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Why The Industrial Revolution Took Place In China Essay

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By the start of the modern period (say, a few centuries ago), the agricultural empires (such as the Caliphate or the areas corresponding to modern day China or India) had long been exceptionally prosperous, powerful, inventive, well organised and cultured. So why did the industrial revolution happen in Europe rather than China or India or any of the other great agricultural empires?

Up until the eighteenth century Europe was on similar terms to the great Asian empires in terms of wealth and technological advancement, however at the end of the eighteenth century Europe started to experience an industrial revolution, which would continue throughout most of the follow century, this led to Western Europe becoming the most economically powerful region in the world. This great leap ahead of Asia by Europe is sometimes referred to as the great divergence, there have been ideas and theories as to why this divergence took place and why the industrial revolution took place in Europe and not Asia, but there is not a consensus among academics over what were the key causes. For many the main question is, more specifically, why did the industrial revolution not take place in China? In the years preceding the industrial revolution, until around 1800, China was one of the largest nations on earth, both in terms of population and economic output; it had also been one of the most advanced nations for many centuries, as Yifu Lin says ‘China by the fourteenth century was probably the most cosmopolitan, technologically advanced and economically powerful civilisation in the world’ China went from having 32.8% of the world’s total output in 1750 to having 8.2% in 1860, while in the same time period Europe went from having 23.3% to 53.2% (Mukherjee, 2004). Therefore a common question is; why did Europe experience an ‘Industrial Revolution’ before China? There was not one single factor that can explain the answer, but rather a combination of factors.

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