Most people lived on or very close to the land that provided their food. Expect for a few exceptions, life expectancy never rose above 35 or below 25. Education was a privilege not a right. In all those millennia, we never developed a weapon that could kill more than a couple dozen people at once, or a way to travel faster than horseback. For 15, 000 years, most humans never owned or used a single item made outside of their communities. Simon Bolivar did not change that and neither did the American Declaration of Independence. You have electricity?
Industrial revolution. Blueberries in February? Industrial revolution. Your bed, your contraception, your tap water, your every waking and sleeping second: Industrial revolution. Here’s one simple statistic that sums it up: Before the industrial revolution, about 80% of the world’s population was engaged in farming to keep itself and the other 20% of people from starving. Today, in the Lignite States, less than 1% of people list their occupation as farming. You knew, we have come so far that we don’t even have to farm flowers anymore.
So what happened? Technology. Here’s my definition: The industrial revolution was an increase in production brought bout by the use of machines and characterized by the use of new energy sources. Although this will soon get more complicated, for our purposes today, industrialization is not capitalism, although, as we will see next week, it is connected to modern capitalism. And, the industrial revolution began around 1750 and occurred across most of the earth, but it started in Europe, especially Britain. What happened?
Well, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. The innovations of the Industrial Revolution were intimately interconnected. Like look, for instance, at the British textile industry: The invention of the flying hutted by John Kay in 1733 dramatically increased the speed of weaving, which in turn created demand for yarn, which led to inventions like the Spinning Jenny and the water frame. Soon these processes were mechanized using water power, until the steam engine came along to make flying shuttles really fly in these huge cotton mills.
The most successful steam engine was built by Thomas “ They didn’t name anything after me” New come to clear water out of mines. And because water was cleared out of those mines, there was more coal to power more steam engines, which eventually led to the Nanning up of the Newcomer Steam Engine by James “ l Got A unit of Power and a University Named After Me” Watt, whose engine made possible not only railroads and steamboats but also ever-more efficient cotton mills.
And, for the first time, chemicals other than stale urine, I wish I was kidding, were being used to bleach the cloth that people wore, the first of which was sulfuric acid, which was created in large quantities only thanks to lead-lined chambers, which would’ve been impossible without lead production rising dramatically right around 1750 in Britain, thanks for the lead foundries ordered by coal So, the problem here is that with industrialization being so deeply interconnected, it’s really difficult to figure out why It happened in Europe, especially Britain.
And that question of why turns out to be one of the more contentious discussions in world history today. For instance, here are some Recounting reasons why industrialization might have happened first in Europe: There’s the cultural superiority argument that basically holds that Europeans are just better and smarter than other people. Sometimes this is formulated as Europeans possessing superior rationality. Buy the Way, you’ll never guess where the people who makes this argument tend to come from unless you guessed that they come from Europe.
And then, other argue that only Europe had the culture of science and invention that made the creation of these revolutionary technologies possible. Another argument is that freer political institutions encouraged innovation and strong property rights created incentives for inventors. And, finally, people often cite Rupee’s small population because small populations require labor-saving inventions. It’s time for the open letter. An open letter to the Steam Engine. But first, let’s see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, it’s a traits.
Truly the apex of British industrialization. Dear Steam Engine, you’ve really never been improved upon. Like this thing, which facilitates time travel, probably runs on a steam engine. Almost all electricity around the world, whether it’s from coal or nuclear power, is just a steam engine. It’s all still just water and heat, and it speaks to how truly revolutionary the Industrial Revolution was that since then, it’s really just been evolution. Best Wishes, John Green. So, you may have heard any of those rationales for European industrialization, or you may have heard others.
The problem with all of them, is that each time you think you’re at the root cause it turns out there’s a cause of the root cause. To quote Leonardo did Capri, James Cameron, and coal mine operators, “ We have to go deeper. ” But anyway, the problem with these Recounting why answers, is that they all apply to either China or India or both. And it’s really important to note that in 1800, it was not clear that Europe was going to become the world’s dominant manufacturing power in he next hundred years. At the time, China, India, and Europe were all roughly at the same place it terms Of industrial production.
First, let’s kick at China. It’s hard to make the European cultural superiority argument because China had been recording its history since before Confucius, and plus there was all that bronze and painting and poetry. It’s also kind of difficult to make a blanket statement that China was economically inferior to Europe, since they invented paper money and led the world in exports of everything from silk to China. Mean, pre-industrial revolution, population growth was the surest sign of economic success, and China gad the biggest population in the world. I guess that answers the question of whether they re digital.
Ifs also difficult to say that China lacked a culture of invention when they invented gunpowder, and printing, and paper, arguably compasses. And China had more free enterprise during the Song dynasty than anywhere in the world. Some argue that China couldn’t have free enterprise because they had a long history of trying to impose monopolies on items like salt and iron. And that’s true, but hen it comes to enforcing those monopolies, they also had a long history of failure. So really, in a lot of ways, China was at least as primed for an industrial Revolution as Britain was.
So, why didn’t it happen? Well, Europeans specifically the British had two huge advantages: First, Coal. When you trace the story of improved transportation, or communication, or industrial efficiency, or better chemical manufacturing, it always comes back to coal, because the Industrial Revolution was all about using different forms of energy to automate production. And, England had large supplies of coal hat were near the surface, which meant that it was cheap to mine, so it quickly replaced wood for heating and cooking and stuff. So, that encouraged the British to look for more coal.
The only problem with coal mining, aside from it being, you know, like deadly and everything, is that the coal mines flooded all the time. I guess coal mining is also a little problematic for, like the health of, you know. But, because there was all this incentive to get more coal out of the ground, steam engines were invented to pump water out of the mines. And because those early steam engines were super inefficient, hey needed a cheap and abundant source of fuel in order to work namely, coal, which meant they were much more useful to the British than anyone else.
So steam engines used cheap British coal to keep British coal cheap, and cheap British coal created the opportunity for everything from railroads to steel, which like so much else in the Industrial Revolution, created a positive feedback loop. Because they run on rails, railroads need steel. And because it is rather heavy, steel needs railroads. Secondly, there were Wages. Britain had the highest wages in the world at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1 725, wages in London were the equivalent of 1 1 grams of silver per day. In Amsterdam, they were 9 grams.
In Beijing, Venice, and Florence, they were under 4. And in Delhi, they were under 2. It’s not totally clear why wages were so high in Britain. Like one argument is that the Black Death lowered population so much that it tightened labor markets, but that doesn’t explain why wages remained low in, like, plague-ravaged Italy. Mainly, high wages combined with cheap fuel costs meant that it was economically efficient for manufacturers to look to machines as a way of lowering their production costs. To quote the historian Robert Allen: 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 labor. ” I’m a little worried that people are still going to accuse me of Resurrections. Of course, other people will accuse me of an anti-European bias. I don’t have a bias against Europe. Like, the fact of coal being near the surface in Britain can’t be chalked up to British cultural superiority. But the wages question is a little different because it makes it mound like only Europeans were smart enough to pay high wages.
But here’s one last thing to consider: India was the world’s largest producer of cotton textiles, despite paying basically the lowest wages in the world. Indian agriculture was so productive that laborers could be supported at a very low cost. And that, coupled with a large population meant that Indian textile manufacturing could be very productive without using machines, so they didn’t need to industrialized. But more importantly from our perspective, there’s a strong argument to be made that Indian cotton production helped Spur British industrialization.