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Why no Roman Industrial Revolution?


lucklucky

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2 hours ago, sunday said:

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

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True, also the issues with slavery aren't simply technological, they're also social, legal etc. Let's say there are 'industrial' breakthroughs made, what's stopping you from using slaves to extract coal from the mines, after all it isn't the most pleasant work? Sure, you would need free engineers and supervisors as well as guards, but for simple manual labor the slaves would do. 

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An industrial revolution it needs to have a market a market implies a certain level of internal peace for production investment to make sense and also a level of wealth.

What would be the peace threshold?

What would be the wealth threshold?

It also needs a cultural evolution that rewards "techno futurism" a positive outlook to the future. The suzerain, religion and aristocratic class should not be against it.

So in case of Romans i think the first issue is the political instability.

 

Some more i am thinking:

Is new wealth socially accepted?

Is selling and trade socially accepted in large scale? 

Does it matter how homogenous the population

 

Edited by lucklucky
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2 hours ago, urbanoid said:

True, also the issues with slavery aren't simply technological, they're also social, legal etc. Let's say there are 'industrial' breakthroughs made, what's stopping you from using slaves to extract coal from the mines, after all it isn't the most pleasant work? Sure, you would need free engineers and supervisors as well as guards, but for simple manual labor the slaves would do. 

But as long as slaves are cheap, they give you no motivation to innovate. A lack of suitable workforce is needed to create the correct general conditions for innovation. And in the regard the in-between step was the use of large mammals as a workforce. (Horses and oxen) The pyramids in Egypt show what you can do with enough human labour and time.

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45 minutes ago, seahawk said:

But as long as slaves are cheap, they give you no motivation to innovate. A lack of suitable workforce is needed to create the correct general conditions for innovation. And in the regard the in-between step was the use of large mammals as a workforce. (Horses and oxen) The pyramids in Egypt show what you can do with enough human labour and time.

Technological progress also existed in societies that practiced slavery. I can imagine that a society may want to keep slavery (or segregation/apartheid/whatever) even if there is little or no economic interest to do so, for example for social or security reasons. Not everything is tied to the economy. 

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13 minutes ago, seahawk said:

But then it has little economic impact.

Why not? Let's say the technological progress made you need less slaves than before to do the same work, you can either expand your production or do the same job with less slaves. Both can still have the economic impact, in the former case you produce more, in the latter you can e.g. create sort of a 'temp agency' and 'rent' slaves to the newly created industries. Of course, they'll be mostly doing jobs requiring little or no qualifications, better jobs would be reserved for the free population. Much depends of the ratio of free citizens to slaves. If there's a lot of slaves, it would be natural to use them to do the hardest, most dirty work.

In Turtledove's Southern Victory series the CSA was repelling another invasion by the US 20 years later, they used slaves to build fortifications, so the free citizens could concentrate on fighting. Sure, it's fiction, but it's hardly an incomprehensible idea. In the same series (the same book actually) the CSA freed all the slaves after that war not because they wanted to or because slavery didn't make economic sense, but because of external pressure from the allies (UK and France), also quite a realistic scenario. In fact they very much didn't want to do so, but they also didn't want to remain alone in the world, without any allies, facing the US with far more population and industrial base.

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53 minutes ago, urbanoid said:

Technological progress also existed in societies that practiced slavery. I can imagine that a society may want to keep slavery (or segregation/apartheid/whatever) even if there is little or no economic interest to do so, for example for social or security reasons. Not everything is tied to the economy. 

The point here is: Did slavery prevent or delayed the industrial revolution?

Technological progress exists in societies that are not technically stagnant, like Ancient Egypt. There was technological progress during the Middle Ages: shipbuilding is perhaps the most influential, along with portable gunpowder weapons.

But there are cases where the industrial revolution was adopted by, and adapted to, a slaver society. Case in point Richmond's Tredegar Iron Works.

Edited by sunday
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1 minute ago, sunday said:

The point here is: Did slavery prevent or delayed the industrial revolution?

Technological progress exists in societies that are not technically stagnant, like Ancient Egypt. There was technological progress during the Middle Ages: shipbuilding is perhaps the most influential, along with portable gunpowder weapons.

But there are cases where the industrial revolution was adopted by, and adapted to, a slaver society. Case in point Richmond's Tredegar Iron Works.

In Rome's case there was no industrial revolution, so we can't tell based on that. Actual industrial revolution began in a country without slavery, so pretty much the same situation. Intuituvely I'd say it would likely delay it, simply because there's less motivation for increased efficiency, but not necessarily prevent it.  

Thank you for that last real-world example, that's exactly what I suspected. Would there be large scale employment of the slaves in the CSA industry if they managed to secure the independence* and decided to seriously industrialize? Again, hard to tell. 

*the postwar what-if because during the war the CSA wanted as many able bodied white men on the frontlines, so employing slaves in the industry made a lot of sense. It's not certain that such a situation would be welcome during the peacetime in victorious CSA, because it would be taking potentially well-paying jobs away from the free population. IIRC in Turledove's alt-history industry was predominantly white until the equivalent of the Great War, when again the CSA needed as many whites as possible on the frontlines and blacks (not slaves anymore since 1882 or so, but without civic and political rights) started replacing the whites in factories. 

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Probably Turtledove knew of Tredegar. I do not remember when I first heard of that company, but it was in some alt history novel.

Or some historical novel like the ones in this Bernard Cornwell series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Starbuck_Chronicles.

Edited by sunday
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Oh, definitely he knew, in Southern Victory Tredegar was the main manufacturer of Confederate service weapons:

-Tredegar carbine during the Second Mexican War (second war between the USA and CSA in the early 1880s), roughly the equivalent of Martini-Henry
-Tredegar rifle during the Great War, Lee-Enfield equivalent
-Tredegar automatic rifle, not sure if there's an OTL equivalent

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5 hours ago, urbanoid said:

Technological progress also existed in societies that practiced slavery. I can imagine that a society may want to keep slavery (or segregation/apartheid/whatever) even if there is little or no economic interest to do so, for example for social or security reasons. Not everything is tied to the economy. 

Ruling classes are often against disruptive technologies or developments, as they might just disrupt them out of being ruling classes. Innovations require investors, and why would the rich bother to invest if they have a good thing going as it is? I don't think it's a coincidence that societies with slavery, serfdom or equivalent systems in place, often underwent "top down" Industrial Revolution, more or less forced on them due to military reasons.

It is noteworthy how Soviet leadership began to downsize GULAG system almost immediately after Stalin's death (within few weeks). They knew it was inefficient, and it had only endured because Stalin willed it so.

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Good points, but the top-down industrialization is still industrialization. Such a society is less likely to introduce those disruptive technologies, unless forced to or if the possible payout is worth it (like for example conquest of a neighboring country or several?).

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Lets see the British:

A kingdom with a state religion --- Anglicanism being an utilitarian religion created by the monarchy means its power is very diminished.

A colonial empire in need of permanent transportation all over the planet

A colonial empire in need of weapons and sea domination

A colonial empire leading to new physical, animal and human contacts that need explanation.

Fundamental science being created Newton, Darwin that can only happen with realisation that Religion do not explain everything following Galileu, Kepler and others steps.

 

 

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10 hours ago, seahawk said:

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

Well, yes, but I would argue it is more important to have access to global innovations. Many of the items listed in the original article were invented somewhere else, and arrived to Great Britain via trade contacts or cultural diffusion. Intercontinental trade in Ancient times was just a fraction of what it would become in Early Modern Era. Roman and Hellenistic merchants did trade in India, and perhaps as far as Vietnam, but these contacts were quite scarce. By contrast, in Medieval times there were very active Arab and Ottoman trade networks with India and SE Asia, and by 16th Century, Portugal was trading all over the Americas and Orient over immense distances. 

Romans were not great explorers. In fact, Phoenicians and Greeks before them had managed much greater feats of maritime exploration than Romans ever did. Greek explorer Pytheas circumnavigated Britain, and possibly visited Scandinavia. Legend claims that Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa, and we know that the Greek certainly attempted it. Carthageans likely traveled to Senegal, and possibly as far as Cameroon. By contrast, Romans hardly ever visited Ireland, and there is no record of any Romans travelling to Baltic Sea, despite these areas being literally in immediate neighbourhood of Roman provinces. Despite the obvious capabilities of Roman shipbuilding (largest grainships were over 1000 tons), their maritime industry was remarkably insular, and long-distance contacts in Africa and Asia seem to have been mostly Middle Eastern merchants acting on their own interests.

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29 minutes ago, urbanoid said:

Good points, but the top-down industrialization is still industrialization. Such a society is less likely to introduce those disruptive technologies, unless forced to or if the possible payout is worth it (like for example conquest of a neighboring country or several?).

Example: opening of Japan in 19th century, which came from realization that they were so militarily backwards, that they risked being subjugated by force. And opposed by samurai and others who reaped the benefits of status quo.

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1 minute ago, Yama said:

Example: opening of Japan in 19th century, which came from realization that they were so militarily backwards, that they risked being subjugated by force. And opposed by samurai and others who reaped the benefits of status quo.

Yet at the same time at least part of the ruling class ensured that they will remain on top even after the industrialization and... the transformation of the whole society really. It wasn't just the technology, they introduced conscritption, promised the conscripted 'peasants' the social advancement, at the same time selling to them the idea that the 'samurai spirit' is also for them. The samurai class was also included in the military, at least the ones not actively opposing the reform and the government, so they threw a bone to them too. I'm pretty sure it's not what the ruling classes as a whole wanted, at least initially, but the alternative was to become a Western half-colony like China. 

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10 hours ago, urbanoid said:

True, also the issues with slavery aren't simply technological, they're also social, legal etc. Let's say there are 'industrial' breakthroughs made, what's stopping you from using slaves to extract coal from the mines, after all it isn't the most pleasant work? Sure, you would need free engineers and supervisors as well as guards, but for simple manual labor the slaves would do. 

Too dangerous.  Slaves are investment, one doesn't purposely put their investment into harms way.  At the time it was much cheaper to use paid labor to work in the mines, if there is a cave in or an explosion and fifty paid laborers were killed, just hire 50 new employees.  However, if those fifty lost souls were slaves, that's a hefty investment that was lost and now has to be reacquired.
The biggest canal project in the country, the Eire Canal in upstate New York didn't have the first slave working it (slavery was still legal in New York).  Why?  Because the work was too dangerous, nobody was going to risk their investment when cheap paid laborers could be had.

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5 hours ago, Yama said:

Well, yes, but I would argue it is more important to have access to global innovations. Many of the items listed in the original article were invented somewhere else, and arrived to Great Britain via trade contacts or cultural diffusion. Intercontinental trade in Ancient times was just a fraction of what it would become in Early Modern Era. Roman and Hellenistic merchants did trade in India, and perhaps as far as Vietnam, but these contacts were quite scarce. By contrast, in Medieval times there were very active Arab and Ottoman trade networks with India and SE Asia, and by 16th Century, Portugal was trading all over the Americas and Orient over immense distances. 

Romans were not great explorers. In fact, Phoenicians and Greeks before them had managed much greater feats of maritime exploration than Romans ever did. Greek explorer Pytheas circumnavigated Britain, and possibly visited Scandinavia. Legend claims that Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa, and we know that the Greek certainly attempted it. Carthageans likely traveled to Senegal, and possibly as far as Cameroon. By contrast, Romans hardly ever visited Ireland, and there is no record of any Romans travelling to Baltic Sea, despite these areas being literally in immediate neighbourhood of Roman provinces. Despite the obvious capabilities of Roman shipbuilding (largest grainships were over 1000 tons), their maritime industry was remarkably insular, and long-distance contacts in Africa and Asia seem to have been mostly Middle Eastern merchants acting on their own interests.

I agree knowledge, but also trade and markets. Your own population and meaningful parts of the population in your empire must be able to purchase the goods produced by industrialisation and the old style of manufacture by craftsmen must be unable to satisfy the demand.

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7 hours ago, lucklucky said:

Lets see the British:

A kingdom with a state religion --- Anglicanism being an utilitarian religion created by the monarchy means its power is very diminished.

A colonial empire in need of permanent transportation all over the planet

A colonial empire in need of weapons and sea domination

A colonial empire leading to new physical, animal and human contacts that need explanation.

Fundamental science being created Newton, Darwin that can only happen with realisation that Religion do not explain everything following Galileu, Kepler and others steps.

 

 

I think you are onto something there. But other than the first and the last, exactly the same applied to the Spanish and the Portugese too. So you then ask the question, well, did the lack of the first, a religion with diminished authority,contribute to the delay in the last? And was it the last that contributed to the delay in industrialisation among other European states?

Ive had this discussion before, and I got pilloried for it. But I still dont believe its a coincidence that the first tranche of Indusrialisation happened across Northern Europe in largely Protestant countries. Yes, there is coal there too. But there was coal in Germany, and to a lesser extent in France. That I dont believe is an adequate explanation.

Going back to Rome.. it just occurs to me that I struggle to think of any Roman science that the Romans actually exported, that they didnt import themselves from the Greeks. Is it possible they didnt have adequate universities that created people whom would think creatively in terms of Mathematics and material properties? Did this contribute to the lack of a second stage in their industrial revolution? Did the Eastern Empire survive so long, because they are sat on top of that emerging Arabic scientific community, which they could then exploit?

 

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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Well Britain - and others -  had cumulative   1400 years of evolution over the Romans. Mechanical watches were developed by late middle age for example.

Another point: Britain was an Island at low risk of being invaded. In a sense also implies that the British have to deal which others. It is not like in Italy if Borgias don't like you you move to Sforzas Milan ...or the Venice Republic...

You talk about Germany and they seem to wake up technological and culturally by Renaissance age, but they did not have an empire all over the world. They did not had the pressure and also culturally due to that reason it means a more closed society. Britain had to be more flexible.

Portugal was always limited by its tiny population. We never had depth and always very poor in resources. A bit latter there are the Dutch with same issue and with many more wars.

Spain is a more interesting case but they expelled Jews so a certain market culture necessary to develop technology is missed, these things remain in culture for a long time. It is a good question to ask our Spanish contingent.  Why Spain did not started the Industrial Revolution?

One thing that is missing is what are differences in households and family structures  of Britain vs Spain  if it matters. Also related to the road structure of Spain vs Britain.
 

Edited by lucklucky
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19 minutes ago, lucklucky said:

Why Spain did not started the Industrial Revolution?

IMHO, perhaps because there was no need - American mines could be worked without steam driven pumps, Spanish engineers were busy building infrastructures in the Americas, and the most advanced technological problems in shipbuilding and naval gunnery were being dealt more or less successfully.

Newcomen build his first steam engine in 1712, just in the latest stages of the War of Spanish Succession, so there could be another reason here.

Also I am not aware of Jewish inputs on the early times of the Industrial Revolution. Also, I find kind of strange that, if the 1492 expulsion of the Jews was so negative for Spain, then how is it that just in 1492, with the discovery of the Americas, begins the historical period when Spain was a superpower? The Catholic Kings inherited a country torn by civil wars. Civil wars that, some riots excepted, did not appear again until the 19th century, War of the Spanish Succession excepted.

Still, correlation is not causation.

Portugal did not suffer a civil war, but there was the Lisbon earthquake&tsunami of 1755, that did catastrophic damage to Portuguese society and economy.

Belgium is a remarkable example of quick industrialization, on the other hand.

Edited by sunday
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