Great divergence

The Great Divergence is the period beginning in the 18th century in which the "West" (namely Britain, followed closely by the rest of Western Europe) clearly emerged as the most powerful region of the world, eclipsing the formerly dominant great Islamic empires (the Ottoman empire and Mughal India) and to a lesser extent even Qing China.

In the early 1700s, many believe, Western Europe and East Asia were roughly similar materially, but coming up against Malthusian constraints (population exceeding food supply) to further growth. Due to the many technological advancements that took place in Europe (including the invention of the steam engine by Thomas Newcomen), the subsequent mechanization of many European industries, the wealth and power of the world shifted from Asia to Europe (specifically to Britain).

Researchers offer competing explanations for this phenomenon. For example, Kenneth Pomeranz, in "The Great Divergence" (2000, Princeton University Press), emphasizes the proximity of coal deposits and the easily exploitable Americas. Other observers believe intrinsic features of European culture made it destined to surpass other regions, while Jared Diamond, in his book "Guns, Germs and Steel", sees geography, with Europe's geographical layout promoting competition which led to greater technological advancement, as being the ultimate factor. In contrast, according to Diamond, China's layout allowed it to become precociously united which removed a major incentive for technological advancement, and allowing China to become subject to a single emperor's arbitrary whim. In "A Farewell to Alms" Gregory Clark argues that it was cultural and genetic factors that allowed Britain to grow wealthy while others fell behind.

ee also

*European miracle
*Colonial empire
*Western empires


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