Daughters of the American Revolution |
England had nearly a century’s head start on the competition with its Industrial Revolution, which is why it became the world’s triumphant imperial power, to be later supplanted by its offspring and rival, the USA. Turning coal into an industrial fuel, for smelting iron and powering machines, initiated the Industrial Revolution, and the next big innovation was making machines to replace hands. English inventors , and the 1760s and 1770s were the golden age of spinning innovation, and the , , and were all invented. By the 1790s, people using such machines . I call one worker with a machine outperforming 150 people without one an energy-and-technology-leveraged human. Energy-powered technology allowed a person to vastly outperform humans without it. Was that person 150 times more dexterous? Smarter? Faster? Stronger? The machine did the work, not the person, and energy made it all happen, not the equipment. Without energy to run it, machinery is useless, but without human-made technology, the energy was unavailable. Such machines would never have been without the available energy to run them. Those early spinning machines ran on water power from the .
Why the revolution will not be tweeted
In 508 BCE, Athens entered its classical period, which lasted for nearly two centuries. In those two centuries, so much was invented by Greek philosophers and proto-scientists that it has been studied by scholars for thousands of years. One provocative question that scholars have posed is why the Industrial Revolution did not begin with the Greeks. The answer seems to be along the lines of Classic Greeks not having the social organization or sufficient history of technological innovation before wars and environmental destruction ended the Greek experiment. The achievements of Greece over the millennium of their intellectual fecundity are far too many to explore in this essay, but briefly, the Greeks invented: , , , the , a monetized economy, thought, such as , while developing other branches to unprecedented sophistication, and , which included the idea that . Long after the Classic Greek period was over, Hellenic intellectuals and inventors kept making innovations that had major impacts on later civilizations, such as Heron of Alexandria (or some other Greeks) inventing the and .
In the mid-twentieth century, historians trying to make sense of the paranoid style in American Revolutionary politics suggested that it derived from essayists on the fringe of the Whig Party in England who saw themselves as heirs of the men who had launched the English Civil War. Though marginal in England, these conspiracy theories seemed cogent in America, where colonists lived under governors with strong executive powers but no local constituency. Still, historically informed descriptions of what people believed don’t explain why colonists stood up for their principles only some of the time, and why they disagreed so acrimoniously that they were willing to dip one another in tar barrels. In a 1972 article, “An Economic Interpretation of the American Revolution,” Marc Egnal and Joseph A. Ernst suggested that the Revolution may have been triggered by the growth of British capitalism, which for decades flooded the colonies with easy credit and with manufactured goods that were better and cheaper than Americans could make themselves. The British were doing to us in the seventeen-sixties more or less what China is doing to us today. Merchants were the first to make their discontent political, because they were the first to see that the economic predicament could be eased if the colonies had the autonomy to, say, print paper money or trade with other nations. The people, for their part, may have hoped that boycotts of imported luxuries would limit their personal spending and encourage American manufacturing, which might, in time, employ them. But the people’s enthusiasm for the boycotts far outran the merchants’. In banning such items as funeral scarves and elaborate mourning dress, the colonists seem to have been admitting to powerlessness, as if their desire for British goods were itself the instrument of their subjugation.