The World Before Industry

The industrial revolution starting in the 1780s sparked an ongoing cycle of economic growth that transformed global living standards. Describing it as “the most fundamental reordering of human existence since the beginning of agriculture,” Jonathan Scott looks beyond the origins of industrialization in How the Old World Ended to consider what made the way of life it displaced so vulnerable to disruption. The question points to a corner of the North Sea during the 7th century where a commercial revolution with developments in craft production and agriculture preceded the later industrial one. Scott argues that the Netherlands, England and English colonies in America drove a transformation producing “Anglo-Dutch-American early modernity.” Substantively republican in governance and Calvinist or Calvinist tinged Protestant in religion, it prioritized intensively developing resources over passively extracting wealth as Spain did from its empire.

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