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The IUP Journal of Management Research :
Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850
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This interesting book suggests that Europe industrialized in the 19th century
not because of its inherent genius as many eurocentric historians and
thinkers have surmised.1 It industrialized because it faced a serious competition from Asia, especially in cotton textile industry. Yet another reason was environmental degradation and shortage of wood fuel that pushed it to switch to coal as energy source. India and China, the two giants of the world economy until 1800, did not have these twin pressures. Furthermore, the state in Britain and other European countries actively promoted its coal, iron, shipping and textile industries by providing strong protection and provisions against Asian goods, particularly Indian cottons. “The pressures of competition against Indian cottons and shortages of wood were coupled with effective state policies to produce the divergence of Britain,” says the author (p. 18).

 
 

Between 1600 and 1800, India and China were the two most dynamic economies of the world accounting for over 50% of total global manufacturing. However, the cotton textile manufacturing and export was dominated by the Indian artisans. The book suggests that in fact, India “clothed the world.” In the 17th century, a ‘calico craze’ swept Europe where people of all classes excitedly purchased highly valued Indian cloth that was “light, colorful, colorfast, washable and available in wide range of styles and qualities” (pp. 23-24). This in fact threatened to erase the much coveted preservation of social hierarchy by the elites in the European society. It provided a blueprint for imitational development of Britain and European textile industry. Despite the hateful rumors spread by Europeans about Indian weavers as low-wage miserable workers slaving under exploited conditions, the author provides the data to show that in fact the Indian artisans’ standard of living was higher than that of their European counterparts. A comparison of wages is presented as a proof in point.

 
 

Management Research Journal, Why Europe Grew Rich, Asia Did Not, Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850.