Great Divergence  

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"A second group of arguments—evident in somewhat different ways in the work of Fernand Braudel, Immanuel Wallerstein, and K. N. Chaudhuri, and in a very different way in that of Douglass North—pays less attention to levels of wealth." --The Great Divergence

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Great Divergence is a term made popular by Kenneth Pomeranz's book by that title, (also known as the European miracle, a term coined by Eric Jones in 1981) referring to the process by which the Western world (i.e. Western Europe and the parts of the New World where its people became the dominant populations) overcame pre-modern growth constraints and emerged during the 19th century as the most powerful and wealthy world civilization, eclipsing Medieval India, Qing China, the Islamic World, Joseon Korea, and Tokugawa Japan.

Scholars have proposed a wide variety of theories to explain why the Great Divergence happened, including geography, culture, institutions, colonialism, resources, and "accidents of history". Scholars also trace back the beginning of the Great Divergence to different periods, with many tracing it back to the Industrial Revolution in 18th-century Britain, while others trace it back to earlier periods of Western history, such as the commercial revolution and the origins of mercantilism and capitalism during the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery, the rise of the European colonial empires, proto-globalization, the Scientific Revolution, or the Age of Enlightenment. The "traditional view", sometimes described as a near-consensus view, is that the Great Divergence occurred before the Industrial Revolution, with Western European states surpassing China, Japan and the Middle East by 1750. However, the "revisionist" view of the "California School" estimates that the divergence started around 1800 during the Industrial Revolution. In the twentieth century, the Great Divergence peaked before the First World War and continued until the early 1970s, then, after two decades of indeterminate fluctuations, in the late 1980s it was replaced by the Great Convergence as the majority of Third World countries reached economic growth rates significantly higher than those in most First World countries.

Technological advances, in areas such as railroads, steamboats, mining, and agriculture, 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. Western Europe's use of coal as an energy substitute for wood in the mid-19th century gave it a major head start in modern energy production.

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