Which Was More Important in the Rise of Global Inequality Between 1750 and 1900?

Topics: Economics, Industrial Revolution, Karl Marx Pages: 5 (1584 words) Published: September 12, 2012
Which was more important in the rise of global inequality between 1750 and 1900:the industrial revolution or European overseas empires.

The European occupation and control of overseas empires contributed strongly to their ability to expand at home, via the industrial revolution. The rise of Global inequality and the birth of the third world was due to neither parties demand for luxury, nor forced labour, but erratic economic standings and uncontrollable weather patterns. Trade policy passed and tariffs imposed to benefit the English may be argued to be mere greed. Yet global inequality can in no way be argued as coincidental, but a carefully implemented plan to benefit the few over the suffering of the many. Both the industrial revolution and global inequality are mutually beneficial, and neither can exist without one another.

The industrial revolution “transformed the energy base of human society”[1]through coal power. Able to utilise stored energy built up by thousands of years of sun exposure[2], the British empire gained a competitive advantage over the surrounding industries that could not be contended. Without inexpensive energy India in particular had no opportunity to compete[3]. What would eventually become the third world were increasingly reliant upon the inefficient practices of old, whilst the Europeans were capable of completing the works of many. The birth of factory labour allowed for greater efficiency in exchange for harsh, dull working conditions.

India's artesian's whom had crafted garments for centuries were suddenly left without trade. When trade barriers were closed, markets disappeared and British product flooded the market with inexpensive alternatives. New technologies, making use of the cheap power, made way for an efficiency others could not compete with. This 'deindustrialisation' left many without a job, and, as a result they were forced into the fields to grow crops for the Opium addicted Chinese and hungry British. Forced to sell raw produce, and to purchase the offshore complex material the economy could no longer survive. “India reliably consumed 25-30% of Britain’s exports”[4] as they had become reliant upon their western colonists. India's producers were purchasing offshore goods and this allowed for burgeoning wealth in England and the collapse of India's economy.

China's economic collapse may be attributed to their forced reliance upon opium trade. Once the market was opened on the trade, and opium legalised, reliance on Chinese import's ceased and the economy suffered vastly. Amateur farming practice within China and India also debilitated the economy further, as did the evidence of the rapid movement across the country by the farmers, as the land beneath their feet simply collapsed. As is noted “Without opium there probably would have been no British Empire”[5] as the major colonial territories derived between 25 and 30 percent of their income from opium farms[6]. Carl Trocki similarly argues the effects of silver upon the economy[7]. As a result of this collapse the world created by the English now meant that “By 1830, Britain had a virtual monopoly on industrial production of iron, steam engines and textiles”[8].

Another contributing factor toward global inequality during the period included the resounding effects of Charles Darwin's “Origin of Species”. A bi-product of the scientific revolution, Darwin argued the theory of 'survival of the fittest'. When Europeans were exposed to thousands of Indians and Chinese starving, it was assumed that the white European was the strongest race and overly superior. The wealthy countries believed “...It was natural”[9] and for them “social darwinism was a comforting ideology”[10] . A strong example of this ideology lies within Karl Marx' account claiming India to be “the solid foundation for despotism”, that “restrain[ed] the human mind”[11]. The Europeans were of the opinion that India should “elevate man to be...
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