Does Global Trade And Empire Explain British Economic Development Over The Course Of The Eighteenth And Nineteenth Centuries?

1957 words - 8 pages

Britain in the 18th and 19th Century moved from a pre industrial to an industrial society. This move was not a natural or obvious progression. Exactly what can explain this revolution is still open to much contention. Global trade and Empire certainly influenced this process this essay will explore the degree to which trade and empire can explain industrial growth or weather other factors played a more dominant role.We must draw a distinction between trade with the nations of the empire and those out side. The experience of British trade in India is very different to that of North America. The exploitative relationship between Britian and the empire makes the economic advantages from one very different from the other. The exact difference between the nations lies partly in the fact that non empire nations play the dominant role with respect to exposing huge "markets for domestic producers," that "helps dismantle the economic inertia which often inhibits progress." This also occurred in the developing colonies but to a less extent. The real point of difference was the value of the raw materials exported from these colonial nations into Britian and then distributing them throughout the world. The empire and international trade provided not only some key raw materials to Britain but also provided the markets for these goods once produced.China was the world's dominant trading power from the 14th to 17th Century. It supplied a huge market base and yet didn't experience industrialisation in this period even though it was at the centre of world trade and had a strong empire. It is therefore difficult to understand Britain's economic development as being a product of world trade, simply because China failed to have the same experience.Landes comments that China failed to industrialise due not to world trade but because of its failure to exploit the technologies which it had available to it. Therefore it was British technological innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that brought about industrialisation in Britain not global trade. China also failed to exploit the potential of the western nation's choosing not to trade with them but to block them out. The difficulties associated with understanding a situation by contrasting it with another appear to undermine the above premise.Kenneth Pomeranz agrees with Landes, disagreeing that we can understand British economic development by contrasting it with China's. He believes the abundance of natural resources, primarily coal and geographical advantage, Lancashire was a damp climate "ideal...for cotton" began industrialisation in Britain. The historical and geographical nature of Britain meant that industrialisation was possible. Coincidence can only go so far in explaining the industrial revolution. Both the social and technological developments in industry that allowed for industrialisation also played there role. There is little use have an abundance of coal if you have no technology to extract it.More...

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