Understanding_the_Divergence_Comparing_E

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Understanding the Divergence: Comparing Europe and India in the Eighteenth Century Name: Aishik Saha Class: UG III Roll: 36 1
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Introduction The eighteenth century can be considered as a transformative period for the world economy. The relevance of the period increases today at a time, when the sharp contrast between the developing and the developed parts of the world are being brought into focus and the developing world is increasingly asserting itself. At least a part of the contrast between these regions can be traced to the economic divergence between Europe and Asia in the eighteenth century, which has been identified as the Age of Industry in Western Europe. It is important to go beyond basic discussions about the ‘difference’ between the societies of these regions, and move towards more concrete arguments, which include a broader spectrum of changes in the economic, political, as well as different contingent factors. The paper will attempt to analyse this economic divergence, especially in the light of the scholarship, which emphasises on the multipolar economy of the eighteenth century. The Historiography of the Eighteenth Century It has been more than a hundred years than the first attempt at an analysis of the Industrial Revolution. Phyllis Deane traces the first attempt to study the Industrial Revolution to Arnold Toynbee 1 . Subsequent historians attempted to trace the origins of the Industrial Revolution in the institution and the history of technological development to the economic changes occurring in Europe in the sixteenth century. On the other hand there are Historians like W.W Rostow, who have identified it to the last few decades of the Eighteenth Century 2 . The problem with this approach lies in the fact that most of these approaches take a very minimalistic view of the contribution of the global economy to the changes occurring in the European technological and economic fields. This approach has been justified by the works of many 2
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prominent personalities in the fields of Political Economy and Sociology. Max Weber, Adam Smith, Karl Marx among many others have suggested that Europe’s social, economic, and political structure set it apart from the rest of the world. The implication is that Europe followed the necessary model for industrialisation, while others were restricted by some factor, which was not similar to Europe 3 . More recent literature has started to criticise these assumptions about markets, property rights, or Protestant Ethics , and soon we had completely new interpretations of the Industrial Revolution in a more global light.
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