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LiangJessica LiangProfessor Barry McCarronHistory 11230 November 2015When and Why did the “Great Divergence” occur?During the 19thcentury, the Western world emerged as one of the wealthiest and mostpowerful populations, surpassing Qing China, Mughal India, Tokugawa Japan and the OttomanEmpire. The emerging of one of the wealthiest and most powerful civilizations of all timebecame known as the “Great Divergence”. Western Europe and parts of the New World wereable to overcome pre-modern limitations that resulted in having advantages in technology andthe economy. Many historians have speculated how “Great Divergence” originated and what ledto the Western World becoming so powerful. Many historians such as Kenneth Pomeranzspeculated that the “Great Divergence” began when there were coal deposits in Britain. Thecoal became an important resource for the fuel that led to many technological advances such assteam engines and water wheels. He also speculated that Western Europe became so powerfulbecause of the trade tactics that were used which brought an abundance of wealth. Since thediscovery of the New World, Western Europe took it upon themselves to colonize the new landand use the resources that were provided1. Another historian, Bin Wong, speculated that Western Europe was able to escape theconstraints of an economy based on organic material and switch to an economy based on coaland minerals. He stated that Europe and China “shared important similarities of preindustrial1Pomeranz, The Great Divergence (2000)1
Liangeconomic expansion based on Smithian dynamics. These included increased rural industries,more productive agricultures, and expanded commercial networks" 2. However, the definingdifference between Europe and China was of the coal supply in Britain. Wong also believed thatthe geography of Europe led its determination to find resources and therefore advance furtherthan any other parts of the world. Europe was not as unified as China was. Europe hadcompeting states that led each state to “extract resources and wage war”.