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Looking back at the world in the past few hundred years, it would have been difficult to imagine that one day, majority of Western Europe would come to dominate the world in global economy (Landes, European Exceptionalism: A Different Path, 1998). Frank (2001) described the process of which the western society overcame pre-modern growth restraints and risen during the 19th century as the most powerful and wealthy region, as 'The Great Divergence' (Also commonly referred to as 'the European miracle' (Jones, 2003)). This essay will explore the development of European civilization through examining the revolution of commercial, industrial, agricultural, scientific, and the beginning of colonial empires. Also, we will look at various works of many authors and their theories regarding how and why the process of Great Divergence occurred. This includes the change in economical effects, the role of government, culture, the technological development, and innovation. In addition, we will briefly explore the previously developed areas; such as China and compare them to European civilization.
The approximate beginning of 'great divergence' has been debated between many authors, being as early as 17th century, where Europe's economy was starting grow over other region's economy (Maddison, 2001). However, many historians believe that it was during the 19th century when Europe was developing rapidly. On the other hand, other regions that were previously more advanced, such as China, established it's strong cultures and traditions in geographically large remote empires. In such environment, policies of scientific and social inactivity could stand because of tradition or culture. On the other hand, Europe was geographically set in reduced, closer, but with larger number of groups, surrounded and separated by small rivers and mountains, thus, governments that repressed economic and scientific development soon amended their errors or were out-done rapidly (Pomeranz, 2000).
The early European colonization was maintained by revenues from trading New World goods to Asia, particularly silver to China (Pomeranz, 2000). The high earnings obtained from the colonies and the slave trade established 7% profit per annum, a relatively high rate of return considering the high rate of depreciation on pre-industrial capital stocks, which limited the amount of savings and capital accumulation (Pomeranz, 2000). Many theories suggest Europe's distinctive association with the New World as a key reason to the Great Divergence.Â As, Pomeranz (2000) stated, "the greatest significant advantage for Europe was the vast amount of fertile, uncultivated land in the North America which could be used to grow large quantities of farm products required to sustain European economic growth and allowed labour and land to be freed up in Europe for industrialization."Â New World exports of wool, wood and cotton are predicted to have saved England the need for 23 to 25 million acres (100,000 km2) freeing up immense amounts of resources. Also, the New World played an important role in industrialisation and manufacturing goods. The commercial revolution of the 17th century was an intra-European affair, and the changing locus of textile production was dominant to it, with some significant advances were made in textiles, which were the most significant product of that time (Harte, 1997). These improvements affected growth through trade. In the middle ages, the English were successful in exporting heavy broadcloths. Furthermore, woolen cloth was produced in the cities of Italy and Flanders and exported across the continent (Munro, 1997). The English and the â€¨Dutch were beginning to make the 'new draperies' that were light worsteds towards the end of 16th century. Rapp (1975) stated that new manufacturing businesses were formed in East Anglia and the Low Countries. â€¨By late 17th century, about 40% of England's woolen cloth production was exported, and woolen fabrics amounted to 69% of the country's exports of domesticâ€¨manufactures (Deane, 1957). Wool was even more vital for London, as new draperies flowed out of the capital: Cloths amounted to 74% of London's total exports. Since the Italians and the English were paying comparable wages and were trading cloth and purchasing wool in the same markets, their efficiency was comparable before the creation of the new draperies. The English's productions were more efficient than the traditional woolen, therefore resulting in higher advantage than the rest of the world for the northern European agriculture (Davis, 1954).
Between 1750 to 1850, population in the European countries increases dramatically; nevertheless, European agriculture was struggle to produce enough for people's needs, resulting in more imports from the US, the reduced caloric intake required by the newly formingÂ proletariat and the intake of hunger suppressants such as coffee and tea helping England to survive with shortage in supply of food (Pomeranz, 2000). At early 19th century, European farmland had been battered and exhausted of nutrients. Providentially, through better farming methods, the use of fertilizers and deforestations, Europeans were able to restore the farmland and avoid food shortages from preventing development of their nations. Meanwhile, other previously dominant nations, such as China were barely able to produce enough food for the population's need. During the 19th century, China's idle lands undergone water shortage, thus forests had to be cultivated. Since the mid-19th century, northern China's water sources have been falling, decreasing its agricultural output. China also worsened its water supply by producing textiles and cotton instead of importing. Furthermore, supply of wood and land reduced substantially, significantly reducing development in Chinese average revenue (Pomeranz, 2000), Whereas, Europe had large amount of unusedÂ arable land with sufficient water sources.
During mid 18th century, 300 years of steady growth in markets had been supported by a consistent development in agricultural and handicrafts production (Landes, European Exceptionalism: A Different Path, 1998).Â Technological innovations, such as agriculture, mining, steamboats andÂ railroads were comprised to a higher degree in the West than the East during the Great Divergence.Â Until 1880, the principal technological developments of western industry were in the mechanical arts (Frank, 2001).Â Through difficulties with the issues of making pocket watches, and precise clocks, clockmakers developed skills of precision machining, the effects of changes in temperature on different materials, friction, gear trains, levers, ratchets, springs, lubrication and mechanical durability.Â Â During mid-18th century when the industrial revolution demanded skill and ingenuity from mechanical designers, western clock makers had already mastered considerable expertise in mechanical design, where technology led to enlarged industrialization and economic complexity in the areas of agriculture, trade, fuel and resources, further dividing the west and the rest of the world (Rosenberg & Birdzell, 1986). Furthermore, Europe advanced their energy development production by the use ofÂ coalÂ as an energy replacement for wood in the mid-19th century, whereas China had not begun to use coal on a large scale until around 1900, giving Europe a huge lead on modern energy production in global economy (Pomeranz, 2000). Industrialization intensely changed the European economy and enables it to gain more prosperity and output than the other Old World cores. As for economical effects, the Old World methods of agriculture and production could only sustain certain lifestyles (Clark & Feenstra, 2003). As for productivity: Total Factor ProductivityÂ (TFP) is applied to quantify differences between countries (Clark & Feenstra, 2003).Â TFP analysis controls for difference in raw material inputs for all countries and is then used to calculateÂ productivity. The difference in productivity levels, thus, reveals productivity of raw materials use rather than the raw materials themselves (Comin, 2008). TFP analysis has revealed than Eastern countries such asÂ IndiaÂ orÂ China, had less TFP in the 19th century, indicating that Eastern productivity level had fallen bellow the Western (Clark & Feenstra, 2003). Another point to note is per capita in come.Â The West's remerge to supremacy straight coincides with per capita income in the east falling below the west. This change can be credited immensely to the mass transport technologies, such as trains and steamboats that in 19th century, were developed by the European (Jones, 2003). The building of sizable ships, trains, and railroads significantly added output. The invention of these transport caused transferring large amount of livestock, coal, grain, corn livestock and additional objects between nations easier and more efficient, due to less cost. The efficiency gained from these factors; result in higher total productivity in Europe than the rest of the world (Clark & Feenstra, 2003).
Periphery countriesÂ were frequently set up as specialized suppliers of specific resources for the trade during the era of European imperialism.Â Cheaper resources forÂ core countriesÂ through trade deals with specialized periphery countries enabled the core countries to develop, scientifically, industrially, and economically, faster than the rest of the world (Williamson, 2008).Â Europe's access to more raw materials and a bigger market to sell its industrial goods gave it a distinctive advantage throughout the19th century. Nevertheless, to industrialise further, it was necessary for the developing core regions to obtain resources from less populated regions, since they lacked the lands required to produce these resources. Europe was able to sell industrial products to theirÂ colonies, including the US, for raw materials. The identical type of trading could be seen in the Eastern regions, but colonization brought a significant benefit to the Europeans. As these sources of raw materials started toÂ proto-industrialize, they would change toÂ import substitution, depriving the hegemonic nations of a market for their manufactured goods. The UK was able to use import substitution to its advantage when trading with textiles fromÂ India, because the UK itself were in control of the colonies, they were able to avoid this from occurring (Pomeranz, 2000). Through industrialization, The UK was able rise cotton productivity enough to be profitable for domestic manufacture, and rise above India as the number one producer of cotton (Broadberry & Gupta, 2005). In addition, Western Europe was able to start lucrative sale with Eastern Europe, where some countries, like Poland, Bohemia and PrussiaÂ had hardly any freedom in comparison to the West (Hayes, 2002)Â forced labour left Eastern Europe with lack of time to develop proto-industrialization and sufficient manpower to produce raw materials.
Â Following 1880, industry became more narrowly linked with science.Â Â The intervals between scientific discovery and commercial application began to grow shorter.Â Â At the start of 20thÂ century, industrial research had evidently turned focused at the development of new products and procedures. At about 1875, the borderline of western industrial technology started to shift from the apparent objects, such as cams, lever, gears, pulleys cranks, and shafts to the micro scientific matters, such as, atoms, molecules, electron flows, electromagnetic waves, inductance, capacitance, magnetism, amperes, volts, bacteria, viruses and genes (Rosenberg & Birdzell, 1986). The west successfully managed its scientists without much hierarchy. This encouraged western science to grow at a time when political and religious authorities had no power to suppress new ideas with incompatible explanations of natural phenomena (Rosenberg & Birdzell, 1986). Rosenberg & Birdzell (1986) said that "As long as industrial technology was dedicated on the visible world of the mechanical arts, advances in technology originated almost entirely with artisans who were imaginative and ingenious but in no sense learned scientists."Â Â Change suggests innovation.Â Innovation is a product of development.Â Scientific and technical awareness could be implemented into economic growth of western society, where unlike the restriction of development in the east (due to tradition), western people relished social freedom that favoured the daily use of the products of innovation from centuries of development (Clark & Feenstra, 2003).
To remark the ideas explored in the development of European civilization, the rise of an independent economic sphere and a merchant class was discussed,Â this involved a relaxation of political and religious controls. Innovations in trade leading to innovation of new resources:Â The early long distance trading voyages were highly lucrative and gave a robust increase to the development process. New Innovations in manufacturing procedures:Â as a result the cost decreased. In the 17th century, the west industrialised a method of scientific process based on trials and errors. This caused the European to develop skills and information, which foundation of western science was built upon.Â Towards the end of 19th century, pure science and industrial technology became incorporated. Dealing with trials: Innovation is defined by trials and change.Â Innovation in organization: is clearly shown by the European's success in technological innovation was enabled by its success in organizational innovation. The West was successful in adapting and adjusting accordingly to the size and structure of its organizations to keep pace with the changing times.Â Rivalry with the east and competitions also inspiredÂ firms keep implementing and innovating newer, better ways. The mixture of adaptation and multiplicity strongly inspired innovations in the western world.Â