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Niger Case

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With regard to the absence of an industrial revolution in China before, two well-known historians, M. Elvin and K. Pomeranz had both presented their arguments in their books, The Patterns of the Chinese Past and The Great Divergence respectively. Generally speaking, the high level equilibrium trap theory was proposed by Elvin to make a comparative analysis of the occurrence of industrial revolution in Europe instead of China. On the other hand, Pomeranz suggested that the European Hegemony, instead of a Chinese one, was only a matter of fortune. However, the arguments made by Pomeranz had received severe criticisms from some other scholars such as P. Huang. From the perspective of mine, the absence of a genuine Industrial Revolution in China is a result of a combination of various factors, instead of one single so-called important factor. In the following paper, points of view of mine on arguments of the two historians on the absence of Industrial Revolution in China will be discussed with reference to other academic writings.

Comments on Arguments by M. Elvin

Throughout the course of world history, 18th and 19th centuries can be viewed as the turning point in both European and Chinese history for the Europeans underwent the imperative and unprecedented Industrial Revolution while the Chinese stood still. With the hope of explaining this enormous contrary, M. Elvin (Elvin, 1973) hypothesized the theory of "high level equilibrium trap" in his book The Patterns of the Chinese Past. According to M. Elvin, the continuous improvement in agricultural practices and techniques and the resultant immense population pressure contributed to the loss of Chinese dynamism which began approximately in the Ming period. Consequently, there was an inadequacy of surplus and resources to finance the technological progress and improvement. In addition, better adjustments had been done on conventional technology and a larger quantity of output had been produced in the agricultural sector. Therefore, modern innovations and inventions were not considered necessary by the Chinese people at that time. This thus barred any progress in modern technologies in China compared to Europe. With these reasons being taken in account, M. Elvin concluded that China had witnessed "quantitative growth, qualitative standstill" and this phrase basically described the Chinese economic development since the Ming Dynasty.



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