Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Europe

Several trends marked the historical development of the world between 1700 and 1850. The industrial revolution, persistence of European imperialism, and the growing gap between Europe and the periphery led to the European states establishing an economic supremacy. The technologically superior nations of Western Europe obtained the power to influence political events in different regions and regulate economic transactions around the world. In other words, European colonial expansion and technological modernization led to an overall domination of Europe in global commerce and regional affairs, while Asian, Latin American, and African states suffered the effects of economic underdevelopment and ecologic degradation.

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The Rise of European Empires

In the eighteenth century, several states came to dominate world commerce. After the collapse of the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth century, Great Britain, France, and Denmark became the main players in world trade through heavy reliance on long-distance commerce. French and Dutch East Indian companies have successfully penetrated the Asian market after the fall of the Moghul Empire in the early 1700s (Marks, 2015, p. 133). These commercial enterprises spearheaded the development of modern economic cooperation by introducing a new type of companies with permanent capital and stock (Marks, 2015, p. 113). However, the balance of power significantly changed after the British victory in the Seven Years War. According to the 1713 Peace Treaty of Utrecht, Great Britain gained the right to provide Spanish colonies with slaves in exchange for silver that traders later used to buy Chinese tea (Marks, 2015, p. 132). Therefore, the British Empire came to dominate the exchange of two of the most popular commodities due to its military triumph, economic supremacy, and absence of formidable competition.

Meanwhile, the rapid technological progress helped Great Britain to retain the status of a world power. The discovery of a steam engine by James Watts led to a revolution in industrial production and transportation. In 1825, the new invention prompted the construction of the first British railroad that transported coal from mines to the coastal cities (Marks, 2015, p. 126). The subsequent modernization led improvements in sugar refining, pottery making, and textile production by increasing the overall output and lowering the cost of production (Tignor, Adelman, Aron, Kotkin, Marchand, & Tsin, 2015, p. 548). The intensification of textile production allowed Great Britain to challenge Indias position as the leading exporter of cheap cloth (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 549). The British heavily relied on American colonies to supply the national economy with raw materials. Great Britain imported raw cotton from the American South, while the constant supply of North American timber led to the construction of the Royal Navy (Marks, 2015, p. 125). The British colonies in the Caribbean region produced sugar, whereas the economic ties with South America prompted a stable inflow of chocolate and coffee (Marks, 2015, p. 125). According to Marks (2015), the reliance on American colonies for the provision of raw material and natural resources allowed Great Britain to depart from the agricultural model of economy and pursue technological progress (p. 125). Thus, active participation in the economic expansion of the New World largely contributed to the industrial revolution in Britain by eliminating the threat of resource shortage. The scientific discoveries, in turn, allowed the British Empire to achieve and preserve the status of a world power.

British Economic Expansion

Driven by the desire for global domination, Great Britain frequently used force to penetrate foreign markets. In the aftermaths of the Seven Years War, the British Empire significantly expanded to cover the territory of India as a consequence of the successful expulsion of France from Asia and the subsequent imposition of the British rule (Marks, 2015, pp. 114-115). The colonial government soon turned the former leading supplier of textiles into an exporter of raw cotton while the local market became flooded with British products (Marks, 2015, p.147). The tendency resulted in a sharp decline of Indian textile production. Former cotton weavers turned to farming instead (Marks, 2015, p.147). Thus, colonial expansion has destroyed the strong foundation for Indian political and economic development by turning the state into a source of raw materials and penetrating local markets. The strategy allowed the British Empire to eliminate a formidable competitor without any fear of further retaliation.

In a similarly assertive way, Great Britain has penetrated the Chinese market in the 1840s. By the late eighteenth century, Indian cotton and opium have replaced silver as a form of payment for Chinese tea (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 558). Due to the rapidly increasing demand for tea, Chinese authorities faced the tremendous consequences of opium overflow, including large-scale corruption, and planned to legalize the import of the narcotic substance (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 558). In 1840, British forces reacted to the implementation of new legislation by attacking coastal cities near Canton (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 559). Due to the military superiority of the British navy, the Chinese capitulated in 1842 (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 559). According to the Treaty of Nanjing, Great Britain received administrative control over Hong Kong and the permission to trade in five seaports (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 559). In addition to the humiliating defeat, China was forced to open its borders to North Americans and other Europeans under international pressure (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 559). The evidence strongly suggests that Great Britain used force in response to the protectionist policy of China that threatened to limit the export of opium to the Chinese market. Overall, the British experience in China and India demonstrate the readiness of Great Britain to use armed forces to eliminate competition and prevent expulsion from foreign markets.

Economic Stagnation in Periphery

While Western Europe enjoyed the benefits of the industrial revolution and economic expansion, non-European states remained unaffected by technological progress. For instance, the lack of governmental support for industrial modernization prevented further development of the Chinese economy. The state authorities simply had no economic incentive to promote coal mining and implement technological innovations. The rapid increase of population from 1750 to 1850 led to massive migration to rural areas and large-scale deforestation and cultivation of fertile soils (Marks, 2015, pp. 120-121). The tendency was the result of increasing demand for food, clothes, and shelter for the growing population of China (Marks, 2015, pp. 120-121). Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities granted farmers the freedom to decide what and how much crop to grow, while encouraging the adaptation of rural areas to agricultural needs (Marks, 2015, p. 122). The policy of non-interference resulted in a significant decrease of raw cotton supply to the core industrial centers in China since rural families replaced cotton with rice production and produced textiles only for personal use (Marks, 2015, pp. 122-123). The evidence strongly suggests that the state support of the self-regulated economy and the huge surge in the population growth forced the Chinese to focus on agriculture to meet the ever-growing demand for goods covering basic needs. In other words, China was essentially preoccupied with feeding and sheltering the growing population at the expense of industrial development.

Similarly, the New World and African states suffered from long-term economic stagnation due to the lack of technological progress. Despite the expulsion of the Europeans from Latin America, the newly emerged states faced the tremendous ecological damage caused by the intensive exploitation of the land. For example, Haitian rebels planned to claim the independent clots on the old plantations and initiated the massive deforestation of the island during the post-revolutionary period (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 542). That caused further environmental degradation due to the increasing magnitude of soil erosion and poverty levels (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 542). Meanwhile, Africa remained a source of natural resources for European merchants. The abolishment of the slave trade in the Atlantic region led to distinctive changes in economic interactions between the Europeans and Africans. European empires essentially turned African states into exporters of palm kernels, peanuts, and vegetable and palm oils by promising huge profits and economic development (Tignor et al., 2015, p. 546). Foreign domination in regional markets was a starting point in the subsequent colonization of Africa by Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, and Portugal during the nineteenth century (Marks, 2015, pp. 164-166). Thus, the economic expansion of the European nations effectively hindered the economic, political, and technological development of the African states by forcing them to embrace foreign domination. The presented observations clearly demonstrate the growing disparities between the technologically superior western European nations and underdeveloped states in Latin America and Africa.

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While the economic expansion and industrial revolution allowed the European states to dominate the international political arena and commerce, the peripheral states suffered the impacts of economic recession and environmental degradation. For example, Great Britain managed to invade and dominate the Asian market by expelling the French, coercing the unfriendly Chinese government, and conquering India. Asia, Latin America, and Africa, in turn, endured a long period of economic stagnation and experienced environmental issues. Thus, the present research provides vivid illustrations of Europes growing domination in the world during 1700-1850. It is based on a comprehensive analysis of contemporary trends and may help to identify the core reasons for the growing economic disparities between different regions.

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