able to do that. Thus, rather than stimulating labor-saving technical innovations, a high wage bill may just as plausibly discourage any sort of new technology. And though this model may seem counterintuitive today, it appears to work for earlier eras: it has been used, for instance, to help explain why the very sophisticated and very high-wage Dutch economy was remarkably late to adopt mechanized industry.
English textile innovations could easily also have become footnotes to history rather than major milestones. At the time that the British pioneered major improvements in cotton-spinning, cotton was a minor fabric in Europe; the mechanization of flax-spinning and wool-spinning took significantly longer. And, as we shall see in chapter 5, there were serious ecological and social obstacles to the further expansion of either wool or flax production in Europe. Cotton came from abroad and was available only in fairly limited quantities throughout most of the eighteenth century, indeed, the increased demand for raw cotton that the new spinning technology created produced very sharp price rises, which would have greatly limited the usefulness of this technology without the rise of cotton-growing in the American South.
As we shall see in chapters 5 and 6, it is unlikely that the necessary land to relieve this bottleneck could have been found in Europe. (Though sheepraising did expand in Poland and Russia, it was nowhere near enough, and cotton production remained minimal.) Meanwhile, the labor that was applied to this bottleneck was largely that of African slaves: to the extent that European labor was applied to this bottleneck, it was labor used in sailing, trading, coercing, and manufacturing (of goods swapped for slaves in Africa and for the cotton itself). As chapter 6 will show, that particular way of reallocating labor to solve this bottleneck was far more advantageous to Europe in the long run than it would have been to increase the agricultural labor force in order to grow more fiber at home, even if the land to do that had been available. (China and Japan both went this route, squeezing more food and fuel out of some land in labor-intensive ways while converting some lands from both forest and food crops to fiber-growing, but they did so at considerable long-run cost.) And while the case of cotton is unusually clear-cut, various other growing industries, and the rising population's demand for food, also created bottlenecks that were ultimately solved without using more European land or putting more labor onto that land.
Clearly, then, a big part of the European achievement in the Industrial Revolution was to escape a long-standing pattern in which all growth placed significant incremental demands on the land. And with a few exceptions (such as Denmark), this achievement did not rely on using large amounts of additional labor to make an acre yield more while protecting its fertility; in the late nineteenth century, labor inputs per acre even fell substantially....How, then, did sustained European growth become ecologically sustainable? To understand how self-sustaining growth became possible, one must look, as E. A. Wrigley has argued, for developments that eased the pressures on the land. Wrigley emphasizes increased use of coal, which yielded far more power per unit of surface than wood ever could. To this I would add the adoption of New World food crops, particularly the potato, which yielded what for Europe were unprecedented amounts of calories per acre; improvements in ecological understanding and land (especially forest) management which, as Richard Grove has shown, owed much to colonial experiences; and the enormous resources gained by applying existing techniques to vast new territories overseas.
Coal was central to earlier views of the Industrial Revolution. Only cotton, iron, steel, and railways got comparable attention, and except for cotton, these other main sectors depended on coal. But more recently, coal has often been deemphasized. People have noted, for instance, that more early factories were powered by water than by coal and that most of England's coal was used for the unglamourous and not particularly innovative tasks of home heating and cooking.... Nonetheless, at least a partial return to the earlier emphasis on coal seems warranted, both for Wrigley's reasons and for others. Water may for a time have powered more mills than coal, but it was geographically restricted, nonportable, and often seasonally unreliable. Moreover, it was no substitute for combustion in all sorts of chemical and physical processes (from brewing to metallurgy to dye-making), nor in the transport revolution that gave such a boost to the division of labor. In the critical iron sector (and thus also steel, railways, and so on) it is hard to see what alternative to fossil fuels could have been found.
Thus it seems sensible, after all, to look at the mining and uses of coal as the most likely European technological advantage that was purely homegrown, crucial to its nineteenth-century breakthrough, and (unlike textiles) not dependent for its full flowering on European access to overseas resources. Steam engines were crucial here, both as machines that used coal to power other processes and as the power source for more effective water pumps which permitted a huge expansion of coal-mining itself. M. W. Flinn has noted that despite the many ways in which wind, water, gravity, and horses were used to drain mines, none of these would have been much use at the depths where most of the country's reserves were. Thus, without steam, "mining in Britain could scarcely have expanded [beyond 1700 levels of annual output] and must probably have begun to show diminishing returns." Instead, output grew by roughly 70 percent over the next 50 years and by almost 500 percent more between 1750 and 1830 (making the total increase roughly 900 percent), as steam engines for mining became both more numerous and more effective.
We can identify some reasons why Europe—more specifically Britain—was a particularly likely site for the series of linked developments in coal and steam central to the Industrial Revolution. And when we compare England to the Yangzi Delta—where similar incentives existed to relieve pressure on the local wood supply, and where advanced technology and a highly commercialized economy were also present—Europe's advantage rested as much on geographic accident as on overall levels of technical skill and much more than on any (probably nonexistent) advantage in the market efficiency of the economy as a whole. The relevant skills in which western Europe led the eighteenth-century world were ones in which Britain led. One of these was mining itself, but the others are not ones whose relevance is immediately obvious: clock-making, gunmaking, and navigational instruments.
Thus we see that technological expertise was essential to Europe's coal breakthrough, but the development of that expertise depended on long experience (and many failures along the way) with abundant, cheap supplies. This experience was possible because artisan skill, consumer demand, and coal itself were all concentrated near each other. Without such geographic good luck, one could easily develop lots of expertise in an area with a limited future (e.g., in using and improving wood furnaces) and not proceed along the track that eventually led to tapping vast new supplies of energy. And the Chinese situation— in which coal deposits were far further removed from the Yangzi Delta than they were from, say, the Paris basin—throws England's good fortune into still sharper relief.
The steam engine represented an even more important breakthrough than the slow and steady progress in tunneling for coal or learning how to keep its smoke from spoiling beer, glass, and iron. We have already seen that in this sense, Britain was fortunate to have the mining problem it did—a need to pump out water, rather than prevent explosions—since it led to engines with many other crucial applications. But the steam engine did not invent itself, and here, too, location mattered to technological progress.
If it had been Europe that faced a huge geographic distance between its coal and its concentrations of mechanically skilled people, and China that had had only a small distance to bridge, it is possible that the results in either place might have been vastly different; certainly the history of China's earlier coal/iron complex suggests as much. A surge in European technological inventiveness was certainly (in fact, tautologically) a necessary condition of the Industrial Revolution, but before we elevate that creativity to a place far above that of other eighteenth-century societies, and reify it as the cause of Europe's subsequent primacy, we should bear in mind how crucial accidents of geography and juxtaposition were in making British coal and steam engines the cutting edge of industrialization. If, in retrospect, Europe backed the right horse, the factors that led to that particular winning bet seem critically connected to fortuitous, and specifically English, conditions (mostly geographic ones).
European science, technology, and philosophical inclinations alone do not seem an adequate explanation, and alleged differences in economic institutions and factor prices seem largely irrelevant. Finally, as we shall see in later chapters, even this energy breakthrough could have been swallowed up by Europe's population boom in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries if certain other resource problems had not also been solved, in large part thanks to Europe's conquests in the rest of the world. Without both coal and colonies, neither one would have been nearly as significant; and without the relaxation of resource constraints they allowed, other European innovations alone would not have created a new world where having finite land did not prevent indefinitely sustained per capita growth.
One core, western Europe, was able to escape the proto-industrial cul de sac and transfer handicraft workers into modern industries as the technology became available. It could do this, in large part, because the exploitation of the New World made it unnecessary to mobilize the huge numbers of additional workers who would have been needed to use Europe's own land in much more intensive and ecologically sustainable ways—if even that could have provided enough primary products to keep ahead of nineteenth- century population growth. The New World yielded both "real resources" and precious metals, which require separate treatment. Let us begin with real resources; they, in turn, begin with plantation products from the Caribbean, northeastern Brazil, and later the southern United States.
The New World's farm exports were largely slave grown. The plantations were almost all either on islands or near the coast. Consequently, exports from the circum-Caribbean plantation zone did not plateau the way that exports from the Chinese interior to Jiangnan and Lingnan did when free laborers ran into diminishing returns and switched more of their efforts to handicrafts; nor were they beset by the soaring transport costs that Old World foresters faced once they moved away from the riverbanks. And because the proprietors of New World plantations (unlike those of eastern European estates or southeast Asian pepper fields) purchased most of their labor force from abroad and often curtailed their subsistence production, western Europe's trade with this area also escaped the "small-market problem" that had dogged its trade for eastern European raw materials. Exports had to be high enough to cover the costs of buying slaves and much of the cost of feeding and clothing them.
There were many reasons why African slaves became the principal workforce in so many New World colonies. First and foremost are the astonishing death rates among New World peoples after contact, mostly from disease. Few of Europe's poor, as we have seen, could pay their own passage before 1800, and they were only worth transporting if one could force them to produce exports. With outright enslavement of Europeans unacceptable, this meant indentures that would end with freedom and a grant of land. As survival rates for Europeans (and Africans) in the New World began to improve, this became too expensive for most plantation owners; they preferred to pay more money up front and get a slave who never had to be freed. The surviving New World peoples were sometimes enslaved (especially in Brazil), but Africans were preferred for several reasons. New World peoples were seen as fragile because so many died upon contact with Europeans; and at least some Europeans opposed their enslavement on humanitarian grounds (but not that of Africans).
Amerindians also would have found it much easier to flee and to make common cause with unconquered native peoples nearby (though Africans sometimes did this, too). And since the conquest of native peoples slowed down considerably after the first half century (once smallpox had done its worst damage and various indigenous peoples had acquired guns and horses), acquiring indigenous slaves was not always easy. By contrast, the large internal slave trade in Africa made it relatively easy for Europeans to acquire slaves there, as long as they had goods that the slaveholders wanted. Meanwhile, the Spanish and the Portuguese crowns preferred the transatlantic slave trade to New World slave-raiding, because the former was much easier to monitor and tax than local slave-raiding. This was yet another way in which interstate competition and military fiscalism indirectly helped ac'celerate the repopulation of the New World from overseas and helped place the settlers in a context in which they (unlike, say, settlers on the Chinese frontier) would find it hard to switch away from a focus on export production. The slaves had no choice at all, and even their owners may have had little choice, since they (unlike a hypothetical group raiding locally for slaves) had to pay for their purchased workforce.
Slave imports to the British West Indies equaled roughly one-fourth of sugar export revenues between 1760 and 1810; imports from Britain itself covered about one-half, and food and wood from British North America (above and beyond the amounts swapped directly for sugar) covered the remaining quarter.... And in Brazil, the world's largest slave importer, the prices paid for imported slaves in 1821-26 (the first set of several consecutive years for which I found figures) equaled the country's total export revenues for those years. Since the 1820s saw an unusually high volume of high-priced slave imports, this is no doubt atypical: the late eighteenth-century average was probably closer to one-fourth the value of all exports, much as in the British and French West Indies. Thus, the slave trade helped make Euro- American trade fundamentally different and more expandable than the more direct exchanges of raw materials for manufactured goods and silver between Old World cores and peripheries. Furthermore, though nearly all bound cash-crop producers in the Old World also grew what was needed for their subsistence, many New World slaves had little or no opportunity for subsistence farming.
Thus, slavery helped make Euro-American trade unlike any between Old World cores and peripheries. A free-labor periphery like southwest China would not have served Europe as well, even if it had been just as ecologically bountiful; nor would a periphery like eastern Europe (or later Java) in which participants in a still-functioning subsistence-oriented economy were forced into part-time export production.... Thus, a combination of depopulation and repopulation with slaves made the circum-Caribbean region a perversely large market for imports and a source of land-intensive exports. In fact, it became the first periphery to assume a now familiar "Third World" profile: that of a large importer of both capital goods (in this case, walking, talking, kidnaped ones) and manufactured goods for daily use, with exports that kept falling in price as production became more efficient, capital intensive, and widespread. By contrast, the prices of most forms of energy produced in Europe, including food, rose throughout the eighteenth century, relative to both wages and other goods. Thus the plantation areas of the New World were a new kind of periphery: one that would import enough to keep its trade with the core fairly balanced. Moreover, its imports and exports stimulated each other: more sugar exports consistently led to more slave imports, more food and clothing imports.
Thus, while seeking more primary products from many Old World peripheries meant exhausting the most accessible sources, facing higher transport costs, and working against the logic of import substitution, an opposite dynamic was at work in much of the New World. With political and sociological factors working against import substitution, export monocultures brought down transatlantic transport and transaction costs. This in turn allowed Americans to incur higher local transport costs—i.e., expand further inland—and still sell enough in Europe to pay for manufactures and repay start-up costs. This dynamic operated whether the labor in question was slave, indentured, or free but in need of start-up money, and it played a crucial role in populating North America. It also helped the transatlantic exchange of manufactured goods (and kidnaped "capital goods") keep expanding, unlike the Baltic trade or the trade from the Chinese interior.
In other words, a demographic catastrophe, colonial legislation, and slavery combined to create a periphery that was an ever-expanding source of raw materials in an era before most production required expensive capital goods and when most people still had some connection to subsistence production. Indeed, this situation proved temporary even in much of the New World; as population levels recovered in Peru and Mexico, more self-sufficient economies reemerged and exports fell. Without the peculiar conditions created in the circum-Caribbean region, the mere existence of trade between a rich, free labor core and a poorer, bound labor periphery would not have had such epochal effects; western Europe's trade with eastern Europe, for instance, was in no way more important or dynamic than that between the Lower Yangzi and its various free labor peripheries. The form of labor control on the periphery was indeed crucial, as world-systems theorists insist, but we oversimplify greatly if we lump together all kinds of "coerced cash-crop producers." New World slavery and colonialism were different in very important ways.
Earlier arguments about the importance of slavery in European (especially British) industrial growth have often focused on export markets as a stimulus for burgeoning industries; they have thus been vulnerable to the "internalist" argument that domestic markets were growing, too, and off a much larger base. Such debates may be inherently inconclusive—if Caribbean demand accounted for 12 percent of the growth of British industrial output between 1748 and 1776, is the proverbial glass half full or half empty? By contrast, the argument here emphasizes that some markets mattered more than others. For the New World and the slave trade offered what an expanding home market could not have: ways in which manufactured goods created without much use of British land could be turned into ever-increasing amounts of land-intensive food and fiber (and later timber) at reasonable (and even falling) prices.
Meanwhile, Mexico, Peru, and later Brazil sent Europe vast amounts of precious metals. Some of this was the direct result of colonial extraction, such as the Spanish and Portuguese kings' cut of all mining in their domains... A substantial further portion of the flow was only slightly less directly based on coercion. Forced labor quotas lowered the costs of mining, whether indigenous people actually did the labor themselves or bought their way out of it, subsidizing the wages of others. While the direct beneficiaries of these quotas were mining entrepreneurs resident in the New World, they clearly increased the output possible at any given price; and since many people—from big and medium-sized mine operators to "sharecropping" miners themselves—had gold and silver to sell, they could not keep from passing along these savings to European buyers. Meanwhile, colonial legislation greatly reduced competition among those bringing European and Asian goods to exchange for precious metals—and at least attempted to restrict production of local alternatives to these imports. Thus both the scale of this trade and the prices at which it occurred were distorted, making some unknown further portion of gold and silver exports a "gift" to Europe.
Some of this "gift" stayed in western Europe. Those metals probably did little for Europe's economic development, since they financed numerous wars, including Spain's nearly successful assaults on the emerging core economies of northwest Europe. Nonetheless, the metals may have helped grease the wheels of European trade, and they certainly played a role in the growth of more effective militaries. Meanwhile, much New World treasure went further east, bringing other commodities to Europe. It can be roughly divided into three separate streams.
One substantial stream of New World gold and silver exports went to various ecologically rich small market zones in the Old World—from Southeast Asia to parts of the Near East to eastern Europe—making it possible for Europe to expand its imports of real resources from these peripheries. In these cases, silver or (less often) gold were used like modern currency reserves: they were a residual store of value transferred to cover an otherwise unbalanced trade with areas that had limited demand for the goods Europe sold. But one could also see these metals, which were usually coined before transshipment from Europe, as the one European manufactured good for which these zones had fairly large markets and (lacking the proper raw materials) limited local production. In economies that were monetizing rapidly (e.g., much of Scandinavia), this manufactured good was at least partially an item of popular use; in the least marketized peripheries, such as eastern Europe, it was essentially a luxury good. Either way, it made it possible to obtain more primary products from these areas than would have been possible otherwise.
The second stream also helped Europe obtain land-intensive goods, but less directly. This flow was exchanged for various Asian (mostly Indian) manufactured products, which then covered much of the cost of procuring slaves for the Americas. Indian cloth alone made up roughly one-third of all the cargo by value exchanged by English traders for African slaves in the eighteenth century and may have made up over half of the goods that French traders (whose industries were slower to produce good imitations of Indian fabrics) used to acquire slaves. Much Portuguese imperial trade went directly from Asia to Africa to Brazil, stopping in the mother country only to deliver New World goods. In other words, this portion of the metals flow facilitated the process we have already described, in which New World slave areas became an important complement to labor and capital rich, land-poor Europe.
Finally, the third stream of metals was for decades the largest of all; but this flow of silver probably did the least to ease pressures on Europe's land. It went to densely populated, heavily commercialized parts of Asia, where it was used as a medium for transactions involving every class in society; and in return, various consumer goods flowed to Europe and to the Americas themselves. This description, as we have seen, may fit some of the Indian trade, but it refers above all to the enormous flow of silver to China, where millions of ordinary people used silver to pay their taxes and for many ordinary purchases... In China, as in India, it may be difficult to imagine another good that would have been imported on such a massive scale had silver not been available. Thus in this case, too, New World mines were important to Europe's capacity to obtain goods in the rest of the Old World.
New World metals were not simply "money" that Europeans turned into "real" resources by distributing them around the Old World, with European needs always driving the story. The internal dynamics of other regions could create "needs" no less real than those of Europe, such as China's need for a more usable currency, or the desire of eastern European elites to turn their grain surpluses into something easily stored and shipped and thus usable for provisioning their troops on campaign. It was the intersection of European and other regional dynamics that determined the extent and nature of these metals' flows: the world economy remained polycentric, and forces emanating from elsewhere could shape it just as much as those emanating from Europe.
Indeed, had China in particular not had such a dynamic economy that changing its metallic base could absorb the staggering quantities of silver mined in the New World over three centuries, those mines might have become unprofitable within a few decades. The massive inflation of silver-denominated prices in Europe from 1500 to 1640 indicates a shrinking value for the metal there even with Asia draining off much of the supply, and the less-monetized parts of the Old World would not have indefinitely kept absorbing precious metals without also devaluing them.
Not only were the land and labor that produced New World resource exports very much the fruits of extramarket coercion, but it took the unique arrangements of Caribbean plantations and of mercantilist policies throughout the New World to escape all the forces that caused core-periphery exchange within the Old World to plateau. Without these features, and without silver that helped pay for colonial administration and provided for Asian goods to be transshipped to Africa and the Americas, it is hard to see how the "ecological windfall" could have found its way to Europe in such quantities; nor is it clear how Europe could have obtained as much ecological relief from the rest of the Old World as it did.
The exotic commodities that became parts of many ordinary people's lives in this period may have contributed in important though unquantifiable ways to the reallocation of labor time from production for home use to production for the market, which in turn was crucial to Europe's "internally generated" gains from increased division of labor.... Moreover, we must remember that New World treasure did more than just allow Europeans to buy additional goods in other parts of the New World. It also helped create European military commanders and paymasters who became influential partners of local elites and often later their colonial masters. Consumption taxes on plantation-grown sugar and tobacco, as well as other colonial goods, also played a significant role in building these military capabilities.
Jack Goldstone has drawn plausible connections between European political instability in both the mid-seventeenth and late eighteenth centuries and population-induced reseurce shortages and price shifts. In that light, the resources from abroad loom larger, having kept these problems from being still worse. The same could be said of the state revenues gained from New World commodities, since these taxes were far less unpopular than those on domestic products and assets. This looks still more significant when we remember that Britain had a relatively smooth passage through the Age of Revolution, which for much of the continent involved major economic setbacks, and that it emerged from the period with a vastly enlarged empire. Thus, it seems likely that the exploitation of the New World, and of the Africans taken there to work, mattered in many ways above and beyond those reflected in our ghost acreage figures. Taking all the indices together, it seems likely that this exploitation did more to differentiate western Europe from other Old World cores than any of the supposed advantages over these other regions generated by the operation of markets, family systems, or other institutions within Europe.
Land-saving New World imports would only grow in significance after 1830: for decades they kept pace with the stunning progress of fossil fuels. Britain's coal output would increase fourteen times from 1815 to 1900, but its sugar imports increased roughly eleven-fold over the same period, and its cotton imports increased a stunning twenty-fold. Meanwhile, Britain also began to live off American grain, beef, and other primary products; lumber imports soared; and the New World, at last, also became an enormous outlet for Europe's surplus population.
It is true, as Eric lones has argued, that not just any group of people stumbling on the New World (and depopulating it, as any people bearing Old World diseases would have done) could have used these continents as Europe did; but the European entrepreneurship Jones points to was not the unique part of the equation, or one in which western Europe had surpassed developments in other densely settled parts of the globe. Western Europeans' innovations in organizing for exploration and durable conquest and in creating institutions that combined entrepreneurship with intense coercion—plus favorable global conjunctures shaped by everything from Amerindians' vulnerability to smallpox to the massive supplies of New World silver and the equally massive project of Chinese remonetization—gave them much of their edge. This, in turn, gave western Europeans a privileged position from which to endure the last century of the "biological old regime," with its multiple ecological challenges, and even continue expanding industries (from textiles to brewing to iron) that made great demands on the products of the land.
Thus when coal, steam, and mechanization opened up vast new technical possibilities, western Europeans (especially in England) were in a unique position to capitalize on them. Vast untapped New World resources (and underground resources) still lay before them, essentially abolishing the land constraint. Moreover, what they had already gained in the New World meant they entered the nineteenth century with a higher standard of living than they would otherwise have had, enlarged military capabilities (which could force open markets in some cases and impose monopolies in others), and far more extensive handicraft industries than they could otherwise have maintained. And it was from these proto-industrial workers, not directly from the peasantry, that most early factory workers came.
Europe's expansion of both proto-industry and many early mechanized industries required more agricultural output. Quite aside from whether Britain (or even Europe more generally) could have found enough land at home to resolve these problems, putting large additional amounts of labor into supplying these farm goods directly would have created further problems later on. But instead, Europe acquired many of these supplies by having others grow them, while putting its own labor into additional soldiers, sailors, traders, and producers of manufactured goods. As factories at home needed more labor, they could draw on proto-industrial workers... The massive expansion of agriculture at home, which would have been needed otherwise, would have been not only ecologically difficult, but hard to reconcile with the expansion of the industrial workforce. When Britain's agricultural workforce finally began to decline in absolute numbers after 1850, it was tied both to technologies that had been unavailable earlier in the century and to massive increases in agricultural imports; production held steady as labor inputs declined, but did not rise much.
For a long time China and Japan, like Europe as a whole, also found ways to keep expanding their proto-industrial sectors, even without a New World to supply the needed fiber and other land-intensive inputs. These processes also involved some expansion of trade (and of fishing) to relieve local pressure on the land in cores; but compared to the European solution, they involved a greater intensification and expansion of their own agricultural sectors, particularly for fiber production. And by the end of the eighteenth century, that process seems to have been proceeding at diminishing rates and at considerable ecological cost. Japan's population stopped growing by 1750, and while China's continued growing for another century, the percentage of the population in proto-industry likely stagnated or even declined. In all probability, few areas in China that had extensive proto-industry actually underwent significant deindustrialization. What happened instead was that the heavily agricultural areas of China came to make up a much larger percentage of the population by 1850 than they had in 1750.
Largely extra-European and nonmarket factors were essential in making transatlantic trade a uniquely self-expanding route by which Europe (especially Britain) could use its labor and capital to relieve its hardpressed land and thus turn even a demographic and proto-industrial expansion that (unlike in east Asia) far outpaced advances in agriculture into an asset for further development. Without those factors, this demographic and proto- industrial expansion could have been the basis for a later catastrophe; or it could have been stopped by rising primary-product prices in the nineteenth century; or it could have been severely constrained by a need for much more labor-intensive approaches to exploiting and conserving a limited land base.
Thus, forces outside the market and conjunctures beyond Europe deserve a central place in explaining why western Europe's otherwise largely unexceptional core achieved unique breakthroughs and wound up as the privileged center of the nineteenth century's new world economy, able to provide a soaring population with an unprecedented standard of living. Our long journey through interregional comparisons has brought us to at least some resolution of the methodological question with which we began: it has shown that rather than pretend we are seeking the differences among truly independent entities on the eve of industrialization, we must acknowledge the importance of preexisting connections in creating those differences.
Can we "explain" the Industrial Revolution? Recent attempts by leading economists focus more on the issue of timing (Why did it happen in the eighteenth century) than on the issue of place (Why western Europe?). Both questions are equally valid, but they demand different types of answers. In what follows, I answer only the first question, although the ideas used here can readily be extended to the second. The answer for the timing question is to link the Industrial Revolution to a prior event or to a simultaneous event that it did not cause. Rather than focus on political or economic change that prepared the ground for the events of the Industrial Revolution, I submit that the Industrial Revolution's timing was determined by intellectual developments, and that the true key to the timing of the Industrial Revolution has to be sought in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century and the Enlightenment movement of the eighteenth century. The key to the Industrial Revolution was technology, and technology is knowledge.
The central conclusion from the analysis is that economic historians should re-examine the epistemic roots of the Industrial Revolution, in addition to the more standard economic explanations that focus on institutions, markets, geography, and so on. In particular, the interconnections between the Industrial Revolution and those parts of the Enlightenment movement that sought to rationalize and spread knowledge may have played a more important role than recent writings have given them credit for. This would explain the timing of the Industrial Revolution following the Enlightenment and—equally important—why it did not fizzle out like similar bursts of macroinventions in earlier times. It might also help explain why the Industrial Revolution took place in western Europe (although not why it took place in Britain and not in France or the Netherlands).
The Industrial Revolution was not the beginning of economic growth. There is considerable evidence that on the eve of the Industrial Revolution Britain and other parts of western Europe had gone through long periods of economic growth, perhaps not as sustained and rapid as modern economic growth, but growth all the same. It remains to be seen how much of this growth can be attributed to increases in technological knowledge about production and how much to other factors, such as gains from trade or more efficient allocations. Much of the analysis of growth in history, of course, does not lend itself to such neat decompositions: the geographic discoveries after 1450 and improvements in shipping and navigational technology were in and of themselves a pure growth in propositional (Q) knowledge, mapping into improved techniques, but they led to increased trade as well. The Industrial Revolution, however, constitutes a stage in which the weight of the knowledge-induced component of economic growth increased markedly. It neither started from zero nor went to unity. All the same, the period 1760-1815 was one in which continuous political disruptions must have reduced the importance of "Smithian (trade-based) growth." Britain's ability to sustain a rapidly rising population without a sharp decline in per capita income may be regarded as a signal for a new "type" of growth.
The true question of the Industrial Revolution is not why it took place at all but why it was sustained beyond, say, 1820. There had been earlier clusters of macroinventions, most notably in the fifteenth century with the emergence of movable type, the casting of iron, and advances in shipping and navigation technology. Yet those earlier mini-industrial revolutions had always petered out before their effects could launch the economies into sustainable growth. Before the Industrial Revolution, the economy was subject to negative feedback; each episode of growth ran into some obstruction or resistance that put an end to it. Growth occurred in relatively brief spurts punctuating long periods of stagnation or mild decline. After such episodes, the economy asymptoted to a higher steady state, creating something of a "ratchet effect". The best known of these negative feedback mechanisms are Malthusian traps, in which rising income creates population growth and pressure on fixed natural resources. Pre-1750 economies were "organic" in that they depended to a much greater extent on land as a factor of production, not only to produce food but also as a source of the majority of raw materials and fuel.
But perhaps the main root of diminishing returns was the narrow epistemic base of technology. When new techniques came around, often revolutionary ones, they usually crystallized at a new technological plateau and did not lead to a stream of cumulative microinventions. In key areas such as ship design, metallurgy, medicine, printing, and power technology, patterns of "punctuated equilibrium" can be observed between 1400 and 1750. The main reason for this pattern was that too little was known on how and why the techniques in use worked.
In the pre-Industrial Revolution era, narrow epistemic bases were the rule, not the exception, especially in medicine and agriculture, but also in metallurgy, chemicals, and power technology. In both Europe and China, techniques worked despite a lack of understanding of why they worked. Normally, it was enough if someone recognized some exploitable regularity. Whether we look at steelmaking, cattle-breeding, or obstetric surgery, most techniques before 1800 emerged as a result of chance discoveries, trial and error, or good mechanical intuition and often worked quite well despite nobody's having much of a clue as to the principles at work. However, narrow-based techniques rarely led to a continuous stream of extensions, refinements, or new applications.... It would be a grave error to suppose that the Industrial Revolution in its early stages was driven by a sudden deepening of the scientific foundations of technology. But the gradual and slow widening of the epistemic bases of the techniques that emerged in the last third of the eighteenth century saved the process from an early death by exhaustion.
To oversimplify a bit, the Industrial Revolution could be reinterpreted in light of the changes in the characteristics and structure of Q-knowledge in the eighteenth century and the techniques that rested on it. As the two forms of knowledge co-evolved, they increasingly enriched one another, eventually tipping the balance of the feedback mechanism from negative to positive. Useful knowledge increased by feeding on itself, spinning out of control as it were, whereas before the Industrial Revolution it had always been limited by its epistemic base and suppressed by economic and social factors. Eventually positive feedback became so powerful that it became self-sustaining. The positive feedback effects between Q-knowledge and prescriptive (Y) knowledge thus produced a self-reinforcing spiral of knowledge augmentation that was impossible in earlier days of engineering without mechanics, iron-making without metallurgy, farming without organic chemistry, and medical practice without microbiology. The changes in the social environment in which useful knowledge was created and disseminated led not only to an increase in the size of Q (through discovery) but also to higher density (through diffusion). All in all, the widening of the epistemic base of technology meant that the techniques that came into use after 1750 were supported by a broader and broader base in Q. This made a gradual stream of improvements and microinventions possible.
How much of the changes in Q in Britain before and during the Industrial Revolution could be attributed to what we would call today "science"? The notion that Britain was the first to undergo an Industrial Revolution because somehow British technological success was due to its more "advanced" science is unsupportable. The premise itself is in dispute, and it appears that Britain, despite its industrial leadership, imported at least as much scientific knowledge as it exported to its continental competitors. Moreover, a wide array of economic historians and historians of science and technology have held that the techniques developed during the British Industrial Revolution were generated by "hard heads and clever fingers" and owed little directly to scientific knowledge as we would define it today. Unlike the technologies that developed in Europe and the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century, science, in this view, had little direct guidance to offer to the Industrial Revolution.
Shapin notes that "it appears unlikely that the 'high theory' of the Scientific Revolution had any substantial direct effect on economically useful technology either in the seventeenth century or in the eighteenth.... historians have had great difficulty in establishing that any of these spheres of technologically or economically inspired science bore substantial fruits". Giliispie wonders about the practical effect of all the works of chemists and mathematicians of eighteenth-century France and points out that the majority of scientific endeavors of the time concerned subjects of limited technological use: astronomy, botany, crystallography and early exploration of magnetism, refraction of light, and combustion. Eventually many of those discoveries found economic applications, but these took place, with few exceptions, after 1830. Other scholars, above all Musson and Robinson and Margaret Jacob, have felt equally strongly that science was pivotal. How to resolve this debate?
Regardless of how one thinks of science, it seems incontrovertible that the rate of technological progress depends on the way human useful knowledge is generated, processed, and disseminated. This is hardly a new idea. Two historical phenomena changed the parameters of how the societies of western Europe handled useful knowledge in the period before the Industrial Revolution. One was the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. The other is an event that might best be called the Industrial Enlightenment. The Industrial Enlightenment was a set of social changes that transformed the two sets of useful knowledge and the relationship between them. It had a triple purpose. First, it sought to reduce access costs by surveying and cataloging artisanal practices in the dusty confines of workshops, to determine which techniques were superior and to propagate them. Thus it would lead to a wider adoption and diffusion of best-practice techniques.
Second, it sought to understand why techniques worked by generalizing them, trying to connect them to the formal propositional knowledge of the time, and thus providing the techniques with wider epistemic bases. The bewildering complexity and diversity of the world of techniques in use was to be reduced to a finite set of general principles governing them. These insights would lead to extensions, refinements, and improvements, as well as speedup and streamline the process of invention. Third, it sought to facilitate the interaction between those who controlled propositional knowledge and those who carried out the techniques contained in prescriptive knowledge. The philosophes of the Enlightenment echoed Bacon's call for cooperation and the sharing of knowledge between those who knew things and those who made them. Yet in the 1750s, when the first volumes of the Encyclopedic were published, this was still a program, little more than a dream. A century later it had become a reality. What made Bacon's vision into a reality was the Industrial Revolution.
Formal and generalized propositional knowledge—what today we would call science—was a factor in the Industrial Revolution primarily through the incidental spillovers from the scientific endeavor on the properties of Q. The changes in social attitudes toward Q-knowledge affected the way in which new knowledge was generated, but equally important, they affected the technology and culture of access to information. Once this took place, it spreadbeyond the more arcane realms of mathematics and experimental philosophy to the mundane worlds of the artisan, the mechanic, and the farmer. In the century and a half before the Industrial Revolution the language and culture of useful knowledge changed dramatically. The "scientific revolution" is widely identified with it, even if historians of science and cultural historians have debated ad nauseam whether there was a scientific revolution at all, and if so, what it was. Historians have generally notbeen able to support the notion that the scientific revolution led directly to the Industrial Revolution. The missing link may well be the Industrial Enlightenment, forming the historical bridge between the two.
The Industrial Enlightenment's debt to the scientific revolution consisted of three closely interrelated phenomena: scientific method, scientific mentality, and scientific culture. The penetration of scientific method into technological activities meant accurate measurement, controlled experiment, and an insistence on reproducibility. Scientific method was influenced by the growing sense that precision was something to be valued for its own sake, as people interested in useful knowledge moved from the world of "more or less" to a universe of measurement and precision in the classic phrasing of Alexandre Koyre.
Scientific "method" here also should be taken to include the changes in the rhetorical conventions that emerged in the seventeenth century, during which persuasive weight continued to shift away from pure "authority" toward empirics, but which also increasingly set the rules by which empirical knowledge was to be tested so that useful knowledge could be both accessible and trusted. Verification meant that a deliberate effort was made to make useful knowledge tighter and thus more likely to be used. It meant a willingness, rarely observed before, to discard old and venerable interpretations and theories when they could be shown to be in conflict with the evidence. Scientific method meant that a class of experts evolved who often would decide which technique worked best.
Experimental philosophy became the rhetorical tool that connected the scientific revolution of the seventeenth-century to the industrial transformations of the eighteenth. It was realized that the experimental method produced a systematic approach to the solution of practical problems, as well as a greater set of facts in Q, which could then be ordered by rational description. But above all the scientific method implied a consensus about the elements in Q that converged on knowledge that conformed to an objective reality that subsequently could be controlled and manipulated to create new elements in Y. In this way natural philosophers could show the way in which useful knowledge could solve practical problems. That required, however, that this knowledge could be communicated to people on the ground, who actually got their hands dirty.
Even more important, perhaps, was scientific mentality, which imbued engineers and inventors with a faith in the orderliness, rationality, and predictability of natural phenomena—even if the actual laws underlying chemistry and physics were not fully understood. In other words, the view that nature was intelligible slowly gained ground. Shapin notes that Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, and Hooke were all confident that nature's causal structures could be identified if only the correct method were applied—even if they differed quite strongly on what the correct method was. Yet "intelligibility" meant something different to the seventeenth-century physicists than it had meant to their Aristotelian predecessors. The deeper question of "why" do heavenly bodies fall was left as unanswerable; intelligibility meant the formal rules that governed these motions and made them predictable. The early seventeenth century witnessed the work of Kepler and Galileo that explicitly tried to integrate mathematics with natural philosophy, a slow and arduous process, but one that eventually changed the way all useful knowledge was gathered and analyzed.
Once the natural world became intelligible, it could be tamed: because technology at base involves the manipulation of nature and the physical environment, the metaphysical assumptions under which people engaged in production operate, are ultimately of crucial importance. The Industrial Enlightenment learned from the natural philosophers—especially from Newton, who stated it explicitly in the famous opening pages of Book Three of the Principia—that the phenomena produced by nature and the artificial works of mankind were subject to the same laws. That view squarely contradicted orthodox Aristotelianism. The growing belief in the rationality of nature and the existence of knowable natural laws that govern the universe, the archetypical Enlightenment belief, led to a growing use of mathematics in pure science as well as in engineering and technology. In this new mode, more and more people rebelled against the idea that knowledge of nature was "forbidden" or better kept secret.
A scientific mentality also implied an open mind, a willingness to abandon conventional doctrine when confronted with new evidence, and a growing conviction that no natural phenomenon was beyond systematic investigation and that deductive hypotheses could not be held to be true until tested. Yet, as Heilbron and his colleagues have argued, in the second half of the eighteenth century "understanding" became less of a concern than an "instrumentalist" approach to scientific issues, in which quantifying physicists and chemists surrendered claims to "absolute truth" for the sake of a more pragmatic approach and gained ease of calculation and application of the regularities and phenomena discovered.
Finally, scientific culture, the culmination of Baconian ideology, placed applied science at the service of commercial and manufacturing interests. Bacon in 1620 had famously defined technology by declaring that the control of humans over things depended on the accumulated knowledge about how nature works, since "she was only to be commanded by obeying her." This idea was of course not entirely new, and traces of it can be found in medieval thought and even in Plato's Timaeus, which proposed a rationalist view of the universe and was widely read by twelfth-century intellectuals. In the seventeenth century, however, the practice of science became increasingly permeated by the Baconian motive of material progress and constant improvement, attained by the accumulation of knowledge.
Explaining the timing of the Industrial Enlightenment itself is not easy. It can hardly be a coincidence that it occurred in an area of the world that had considerable experience with commercial activity, markets, finance, and the exploitation of overseas resources. Since the Reformation, the notion that different ideas could compete with one another and be chosen by some criterion meant that old truths were increasingly questioned. The demand for material goods and the slowly growing notion that more consumption was not necessarily sinful, must have been in the back of the mind of innovators throughout this period. A world of competitive markets, in which people can enrich themselves without guilt or shame by exploiting innovation is one in which entrepreneurs will look more and more at useful knowledge and ask themselves how they can make money off it. People who had no qualms about exploiting resources of any kind for their own enrichment tend to take a hard-nosed view of newly discovered natural phenomena and new mechanical devices and ask first whether "it works" before asking "what it means" or "is it right?" At the same time, however, measuring these changes is highly subjective and it is hard to find something uniquely European (let alone British) about such attitudes, and the exact nature of what set the process in motion will remain a topic of debate for many generations.
The paradigmatic document of the Enlightenment, the Encyclopedie, embodies the conviction that the mapping from propositional to prescriptive knowledge and their continued interaction held the key to economic progress. In his article "Arts" cited as the epigraph to this chapter, Diderot made the point that the two kinds of knowledge could reinforce one another. At about the time he wrote those words, this dream was slowly being realized. As Peter Dear recently put it, "Knowing howwas now starting to become as important as knowing why. In the course of time those two things would become ever more similar, as Europe learned more about the world in order to command it. The modern world is much like the world envisaged by Bacon".
Why and how the Industrial Enlightenment happened is the central question that holds the key to the modern economic history of the West. There is some validity to Elizabeth Eisenstein's claim that the printing of technical literature served as a vehicle for the expression of a "scientific ethos". Returning to the framework laid out earlier, we can point to institutional and technological developments that changed the internal structure of Q during the eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century. They created a "community" of knowledge, within which much of the knowledge resided. As I argued before, for purposes of technological development what one individual knows matters less than what the community "knows." Yet the significance of communal knowledge matters for economic history only if it can be accessed, believed, and used. Useful knowledge, as Shapin points out, is always communal. No individual can know everything. Western societies experienced both an increase in the size of Q and an ever-growing ability to map this useful knowledge into new and improved techniques, as access costs declined and new principles of authority, expertise, and verifiability were set up.
What was there in natural knowledge that improving landlords, mechanics, and industrialists felt they needed? Despite its apparent shortcomings, eighteenth-century propositional knowledge did provide implicit theoretical underpinnings to what empirically minded technicians did, even if the epistemic base was still narrow. Without certain elements in Q, many of the new techniques would not have come into existence at all or would not have worked as well. Thus the steam engine depended both on the understanding of atmospheric pressure, discovered by continental scientists such as Evangelista Torricelli and Otto von Guericke, and on the early seventeenth-century notion that steam was evaporated water and its condensation created a vacuum. The discovery led to the idea that this pressure could be used for moving a piston in a cylinder, which could then be made to do work. The proto-idea of an engine filtered down to Thomas Newcomen despite the fact that his world was the local blacksmith's rather than the cosmopolitan academic scientist's. Improvements in mathematics, especially the calculus invented by Leibniz and Newton, became increasingly important to improvements in the design and perfection of certain types of machinery, although in many areas its importance did not become apparent until much later.
An informal, intuitive and instinctive knowledge of natural regularities and of what could and could not be done is what most of Q consisted of before modern science formalized substantial portions of it. The mechanical inventors who made the breakthroughs in spinning and weaving of cotton could not and did not have to rely on formal mechanics, but had access as never before to mechanical and other engineering feats. Knowing what works and what does not elsewhere directs inventive activity into channels more likely to succeed.
The mechanical inventions that constituted much of the Industrial Revolution—especially in the textile industry—involved little that would have puzzled Archimedes, as Cardwell put it. Yet they still required a great deal of pragmatic and informal knowledge about how certain materials respond to physical stimuli, moisture, and heat; how motion can be transmitted through pulleys, gears, and shafts; how and where to lubricate moving parts to reduce friction; the use of levers, wedges, flywheels; and other mechanical tricks. More than anything else, they required a systematic method of experimentation and a belief that through experimentation progress was not only possible but highly likely. Similar processes were at work in areas that did not involve machinery: Robert Bakewell and his fellow breeders could make a great deal of progress in the selective breeding of animals without knowing Mendelian genetics. The late eighteenth century witnessed improved cattle, sheep, and pigs. Here, as elsewhere, we see that the Industrial Enlightenment was hardly confined to manufacturing.
All the same, the nature and rate of progress in Q in the eighteenth century had not changed all that much from a century earlier. Research was still often carried out by amateurs, driven by a mixture of curiosity and a desire to please and impress peers and friends of similar proclivities, or wealthy patrons for whom the presence of eminent scientists in their circles might have been as much conspicuous consumption as a desire to support the growth of knowledge. As a result, the agenda of eighteenth-century natural philosophy was perhaps not as focused on the kind of propositional knowledge that could serve as an epistemic base for technical advances as it would have been if the communication between the savants and the fabricants had been more commercial and less personal. Yet in the second part of the eighteenth century, these bridges were becoming wider and easier to cross. On both sides of the channel, Enlightenment scientists felt the need to communicate with practical people, and vice versa. More and more people concluded that there was no contradiction between the culture of action and matter, and that of learning. Moreover, the artisanal and pragmatic knowledge possessed by mechanics and apothecaries, botanists and cattle-breeders, gardeners and ironmasters kept improving and became more accessible.
To summarize, then, the changes in technological knowledge in the century after 1750 involved three different types of processes. First, there may have been some "pure" additions to Q that occurred as part of an autonomous system of discovery about nature, driven by curiosity or other "internal factors" only weakly motivated by the economic needs they eventually helped satisfy. Such expansions in useful knowledge led to new mappings and eventually became one of the driving forces behind technological advances. Second, there were changes in some of the properties of Q and Y which became denser (because more people shared the knowledge) and more accessible (better organized and easier to communicate). These changes yielded new mappings into Y—that is inventions—drawing on both the new and a preexisting pool of knowledge. At first glance it may be hard to see, for instance, what there was in the original spinning jennies that could not have been conceived a century earlier. Yet once such techniques are discovered, they are added to the catalog of possible techniques that is part of Q, and subsequent inventors could then draw upon this catalog to extend it and find new applications.
Explaining the exact timing of such mappings is impossible, but the changing structure of Q in terms of density and access costs was of central importance. In other words, changes in the overall size of Q (what was known) may have been less important in the Industrial Revolution than the access to that knowledge. Moreover, the process was highly sensitive to outside stimuli and incentives. The social and institutional environment has always been credited with a central role in economic history. All I would argue is that the setup proposed here sheds some light on how this mechanism worked. Britain was a society that provided both the incentives and the opportunities to apply existing useful knowledge to technology. In that respect the evolution of technology again resembles biological evolution: changes in the environment (including changes in the availability of complements and substitutes) may trigger the activation of "dormant" knowledge or select those techniques that happen to "express" information adapted to a new environment.
Third, there was feedback from techniques to propositional knowledge. A great number of major and minor scientific revolutions were driven not just by conceptual innovation but by new tools and techniques. Famous examples are the steam engine, which led to the formulation of the laws of thermodynamics, and the improvements in the microscope, which made bacteriology possible. Such feedback from technology to propositional knowledge is what made the continued evolution of technology the sustainable norm rather than an ephemeral exception.
The most widely cited consequence of the scientific revolution was the increasing use of mathematics in natural philosophy and eventually in technical communications. It was associated primarily with Galileo; he famously wrote that the book of the universe was written in the language of mathematics, without which it is impossible to understand a single word of it. Yet what counted was not just better and more useful mathematics, but also its accessibility to the people who might use it: engineers, instrument makers, designers, chemists, artillery officers, and others.
Peter Dear has argued that Galileo and his colleagues fought hard to raise the social prestige of mathematics from a practical tool to a status on a par with natural philosophy. Once this was accomplished, this bridge between propositional knowledge and industry was reinforced on both sides. The role of mathematics in the emergence of new technology and its application has been disputed. Edward Stevens argues that mathematics was descriptive, not explanatory, and cites Einstein's dictum that "as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality they are uncertain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." What is missed here is the role of mathematics as a language, a tool of communication that produced a compact and less ambiguous means of conveying complex relationships. Eisenstein notes that uniform mathematical symbols "brought professors closer to reckonmasters." In chemistry too, as we have seen, the scientific revolution created a movement of better notation, which led to better comprehensibility and smoother communication, thus also reducing access costs. The increasing quantification of the methods and streamlining of the language of chemistry in the eighteenth century made it increasingly accessible to potential users.
Gillispie attributes France's moderate technological achievement to the fact that "France was playing Greece to the modern world, and men of learning clearly and instinctively distinguished between the domains of science and practice.... in this attitude French scientists were more severe, perhaps, than their colleagues in other countries and especially in Great Britain". Yet compared to China or classical antiquity, the gap anywhere in Europe appears to have been shallow. Even in France, scientists such as Berthollet, Chaptal, Gay-Lussac, Chevreul, and many others were keenly interested in practical problems even if they were, as Lavoisier pointed out, motivated primarily by the love of science and the enhancement of their own reputations.
Even if scientists were "pure"—that is, motivated exclusively by epistemic motives, and industrialists were homines economici motivated exclusively by material gain (an absurd oversimplification, of course), this should not necessarily have been a barrier to technological progress, provided the greedy money grubbers had access to the propositional knowledge generated by their loftier neighbors. Nor did the national differences matter all that much: as long as knowledge could move readily across boundaries, both scientific and technological "leads" would be temporary. Even if all the theorists had lived in France and all practical entrepreneurs had lived in Britain, abstract knowledge should have moved from France to Britain, been turned into technology there, and eventually returned to the continent in the form of machines and the men who knew how to operate them. This is roughly what happened between 1760 and 1850.
The historical question is not whether engineers and artisans "inspired" the scientific revolution or, conversely, whether the Industrial Revolution was "caused" by science. It is whether practical men could have access to propositional knowledge that could serve as the epistemic base for new techniques. It is the strong complementarity, the continuous feedback between the two types of knowledge, that set the new course. As noted, many people whom we would regard today as "scientists" used their Qknowledge directly to make inventions. Many inventors, however, were relatively unschooled, and when they needed some knowledge as the basis for a new technique, they could get access to it with ever-greater ease. Self-educated engineers and chemists could be successful because they had easy access to the texts and the magazines in which the information they needed could be found. If formal and codified knowledge was needed, access could be had through personal contacts.
A century ago, historians of technology felt that individual inventors were the main actors that brought about the Industrial Revolution. Such heroic interpretations were discarded in favor of views that emphasized deeper economic and social factors such as institutions, incentives, demand, and factor prices. It seems, however, that the crucial elements were neither brilliant individuals nor the impersonal forces governing the masses, but a small group of at most a few thousand people who formed a creative community based on the exchange of knowledge. Engineers, mechanics, chemists, physicians, and natural philosophers formed circles in which access to knowledge was the primary objective. Paired with the appreciation that such knowledge could be the base of ever-expanding prosperity, these elite networks were indispensable, even if individual members were not. Theories that link education and human capital to technological progress need to stress the importance of these small creative communities jointly with wider phenomena such as literacy rates and universal schooling.
The personal and informal contacts so central to the operation of these creative communities took place in the scientific societies, academies, Masonic lodges, coffeehouse lectures, and other meetings. Some of those contacts had the purpose of smoothing the path of knowledge between scientists and engineers on the one side and those who carried out the instructions and used the techniques on the other side.
Exactly how this familiarity with "science" and more widely with technical and useful knowledge affected Britain's inventiveness remains a matter of some controversy. All codified knowledge surely needed to be complemented by tacit and implicit skills such as dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and a sense of "what worked." Tacit knowledge and formal visual or verbal knowledge should not be thought of as substitutes but as complements. Mechanics and designers thought in non-verbal language and were often frustrated by the incommensurability of verbal expression and spatial-mechanical skills based on visualization and experience. But often such skills are directed and focused by knowledge acquired from others or from reading. For certain technical devices the knowledge that it worked at all or a very rough outline of how it did so sufficed for skilled engineers, physicians, chemists, and farmers. They could fill in the details.
As long as the application of the technology did not require a great deal of formal knowledge, this system worked well for Britain. The exact mapping from propositional knowledge to technique took complex forms, and it is striking that France and Germany seem to have led Britain in formal technical education, engineering textbooks, encyclopedias, and other access-costreducing developments. Yet this observation does not refute the argument I have made here. Britain's success in the Industrial Revolution was to a remarkable extent based on French inventions. From chlorine bleaching to gaslighting to Jacquard looms, Britain greedily looked to France for inspiration. To oversimplify to the point of absurdity, one could say that France's strength was in Q, Britain's in Y, and that the mapping function bridged the Channel.
To sum up: the knowledge revolution in the eighteenth century was not just the emergence of new knowledge; it was also better access to knowledge that made the difference. In some instances scholars have tended to overstate how much novelty had occurred in the centuries before the Industrial Revolution, minimizing its technological achievements. To be sure, engineering knowledge during the age of the baroque had achieved some remarkable successes, and besides Leonardo a number of brilliant engineers and inventors are known to have proposed precocious devices.
Yet obtaining access to their knowledge remained very difficult for subsequent rank-and-file engineers and mechanics, because it was often presented to a selected audience or never published. The Enlightenment began a process that dramatically lowered these access costs. The knowledge revolution of the eighteenth century—that is, the changes in the structure of Q—made the process of evolution more efficient in the sense that superior techniques spread faster because the ways they became known and could be tested improved.... After all, a substantial portion of invention consists of recombination, the application of a sometimes remote and disjoint sections of Q together to form something novel. It is one of the chief reasons why lower access costs are so important in triggering the new mapping of techniques from Q to Y. If taken to an extreme, recombination can lead to dazzling rates of invention, because the rate of invention will be combinatorial, which is faster than exponential.
Any historical account of economic progress, and above all accounts of the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath, need to incorporate the concept of useful knowledge explicitly. The Industrial Revolution followed from the Industrial Enlightenment, which was not a British but a Western phenomenon. The order in which things happened in Europe, the leadership of Britain and the much-discussed backwardness of France and the Netherlands were second-order phenomena. The intellectual and social developments that drove the expansion of Q and the changes in its diffusion and access costs were spread over an area larger than Britain if much smaller than the world. Technology was not spread equally thickly: some areas in "the West" were late in jumping on the bandwagon of innovation. There were a variety of reasons for such lateness, and Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands—all "Western" societies—proved in one way or another resistant to innovation. The changes in useful knowledge, both propositional and prescriptive, came from a variety of sources in Britain, France, Germany, and Scandinavia and spread quickly beyond these sources to other societies in the Northern Atlantic region. In that sense the Industrial Revolution, much like the Enlightenment that preceded and triggered it, was a Western event.
What the Industrial Revolution did was to create opportunities that simply did not exist before. There was, however, no mechanism that compelled any society to take advantage of them. Britain was simply the first to do so: in that sense the Industrial Revolution was British. All the same, Britain's leadership was neither a necessary condition for it to happen nor an equilibrium state that could survive in the long run in the world of competition and national jealousies that emerged in Europe after 1815.
In the eighteenth century, a series of inventions transformed the British cotton manufacture and gave birth to a new mode of production— the factory system. At the same time, other branches of industry made comparable and often related advances, and all of these together, mutually reinforcing, drove further gains on an everwidening front. The abundance and variety of these innovations almost defy compilation, but they fall under three principles: (1) the substitution of machines—rapid, regular, precise, tireless—for human skill and effort; (2) the substitution of inanimate for animate sources of power, in particular, the invention of engines for converting heat into work, thereby opening an almost unlimited supply of energy; and (3) the use of new and far more abundant raw materials, in particular, the substitution of mineral, and eventually artificial, materials for vegetable or animal substances.
These substitutions made the Industrial Revolution. They yielded a rapid rise in productivity and, with it, in income per head. This growth, moreover, was self-sustaining. In ages past, better living standards had always been followed by a rise in population that eventually consumed the gains. Now, for the first time in history, both the economy and knowledge were growing fast enough to generate a continuing flow of improvements. Gone, Malthus's positive checks and the stagnationist predictions of the "dismal science"; instead, one had an age of promise and great expectations. The Industrial Revolution also transformed the balance of political power—within nations, between nations, and between civilizations; revolutionized the social order; and as much changed ways of thinking as ways of doing.
Can one put dates to this revolution? Not easily, because of the decades of experiment that precede a given innovation and the long run of improvement that follows. Where is beginning and where end? The core of the larger process—mechanization of industry and the adoption of the factory—lies, however, in the story of the textile manufacture. Rapid change there began with the spinning jenny of James Hargreaves (c. 1766), followed by Thomas Arkwright's water frame (1769) and Samuel Crompton's mule (1779), so called because it was a cross between the jenny and the water frame. With the mule, one could spin fine counts as well as coarse, better and cheaper than any hand spinner.
Then in 1787 Edmund Cartwright built the first successful power loom, which gradually transformed weaving, first of coarse yarn, which stood up better to the to-and-fro of the shuttle, then of fine; and in 1830 Richard Roberts, an experienced machine builder, devised—in response to employer demand—a "self-acting" mule to free spinning from dependence on the strength and special skill of an indocile labor aristocracy. This sequence of inventions took some sixty years and dominated completely the older technology—unlike the steam engine, which long shared the field with waterpower. The new technique yielded a sharp fall in costs and prices, and a rapid increase in cotton output and consumption. On this basis, the British Industrial Revolution ran about a century, from say 1770 to 1870, "the entire interval between the old order and the establishment of a fairly stable relationship of the different aspects of industry under the new order."
The question remains why overall growth was not faster. It is an anachronistic question that reflects the expectations of more recent times—of an era of quicker, more potent innovation and leapfrog catch-up. Even so, the question is worth posing. The answer is that the Industrial Revolution was uneven and protracted in its effects; that it started and flourished in some branches before others; that it left behind and even destroyed old trades while building new; that it did not, could not, replace older technologies overnight. (Even the almighty computer has not eliminated the typewriter, let alone pen-and-paper.) This is why estimates for growth in those years are so sensitive to weights: give more importance to cotton and iron, and growth seems faster; give less, and it slows down.
The consequence of these advances was a growing gap between modern industrial countries and laggards, between rich and poor. In Europe to begin with: in 1750, the difference between western Europe (excluding Britain) and eastern in income per head was perhaps 15 percent; in 1800, little more than 20. By 1860 it was up to 64 percent; by the 1900s, almost 80 percent. The same polarization, only much sharper, took place between Europe and those countries that later came to be defined as a Third World—in part because modern factory industries swallowed their old-fashioned rivals, at home and abroad. Paradox: the Industrial Revolution brought the world closer together, made it smaller and more homogenous. But the same revolution fragmented the globe by estranging winners and losers. It begat multiple worlds.
If I had to single out the critical, distinctively European sources of success, I would emphasize three considerations: (1) the growing autonomy of intellectual inquiry; (2) the development of unity in disunity in the form of a common, implicitly adversarial method, that is, the creation of a language of proof recognized, used, and understood across national and cultural boundaries; and (3) the invention of invention, that is, the routinization of research and its diffusion.
Autonomy: The fight for intellectual autonomy went back to medieval conflicts over the validity and authority of tradition. Europe's dominant view was that of the Roman Church—a conception of nature defined by holy scripture, as reconciled with, rather than modified by, the wisdom of the ancients. Much of this found definition in Scholasticism, a system of philosophy (including natural philosophy) that fostered a sense of omnicompetence and authority.
Into this closed world, new ideas necessarily came as an insolence and a potential subversion—as they did in Islam. In Europe, however, acceptance was eased by practical usefulness and protected by rulers who sought to gain by novelty an advantage over rivals. It was not an accident, then, that Europe came to cultivate a vogue for the new and a sense of progress—a belief that, contrary to the nostalgia of antiquity for an earlier grace (Paradise Lost), the Golden Age (utopia) actually lay ahead; and that people were now better off, smarter, more capable than before.
Of course, older attitudes hung on. (A law of historical motion holds that all innovations of thought and practice elicit an opposite if not always equal reaction.) In Europe, however, the reach of the Church was limited by the competing pretensions of secular authorities (Caesar vs. God) and by smoldering, gathering fires of religious dissent from below. These heresies may not have been enlightened in matters intellectual and scientific, but they undermined the uniqueness of dogma and, so doing, implicitly promoted novelty.
Method: Seeing alone was not enough. One must understand and give nonmagical explanations for natural phenomena. No credence could be given to things unseen. No room here for unicorns, basilisks, and salamanders. Where Aristotle thought to explain phenomena by the "essential" nature of things (heavenly bodies travel in circles; terrestrial bodies move up or down), the new philosophy proposed the converse: nature was not in things; things were (and moved) in nature. Early on, moreover, these searchers came to see mathematics as immensely valuable for specifying observations and formulating results. Thus Roger Bacon at Oxford in the thirteenth century: "All categories depend on a knowledge of quantity, concerning which mathematics treats, and therefore the whole power of logic depends on mathematics." This marriage of observation and precise description, in turn, made possible replication and verification. Nothing so effectively undermined authority. It mattered little who said what, but what was said; not perception but reality. Do I see what you say you saw? Such an approach opened the way to purposeful experiment. Instead of waiting to see something happen, make it happen.
Routinization: The third institutional pillar of Western science was the routinization of discovery, the invention of invention. Here was a widely dispersed population of intellectuals, working in different lands, using different vernaculars—and yet a community. What happened in one place was quickly known everywhere else, partly thanks to a common language of learning, Latin; partly to a precocious development of courier and mail services; most of all because people were moving in all directions. In the seventeenth century, these links were institutionalized, first in the person of such self-appointed human switchboards as Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), then in the form of learned societies with their corresponding secretaries, frequent meetings, and periodical journals.