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History of technology, part 2

February 26, 2010

The argument that is becoming more common amongst historians, is that China went through an industrial revolution before Europe, which led to a global economy that stretched from Japan and Malaysia to Italy and Egypt.

The current revisionist history claims many of the “western” ideas were diffused from the East. There is significant evidence that ideas like printing, heliocentric model of the solar system etc., were simply passed through the Europeans, rather than being re-invented or re-discovered.

Memes used to travel slowly 2 millenia ago, but they did move in a global fashion;  there was significant contact between East and West, even before the Silk Road. There is evidence of fairly large Jewish settlements in China before 1000 A.D.

Ancient Rome banned the wearing of silk because they were facing a huge trade deficit (and rapidly losing their gold and silver reserves to the east) which in turn, hindered their ability to finance their wars.  Printing was not invented by Gutenberg as is typically claimed, but was invented in China 700 years earlier (metal movable type was invented in Korea 100 years before Gutenberg. Iron clad ships were invented before the Merrimac and Monitor).

The superiority of the East’s agricultural technology led to the growth of their urban areas with 2–5 million people in the 6th century. Paris had less than 1 million people until the 20th century (they only had 100,000 BEFORE the black plague hit in the 14th century which reduced the number by another third).

The typical paradigm for modern science is Greece -> Rome -> Europe/America. This view seems a simplistic one and discounts pre-Greek contributions to Greek thought (Persian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Bablyonian, etc.) as well as Eastern influence on “western” development after the Greeks.

Some relevant links:
http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10976
http://east_west_dialogue.tripod.com/id1.html
http://www.computersmiths.com/chineseinvention
http://www.1001inventions.com

for those that have the attention span to read books made from trees:
http://tiny.cc/aI0zr
http://tiny.cc/6aF1y
http://tiny.cc/sr966

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