The Rise of The West?

The agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago was likely the first major technological transformation in human history. It is said to have happened in nine different places at approximately the same time, which were not in contact with each other. By the time the next major technological step forward was made in 18th century England, most parts of the world were in contact. One industrial revolution in the West was enough to transform the world. The Western world became the modern world. Nowadays many other regions of the world are stepping up to the Western standards. So how Western was the industrialization? Obviously the main developments took place in England. So probably the conditions were best in England. But how did these conditions came into being? I think it is legitimate to seek the reason of England’s being at 'the right place at the right time' in global history.

Most of the time historians seek this reason in the development of Europe, which according to most go back to Ancient Greco-Roman times. This reasoning follows a certain cultural prejudice which is not scientific at all, considering the fact that there was always contact between peoples of different regions in the Eurasian human web. Through trade, war and religion ideas were able to cross most cultural or political boundaries. Most regions. Not all. Some boundaries were hostile towards external ideas. Depopulated Medieval Europe, with it’s totalitarian Christendom and it’s conflict and hatred of the Islam provided a mental boundary, which closed mainland Europe off from all sorts of progress, achieved in the rest of Eurasia. It was only after the crusades in the Crescent and the establishment of a Pax Mongolica that some techniques of trade and farming, religious ideas and other information trickled into Europe. Once Italian cities enter the trade circuit development starts to catch on. The Renaissance is the cultural result of this renewed connection. Once Spanish and Portuguese sailors directly find the trade circuit of the Indian ocean and China developments grow steeply as more abstract ideas enter circulation in European towns. The Enlightment is the cultural result of this more direct connection.

Acquiring knowledge and ideas at a rapid pace made a categorizing world-view known as ‘science’ necessary, replacing a despiritualised religious world-view in some European minds. It is possible that it is the tempo of discovery of the rest of the world, physically and mentally, that led to a culture of consumption, that propelled Europeans economically speaking into colonialism and transformed Europe’s basic trade routes into Wallerstein’s Modern World-System. The intense integration and expansion of Europe’s economic networks in the early modern age provided that it was now able to acquire ideas and information from all over the globe. A few people in England, now knowing about 12th century Chinese industrial inventions, aiming to improve the production of cotton and wool, struck ‘oil’. Soon the English state mobilized all efforts towards maximizing this progress, which quickly resulted in the world-view of cultural supremacy, racism and transformed the European trade networks into imperialistic experiments. This was the birth of the modern man and his world-view.
This view of history may seem anti-European, but as an historic model of interpretation it provides a powerful explanation of the Rise of the West, by implementing the importance of a civilization’s world-view. The global culmination of technological innovation resulted in a breakthrough in an area of the world, which for a long time was one of the most backward.

Main sources:
-J.A. Hobson - The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation
-W.H. McNeill - The Human Web. A birds-eye view of human history
-A.G. Frank - ReOrient. Global economy in the asian age 1400-1800
-D. Landes - The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Why are some so poor and some so rich?
-I. Wallerstein - The Modern World-System. Volume 1


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