Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Kerney, Oct 3, 2019.
Maple plantations of Vinland?
Eh, like what was said previously, lumber was already too common and too cheap itself to push an industrial revolution into being, and Vinland also wasn't super populated or industrialized itself.
Well, iron/steel and/or textiles, as I noted. Textiles have several features which make them very amenable to mechanisation and associated industrialisation. They are an essential item (food, clothing and shelter being the basics of human existence) and made up a large part of household budgets in the pre-industrial era. They are lightweight and non-perishable, which means that they can be transported for very long distances without incurring huge transportation costs. They are essentially in demand all throughout the world, so get cheap textiles and you can sell them almost anywhere.
And perhaps most important of all, for most pre-industrial textile fibres (except silk) most of the final cost was in the cost of the weaving, not in the basic fibre. These very high labour costs meant that any inventions which reduced the cost of labour (spinning wheels, spinning jennies, etc) led to a significant reduction in the cost of the final product. This meant that they could be made cheaper quite easily, sold to more people, etc.
The OTL Industrial Revolution was really two revolutions, which in their early stages proceeded largely independently from each other: textiles and the coal/iron/steel complex. (There was some overlap, but they could probably have proceeded independently, leading to a slower but still meaningful industrial revolution). Textiles followed their own path, with the power for the machines largely coming from water power in the early stages. If I remember right, the majority of textile factories were powered by water power until sometime like 1830. Steam engines became important later, but not in the formative stages.
Hear me out - - The Venetian navy can from scratch build a fully-rigged battleship in a matter of a week thanks to a version of the assembly line.
Such processes could be adapted into other industries.
It's only a silly analogy.
In OTL's England steam powered engines were used to pump water out of coal mines, in Flanders they can be used for polders and later applied to textile manufacturing (In the case of Flanders wool would be the best option.) like IOTL with cotton. The coal can be imported from Wallonia or the Rhineland and a larger network of canals can be built to substitute OTL's railways.
It's for sure a smaller and less impactful IR, but it has a lot of potential for Alternate History.
The problem is technology and, since Papin and his machines set the basis for the steam engine IMO, I think that the PoD should definitely be introducing them a lot earlier.
One of the things needed is a Mercantile-ruled or heavily influenced political system. Perhaps a surviving Novgorod Republic?
The challenge with sugar is that the easier efficiency in the new world was grabbing more land and buying new slaves. Limited labor is key to figuring out labor-saving devices.
The Industrial revolution started with an agricultural revolution . England was able to feed a growing population from a decreasing number of farm workers. This not only crated willing workers to do other things but the demand for other things also increased .
Nope. Reselling the raw products, as was the case with Novgorod, has nothing to do with industrialization or any other type of development. If anything, by the time of its fall it was lagging behind the authoritarian Muscovite state in the area of a military technology (artillery and firearms in general) and, as far as merchantilism was involved, their was quite passive: Novgorod did not develop its own maritime trade or even built a port and completely depended upon the Hanseatic merchants for exports and imports to and from the West. Basically, it was a transition hub between West and East with an addition of the “native” raw goods (furs, wax, honey, etc.) collected from the dependent territories. “Mercantilism” is hardly an appropriate term for the Republic because it produced little or no manufactured goods for export and could not limit the imports which it was reselling elsewhere.
As a state, formally Novgorodian Republic was a pure democracy: elections of the officials and major decisions had been done by a voiced (literally) opinion of the majority of a city population. However, in a reality, this was an oligarchy with the candidates coming from the leading aristocratic families (who had estates and had been engaged in trade) and the decisions taken by the ruling council (people could approve or disapprove them).
All right, if we're talking potential products to drive an Industrial Revolution, here's my thoughts on a few items which for various reasons are or not really suitable. Some of these items have already been mentioned in the thread, others have not.
Coal/iron/steel - yes, since they were so in OTL.
For textiles, I've ranked the fibres in terms of suitability:
Cotton - very much yes, since it was one of the major drivers in OTL. What made it especially useful was that machine-made cotton textiles encouraged people to buy cotton textiles to replace other fibres (wool/linen)
Wool - yes, as it was a contributor in OTL; the British textile export industry consisted of about one-third woolen textiles during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. Wool didn't have quite the same "replace existing textiles" advantage as cotton, but was nevertheless quite profitable and capable of driving investment
Silk - maybe. There were some interesting examples of potential silk mechanisation in OTL, notably around the French silk industry in Lyon. The problems are several. Silk is very much more of a luxury fibre, so it's a much smaller market than cotton or woolen textiles. With silk more of the cost is in the raw fibre than the weaving, so mechanisation doesn't reduce the price by as much as cotton or wool. Most troubling of all, some research I've seen suggests that for silk, the price elasticity of demand is around 1 - or in non-economists' speak, dropping the price only increased demand by about enough to make the producers' total prices the same. That's not enough to drive the virtuous circle needed for an industrial revolution. On the other hand, silk was an important part of what drove early Japanese industrialisation, so maybe there's some scope there for the right region.
Linen - even more maybe. Linen is an ancient fibre which has been used for many textiles. However, it was harder to weave or mechanise than other fibres, and was generally considered less comfortable to wear. This makes it more fiddly to get a mechanisation process going. The even bigger problem, though, is competition with textiles being produced elsewhere. If one region is proto-industrialising the production of linen textiles, then they may find it hard to sell against competition from handwoven textiles of wool or cotton, which limits the size of the market. There may be a niche somewhere that mechanical linen textiles become cheaper and others are harder to obtain for some reason, but it's not going to be anywhere near as effective a product as cotton textiles.
Sugar - in the right circumstances it could be part of the answer, but not a complete one. As @Socrates noted, with sugar in the New World it relied on an abundance of cheap forced slave labour, and in most cases this meant that anyone who had spare capital piled that into buying more slaves and/or more land to grow more sugar, not on investing in mechanisation to make the sugar production more efficient. However, this wasn't always the case in all places and all times. Sugar was grown in regions without slave labour at times (eg Java), and there's also the intriguing example of how when the slave trade was cut off, British planters started to make sugar production much more efficient, since they couldn't rely on cheap imported slave labour any more. So maybe there may be scope for sugar to drive industrialisation in a world where the international slave trade is cut off earlier, or where there are limited supplies of slaves for some reason (probably linked to some changes within Africa).
If sugar is going to be part of an industrial revolution, then there's a few factors to consider. Sugar production would really benefit from development of the steam engine; sugar refineries would be much more efficient with steam power, and have fuel on hand from waste sugar cane. However, I don't think that this is part of a development path that leads to the steam engine; the steam engine would have to be developed in another part of the *Industrial Revolution and applied to sugar production. Sugar does produce a lot of capital, which in the right circumstances can be reinvested into mechanisation and other improvements. A good example would be what happened with sugar production in Java, where they moved to exporting higher-margin products (rum, hard candies etc) made from sugar, rather than raw sugar. On the other hand, there is the difficulty that there will be competition from other sweeteners and other sugar producers. Lots of places can grow sugar, and if this is happening in a colonial environment there will also be the tendency that countries had to put up trade barriers to other countries sugar production, which would hinder development of a large market.
Lumber - mostly no, but might help in very specialised regions. As a general rule, lumber is too bulky and doesn't have high enough margins. There are also usually too many competitors around, and transportation costs too high, to have enough of a market. Even more fundamentally, trees get cut down and deforestation is a real risk. The tendency is usually to simply cut down enough trees and move on, which makes it hard to invest in a factory in the area which will be able to rely on enough lumber to operate. While lumber could be imported in some circumstances for a factory, see again high transportation costs and bulk cargoes. In specialised circumstances coppicing can exist, but that's more for charcoal production than for using timber for other purposes.
The reason I haven't ruled out lumber completely is because of the intriguing example of Sweden. In OTL, Sweden's rise as an industrial power was in large part driven by timber and wood products (and to a lesser degree charcoal for iron production). However, Sweden's circumstances were very specialised, including large areas of untapped timber on land which was less useful for agricultural purposes, and some extremely high quality iron ore which meant that it was still competitive to use charcoal to convert that iron ore to iron or steel. Sweden also didn't start the industrial revolution, rather it industrialised using some technologies developed elsewhere, particularly railways. Also, Swedish industrialisation benefited from the progress of industrialisation elsewhere which increased total market sizes for Swedish exports such as wood pulp and matches. Swedish industrialisation also relied on a massive influx of foreign capital (mostly French and German) which helped investment in mechanisation and internal improvements. These wouldn't work in the same way for a country which was the first to develop an industrial revolution.
Porcelain - no. I mostly mention porcelain since it's an example of how a product can be profitable and have in this case a world monopoly, leading to specialised production, but not an industrial revolution. Chinese porcelain had been exported across the world for several centuries, and China had an effective monopoly for much of that time. China developed some massive scale porcelain production, principally at Jingdezhen. This town became the centre of China's largest porcelain production around the fourteenth century, due to a combination of some local resources and location close to the Grand Canal which facilitated transport of goods. Jingdezhen porcelain was exported around China and in time around much of the world, to the point where people in, say, colonial North America could order specialised porcelain designs and have the produced in Jingdezhen. This lead to an extremely efficient manufacturing complex, which imported raw materials from across China (and in a few specialised cases, overseas) and had very large workshops with specialised division of labour and kilns which could fire more than ten thousand pieces of porcelain at once.
But while Jingdezhen porcelain production was massive and impressive, it didn't lead to an industrial revolution or anything close to it. Porcelain was bulky and too low margin for the producers, with much of the value that was there being captured by the transport companies. Porcelain was also very much a luxury good; while it was exported around the world, it was exported only to the wealthy (until it became industrialised thanks to developments elsewhere). So there wasn't anything like the virtuous circle of production to drive investment and industrialisation.
Brewing - maybe. Brewing was a (relatively small) part of the Industrial Revolution in OTL. On the one hand brewing relies on bulk production and transport, so see again comments about transportation costs. On the other hand, it leads to a product which is in bulk demand by most levels of society, so if it can be produced and/or transported more cheaply, then it leads to the virtuous circle of cheaper prices increasing demand. If it can be produced in a region where the raw ingredients can be sourced relatively locally, then there may be some scope for it becoming a larger part of an alt-industrial revolution.
The industrial revolution of OTL was an outgrowth of the earlier agricultural revolution which in turn was a result of the transatlantic crop exchange which allowed Europe to rapidly expand its population and technological sophistication to the point where it was worthwhile to dig up coal to heat houses.
Unfortunately, there aren't many places where there was accessible coal and that were well positioned relative to potential trade routes between the old world and the Americas.
It is interesting to speculate about gas or oil fuelled industrial revolutions, but since both of those require making high quality pipes and vessels to keep leaks down to an economic level and some level of drilling technology, probably coal really is necessary to fuel the second stage of industry that follows after local hydropower potential is fully tapped.
And I think that textiles were very much a secondary part of the industrial revolution - by the time Britain went big into textile production, the industrial revolution was already happening and had been for 20-50 years depending on exactly when you pick as your date for when Britain crossed the pre-industrial to the industrial threshold.
Had English capitalists found that textile factories were a poor investment, transportation, iron, brick making and industrial food/alcohol production would have still given fostered profitable industries.
I'd quibble with this. Textiles were developing on their own technological path which operated largely separately from the coal/iron/steel part of the Industrial Revolution. Some of the key technological innovations in textile manufacturing happened before the ironmaking part really got going. The flying shuttle is the most obvious of those, but even some later ones such as the water frame are notable. I have seen some claims that the water frame depended on the greater amount of cast iron being produced in Britain by the early coal-iron complex, but I'm skeptical of that because of the independent (earlier) invention of a type of water frame in Prussia in 1760. I think that the water frame and some of the subsequent textile manufacturing developments (spinning jennies, spinning mules) were organic developments in that environment.
Or to put it another way, I think that it's possible to have a textile-driven industrial revolution (of a fashion) in the right environment even without the coal-iron-steel industrial complex. It won't look exactly like our one, and will probably develop slower, but I think it's still going to go ahead.
I am not saying Novgorod *would* have become industrialized. I am saying it had enough ingredients in place that, with sufficiently early and favourable POD, it could be done.
AFAIK, it did not have too much in the terms of “ingredients” except for the fact that it was a little bit weird form of an oligarchy but perhaps you can be more explicit in explaining your idea?
As of now, the dominating industry of the Novgorodian Oblast is production of the fertilizers and metallurgy is limited to a modest copper production (aka, not too much in the terms of the natural resources for the early industrialization) even if there is some iron ore. A considerable (but not yet fully developed) deposit of titanium zirconium also would b of a marginal usefulness for the early industrialization.
I would cautiously suggest that possibility of a "long slow" industrial revolution that skips from mechanical to electrical hydropower. The main question in my mind is how linked copper mining and refining was to the coal-iron-steel complex; if it was relatively independent, then one could plausibly develop the cabling industries needed to produce electrical generators and motors without necessarily developing steam engines and the like in the interim. This could really be quite interesting (and is also of interest for post-apocalyptic scenarios, of course).
Apart from Europe, India on the eve of colonization and Indonesia both are promising candidates. IIRC, Tipu Sultan's Mysoran troops were actually somewhat more advanced than the British were, thought he British had vast resources and the Mysorans were cut off from friendly lines.
Low population density, iron ore, coal, long coastline creating potential for naval tradition, political system that could limit government extraction of windfalls.
Except for the low population density, nothing really applies to the Novgorodian Republic
The issue with industrialization in places such as China or India is the availability of large number of people to perform the work. As mentioned another factor is market for the goods.
it was a unique circumstances that led to industrialization to occur in Britain. Had coal and iron ore not existed you still would of had drive to produce textiles cheaper and faster.
how that translates to other countries in which industrialization occurs there first be interesting.
Canning has great potential. All you need is mass production of air tight jars and germ theory.
Paper making is another one. The Fourdrinier machine for making continuous paper was invented concurrently with powered textile machinery.
Gutta Percha products were the early cheap plastic analogue. They were made into soles for shoes, cups and buckets, utensil handles and picture frames. Pretty much everything plastic-like you can think of.
Separate names with a comma.