Ten years of debate over the origins of the Great Divergence (2023)

Ten years of debate on the origins of the great divergence between the economies of Europe and China in the era of mercantilism and industrialization

1. Smith, Marx and Weber

Along with stories of power, stories of material life, and economic growth, they are the most popular meta-narratives currently being published in the growing field of global history. Indeed, it will come as no surprise that in our time there has emerged an accelerating "globalization," stories attempting to encompass a "global economy," dealing with chronologies going back millennia, written at different levels to explain material progress. the tribes. , societies, communities and economies on every continent of the world. Such concerns remain the litmus test of world economic history's mission to “keep humanity in mind”. After all, for most of history, most people in most places have been engaged in procuring food, shelter, clothing, and other manufactured items needed to maintain a simple, comfortable, and affordable standard of living. , lately, cool.

Traditions of historical study of the wealth and poverty of nations began with Herodotus, but modern research paradigms need go no further than the towering intellects of two cosmopolitan, but perhaps equally "Eurocentric" Germans: Karl Marx and Max Weber. Both scholars retained a serious interest (certainly as a counterbalance to Europe) in the development of the Indian, Chinese, American and Russian economies. However, Weber's investigations into Eastern religions, philosophies, cities and states seem far more serious than anything written by Marx and Engels.

The vocabulary and concepts that generations of historians have borrowed from the body of writing left by Marx and Weber can no longer be presented as a coherent theory. However, it is still heuristic to distinguish Marxist from Weberian approaches when trying to understand material progress and relative decline across continents over long periods of time. The first has classically been concerned with examining the potential for material progress embodied in the various "modes of production" observed in different parts of the world. While Weber's "research program" can be divided into two main lines of research: first, a comparison of hegemonic belief systems (cultures) designed to promote or constrain personal and group behavior in economic life; and second, together with an empirical analysis of how the political, legal, and institutional frameworks in which economic activities are embedded have historically contributed to promoting or hindering economic development around the world.

In classical Marxist thought, the only mode of production capable of producing lasting material progress, "capitalism", is based on wage labor and capital accumulation. Marx noted that the first transition from pre-capitalist to capitalist modes of production first took place in Western Europe. Since then, global historians (working in a Marxist tradition) have grappled with their question of when and why the transition occurred before grappling with the inverse question: what kinds of "pre-capitalist" modes of production prevailed in Africa, Asia and the Amerindians America's before? comparable transitions to capitalism delayed or interrupted on other continents?

A "deviant" (or complementary) Marxist paradigm was recently elaborated in an impressive volume of research conducted by the School of Historical Sociology of World Systems. This "escuela" states that the transition to capitalism (commercial society), which eventually led to the establishment of successful industrial market economies, first occurred in Western Europe because Europeans made crucial and timely gains from intercontinental trade and the colonization of America for a period of time , three years. or more centuries before the start of the French and Industrial Revolutions. Europe's economic benefits from centuries of involvement ininterkontinentalTrade and imperialism are commonly understood to encompass both positive externalities and a range of favorable political, institutional and cultural side effects and reactions related to increasing flows of goods being shipped across the Atlantic to European ports around the world. and the Indian Ocean. oceans

Not surprisingly, the world system schools' emphasis on expanding European export markets to Asia, Africa and the Americas, and especially their insistence on the general importance of imports (embodying productive knowledge) from other continents, has been challenged. Classical Marxist scholars defend the canonical texts in terms of progressive and non-progressive modes of production, thereby implicitly associating themselves with neoclassical economic historians who continue to see the specifics of Europe's own history as the engine of its earlier transition, capitalism or commercial society. As an aside, and for this particular debate, neither these accounts nor the other intractable argument about continuous versus discontinuous transformations from one type of traditional economic system to another and ultimately to a more advanced system seems irrelevant. It is now a matter of specifying and measuring the importance of the endogenous forces versus the exogenous forces driving economic growth in one part of the world economy (Europe) and constraining a similar impulse in the continents of Asia, Africa and South America.

Unfortunately, Marxist studies dealing with Asian modes of production and the presence or absence of particular forms of "feudalism" outside Europe today appear more theoretical than historical. Furthermore (and perhaps because the tradition was proscribed and ossified during the Cold War), classical Marxism seems less influential than its Weberian counterpart in defining the parameters, structure, and vocabulary of a discourse related to "constraints." , which for several centuries served to prevent Asian economies from following the 'European path', resulting in disparities in living standards between the West and the rest that became noticeable in the 18th and 19th and 20th centuries became obvious. Unfortunately, Marx's ad hoc commentaries on Asian societies are now viewed as little more than the typical Eurocentric speculations of his day, leading generations of his followers to an impasse in their search for supposedly ubiquitous and immutable Asian modes of production.

Max Weber's erudition is more impressive. His approach, questions, and research topics effectively set the parameters for constructing the global histories of material progress that have been written over the past several decades. He studied long periods of time, read extensively on Classical and Eastern civilizations, and used comparative methods to understand why capitalism arose in the West and not the East. Reading chronologies stretching back thousands of years, he recognized that the economies of India and China displayed impressive scientific and technological precocity. Weber estimated that the Arabs and Asians had established sophisticated systems and efficient institutions for conducting internal and external trade long before European ships and merchants regularly sailed to and around the Indian Ocean and Sea of ​​China in the 16th century.

Weber was less impressed than Adam Smith or Karl Marx by the economic importance of the discovery and settlement of America for European development. He was not inclined to place the gains of transatlantic trade and colonization above endogenous forces that worked across centuries of history to promote economic growth in Europe. Thus, in line with classical Marxism, Weber maintained an appreciation of how and why capital accumulation and the evolution of slaves from the feudal to the free labor market mattered as "approximate" determinants of material progress in Western Europe.

For a growing group of scholars interested in incorporating an analysis of intercontinental connections into their meta-narratives of the long-term history of material progress, Weber has elaborated themes that have a powerful impact on modern retold stories of Western economic success had the United States, the relative failure of the East over the past 400 years. Along with Montesquieu and other Enlightenment thinkers, Weber (and the Weberians) believe that the perceived contrasts in the institutional, ideological, and legal frameworks in which economic activity (especially internal and external trade) was embedded in Europe compared to Asians prevailed . for many years. Centuries and that marked differences in religious beliefs, family life, cultural makeup, institutional structures, and political systems fostered divergent trajectories of economic growth that eventually led to a sharp division in the world economy between rich and poor nations.

2. The New Global Story of "Breathtaking Similarities"

In recent decades, a modern generation of economic historians has continued the Weberian tradition of attempting to explain in a global perspective what became the increasingly visible economic achievements of Western societies for at least three centuries. Weber left them an approach, a vocabulary, and a set of suggestive hypotheses that two generations of post-war and post-colonial historians have accepted, modified, and also rejected. There are now libraries of books and articles dealing with agriculture, industries, peoples, commercial networks, communications, commerce, science, technologies, cultures, business organization, taxation, state systems, government policies, and "Eastern" cosmologies for understanding nature. the centuries since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), based in part on research by university historians who were not very emancipated from imperial rule. In addition, this impressive but still incomplete volume of historical research has been communicated to the West by area researchers from North American, European, Australian and Japanese universities. Not long after World War II, and during an era of decolonization, historians had an opportunity that arose from the accumulation of a large and sophisticated body of knowledge (much is available about Europe and North America), but which arose in Asia, the Middle East and Africa and Latin America, to reposition their hitherto separate histories of wealth and poverty against one another, to construct global histories of material progress that could have crawlingly satisfied the aspirations of Montesquieu, Voltaire, Smith and their "enlightened" followers, and Max Weber. .

Of course, and as a prelude to any academic analysis and explanation, it will be necessary to date the divergence in living standards between the western and eastern extremes of the Eurasian landmass on the assumption that there are clear differences in real per capita income and productivity labor (measured for the decade before WWI) must have evolved and prevailed centuries before that time, this cannot be backed up by hard economic data. Indeed, recent historical research on Asia has produced some partial, regionally specific, and still inconclusive and flawed evidence suggesting that living standards in Western Europe andmaritimeThe provinces of China and southern India may not have differed much before the end of the 18th century.

This dubious proposition has led global historians, dubbed “Eurocentric” by their opponents, to resort to unquantified “Weberian” (and “Marxist”) claims that the economies of “Northwestern Europe” are certainly on potentially higher trajectories. Transitions to efficient industrial market economies for "several" centuries before even the most developed regions of Asia? Europe's cultures, political systems, property rights, legal structures, systems for discovering and disseminating reliable knowledge, commercial and financial organizations, trade networks, commodity markets, labor and capital are traditionally portrayed as more probable than anything else in Europe. Asian production systems will have created: conditions for factories, mechanized industry, and land and sea steam transport; to generate inanimate forms of energy; for mechanization factories and the reorganization of agriculture and commerce into concentrated places and functional enterprises.

More than three decades ago, Marshal Hodgson (one of the godfathers of modern world history) argued that "any attempts to invoke premodern landmark features in the West to explain disparities in living standards may founder on accurate historical analysis." '. Two generations of post-war research on India, China and Southeast Asia (embodied in recent writings by Fernand Braudel, Kirti Chaudhuri, Gunder Frank, Jack Goldstone, Jack Goody, John Hobson, Ken Pomeranz, John Reid, Kaoru Sugihara, David Washbrook, Bin Wong, Harriet Zurndorfer and others) agree. From his striking and detailed comparisons of the levels and types of economic development of the European and Asian economies in the early modern period, Braudel concluded that 'the populous regions of the world that face numerical demands seem to us to be quite close .' others' . But there is, he noted, "a historiographical disparity between Europe and the rest of the world. Europe invented the historians and made good use of them. Its own history is well illuminated and can be taken as evidence or used as an assertion. The history of the Non-Europe is still being written. And until the balance between knowledge and interpretation is restored, the historian will be reluctant to cut the Gordian knot of world history. A respected Western European historian, David Landes, shows no such reluctance, and his famous book "The Wealth and Povert y of Nations” (1998) compiles a “historical record” of the “Weberian” assumptions on around 600 odd-numbered pages. show why "Europe (the West) has been the main engine of development and modernity for the last thousand years".

Modern historiography, however, has practically "downgraded" (or at least greatly put into perspective). . so clear andsignificantly hampered: development and integration of raw material and input markets; the development of financial intermediation; the proliferation of private property rights; commercial networking; proto-industrialization; and in particular the commercialization of agriculture. What recent but differing syntheses of entire libraries of historical research on the economies of Asia (as well as Europe) observe and document is not just a set of advanced and less developed regions in Western Europe, but (to use Ken Pomeranz's phrase now) a "world striking similarities” throughout Eurasia. Reviews of the monographic literature made obsolete a whole body of Marxist and Weberian interpretations. Centuries before the Industrial Revolution, European economies can no longer be assumed to have experienced virtually extraordinary transitions to capitalism; developed much more efficient legal, behavioural, institutional and policy frameworks for the formation, integration and functioning of markets, thereby enabling progress (albeit slowly and with limited help from new technologies) on a path mapped out in the Smith model's growth map. In addition, historians of pre-industrial Asia have also identified and analyzed "cultures" that encouraged hard-working and ambitious families to convert their extra income into possessions and luxuries. Their work shows that, contrary to the expectations of Werner Sombart (and his modern European followers), the common features of material life appeared in too many towns, cities, and villages on the Eurasian landmass for anyone to point out. material culture" as something peculiar to the so-called and unique "greedy" and "working" households of Western Europe.

Moreover, and prior to the era of liberal imperialism (from Opium to the Great War), states everywhere placed obstacles in the way of Smithian growth, which essentially arises from the expansion and integration of markets; and the endlessly repeated (endemic, but always implausible) notion that dynastic and territorial rivalries among European states provided increasingly favorable (less unfavorable) conditions for the operation of market forces even during the early modern era of mercantilism was undermined. More simplified versions of the hypothesis combine virtuous circles and developmental cycles arising from "competition" with the destructive violence and rivalries of early modern European power politics. Notions (circulating since Montesquieu) that the emperors and bureaucracies of the despotic Eastern empires governed the economies (and thus their tax bases) in irrational ways that can be portrayed as more predatory, arbitrary, and systematic, and particularly evil towards growth smiths. Now they look back on increasingly outdated historical studies.

In the newly reconstructed economic histories of a "world of striking similarities," the canonical Smithian growth accounts, of European economies gradually but inexorably growing along certain market-driven trajectories within their limited and relatively underdeveloped Eurasia promontory, they seem simply untenable for many of the "pioneering" features of the west turn out to be not only ubiquitous but also earlier features of the east. Perhaps such Weberian (and/or Marxist) insights will be revived and supported by further research and debate. The search (or even a re-search among the existing stories) coulddemarcateand perhaps measuring unmistakable/undeniable differences in the magnitude, scope, and intensity of Smithian growth over time and space. Meanwhile, as recent reconfigurations of Asian economic history become familiar and acceptable (to all but an anachronistic generation of historians and ahistorical economists) and the debate shifts from acrimony to conversational, more nuanced opinions may resurface. carefully specified long-term historical approaches and explanations for the divergences in productivity and living standards between East and West that have long shaped historians unmistakably in the 19th century and in the 20th, but which disappear in the gift.

3. Revisionist explanations of late and late divergences between Eastern and Western economies

Meanwhile, the claim (as do the anti-Weberian revisionists) that an unexpected and unpredictable conjunction between East and West suddenly arose in the late 18th century also remains too weak to be a central hypothesis about long-term global economic development. For revisionism offers three controversial explanations for both this alleged "late" and "great divergence".

The first argument is that in different ways, for different reasons and in different chronologies, the imperial governmental structures in the East became increasingly inefficient and unable to provide their subject populations and territories with good order, protection from aggression, currency and the like . public goods necessary to sustain satisfactory levels of private economic activity, market integration and innovation. In short, the strategic and administrative failings that plagued the Safavid, Ottoman, Mughal, and Ming Qing empires worsened over time, beginning the rise of the West. Exploring the nature, magnitude, and significance of political crises (which clearly affected three eastern empires in the 18th century and China at the time of the White Lotus Rebellion) continues and may well lead to the insights emerging from comparative historical studies today emerge. of early modern European states, concerned with the juxtaposition of the development of political arrangements and policies that promote or impede economic growth and innovation in Western Europe. This debate about the constitution of governments and the behavior of states is conducted only by social scientists who know something about the history and social scientists of political and other ancillary institutions, their various forms and their precise connections. domestic economic activity. , farms and businesses not only in early modern Europe but also in Asia. The repetition of Enlightenment recyclate equations between republicanism, freedom and parliamentary forms of government on the one hand and transitions to industrial market economies on the other seems increasingly unsatisfactory. The theories, concepts, and taxonomies that now emerge in enlightening forms of new institutional economics must be nurtured and reformulated in the light of historical studies of the specific political, legal, and institutional structures that have fostered and constrained national, regional processes. National growth rates and - pattern economic sector across Eurasia.

Second, and at the heart of the most important revisionist explanation of the divergence between East Asia and Western Europe, is an essentially classical story of growth, backed by an impressive body of historical studies examining the connections and mechanisms derived from it. Smith, Malthus and Ricardo. For example, Pomeranz presents farmland as a relatively fixed factor of production, suggesting that the expansion of the body of useful and reliable knowledge has allowed for only limited and incremental technological advances. Population growth peaks (onlyon the borderand in some Asian regions) to the Malthusian crises, but more commonly in Western Europe and the Ming-Qing Empire to restrictive shortages of land-intensive crops and agricultural commodities, including: staple foods, wood for manufacturing and construction, wood converted to fuel and energy for industrial and household purposes, and fibers of plant and animal origin for processing into textiles.

For about two or more centuries prior to 1750, when population growth rates in Europe and China were increasing at comparable rates, the Chinese economy essentially coped with "number pressure" by intensifying work to alleviate food shortages and agricultural commodities. For Pomeranz and other scholars (who reject Eurocentric explanations of the large divergence in terms of Smithian growth) the problem is explaining how and why European economies have not followed China's path, but have avoided contracting the output of labour. They devoted themselves to agriculture and proto-industry, and gradually spread mechanized production techniques in manufacturing and transportation. Pomeranz posed the key question very persuasively: "Why," he asked, "didn't the economy of England develop further like the economy of the Yangtze Delta?"mutuallyEconomic comparisons with comparable geographic facilities.

Carefully supported by a careful reading of modern scholarship on China and Europe, the answers offered by Pomeranz address the contrasts between endogenous and exogenous potential to avoid reducing the yield to the land and other natural resources that China and Europe contribute to To be available. They suggest that after millennia of successful land management, Chinese agriculture was closer to its limit of productive capacity than European agriculture. China's ability to deal with population pressure through crop expansion and crop margins, land reform, investment in infrastructure for intra-regional trade and specialization, conversion of pastures to cropland, improved water control, supply by implementing efficient food stabilization policies, etc. had already gone further than Europe .

Not only did Europe enjoy some remarkable (alas, immeasurable) opportunities to take advantage of “weaknesses” in the agricultural system, but the potential gains from trade and specialization in food and commodities in our continent's North, South, East and West continued greater. than the long-studied patterns of intra-regional trade within the Chinese empire. Indeed (and as population pressures increased in the 18th century), trade potential declined because unfortunately population growth rates in China's poorest and least urbanized provinces, which produce commodities, accelerated. Then the empire's northern and inland regions adapted, allocating surplus agricultural labor to proto-industry; consume larger proportions of the food and agricultural commodities produced within their borders and import fewer manufactured goods. Thus, the early Smithian growth of China, which already had high levels of trade and dependence based on a mix of labor-intensive crops (particularly rice), made the imperial economy "more environmentally vulnerable" than China's Europe to demographic pressures if they had been a century ago intensified with the industrial age. Revolution.

However, the Revisionists insist (and have translated a body of evidence that is not entirely sufficient or convincing to support their view) that Britain and other Western European bio-economies are also on a similar path of falling returns and rising costs to society were. , fuel and fibres, but the “core”postponedthe emergence of more severe ecological problems and scarcity during the early stages of industrialization in the 18th century andIllusionduring the 19th century, the exploitation of two great "windows," namely, the cheap and accessible source of energy in the form of coal, and the fertile soil and abundant natural resources of America.

By emphasizing America's contribution, revisionists have drawn our attention to the exogenous (foreign) sources of Western Europe's economic progress, highlighted by Adam Smith and Karl Marx and, in recent decades, in a "the first cell phoneby Wallerstein, Chase-Dunn, Blaut, Frank, Gils, and others, which we can summarize in the School of Historical Sociology of World Systems.

(Video) Ken Pomeranz: "Beyond the 'Great Divergence' Debate"

But Wrigley and an earlier generation of British economic historians had already explored the deep meaning and far-reaching effects of the cheap fossil fuel endowment, which enabled Britain to escape potential "Malthusian traps" (before the rest of Europe). Although precise calculations are difficult and many figures (including the revised Pomeranz estimates) dispute their acceptance, the tradition of energy accounting as an explanation for rising and falling returns dates back to the 19th century. Furthermore, it is not difficult to accept the main conclusions of this school, namely that coal and steam power for the heat supply of Britain (and other European economies) must be replaced by oxen, horses, wood and labor over several decades of reference after the Napoleonic Wars would have had it (counterfactually) implausibly absorbs ever-increasing portions of Europe's virtually fixed stock of arable land. In addition, all forms of heat-intensive industry and transportation—metallurgy, glass, ceramics, beer, sugar and salt, soap refining, starch, railroads, and shipping—benefited from replacing coal with more expensive organic forms of energy. less efficient. The repercussions and side effects of coal production, transport and use, including canal construction, precision engineering and above all the impulses that coal gives to the development, improvement and dissemination of engines for power supply from steam, are denied calculation. They became the center of the aptly named "steam age" in Europe. However, this era (1846-1914) remained menacing rather than dominant in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, which occurred decades before this particular golden age of liberal capitalism.

Furthermore (and to return to Bloch's reciprocal mode of comparative history) the question of why China failed to exploit its known and sizeable coal deposits and therefore became more like England, Belgium and Westphalia may not be explored any further. which calls for such a striking contrast. Chinese coal may or may not have been more combustible and worse located than European deposits, but it remained underground as an abundant and probably more efficient source of energy compared to labor, wind and water than the Chinese, Japanese and other Asian economies. continued it throughout the 19th century. References to geology, geography, and transportation issues do not seem sufficient to explain why China remained a virtual outsider in the steam age.

4. The importance of intercontinental trade for the European transition to industrial market economies

Eventually (to return to Adam Smith and overseas expansion), Europeans (not Chinese, Arabs, or Indians) discovered that they were conquering, infecting, plundering, colonizing, and eventually developing mutually beneficial trade relations with America. This lengthy endeavor should not be labeled "peripheral" (as I suggested before climbing a learning curve some 18 years ago) or bear fruit (as still is the case in the writings of Immanuel Wallerstein, James Blaut, and the World Systems School of Sociology is the case). ). history) as the "engine" driving Europe's benevolent transformation towards successful industrial market economies throughout the 19th century.

The material benefits of rediscovering America materialized not long after 1492, and disproportionately benefited two newcomers and opportunists: Holland and England. Quantitative studies in national accounts that aim to measure the macroeconomic importance of transatlantic trade for the development of Europe as a whole, or even for specific countries such as the Netherlands or the UK (which are more persistently and profitably involved in overseas expansion) are full of conceptual and statistical difficulties. No economic historian could deny that the establishment of (regulated colonies on the mercantilist model) along with slave plantations in the New World changed the terms of transatlantic trade in Europe's favour; compared, ie with trade with Asia; and even more sharply, to a counterfactual scenario in which the establishment and development of viable, independent economies in America depended on unregulated but unprotected private investment and free labor immigration from Europe, not the enslavement of millions of Africans. Additionally, recent research into the global trade in precious metals has highlighted the importance of the complex and diverse role played by Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian demand for New World silver in maintaining profitability and encouraging European investment in precious metals in the Americas over the past two centuries before. The Industrial Revolution. This investment also encouraged a very gradual movement towards the integration and growth of an embryonic world economy in which the individual cities and sea regions of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas interacted, often with more positive effects on European development than on European development. the asian.

However, a framework of national accounts remains the only viable perspective available to historians who wish to specify and quantify the general importance of variables such as intercontinental exports and imports for national (and European) capital formation rates and exchange rates. . from 1492 to 1815. If (as Paul Bairoch's imperfect and misquoted dates suggest) European exports to other continents and imports from the Americas, Asia and Africa account for only "small" percentages of the total value of European production, then it is assumed that the Americas (or the non-European world as a whole) continued to play a comparatively subordinate role until the end of the 18th century, since the advance of the West could only be decisively combated in two ways. First (and this logic can be persuasive) in early modern Europe, economic growth appeared as margins andea large part of the pensiongrowththe European total (or certain national products) may be directly or indirectly linked to intercontinental trade, so that an overly publicized and glamorous sub-sector of various maritime economies could actually be plausibly presented as “highly important” to Western economic progress. Quantitative tests could then relate intercontinental trade gains to "net" capital formation and aggregate volumes of potential "tradable goods" to create indices useful for locating, dating and understanding the sources of economic growth, say we, 1500 to 1800 are more relevant. Revisionists, adopting their ideas from Adam Smith, will prefer to shift the focus of concentration to Britain, which over time has been more involved in intercontinental trade and colonization than any other European economy (including the Netherlands). Such a shift seems all too convenient, however, because the 'important reasons' for an early and thoroughly 'British' industrial revolution (spread out as traditional and now degraded histories that with delays on the continent would have us believe) are growing much larger . and more rhetorically compelling as figures intended to represent America's importance (and through its ties to Asia) in the West's transition to modern industrial economies. Britain cannot represent the West and its transition to an industrial market economy and has never been a role model for its continental rivals.

Another avenue that can be followed in order to argue less parsimoniously, but which approaches the details of microdynamics favored by economic historians (such as Fernand Braudel, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Ken Pomeranz), is to construct narratives that explore the diversity of Imports are built around which have flooded the Europeans from the New World and Asia back to their famous seaports (Lisbon, Seville, Cádiz, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Bordeaux and London). Imports represent tangible manifestations of the "rewards" that Europe eventually reaped from investment in trade and colonization in the Americas and (through expansion and connections) also from gains from trade with Asia.

Imports from the US and Asia included: bullion, food, manufactured goods, manufactured goods, and commodities. Imports, obtained largely through the exercise of coercion to secure favorable terms of trade, increased in volume with the incorporation of the Atlantic maritime economies into world trade, slowly at first but faster than the infrastructure and organizations required to trade in goods. long distance. They were built in the 16th and 17th centuries. Most of the major imports from other continents brought into European ports were associated with side effects and externalities. Its links with the maintenance and expansion of the advantages of long-established intra-European trade patterns, with the emergence of new food-processing industries, with geopolitical rivalry and state-building, with the growth of wealth and power of commercial oligarchies, with the rise of maritime cities, to changes in science, technology and art; In fact, almost every aspect of European economic, political, and urban life has been fleshed out in countless stories about sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa, corn, rice, tobacco, tropical fruits, tomatoes, beans, peppers, potatoes, hardwoods, dyes, wax, fish , oils, cotton fibers; Quinine, Sarsaparilla Sinus, Pecal, Laxative; Porcelain, silk and cotton, textiles and above all silver and gold. This bibliography is long. Imported volumes fluctuated, but tended to increase. The entry points and distribution of Asian and American imports have changed from city to city and country to country over time. The problem is how to connect imports from other continents to the narratives (or models) of early modern European development, in which economies are pushed to plateaus of opportunity where transitions to industrial market economies become likely.

Fernand Braudel, Giovanni Arrighi and Charles Kindleberger find the main mechanisms they wish to highlight in a geopolitical matrix of dynamic circuits between maritime cities, major traders and nation-states. Pomeranz dedicates his research and analysis to two possible macroeconomic relationships. One stems from a thesis recently elaborated by Jan de Vries about the "industrious" revolution of pre-modern Europe, which emerged from the decisions of countless families to work harder and allocate more hours of work and other resources under their control to production in the markets. . Behind these choices made by families are changes in tastes or propensities to consume, stimulated by the availability of “exotic” and “addictive” foods such as sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, tropical fruits, tomatoes and spices; Pharmaceuticals, opiates and luxurious but affordable Asian manufactures such as silk, jewelry and porcelain and especially cotton from the East. In short, the rise of material culture in Europe was linked in carefully specified ways to intercontinental trade and colonization, changes in consumption and investment, and the working patterns of European households.

Nothing comparable happened in Asia because the consumption of tropical foods, porcelain, silk and cotton fabrics and other indigenous products was already common on the social level. In the East, imperial states had virtually no interest, fiscal or otherwise, in stimulating trade and colonization that they could recoup over time in the form of imported and taxable luxuries. At the same time, Chinese and Indian demand for food and finished goods produced in Europe remained limited in volume and scope. Although the New World silver, which European merchants exchanged for Asian foodstuffs, manufactures and raw materials, probably promoted money circulation and domestic trade in China and India just as American gold did in Europe?

Revisionists make the most of a no less than convincing argument for symbiotic connections between the luxurious, exotic, addictive and desirable traits embodied in imports from Asia and America for: the industrial revolution; maintaining European commitments to intercontinental trade; the enslavement of Africans; and investment flows in colonization and plantations in the New World. They cite literature that locates the impetus for the development of urban processing industries (sugar refining, coffee roasting, tea and tobacco blending, etc.) in coastal cities that are heavily involved in transoceanic trade. You know the stories that explain how cotton fabric manufacture in 18th-century Britain developed within a matrix of trade with India, the importation of cotton fiber from slave plantations in America, the state's involvement in its East India Company, and the promotion of a workable process of import substitution by English parliaments between 1660 and 1721.

However, it will be heuristic to confront this exciting new narrative that highlights the role of Asian and US imports in bringing about different economic developments between Western Europe and East Asia. First, the proportion of caloric intake provided by sugar, tea, and other tropical foods may have been small. In fact, increasing numbers of British merchant ships were being built in the North American colonies (and Asia) even before French blockades during the Napoleonic Wars cut off supplies of Baltic chronometers and other naval supplies (pitch, tar and hemp). However, the established patterns of East-West and intra-European timber trade returned to normal after this war, and ironwood instead of American eased European shortages of timber and shipbuilding in the 18th century.

More statistically convincing, however, is the replacement of cotton fiber grown on slave plantations in America with supplies of flax, hemp, silk, and wool from Europe. Again theScaleImports relative to total domestic fiber consumption become important later than before in the 19th century. The claim that raw cotton supplies from America have long been “virtually essential” to the development of mechanized cotton textile production in Europe is unconvincing, since an equally plausible hypothetical scenario can be formulated suggesting that the cumulative and ever-improving production capacity for the Mechanization of cotton yarn and fabric, first in Britain and then in other parts of the continent, would have stimulated other primary producers in Asia (including China) and the Middle East to respond to European demand for cotton fibre

Four decades ago, modern economic history relegated the axioms of indispensability to the realm of improbability. However, there is certainly a more nuanced but less dramatic argument for the importance of the supply of slave-produced cotton fiber, namely that cheap raw materials encouraged the growth of a large manufacturing industry in Europe, and that technical problems associated with the mechanization of spinning and weaving of cloth involved fibers easier to release with the tensile properties of cotton than cast silk (not so easy!), wool, linen and hemp. However, in a short time the problems of mechanization of all the main processes in the manufacture of fabrics from the entire range of natural fibers were solved. At this point shipments of cheap flax from Russia and wool from Australia, Argentina and other primary producers are set in motion to supply the European textile industry with all the fibers they can mechanically process.

5. Divergence and Convergence

It is important for social scientists to address the problem of the "great divergence" between Western Europe and East Asia, simply because it still exists between us as a North-South divide. We can agree that the early switch from organic to inorganic forms of energy gave Europe (particularly the UK) an early start. However, the other strand of the revisionist explanation (following the line of Adam Smith, Karl Marx and the World Systems School), for various reasons, is that the discovery, conquest and exploitation of America also generated profits and allowed Western Europe to sidestep the problems of falling returns , who plagued Eastern empires with less conviction.

First, the classic diminishing returns of land appear less applicable to India and Southeast Asia than to China. Furthermore, Japan's convergence (despite a low natural resource endowment) undermines stories based on classical growth models. Second, and with any consolidation and reconfiguration of the data now available to measure the importance of intercontinental trade, standardized exercises in national income accounting are unlikely to produce convincingly large proportions. Meanwhile, the postmodern retort now in vogue that big results could result from small changes in exogenous variables simply undermines any claim that economic history can be accurate. We could ask rhetorically whether small results could result from large changes in endogenous variables.

Third, it is not entirely clear that the farmlands, grasslands, forests, and seas of Western Europe combined (and through trade) with its eastern and southern peripheries could not have sustained, say, the rates of population growth, industrialization, and urbanization experienced, until the mid-nineteenth century without massive imports of primary products from America. Returning to the central point of Mark Elvin's classic book, wasn't it true that China had realized most of the potential gains from intraregional trade, labor intensification, and agricultural improvements long before its population growth slowed—accelerating in the 20th century? Elvin's thesis can also be reformulated in the language of classical economics. Before 1750, how far was China (and other parts of Asia) from its frontiers of (technologically constrained) production capabilities compared to Western Europe? Classical economists (Smith and Malthus) recognized that China had gone further and continued to move faster down the path of declining yields.

Coal aside, intercontinental trade data suggests that Europe had the food and agricultural commodities necessary to continue Smithian growth and the urbanization and industrialization of the workforce, without massive increases well into the 20th century Having to resort to imports of primary products from America. Meanwhile, the accumulation, testing and application of a reliable body of knowledge required for the mechanization and transformation of industry and transport, the use of steam power, urbanization and the reorganization of finance and trade is well advanced. . and perhaps beyond a point of no return, or what Chinese historians call involution.

In making these observations, dealing with the inevitable and important delineation of relevant prevailing chronologies, I wish to underscore a distinction that has perhaps not been clear enough in the modern debate about the connections between "The Industrial Revolution" and "The Industrial Revolution." '.'. Big difference". The Industrial Revolution owed something to America's inclusion in world trade, but probably not as much as Adam Smith suspected. This becomes clear if we look again at the volume and variety of imports that entered European ports before 1846. In general (and with the notable exceptions of corn, potatoes, and cotton fiber), imports simply "supplemented" the basic supplies of Europeans even continents. . food and raw materials. Cargo transported by ships to European ports was dominated for centuries by tropical foods and manufactured luxury goods. At most, they embodied attributes that scholars (who “represent” the “rise of material culture,” “industrial revolutions,” and the multifaceted role of large merchants in maritime trade as “prerequisites” for Europe’s early industrialization”) Westerners find attractive, placing them at the heart of their to set narratives about the origins of the north-south divide.

True, the Great Divergence and the Industrial Revolution form part of a coherent narrative, and the extent of the divergence in labor productivity and real income between Europe and China that was so evident in 1914 seems unthinkable without massive food supplies. Materials. imported from America and other primary producers. However, since these supplies became operational in the second half of the century, questions about what started the Industrial Revolution and what sustained it should not be confused.

The industrial revolution that marks the beginnings (sources?) (origins?) of divergence predated most of its essential elements by several decades. Weak and insignificant links can be made in the early stages between intercontinental trade and the replacement of traditional forms of energy from wood, wind, water, animals and human muscle with traditional forms of energy from wood. , wind, water, animals and human muscles on the one hand through coal-based forms of heat and electricity. the other. Some elements of the early and gradual mechanization of industrial processes (particularly in the case of textiles) can be linked to transoceanic trade, but again the connections still seem to be tangential rather than central. Current explanations of divergence lack elements that would refer to "regimes". "for the production and dissemination of useful and reliable knowledge in Europe and China. Technology was really important for the industrial revolution andeThe English economy and its mainland supporters could (if not for coal and close ties to America) go the way of the Yangtze Delta, so why did even this advanced, commercialized region of the Manchu Empire take so long to recover? the economic position and position in the world economy in the mid-eighteenth century and is it recovering today?

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(Video) The Great Divergence Debate by Prof. Prasannan Parthasarathi

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(Video) Great Divergence Debate The Problem of Approaches and Perspectives

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(Video) HIST 1122 Lesson 51 - Eurocentrism & the Great Divergence Part 1

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November 2010

(Video) The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy


What was the great divergence debate? ›

One of the great debates in Global History concerns the origins of the 'Great Divergence'. 1 This term refers to the growing gap in economic performance between Europe and China (and by extension, Asia) since the late eighteenth century.

What were the reasons for the great divergence? ›

The Great Divergence occurred because Japan grew more slowly than Britain and the Netherlands starting from a lower level, and because of a strong negative growth trend in Qing dynasty China.

What is the great divergence of the 19th century? ›

But by the 19th century, things were rather different. Western Europe and parts of North America had become fabulously wealthy. Almost everywhere else was horribly poor. Economic historians refer to this as the “Great Divergence”.

What is the great divergence in world history that took place between 1790 and 1820? ›

Terms in this set (25) What is the great divergence that took place in world history between 1790 and 1820? When manufacturing shifted from Asia to Europe. Particularly in cotton and silk textile production, iron manufacturing, and shipbuilding.

What happened during the Great Divergence? ›

The two “great divergences”

Historians sometimes refer to the Industrial Revolution as the “Great Divergence” where suddenly the energy bonanza of industry catapulted Europe and North America ahead of most of the rest of the world for much of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

When did the great divergence begin? ›

According to a 2020 study and dataset, the Great Divergence between northern India (from Gujarat to Bengal) and Britain began in the late 17th century. It widened after the 1720s and exploded after the 1800s.

What three problems caused the Great Leap Forward to fail? ›

The failure of agricultural policies, the movement of farmers from agricultural to industrial work, and weather conditions led to millions of deaths from severe famine.

Was the Great Divergence inevitable? ›

The implication they suggest is that divergence was an inevitable outcome of 19th Century globalization. In our framework free trade is possible throughout. Here we show that, even as local technologies diverge North and South, trade need not immediately foster monotonic divergence between core and periphery.

What is the Great Divergence quizlet? ›

What is the Great Divergence? The period during which Europe (especially Western Europe) greatly increases in wealth, power, and prestige compared to the rest of the world.

What were the most significant consequences of 19th century imperialism and why? ›

Imperialism adversely affected the colonies. Under foreign rule, native culture and industry were destroyed. Imported goods wiped out local craft industries. By using colonies as sources of raw materials and markets for manufactured goods, colonial powers held back the colonies from developing industries.

What were the major important changes happened during the 19th century? ›

The 19th century was a revolutionary period for European history and a time of great transformation in all spheres of life. Human and civil rights, democracy and nationalism, industrialisation and free market systems, all ushered in a period of change and chance.

What were two reasons for the growth of imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries? ›

First, colonies provided raw materials. Second, colonies served as a market for surplus manufactured goods. Every country wanted national hegemony – that is, to be the No. 1 imperialist country in the world.

What was the great divergence in America? ›

The Great Divergence is a term given to a period, starting in the late 1970s, during which income differences increased in the US and, to a lesser extent, in other countries.

What major event happened in 1790? ›

POP Culture: 1790

President George Washington delivers the first "State of the Union Address" on January 8, 1790. Benjamin Franklin dies on April 17, 1790 in Philadelphia, PA. Washington, DC, is established as the capital of the United States, in 1791.

What major transformation occurred in the United States between 1800 and 1850? ›

Between 1800 and 1860, the United States underwent a period of increased territorial expansion, immigration, economic growth, and industrialization.

What were three major events actions discussed in class that led to the global Great Depression? ›

Among the suggested causes of the Great Depression are: the stock market crash of 1929; the collapse of world trade due to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff; government policies; bank failures and panics; and the collapse of the money supply.

What happened during the Great Transformation? ›

The Great Transformation (1944) concentrated on the development of the market economy in the 19th century, with Polanyi presenting his belief that this form of economy was so socially divisive that it had no long-term future.

What was the second Great Divergence? ›

However, this also led to a “Second Great Divergence.” This is the widening gap between the very rich — in both advanced and developing economies — and ordinary workers everywhere.

Why did Europe develop faster than America? ›

The proximate reasons are obvious. Invading Europeans had steel swords, guns, and horses, while Native Americans had only stone and wooden weapons and no animals that could be ridden. Those military advantages repeatedly enabled troops of a few dozen mounted Spaniards to defeat Indian armies numbering in the thousands.

What caused the Industrial Revolution? ›

Historians have identified several causes for the Industrial Revolution, including: the emergence of capitalism, European imperialism, efforts to mine coal, and the effects of the Agricultural Revolution.

How did Europe become so powerful? ›

Europe achieved world hegemony in the years after 1500 A.D., primarily due to technological advancements, scientific research, political development of nations with stable succession and continuity, and a culture dominated by Christianity.

What was bad about the Great Leap Forward? ›

Instead of stimulating the country's economy, The Great Leap Forward resulted in mass starvation and famine. It is estimated that between 30 and 45 million Chinese citizens died due to famine, execution, and forced labor, along with massive economic and environmental destruction.

Why was the Great Leap Forward known as the Three Bitter Years? ›

The Great Leap Forward was supposed to be a five-year plan, but it was called off after just three tragic years. The period between 1958 and 1960 is known as the "Three Bitter Years" in China.

What ended the Great Leap Forward? ›

This breakdown of the Chinese economy caused the government to begin to repeal the Great Leap Forward program by early 1960. Private plots and agricultural implements were returned to the peasants, expertise began to be emphasized again, and the communal system was broken up.

Was the rise of the West inevitable? ›

Contingency is that the West's ascendancy was dependent on silver mined in the Americas. Accident was England's abundance of easily mined coal. Conjuncture was the rise of the nation-state and industrialization at the same time in Europe. The rise of the West was not inevitable, but just a lucky accident.

Why did China fall behind the West? ›

There were two major reasons why China began to lag behind the West during the past two centuries. First, the Chinese were arrogant and believed themselves to be superior to all other foreigners. Second, China had a conservative Confucian-based bureaucracy governing the state.

Why did the Great Leap Forward fail in China 1 point? ›

Great Leap Projects Begin to Fail

In 1975, a dam built in 1958 in Henan Province collapsed, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths—the largest single dam disaster in human history. The main causes of failure were inadequate engineering know-how and the routine use of substandard construction materials.

Which of following factors is the primary reason for the great divergence in the United States? ›

Which of following factors is the primary reason for the Great Divergence in the United States? Widening wage gap between middle and top earners.

What happens at divergent boundaries quizlet? ›

What happens at a divergent boundary? - When two continental plates diverge, a valley like rift develops. This rift is a dropped zone where the plates are pulling apart. As the crust widens and thins, valleys form in and around the area, as do volcanoes, which may become increasingly active.

What was the purpose of the Great Leap Forward quizlet? ›

What was the great leap forward? the great leap forward was Maos second five year plan from 1958-1962. He wanted to industralize china, and modernize the economy in the shortest amount of time. His two goals were to produce a mass amount of grain and steel.

What were the main arguments against imperialism in the late 19th century? ›

The anti-imperialists opposed forced expansion, believing that imperialism violated the fundamental principle that just republican government must derive from "consent of the governed." The League argued that such activity would necessitate the abandonment of American ideals of self-government and non-intervention— ...

What is the real reason for 19th century imperialism? ›

In the late 1800's, economic, political, and religious motives prompted these nations to expand their influence over other regions, each with a goal to increase their power across the globe. The Industrial Revolution of the 1800's created a need for natural resources to fuel newly invented machinery and transportation.

Why was the end of the 19th century know as the age of imperialism? ›

The Age of Imperialism was a time period beginning around 1870 when modern, relatively developed nations were taking over less developed areas, colonizing them, or influencing them in order to expand their own power.

What was the most significant conflict in the 19th century? ›

The Napoleonic Wars were a series of major conflicts from 1803 to 1815 pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom.

What was the most significant conflict during the 19th century? ›

Conflicts of this era include the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the American Civil War in North America, the Taiping Rebellion in Asia, the Paraguayan War in South America, the Zulu War in Africa, and the Australian frontier wars in Oceania.

What are the two major changes to the international system that was brought by the 19th century? ›

The nineteenth century brought two major changes to the international system: Nationalism emerged as a strong force, allowing nation-states to grow even more powerful. Italy and Germany became unified countries, which altered the balance of military and economic power in Europe.

What were the 3 major reasons why the US begin to expand imperialism? ›

Three factors fueled American Imperialism.
  • Economic competition among industrial nations.
  • Political and military competition, including the creation of a strong naval force.
  • A belief in the racial and cultural superiority of people of Anglo-Saxon descent.

What were two major causes for a growing policy of imperialism? ›

The following are the causes for the rise of Imperialism.
  • Industrial revolution : Industrial revolution in European countries resulted in a great increase in production. ...
  • National security : ...
  • Nationalism : ...
  • Balance of Power : ...
  • Discovery of new routes : ...
  • Growth of population : ...
  • State of Anarchy :

What were the two main political reasons for US imperialism? ›

Both a desire for new markets for its industrial products and a belief in the racial and cultural superiority of Americans motivated the United States' imperial mission.

What is the great divergence debate? ›

One of the great debates in Global History concerns the origins of the 'Great Divergence'. 1 This term refers to the growing gap in economic performance between Europe and China (and by extension, Asia) since the late eighteenth century.

Why is the Great Divergence important? ›

The problem of 'the Great Divergence' between Western Europe and East Asia is important for social scientists to address simply because it is still with us as a North-South divide.

What happened in the great divergence? ›

Historians sometimes refer to the Industrial Revolution as the “Great Divergence” where suddenly the energy bonanza of industry catapulted Europe and North America ahead of most of the rest of the world for much of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

What do you mean by the 17th century crisis debate? ›

The idea of a “General Crisis” or just a “Crisis” of the seventeenth century was formulated by Eric J. Hobsbawm. He used it in an effort to explain the commercial collapse and retrenchment of productive capacity in both the agricultural and industrial sectors of the European economy from the 1620s through the 1640s.

Did the Great Leap Forward improve China? ›

Instead of stimulating the country's economy, The Great Leap Forward resulted in mass starvation and famine. It is estimated that between 30 and 45 million Chinese citizens died due to famine, execution, and forced labor, along with massive economic and environmental destruction.

Is West China uninhabitable? ›

Even though China is the world's most populous country, much of its land is uninhabitable or near uninhabitable. The western half of the country is mostly desert. The central and southern portions of the country is covered with rugged mountains and the northeast is heavily forested and bitterly cold in the winter.

Why did the Chinese not discover America? ›

Firstly, it was easier for Europeans to cross the Atlantic than for Chinese to cross the Pacific. Secondly, Europeans were motivated by the desire to access China's legendary wealth whereas Chinese had no such incentive for exploration.

Did the Chinese reach America first? ›

NEW YORK: History may be rewritten as new evidence suggests ancient Chinese explorers landed on the New World around 2,500 years before Christopher Columbus, contrary to popular belief that the Italian seafarer 'discovered' America.


1. The Great Divergence | Radical History
(Radical History!)
2. The Great Divergence
(Brian Goegan)
3. Why Did Europe’s Economies Diverge from Asia?
(Gresham College)
4. Britain and the Great Divergence
(Centre for Geopolitics)
5. GEM13: Robert Boyd on the First Great Divergence
(CID Harvard)
6. Christopher Isett: New evidence of the great divergence of China and Europe
(Fulbright Taiwan)


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