Great divergence

Great divergence

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Great divergence'
Start a new discussion about 'Great divergence'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The Great Divergence, a term coined by Samuel Huntington
Samuel P. Huntington
Samuel Phillips Huntington was an influential American political scientist who wrote highly-regarded books in a half-dozen sub-fields of political science, starting in 1957...

 (also known as the European miracle, a term coined by Eric Jones
Eric Jones (economic historian)
Eric Jones is a British-Australian economist and historian, known for his 1981 book The European Miracle.-Biography:...

 in 1981), refers to the process by which the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 (i.e. Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 and the parts of the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

 where its people became the dominant populations) overcame pre-modern growth constraints and emerged irrefutably during the 19th century as the most powerful and wealthy world civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

 of the time, eclipsing Qing China
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

, Mughal India
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

, and Tokugawa Japan
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

.

The process was accompanied and reinforced by the Age of Discovery
Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration and the Great Navigations , was a period in history starting in the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century during which Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world, establishing direct contacts with...

 and the subsequent rise of the colonial empires, the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, the Commercial Revolution
Commercial Revolution
The Commercial Revolution was a period of European economic expansion, colonialism, and mercantilism which lasted from approximately the 16th century until the early 18th century. It was succeeded in the mid-18th century by the Industrial Revolution. Beginning with the Crusades, Europeans...

, the Scientific Revolution
Scientific revolution
The Scientific Revolution is an era associated primarily with the 16th and 17th centuries during which new ideas and knowledge in physics, astronomy, biology, medicine and chemistry transformed medieval and ancient views of nature and laid the foundations for modern science...

 and finally the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

. Scholars have proposed a wide variety of theories to explain why the Great Divergence happened, including government intervention, geography, and customary traditions.

Before the Great Divergence, the core developed areas included China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. In each of these core areas, differing political and cultural institutions allowed varying degrees of development. China, Western Europe, and Japan had developed to a relatively high level and began to face constraints on energy and land use, while India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 still possessed large amounts of unused resources. Shifts in government policy from mercantilism
Mercantilism
Mercantilism is the economic doctrine in which government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the prosperity and security of the state. In particular, it demands a positive balance of trade. Mercantilism dominated Western European economic policy and discourse from...

 to laissez faire liberalism aided Western development.

Technological advances, such as railroads, steamboats, mining
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

, and agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 were embraced to a higher degree in the West than the East during the Great Divergence. Technology led to increased industrialization and economic complexity in the areas of agriculture, trade, fuel and resources, further separating the East and the West. Europe's use of coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 as an energy substitute for wood in the mid-19th century gave Europe a major head start in modern energy production. Although China had used coal earlier during the Song
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 and Ming
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

, its use declined due to the shift of Chinese industry to the south, far from major deposits, during the destruction of Mongol and Jurchen invasions between 1100 and 1400. The West also had the advantage of larger quantities of raw materials and a substantial trading market. China and Asia did participate in trading, but colonization brought a distinct advantage to the West.

Terminology and definition


The term "Great Divergence" was coined by Samuel Huntington
Samuel Huntington
Samuel Huntington may refer to:* Samuel Huntington , American jurist, statesman, and revolutionary leader* Samuel H. Huntington , American jurist* Samuel P. Huntington , American political scientist...

 in 1996 and used by Kenneth Pomeranz
Kenneth Pomeranz
Kenneth Pomeranz is the of History at the University of California, Irvine in the US. He received his B.A. from Cornell University in 1980 and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1988, where he was a student of Jonathan Spence.-Research:...

 in his book The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (2000). The same phenomenon was discussed by Eric Jones, whose 1981 book The European Miracle: Environments, Economies and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia popularized the alternate term "European Miracle". Broadly, both terms signify a socioeconomic shift in which Western countries advanced ahead of Eastern countries during the Modern period.

The timing of the Great Divergence is in dispute among historians.
The traditional dating is as early as the 16th century, with scholars arguing that Europe had been on a trajectory of higher growth since that date.
Pomeranz and others argue that the period of most rapid divergence was during the 19th century.
Citing nutrition data and chronic Western trade deficits as evidence, these scholars claim that before that date the East, especially China, was wealthier and more advanced.
Others, while accepting parity of incomes between the most prosperous parts of China and Europe around 1800, trace the first significant changes in European economies back to the 17th century.

Conditions in pre-Great Divergence cores


Unlike modern industrial economies, pre-modern economies were constrained by conditions which greatly limited economic growth. Although core regions in Asia and Europe had achieved a relatively high standard of living by the 18th century, shortages of land, soil degradation, deforestation, lack of a dependable energy sources (wood and charcoal were rapidly depleted), and other ecological constraints limited growth in per capita incomes. Rapid rates of depreciation on capital meant that a great part of savings in pre-modern economies were spent on replacing depleted capital, hampering capital accumulation
Capital accumulation
The accumulation of capital refers to the gathering or amassing of objects of value; the increase in wealth through concentration; or the creation of wealth. Capital is money or a financial asset invested for the purpose of making more money...

. Massive windfalls of fuel, land, food and other resources would be necessary for continued growth and capital accumulation.
The industrial revolution overcame these restraints, allowing rapid, sustained growth in per capita incomes for the first time in human history.

Western Europe


After the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

, Muslim and Magyar invasions waned in the 10th century, Europe entered a period of prosperity, population growth and territorial expansion known as the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

.
Trade and commerce revived, with increased specialization between areas and between the countryside and artisans in towns.
By the 13th century the best land had been occupied and agricultural income began to fall, though trade and commerce continued to expand, especially in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 and other northern Italian cities.
The 14th century brought a series of calamities
Crisis of the Late Middle Ages
The Crisis of the Late Middle Ages refers to a series of events in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that brought centuries of European prosperity and growth to a halt...

: famines, wars, the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 and other epidemics.
The resulting drop in the population led to falling rents and rising wages, undermining the feudal and manorial relationships that had characterized Medieval Europe.

In the Age of Exploration navigators discovered new routes to the Americas and Asia.
Commerce expanded, together with innovations such as joint stock companies and various financial institutions.
New military technologies favored larger units, leading to a concentration of power in states whose finances relied on trade.
France and Spain developed absolute monarchies reliant on high taxes and state-backed monopolies, leading to economic decline.
The Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

 was controlled by merchants, while Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 gained control of England after a long struggle culminating in the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

.
These arrangements proved more hospitable to economic development.
At the end of the 16th century London and Antwerp began pulling away from other European cities, as illustrated in the following graph of real wages in several European cities:
The West had a series of unique advantages compared to Asia, such as the proximity of coal mines, and the discovery of the New world
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

 which alleviated ecological restraints on economic growth such as land shortages, as well as the profits from colonization.

China



China had a larger population than Europe throughout the Common Era.
Unlike Europe, it was politically united for long periods during that time.

During the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 (960–1279), the country experienced a revolution in agriculture, water transport, finance, urbanization, science and technology, which made the Chinese economy the most advanced in the world from about 1100.
Mastery of wet-field rice cultivation
Paddy field
A paddy field is a flooded parcel of arable land used for growing rice and other semiaquatic crops. Paddy fields are a typical feature of rice farming in east, south and southeast Asia. Paddies can be built into steep hillsides as terraces and adjacent to depressed or steeply sloped features such...

 opened up the hitherto underdeveloped south of the country, while later northern China was devastated by Jur'chen and Mongol invasions, floods and epidemics. The result was a dramatic shift in the centre of population and industry from the home of Chinese civilization around the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 to the south of the country, a trend only partially reversed by the re-population of the north from the 15th century.

In the late imperial period
Late Imperial China
Late Imperial China refers to the period between the end of Mongol rule in 1368 and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 and includes the Ming and Qing Dynasties...

 (1368–1911), comprising the Ming
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 and Qing
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 dynasties, taxation
Taxation in premodern China
In the premodern era of Chinese history, taxation by the various dynasties that ruled China varied greatly. Overall, the most important source of state revenue was the tax on agriculture, or land tax. During some dynasties, the government also imposed state monopolies which became important sources...

 was low, and the economy and population grew significantly, though without substantial increases in productivity.
Chinese goods such as silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

, tea
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

 and ceramics were in great demand in Europe, leading to an inflow of silver, expanding the money supply and facilitating the growth of competitive and stable markets.
By the end of the 18th century, population density levels exceeded those in Europe. China had more large cities but far fewer small ones than in contemporary Europe.

India


Of the developed cores of the Old world
Old World
The Old World consists of those parts of the world known to classical antiquity and the European Middle Ages. It is used in the context of, and contrast with, the "New World" ....

, India was distinguished by its caste system
Caste system in India
The Indian caste system is a system of social stratification and social restriction in India in which communities are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called Jātis....

 of bound labor, which hampered economic and population growth and resulted in relative underdevelopment compared to other core regions. Compared with other developed regions, India still possessed large amounts of unused resources. India's caste system gave an incentive to elites to drive their unfree laborers
Unfree labour
Unfree labour includes all forms of slavery as well as all other related institutions .-Payment for unfree labour:If payment occurs, it may be in one or more of the following forms:...

 harder when faced with increased demand, rather than invest in new capital projects and technology. The Indian economy was characterized by vassal-lord relationships, which weakened the motive of financial profit and the development of markets; a talented artisan or merchant could not hope to gain much personal reward. Overall, scholars state that India was not a very likely site for an industrial breakthrough, despite its sophisticated commerce and technologies.

Japan


Japanese society was governed by the Tokugawa Shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

, which divided Japanese society into a strict hierarchy and intervened considerably in the economy through state monopolies and restrictions on foreign trade
Sakoku Edict of 1635
This Sakoku Edict of 1635 was the third of a series issued by Tokugawa Iemitsu, shogun of Japan from 1623 to 1651. The Edict of 1635 is considered a prime example of the Japanese desire for seclusion...

; however, in practice, the Shogunate's rule was often circumvented. Japan experienced a period of relatively rapid economic growth before 1720, after which Japanese population levels and incomes stagnated and declined.

Possible factors


Beginning in the early 19th century, economic prosperity rose greatly in the West due to improvements in technological efficiency, as evidenced by the advent of new conveniences including the railroad, steamboat, steam engine, and the use of coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 as a fuel source. These innovations caused the Great Divergence, elevating Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to high economic standing relative to the East. Scholars have proposed numerous theories to explain why the Great Divergence occurred.

Coal



In the Industrial Revolution, coal and coke
Coke (fuel)
Coke is the solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. Cokes from coal are grey, hard, and porous. While coke can be formed naturally, the commonly used form is man-made.- History :...

 were extensively used in metallurgy and steam engines, being cheaper, more plentiful and more efficient than wood and charcoal
Charcoal
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...

.
Coal-fired steam engines were also used in the railways and in shipping, revolutionizing transport in the early 19th century.

Kenneth Pomeranz drew attention to differences in the availability of coal between West and East. Due to regional climate, European coal mines were wetter, and deep mines did not become practical until the introduction of the Newcomen steam engine
Newcomen steam engine
The atmospheric engine invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712, today referred to as a Newcomen steam engine , was the first practical device to harness the power of steam to produce mechanical work. Newcomen engines were used throughout Britain and Europe, principally to pump water out of mines,...

 to pump out groundwater. In Chinese mines in the arid northwest, ventilation to prevent explosions was much more difficult.

Another difference was geographic distance; although China and Europe had comparable mining technologies, the distances between the economically developed regions and coal deposits were vastly different. The largest coal deposits in China are located in the northwest, within reach of the Chinese industrial core during the Northern Song. During the 11th century, China developed sophisticated technologies to extract and use coal for energy, leading to soaring iron production. The southward population shift between the 12th and 14th centuries resulted in new centers of Chinese industry far from the major coal deposits. Some small coal deposits were available locally, though their use was sometimes hampered by government regulations. In contrast, Britain contained some of the largest coal deposits in Europe.

Efficiency of markets and state intervention


The claim that Europe had more efficient markets than other civilizations has been cited as a reason for the Great Divergence. In Europe, market efficiency was disrupted by the prevalence of feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 and mercantilism
Mercantilism
Mercantilism is the economic doctrine in which government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the prosperity and security of the state. In particular, it demands a positive balance of trade. Mercantilism dominated Western European economic policy and discourse from...

. Practices such as entail
Entail
Entail may refer to:* Fee tail, a term of art in common law describing a limited form of succession....

 which restricted land ownership, hampered the free flow of labor and buying and selling of land. These feudal restrictions on land ownership were especially strong in continental Europe. China had a relatively more liberal land market, hampered only by weak customary traditions. Bound labor, such as serfdom
Serfdom
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

 and slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 were more prevalent in Europe than in China, even during the Manchu conquest. Urban industry in the West was more restrained by guild
Guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

s and state-enforced monopolies than in China, where in the 18th century the principal monopolies governed salt and foreign trade through Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

. Pomeranz rejects the view that market institutions were the cause of the Great Divergence, and concludes that China was closer to the ideal of a market economy than Europe.

State prohibition of new technology


Jarred Diamond in the book Guns, Germs, and Steel
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles . In 1998 it won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction and the Aventis Prize for Best Science Book...

 argues that explicit outlawing of new technology was an important explanation for the divergence. For example, in China in 1432, a new Emperor outlawed the building of ocean-going ships, in which China was the world leader at the time. Diamond traces this to differences in geography. Outside Europe advanced cultures developed in areas whose geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

 was conducive to large, monolithic, isolated empires. In these conditions policies of technological and social stagnation could persist. On the other hand, Europe's geography favored balkanization
Balkanization
Balkanization, or Balkanisation, is a geopolitical term, originally used to describe the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or non-cooperative with each other, and it is considered pejorative.The term refers to the...

 into smaller, closer, nation-states, as its many natural barriers (mountains, rivers) provide defensible borders. As a result, governments that suppressed economic and technological progress soon corrected their mistakes or were out-competed relatively quickly. As an example of this national Darwinism
Darwinism
Darwinism is a set of movements and concepts related to ideas of transmutation of species or of evolution, including some ideas with no connection to the work of Charles Darwin....

, Diamond offers the disappearance of the counter-progressive Polish regime. He argues that geographical factors created the conditions for more rapid internal superpower change (Spain succeeded by France and then by England) than was possible elsewhere in Eurasia.

Another example is the firearms of Japan
Firearms of Japan
Firearms were introduced to Japan in the 13th century. Following an intense development, with strong local manufacture during the period of conflicts of the 16th century, Japan then almost completely abandoned firearms through a policy of forced disarmament, helped by a policy of seclusion, sakoku...

 being almost completely prohibited by the Tokugawa Shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

, in part because this new technology threatened the Samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 class and way of life.

Differences in wages and living standards


Classical economists, beginning with Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

 and Thomas Malthus
Thomas Malthus
The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus FRS was an English scholar, influential in political economy and demography. Malthus popularized the economic theory of rent....

, argued that high wages in the West stimulated labor-saving technological advancements. However, more recent studies have depicted living standards in 18th century China and pre-Industrial Revolution Europe as comparable. Life expectancy in China and Japan for adult males were 39.6 and 41.1 respectively, compared with 34 for England, between 27.5 and 30 for France, and 24.7 for Prussia. Chinese laborers in the Yangtze delta consumed 4,600 calories per day on average (laborers in China overall consumed 2,637 calories on average) compared with 2,000-2,500 calories per day for England. According to Pomeranz and others, there was modest per capita growth in both regions, the Chinese economy was not stagnant, and in many areas, especially agriculture, was ahead of Western Europe. Chinese cities were also ahead in public health.

Economic historian Robert Allen estimates that family incomes in the Yangtze delta, the richest region of China, were substantially higher than England in 1620 and was the equivalent of 19 pence per day in 1820, compared with 20 pence per day in the contemporary English Midlands, However, Allen states that Yangtze delta agricultural labor productivity was static between 1600 and 1800, while English and Dutch productivity caught up, greatly increasing from a much lower starting point. Yangtse workers worked fewer days, and the trend was for the number of days worked to decrease as farms became smaller, reducing family incomes.

Luxury consumption



Luxury consumption is regarded by many scholars to have stimulated the development of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 and thus contributed to the Great Divergence. Proponents of this view argue that workshops, which manufactured luxury articles for the wealthy, gradually amassed capital to expand their production and then emerged as large firms producing for a mass market; they believe that Western Europe's unique tastes for luxury stimulated this development further than other cultures. However, others counter that luxury workshops were not unique to Europe; large cities in China and Japan also possessed many luxury workshops for the wealthy, and that luxury workshops do not necessarily stimulate the development of "capitalistic firms".

Property rights


Differences in property rights have been cited as a possible cause of the Great Divergence. This view states that Asian merchants could not develop and accumulate capital because of the risk of state expropriation and claims from fellow kinsmen, which made property rights very insecure compared to those of Europe. However, others counter that many European merchants were de facto expropriated through defaults on government debt, and that the threat of expropriation by Asian states was not much greater than in Europe, except in Japan.

Pomeranz (2000) argues that much of the land market in China was free, with many supposedly hereditary tenants and landlords being frequently removed or forced to sell their land. Although Chinese customary law specified that people within the village were to be offered the land first, Pomeranz states that most of the time the land was offered to more capable outsiders, and argues that China actually had a more free land market than Europe.
Pomeranz does not address the most common form of land sale, known as the conditional sale. The conditional sale allowed the seller to return to the buyer many years after the sale, and many times, to demand extra payments. He also does not account for the inability of landlords to collect rent on second crops.

However, Robert Brenner
Robert Brenner
Robert P. Brenner is a professor of history and director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA, editor of the socialist journal Against the Current, and editorial committee member of New Left Review...

 and Chris Isett emphasize differences in land tenancy rights. They argue that in the lower Yangtze, most farmers either owned land or held secure tenancy at fixed rates of rent, so that neither farmers nor landlords were exposed to competition. In 15th century England, lords had lost their serfs, but were able to assert control over almost all of the land, creating a rental market for tenant farmers. This created competitive pressures against subdividing plots, and the fact that plots could not be directly passed on to sons forced them to delay marriage until they had accumulated their own possessions. Thus in England both agricultural productivity and population growth were subject to market pressures throughout the early modern period.

The New World



A variety of theories posit Europe's unique relationship with the New World as a major cause of the Great Divergence. The high profits earned from the colonies and the slave trade constituted 7 percent a year, 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. Early European colonization was sustained by profits through selling New World goods to Asia, especially silver to China. According to Pomeranz, the most important advantage for Europe was the vast amount of fertile, uncultivated land in the Americas which could be used to grow large quantities of farm products required to sustain European economic growth and allowed labor and land to be freed up in Europe for industrialization. New World exports of wood, cotton, and wool is estimated to have saved England the need for 23 to 25 million acres (101,171.5 km²) of cultivated land (by comparison, the total amount of cultivated land in England was just 17 million acres), freeing up immense amounts of resources. The New World also served as a market for European manufactures. However, Ricardo Duchesne has argued against Pomeranz's assertion that the New world gave Europe a special advantage compared to other Asian cores by pointing out that China also engaged in expansion into the Southwest and Manchuria which gave it similar advantages.

Economic effects


The Old World methods of agriculture and production could only sustain certain lifestyles. Industrialization dramatically changed the European economy and allowed it to attain much higher levels of wealth and productivity than the other Old World cores. Although Western technology later spread to the East, differences in uses preserved the Western lead and accelerated the Great Divergence.

Productivity


When analyzing comparative use-efficiency, the economic concept of Total Factor Productivity
Total factor productivity
In economics, total-factor productivity is a variable which accounts for effects in total output not caused by inputs. If all inputs are accounted for, then total factor productivity can be taken as a measure of an economy’s long-term technological change or technological dynamism.If all inputs...

 (TFP) is applied to quantify differences between countries. TFP analysis controls for differences in raw material inputs across countries and is then used to calculate productivity
Productivity
Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio of what is produced to what is required to produce it. Usually this ratio is in the form of an average, expressing the total output divided by the total input...

. The difference in productivity levels, therefore, reflects efficiency of raw materials use rather than the raw materials themselves. TFP analysis has shown that Western countries had higher TFP levels on average in the 19th century than Eastern countries such as India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 or China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, showing that Western productivity had surpassed the East.

Per capita income


Some of the most striking evidence for the Great Divergence comes from data on per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

. The West's rise to power directly coincides with per capita income in the West surpassing that in the East. This change can be attributed largely to the mass transit technologies, such as railroads and steamboats, that the West developed in the 19th century. The construction of large ships, trains, and railroads greatly increased productivity. These modes of transport made moving large quantities of coal, corn, grain, livestock and other goods across countries more efficient, greatly reducing transportation costs. These differences allowed Western productivity to exceed that of other regions.

Economic historian Paul Bairoch
Paul Bairoch
Born of Jewish parents who emigrated from Poland, Paul Bairoch was one of the great post-war economic historians who specialized in global economic history, urban history and historical demography...

 has estimated the GDP per capita of several major countries in 1960 US dollars after the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th century, as shown below.
His estimates show that the GDP per capita of Western European countries rose rapidly after industrialization.

Agriculture


Before and during the early 19th century, much of continental European agriculture was underdeveloped compared to Asian Cores and England. This left Europe with abundant idle natural resources. England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, on the other hand, had reached the limit of its agricultural productivity well before the beginning of the 19th century. Rather than taking the costly route of improving soil fertility, the English increased labor productivity by industrializing agriculture. From 1750 to 1850, European nations experienced population booms; however, European agriculture was barely able to keep pace with the dietary needs. Imports from the Americas, the reduced caloric intake required by the newly forming proletariat
Proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

, and the consumption of appetite suppressants such as tea allowed England to cope with the food shortages. By the turn of the 19th century, much European farmland had been eroded and depleted of nutrients. Fortunately, through improved farming techniques, the import of fertilizers, and reforestation
Reforestation
Reforestation is the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands that have been depleted, usually through deforestation....

, Europeans were able to recondition their soil and prevent food shortages from hampering industrialization. Meanwhile, many other formerly hegemonic areas of the world were struggling to feed themselves — notably China.

Fuel and resources


The global demand for wood, a major resource required for industrial growth and development, was increasing in the first half of the 19th century. A lack of interest of silviculture
Silviculture
Silviculture is the practice of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests to meet diverse needs and values. The name comes from the Latin silvi- + culture...

 in Western Europe, and a lack of forested land, caused wood shortages. By the mid-19th century, forests accounted for less than 15% of land use in most Western European countries. Fuel costs rose sharply in these countries throughout the 18th century and many households and factories were forced to ration their usage, and eventually adopt forest conservation policies. It was not until the 19th century that coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 began providing much needed relief to the European energy shortage. China had not begun to use coal on a large scale until around 1900, giving Europe a huge lead on modern energy production.

Through the 19th century, Europe had vast amounts of unused arable land
Arable land
In geography and agriculture, arable land is land that can be used for growing crops. It includes all land under temporary crops , temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market and kitchen gardens and land temporarily fallow...

 with adequate water sources. However, this was not the case in China; most idle lands suffered from a lack of water supply, so forests had to be cultivated. Since the mid-19th century, northern China's water supplies have been declining, reducing its agricultural output. By growing cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 for textiles, rather than importing, China exacerbated its water shortage.
During the 19th century, supplies of wood and land decreased considerably, greatly slowing growth of Chinese per capita incomes.

Trade


During the era of European imperialism, periphery countries
Periphery countries
In World Systems Theory, the periphery countries are those that are less developed than the semi-periphery and core countries. These countries usually receive a disproportionately small share of global wealth. They have weak state institutions and are dependent on – according to some, exploited...

 were often set up as specialized producers of specific resources. Although these specializations brought the periphery countries temporary economic benefit, the overall effect inhibited the industrial development of periphery territories. Cheaper resources for core countries
Core countries
In World Systems Theory, the core countries are the industrialized capitalist countries on which periphery countries and semi-periphery countries depend. Core countries control and benefit from the global market. They are usually recognized as wealthy nations with a wide variety of resources and...

 through trade deals with specialized periphery countries allowed the core countries to advance at much greater pace, both economically and industrially, than the rest of the world. Europe's access to a larger quantity of raw materials and a larger market to sell its manufactured goods gave it a distinct advantage through the 19th century. In order to further industrialize, it was imperative for the developing core areas to acquire resources from less densely populated areas, since they lacked the lands required to supply these resources themselves. Europe was able to trade manufactured goods to their colonies, including the Americas, for raw materials. The same sort of trading could be seen throughout regions in China and Asia, but colonization brought a distinct advantage to the West. As these sources of raw materials began to proto-industrialize
Proto-industrialization
Proto-industrialisation is a phase in the development of modern industrial economies that preceded, and created conditions for, the establishment of fully industrial societies...

, they would turn to import substitution
Import substitution
Import substitution industrialization or "Import-substituting Industrialization" is a trade and economic policy that advocates replacing imports with domestic production. It is based on the premise that a country should attempt to reduce its foreign dependency through the local production of...

, depriving the hegemonic nations of a market for their manufactured goods. Since European nations had control over their colonies, they were able to prevent this from happening. Britain was able to use import substitution to its benefit when dealing with textiles from India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. Through industrialization, Britain was able increase cotton productivity enough to make it lucrative for domestic production, and overtake India as the world's leading cotton supplier. Western Europe was also able to establish profitable trade with Eastern Europe. Countries such as Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 had very little freedom in comparison to the West; forced labor left much of Eastern Europe with little time to work towards proto-industrialization and ample manpower to generate raw materials.

See also

  • Colonial empire
    Colonial empire
    The Colonial empires were a product of the European Age of Exploration that began with a race of exploration between the then most advanced maritime powers, Portugal and Spain, in the 15th century...

  • Western empires
  • Modern history
    Modern history
    Modern history, or the modern era, describes the historical timeline after the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution...

  • Second European colonization wave (19th century–20th century)
  • Rise of the New Imperialism
    Rise of the New Imperialism
    The "Rise of the New Imperialism" era overlaps with the Pax Britannica period . The American Revolution and the collapse of the Spanish empire in the New World in the early 1810-20s, following the revolutions in the viceroyalties of New Spain, New Granada, Peru and the Río de la Plata ended the...

  • Economic history of China (pre-1911)
  • Joseph Needham
    Joseph Needham
    Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham, CH, FRS, FBA , also known as Li Yuese , was a British scientist, historian and sinologist known for his scientific research and writing on the history of Chinese science. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1941, and as a fellow of the British...


Books
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel
    Guns, Germs, and Steel
    Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles . In 1998 it won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction and the Aventis Prize for Best Science Book...

  • The Civilizing Process
    The Civilizing Process
    The book The Civilizing Process written by German sociologist Norbert Elias is an influential work in sociology and Elias' most important work. It was first published in 1939 in German as Über den Prozeß der Zivilisation. Because of the World War it was virtually ignored, but republished in the...

  • The European Miracle
    The European miracle
    The European Miracle: Environments, Economies and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia is a book written by Eric Jones in 1981 to refer to the sudden rise of Europe during the late Middle Ages...

  • The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
    The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
    The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community is a popular work by Canadian historian William H. McNeill...

  • The Clash of Civilizations
  • A Farewell to Alms