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Niall Ferguson

If, in 1420, you cd have taken a trip down the Yangzi River in China and the Thames in England, you wd have been struck by the contrast.

The Yangzi was part of a vast waterway complex that linked Beijing Nanjing and Hangzhou, and enabled 12000 grain barges a year to sail up and down the Grand Canal. In 1420 Nanjing was biggest city in world with nearly 1m people. In contrast the Thames and London, though a busy port, was crude and primitive. The place was a stinking death trap, with no sewage disposal system (the Chinese collected everything for fertilizer)Until 1800, average life expectancy was 37.

But difference between Western and Chinese voyages of exploration. Between 1405 and 1424, Zheng He led a fleet of 300 ocean-going junks (five times the sizeof Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria as far as the Red Sea. But the Chinese not particularly interested in trade, justwanted locals to acknowledge China's supremacy. In contrast, Euro navigators such as Vasco da Gama were exclusively interested in promoting their country's trading interests, specifically in spice trade.

Long before the Ind Revn, England was pulling ahead of the great civilizations of China and Japan (as shown by better nutrition of popn, as shown by average heights), because of the material benefits of commerce.

Europe's path to the Scientific Revn and the Enlightenment based on fundamental Christian tenet that Church and State shd be separate. Matthew's injunction "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that God's." is radically different to the Koran, which insists on the indivisibility of God's law as revealed to the Prophet.

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The invention of the printing press led direcly to the fragmentation of Western Christianity after 1517. Driven by profit-seeking, printers disseminated works of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, encouraging different ways of seeing the world. Translations of Arabic texts recovered lost Eropean scripts. And new ideas such as Italian arithmetic and accounting methods were quickly disseminated.

The Scientific Revn (say 1530 - 1789) that followed - Galileo, John Napier (logarithms), William Harvey (circulaion of the blood), Fermat (maths), Robert Boyle (chem), Newton (calculus, laws of gravity, laws of motion), Hutton (age of Earth), Lavoisier (understand combustion. law of conservation of matter). This was an exclusively Western Euro revn - the Arabic world hobbled by rel precepts that forbad trying to understand god's plan.

Frederick William II of Prussia on rel: "Christianityis stuffed with miracles, contradictions and absurdities, was spawned in the fevered imaginations of the Orientals and then spread to our Europe, where some fanatics espoused it, some intiguers pretended to be convinced by it and some imbeciles actually believed it."

Why did North America prosper and South America dwindle? The difference is the foundation of the rule of law - the sanctity of individual freedom and security of private property rights, ensured by representative, constitutional govt

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The 'health transition' - the beginning of sustained improvements in life expectancy - began in Western Europe, first in Denmark, in the 1770's, through to Spain, which took until 1890's.

This improvement predated the intro of antibiotics, insecticides such as DDT, and vaccines for diseases other than smallpox and yellow fever. The evidence points to sustained improvements in public health along a broad front.

Ind Revn was an evolutionary process of improvement by tinkering. Cotton was the hub of Brit economic miracle. Technolgy spurred the supply side, and people developed an insatiable appetite for new, cheap clothes.

Why did Britain industrialize first? Wages in Britain higher than in Europe, so mechanization useful. And British coal was abundant and accessible and so significantly cheaper than in Europe.

Marx et al thought that the inequalities of Britain's wealth would lead to a single impoverished class which wd eventually rise up in revolt. But what happened was that labour divided into skilled and unskilled. The former used strikes and unions to improve wages, the lumpenproleteriatjust went to the pub.

In particular, capitalists understood what Marx missed - workers were also consumers. Made more sense to pay them enough to give them spending money than to grind them down with subsistence wages.

Winston Churchill's definition of 'civiliization':

It means a society based on the opinion of civilians. It means that violence, the rule of warriors and despotic chiefs ... give way to parliaments where laws are made, and independent courts of justice in which over long periods those laws are maintained."

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