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Why no Roman Industrial Revolution?


lucklucky

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I do not get the premise of the article. Obviously a industrial revolution needs preconditions:

- availability of resources including metal and the knowledge to work with high quality metal

- availability of an energy source to power machines

- higher level of education, including preservation and distribution of knowledge in documents

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There was an interesting study of the ice shelf in Greenland a few years back. They were studying the effects of pollution in contamination of the ice, and noticed a very remarkable spike during the peak of the Roman Empire. Supposedly it was determined it was primarily due to forests being cut down and burnt, perhaps for heating, perhaps for industrial purposes like baking tiles, earthenware, maybe quicklime or other components in the production of Roman cement.

Just because it wasnt an Industrial Revolution like the English one, I dont think its fair to write it off as a might have been. There was an industrial revolution going on, just not quite the open ended one we enjoyed with vastly superior materials.

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48 minutes ago, urbanoid said:

Wouldn't the Romans still have enough 'cheap labor' from the provinces even without slavery?

It could be that dispossessed farm laborers went to cities not for working but for living on the dole.

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5 hours ago, seahawk said:

I do not get the premise of the article. Obviously a industrial revolution needs preconditions:

- availability of resources including metal and the knowledge to work with high quality metal

- availability of an energy source to power machines

- higher level of education, including preservation and distribution of knowledge in documents

I think the basic idea is that Romans were not, for the most part, quite as technologically advanced so that 'Industrial revolution' would have been 'around the corner'. Much as Dark Ages have been moaned about, an European farmer or smith from ca. 1000AD would have viewed Roman era tools and methods as backwards and primitive.

Romans did have "industrial revolution" and they had factories.  They even had powered factories. They didn't have steam engines, perhaps largely due to metallurgy demands being beyond what Romans could achieve on large scale. They could make them as toys or curiosities, but not in a fashion to produce meaningful labour gains.

I think there perhaps is something to 'specific conditions' talked about. If we look at Middle East, India and China, they had access to lot of things the writer notes Romans missed - much more advanced mathematics, windmills, horse collars, compass, even printing press...yet they did not achieve 'industrial revolution' either. Well, China did, in a way, but in much weaker and slower form than eventually took place in Europe. 

Having said that, I think there is a lot of 'post-deterministic' analysis regarding to Industrial Revolution: Because it happened that way in England, that is the only way it could have happened.

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5 hours ago, sunday said:

I find remarkable the so little mention of slavery as impediment to research in powered machinery.

Was it?  A bit counterfactual to make that assertion, though it often is.  The mechanical grain reaper was invented in the 1830s during the height of slavery in the US and was in wide use before the American Civil War.  On the other hand it would be about 70s years following the end of the American Civil War and the end of slavery before the first practical cotton pickers were being used in the 1930s.  On the other, other hand, the mechanical cotton gin was invented and widely used in the American south 60 years preceding the American Civil War.  

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10 minutes ago, DKTanker said:

Was it?  A bit counterfactual to make that assertion, though it often is.  The mechanical grain reaper was invented in the 1830s during the height of slavery in the US and was in wide use before the American Civil War.  On the other hand it would be about 70s years following the end of the American Civil War and the end of slavery before the first practical cotton pickers were being used in the 1930s.  On the other, other hand, the mechanical cotton gin was invented and widely used in the American south 60 years preceding the American Civil War.  

There are authors that claim the cotton gin was key in the development of slavery in the US south. That could have been an unintended consequence.

Case in point:

Quote

Effects of the Cotton Gin

After the invention of the cotton gin, the yield of raw cotton doubled each decade after 1800. Demand was fueled by other inventions of the Industrial Revolution, such as machines to spin and weave it, and the steamboat to transport it. By 1850, America was growing three-quarters of the world's supply of cotton, most of it sent to New England or exported to England where it was manufactured into cloth. During this time tobacco fell in value, rice exports at best stayed steady, and sugar began to thrive, but only in Louisiana. By the mid-19th century, the South provided three-fifths of America's exports – most of it in cotton.

The most significant effect of the cotton gin, however, was the growth of slavery. While it was true that the cotton gin reduced the labor of removing seeds, it did not reduce the need for enslaved labor to grow and pick the cotton. In fact, the opposite occurred. Cotton growing became so profitable for enslavers that it greatly increased their demand for both land and enslaved labor. In 1790, there were six "slave states"; in 1860 there were 15. From 1790 until Congress banned the slave trade from Africa in 1808, Southerners imported 80,000 Africans. By 1860, approximately one in three Southerners was an enslaved person.

 

Edited by sunday
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10 minutes ago, urbanoid said:

Btw. are there any published alt-history novels with 'industrial Rome'?

The closest thing I'm aware of is the "Romanitas" trilogy, which is however based upon the assumption that the empire has survived to present day with the associated technological development. For that premise, it's rather unimaginative - somehow all the progress over centuries hasn't changed the political system or society at all, motor vehicles are all referred to as a kind of galley, like "rail galley", "sand galley", etc. As such, they're in fact more of an approximation to how classical Rome might have looked with vastly accelerated technological progress.

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37 minutes ago, Yama said:

I think the basic idea is that Romans were not, for the most part, quite as technologically advanced so that 'Industrial revolution' would have been 'around the corner'. Much as Dark Ages have been moaned about, an European farmer or smith from ca. 1000AD would have viewed Roman era tools and methods as backwards and primitive.

Romans did have "industrial revolution" and they had factories.  They even had powered factories. They didn't have steam engines, perhaps largely due to metallurgy demands being beyond what Romans could achieve on large scale. They could make them as toys or curiosities, but not in a fashion to produce meaningful labour gains.

I think there perhaps is something to 'specific conditions' talked about. If we look at Middle East, India and China, they had access to lot of things the writer notes Romans missed - much more advanced mathematics, windmills, horse collars, compass, even printing press...yet they did not achieve 'industrial revolution' either. Well, China did, in a way, but in much weaker and slower form than eventually took place in Europe. 

Having said that, I think there is a lot of 'post-deterministic' analysis regarding to Industrial Revolution: Because it happened that way in England, that is the only way it could have happened.

I think first of all you need access to global resources.

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45 minutes ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Im surprised Harry Turtledove hasnt touched on it.

ap2wRKW_700b.jpg

He created alt-Byzantines with magic though. And also a 'what if the CSA won' in the Southern Victory series, that I didn't enjoy too much by the end as the 20th century CSA and its leader were the almost 1:1 Nazi Germany and Hitler, just with blacks getting the short end of the stick instead of the juice, I think it was a rather lazy approach.

Edited by urbanoid
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1 hour ago, BansheeOne said:

The closest thing I'm aware of is the "Romanitas" trilogy, which is however based upon the assumption that the empire has survived to present day with the associated technological development. For that premise, it's rather unimaginative - somehow all the progress over centuries hasn't changed the political system or society at all, motor vehicles are all referred to as a kind of galley, like "rail galley", "sand galley", etc. As such, they're in fact more of an approximation to how classical Rome might have looked with vastly accelerated technological progress.

Ah, maybe the alternatehistory.com forum has come up with something. Once I found a real gem there, a 1800 pages long book about the US where slavery survived and even thrived, they wanted the 'Draka(-like) dystopia done right' and the effect was impressive.

Edited by urbanoid
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52 minutes ago, urbanoid said:

He created alt-Byzantines with magic though. And also a 'what if the CSA won' in the Southern Victory series, that I didn't enjoy too much by the end as the 20th century CSA and its leader were the almost 1:1 Nazi Germany and Hitler, just with blacks getting the short end of the stick instead of the juice, I think it was a rather lazy approach.

Yeah, I read his last novel of the Alt WW2 series where the Aliens land. Clever, but I found it hard to credit an author who kills off Winston Churchill for the dubious benefit of making Anthony Eden PM.

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Yeah he has the lineup at the end, where the aliens have a conference with Truman, Hitler, Stalin and ... Anthony Eden. I couldn't believe it.

If I'd written it, if have had Churchill kicking Hitler in the singular testicle, before Tommy gunning the Alien. Always give the audience what they crave.

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26 minutes ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Yeah he has the lineup at the end, where the aliens have a conference with Truman, Hitler, Stalin and ... Anthony Eden. I couldn't believe it.

If I'd written it, if have had Churchill kicking Hitler in the singular testicle, before Tommy gunning the Alien. Always give the audience what they crave.

Damn right!

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall kick Hitler's remaining ball and Tommy gun the damned bloody aliens, we shall never surrender

winston-churchill-tommy-gun-1940.jpg

Edited by urbanoid
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