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The Great Divergence

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

Kenneth Pomeranz
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sv80
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    The Great Divergence
    Book Description:

    The Great Divergencebrings new insight to one of the classic questions of history: Why did sustained industrial growth begin in Northwest Europe, despite surprising similarities between advanced areas of Europe and East Asia? As Ken Pomeranz shows, as recently as 1750, parallels between these two parts of the world were very high in life expectancy, consumption, product and factor markets, and the strategies of households. Perhaps most surprisingly, Pomeranz demonstrates that the Chinese and Japanese cores were no worse off ecologically than Western Europe. Core areas throughout the eighteenth-century Old World faced comparable local shortages of land-intensive products, shortages that were only partly resolved by trade.

    Pomeranz argues that Europe's nineteenth-century divergence from the Old World owes much to the fortunate location of coal, which substituted for timber. This made Europe's failure to use its land intensively much less of a problem, while allowing growth in energy-intensive industries. Another crucial difference that he notes has to do with trade. Fortuitous global conjunctures made the Americas a greater source of needed primary products for Europe than any Asian periphery. This allowed Northwest Europe to grow dramatically in population, specialize further in manufactures, and remove labor from the land, using increased imports rather than maximizing yields. Together, coal and the New World allowed Europe to grow along resource-intensive, labor-saving paths.

    Meanwhile, Asia hit a cul-de-sac. Although the East Asian hinterlands boomed after 1750, both in population and in manufacturing, this growth prevented these peripheral regions from exporting vital resources to the cloth-producing Yangzi Delta. As a result, growth in the core of East Asia's economy essentially stopped, and what growth did exist was forced along labor-intensive, resource-saving paths--paths Europe could have been forced down, too, had it not been for favorable resource stocks from underground and overseas.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2349-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION COMPARISONS, CONNECTIONS, AND NARRATIVES OF EUROPEAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
    (pp. 3-28)

    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 Europe¹ 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.Comparisonswith 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.

    Other explanations have highlighted relations...

  2. PART ONE: A WORLD OF SURPRISING RESEMBLANCES

    • ONE EUROPE BEFORE ASIA? POPULATION, CAPITAL ACCUMULATION, AND TECHNOLOGY IN EXPLANATIONS OF EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT
      (pp. 31-68)

      THERE IS no consensus on how Europe became uniquely wealthy by the mid-nineteenth century. However, Eric Jones’sEuropean Miracleprobably comes closest to enunciating the current “mainst ream” position. Jones’s argument is eclectic, and many Europeanists would reject or question many of his claims; but several of his general propositions nonetheless command wide assent. For our purposes, the most important of these general statements—one also found in any number of other works—is that industrialization was not the point at which European economic history departed from other Old World trajectories; instead, it represents the full flowering of differences that...

    • TWO MARKET ECONOMIES IN EUROPE AND ASIA
      (pp. 69-108)

      IF WESTERN EUROPE was not uniquely prosperous in 1750, could its institutions have been better suited to rapid development beginning around that date? If we define “institutions” broadly enough, this argumentmustbe true at least for northwestern Europe. Yet the most common version of this argument—that western Europe grew fastest because it had the most efficient markets for goods and for factors of production—is quite unconvincing.¹ There are, of course, scholars who argue for very different institutional advantages, including directly contrary ones: i.e., that it was precisely the ways in which Europe deviated from free markets that...

  3. PART TWO: FROM NEW ETHOS TO NEW ECONOMY?: CONSUMPTION, INVESTMENT, AND CAPITALISM

    • [PART TWO: Introduction]
      (pp. 109-113)

      IN CHAPTERS 1 and 2 we considered a series of widely accepted arguments that use the institutions of pre-1800 western Europe to explain that region’s early entry into industrial growth and found that none of them was convincing in light of recent literature on other areas. There turned out to be little reason to think that western Europeans were more productive than their contemporaries in various other densely populated regions of the Old World prior to 1750 or even 1800. And when we turned to factor markets for land and labor we found, surprisingly enough, that China seemed to conform...

    • THREE LUXURY CONSUMPTION AND THE RISE OF CAPITALISM
      (pp. 114-165)

      ARGUMENTS ABOUT the rise of “luxury” or “consumer society” after about 1400 fall into two rough groups. The first emphasizes the growth of luxury consumption among the very wealthy, usually arguing that a new emphasis on the deployment of expensive, often durable manufactured objects—silks, mirrors, elegant furniture, etc.—replaced earlier ways of expressing status, such as maintaining large retinues, which did less to stimulate production; Werner Sombart called this the “objectification” of luxury.¹ As part of this shift, luxuries became increasingly available to anyone who had enough money to buy them, rather than being restricted to those who also...

    • FOUR VISIBLE HANDS: FIRM STRUCTURE, SOCIOPOLITICAL STRUCTURE, AND “CAPITALISM” IN EUROPE AND ASIA
      (pp. 166-208)

      A NUMBER OF historians, most of them influenced by Fernand Braudel, look to the big firmsat the apex of the economy for explanations of European uniqueness. These varied arguments (like those about consumption) are sometimes less precise than the arguments discussed in part 1, which referred to an explicit and fairly simple model of “perfect” markets and/or to quantifiable measures of wealth. They argue instead that the ideal conditionsfor concentratedcapital accumulation—a.k.a. “capitalism”—included the widespread development of property rights (including secure rights in financialassets) and competitive markets, but also arrangements that allowed some people to profitby circumventing...

  4. PART THREE: BEYOND SMITH AND MALTHUS:: FROM ECOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS TO SUSTAINED INDUSTRIAL GROWTH

    • FIVE SHARED CONSTRAINTS: ECOLOGICAL STRAIN IN WESTERN EUROPE AND EAST ASIA
      (pp. 211-263)

      HAVING SEVERED industrialization from any “natural” working out of early modern economic processes inanyarea, we can now suggest ways in which a developing pattern of relations between certain areas gave western Europe important advantages on the eve of industrialization. These were not advantages thathadto lead to an industrial breakthrough, but advantages that greatly increased that possibility and made such a breakthrough much easier to sustain. These advantages helped address a major problem shared by Old World cores: that before synthetic fertilizer, synthetic fibers, and the cheap mineral energy that makes synthetics economical, there were limits on...

    • SIX ABOLISHING THE LAND CONSTRAINT: THE AMERICAS AS A NEW KIND OF PERIPHERY
      (pp. 264-298)

      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...

  5. Appendix A COMPARATIVE ESTIMATES OF LAND TRANSPORT CAPACITY PER PERSON: GERMANY AND NORTH INDIA CIRCA 1800
    (pp. 301-302)
  6. Appendix B ESTIMATES OF MANURE APPLIED TO NORTH CHINA AND EUROPEAN FARMS IN THE LATE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, AND A COMPARISON OF RESULTING NITROGEN FLUXES
    (pp. 303-306)
  7. Appendix C FOREST COVER AND FUEL-SUPPLY ESTIMATES FOR FRANCE, LINGNAN, AND A PORTION OF NORTH CHINA, 1700–1850
    (pp. 307-312)
  8. Appendix D ESTIMATES OF “GHOST ACREAGE” PROVIDED BY VARIOUS IMPORTS TO LATE EIGHTEENTH- AND EARLY NINETEENTH-CENTURY BRITAIN
    (pp. 313-315)
  9. Appendix E ESTIMATES OF EARNING POWER OF RURAL TEXTILE WORKERS IN THE LOWER YANGZI REGION OF CHINA, 1750–1840
    (pp. 316-326)
  10. Appendix F ESTIMATES OF COTTON AND SILK PRODUCTION, LOWER YANGZI AND CHINA AS AWHOLE, 1750 AND LATER–WITH COMPARISONS TO UNITED KINGDOM, FRANCE, AND GERMANY
    (pp. 327-338)