Re: De Long on Pomeranz

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From: Dave Long (
Date: Tue Apr 18 2000 - 21:45:38 PDT

> ... It's all in, I think, The Perspecitive of the World,
> which is the third volume of his history of capitalism, and I think toward
> the end of that volume. (I've just narrowed your search from 3000 pages to
> about 300.)

Found it, thanks. Since dead trees tend to come with indices and
tables of contents, as well as somewhat useful running headings, it
wasn't too difficult to track down the argument.

Although Braudel mentions cheap labor, it's interesting that he
thought of it as an advantage:
> Business was good, so why change anything? The incentive worked
> the other way round -- providing a stimulus to the threatened
> industry of Europe. England's first step was to close her own
> frontiers for the greater part of the eighteenth century to Indian
> textiles, which she re-exported to Europe and America.
and lays the blame on Britain:
> ... one can see how from and early stage India's internal balances
> and structures were distorted and strained to achieve aims quite
> foreign to her; how in the process, India was eventually in the
> nineteenth century 'deindustrialized', reduced to the role of a
> major producer of raw materials.

Embrace and extend in the eighteenth century?

A general thread throughout the chapter is that European trading
companies pressed their advantage in warships and artillery to
capture trade; they were equally willing to conduct business with
the sword hand as with the invisible.

I'm reading the rest of it now, and he does have a pretty good
refutation of my earlier hypothesis; he views the growth of
Europe as having started in 1100-1200, and the black death in
fact put a severe damper on European economic activity.

Europe in this period may have just been colonizing itself. He
quotes Archibald Lewis as saying "the most important frontier in
European expansion was the internal frontier of forest, marsh, and
heath." and has a graph showing that towns were springing up in
Central Europe between 1200 and 1400 at a rate much greater than in
any more recent period. The other spike in urbanization is of course
from 1850 through the end of the graph in 1950, but the thirteenth
century urbanization outstripped it by a factor of 4 or more.


Braudel does mention Alexandria, where steampower had made an
appearance between 100 and 50 BC, but only "merely to operate
ingenious toys". My current thoughts on this is that while good
steam engines are widely useful, there are very few things that a
bad steam engine can do -- so pumping out coal mines (an activity
for which the fuel cost is not prohibitive, and for which the
action is consistently repetitive) turned out to be the beachhead
application. As a coal mine pump, the steam engine was actually
economically viable enough to justify enough incremental improvement
to become useful outside the realm of mine drainage.

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