Why England and not China and India? Water systems and the history of the Industrial Revolution

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    Authors & editors

    Tvedt, Terje [Author]

    Publisher Journal of Global History
    Year of publication 2010 5, pp. 29–50

    English (main text)

    Medium Digital
    Note: Copyright restrictions mean the attachment below only contains part of the publication. The full document is available for inspection at the Mills Archive Research and Education Centre.

    Energy & power > Development of technology


    Scope & contentAbstract
    Global history has centred for a long time on the comparative economic successes and failures
    of different parts of the world, most often European versus Asian regions. There is general
    agreement that the balance changed definitively in the latter part of the eighteenth century,
    when in continental Europe and England a transformation began that revolutionized the
    power relations of the world and brought an end to the dominance of agrarian civilization.
    However, there is still widespread debate over why Europe and England industrialized first,
    rather than Asia. This article will propose an explanation that will shed new light on Europe’s
    and England’s triumph, by showing that the ‘water system’ factor is a crucial piece missing in
    existing historical accounts of the Industrial Revolution. It is argued that this great transformation
    was not only about modernizing elites, investment capital, technological innovation,
    and unequal trade relations, but that a balanced, inclusive explanation also needs to
    consider similarities and differences in how countries and regions related to their particular
    water systems, and in how they could exploit them for transport and the production of power
    for machines.
    Web URL doi:10.1017/S1740022809990325

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