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Thread: What was the greatest tech development between agriculture and industrialisation?

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    What was the greatest tech development between agriculture and industrialisation?

    Something happened. Between 1450 and 1750, human population went from 400 million to 700 million. Was it simply the discovery of the New World?
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    To a significant extent, that's got to include the recovery of population to previous carrying capacity, in the aftermath of the 14th-century Black Death pandemic. I don't know the source of your estimates, but you should see a 14th-century dip preceding the rise you cite--some estimates go as high as 200 million deaths. There was a lot of societal change and a shift in land-use in the aftermath of the Black Death, which I suppose might have improved infant mortality and the carrying capacity of available agricultural land. I have no figures.

    Grant Hutchison

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    The standardization of languages. And the use of movable type, a close second. Mercantilism, maybe a close third. Not a very effective system, but it does get the ball rolling. The use of statistics for planning, should be in there someplace. Actuarial tables are boring, but useful.
    Solfe

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    What was the greatest tech development between agriculture and industrialisation?

    A substantial contributor to population growth was the improvement of agricultural methods, including the wooden mould-board plough which was used in early civilizations. Iron mould -board ploughs were produced later in the 18th. The shape allowed farmers to cut sod much more easily and to bury clippings and weeds for fertilization, all in one pass.

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    Scientific method.

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    https://www.desmos.com/calculator/to7ly8zt9v
    (data from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_curve.svg)

    You see gradual growth with a couple hitches from the plagues until around 1700, then it takes off. Newcomen's steam engine was invented in 1712, and one of steam power's first major applications was in water pumps for mines, irrigation, and water distribution. Other forms of agricultural machinery became popular in the 1800s.

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    Too many variables to narrow one down as "greatest." Most of them were great.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    If you look at the population growth by region (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_...owth_by_region) you can see that a large part of the growth was from an increase in population in Asia. A quick look at an overview of the history of the region says that this was probably driven by the emergence of several stable and long lived empires (Ming, Joseon, Tokugawa...) which rebuilt large irrigation works and benefited from an influx of new crops from the New World which in turn opened up a range of farming alternatives for areas traditionally weak in terms of food security.

    So basically it was at least partially ditches and maize.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schlaugh View Post
    A substantial contributor to population growth was the improvement of agricultural methods, including the wooden mould-board plough which was used in early civilizations. Iron mould -board ploughs were produced later in the 18th. The shape allowed farmers to cut sod much more easily and to bury clippings and weeds for fertilization, all in one pass.
    Agreed , the plough, if you want one thing , but obviously irrigation technology too and the black death changed society, for example more education.
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    You had punch cards and keyboards of a type before the computer, so looms and pipe organs pointed the way forward.

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Agreed , the plough, if you want one thing , but obviously irrigation technology too and the black death changed society, for example more education.
    While the impact new plough designs have had can't be ignored it doesn't fit the original question. The big upgrades to the plough design became widely used between 500-1000 and then another one in about 1750. And neither were mostly confined to Asia. Of the places that saw population increase over the 1500-1750 period Asia saw nearly a 100% increase, Europe about 10% and Africa about 25% (very roughly). So pinning these changes on a new technology that reached Asia in about 500 or one that appeared in Europe around 1750 seems tough to justify.

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    Maize, potatoes,bush beans, scarlet runner beans,sunflowers, squashes, (soft summer& hard winter), pumpkins, quinoa, and peanuts. I have since lost the book I purchased in the late 70's on colonial agriculture. In it an English Gardner commented that the native Indians in America produced about 3 times the yield of the best British gardens, though with a far less favorable climate.
    They would girdle the trees in an area, and let them die in the summer heat. Then they'd return the following spring and burn the entire thing. Once cool, having destroyed most of the weed seeds, fungi, and insect eggs, in addition to releasing potash and some nitrates...they'd plant. Start with corn and sunflowers. Wait till it's up about 5 inches. Then plant beans which as a legume fix nitrogen, and climbing beans to go up the cornstalks, and sunflowers. Then squashes, and pumkins, to shield the ground retarding evaporation, and suppressing weeds.For neatness...not! But for yield...terrific.
    Even today Russian sunflower farms yield more grain per acre than any other.
    Potatoes would store in the soil in te warmer garden zones. Hard blue hubbard, and butternut squashes stored in a tipi for months, corn dried and made tortillas, beans were eaten fresh and dried ( all parts of the plant are edible), and peanuts, also a legume, enriched the soil..
    Colonial settlers soon discouraged their use of fire, fearing for their houses, leading to issues.Even today in the third world malnutrition and starvation is an issue for hundreds of millions of people. The Americas introduced 18 crops to europeans.
    See:https://www.britannica.com/list/18-f...n-the-americas

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Something happened. Between 1450 and 1750, human population went from 400 million to 700 million. Was it simply the discovery of the New World?
    The subject doesn't quite match the text. Between agriculture and industrialisation is a long time, and includes such basic inventions as the wheel and paper. From 1450 to 1750 is a much short time. Grant Hutchison has already pointed out that there was a great plague shortly before your sample period.

    So I can cite things like the wheel and paper, but these were around long before 1450, and don't seem like a likely explanation for a population increase beginning at that time.

    The anemometer and the screwdriver were invented in the 15th century. Maybe the screwdriver nearly doubled human population

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    There's a difference between fasting, which has been shown, time and again, to extend longevity, and borderline starvation in populations, making them susceptible to a huge range of complications. As one who taught for 5 years in the poorest city of 50,000 plus in the country ( Lawrence,MA),, having three squares a day makes a very big difference in the life of a kid. Doubling the world's output per acre, using American crops, took an enormous burden off the lives of the world's poor. Few Americans, Europeans, have ever gone hungry, while we plow crops under to manage markets. Try a week with only water to see how productive you become, to appreciate that a Kansas wheat farmer can feed 500 for a year.
    pete

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    Four Kinds of Back-Breaking Work

    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    Something happened. Between 1450 and 1750, human population went from 400 million to 700 million. Was it simply the discovery of the New World?
    It predates 1450, but I think a real case can be made for four intertwined items in agricultural technology. They are the horse collar, the mould board plow, the draft horse, and the horseshoe. Suddenly, in the 12th century, a horse can do 1½ times as much work as an ox. There is a revolution in farming.

    Wiki refs:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_collar

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plough

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft_horse

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Mendenhall View Post
    It predates 1450, but I think a real case can be made for four intertwined items in agricultural technology. They are the horse collar, the mould board plow, the draft horse, and the horseshoe. Suddenly, in the 12th century, a horse can do 1½ times as much work as an ox. There is a revolution in farming.
    These four things came together in Europe around this time (horsecollars and the new style of plough were long established in Asia). And yet Europe saw the smallest increase in population of the Old World continents. If we were to actually be driven by the data then there is more evidence for the hypothesis that these four innovations combined to reduce population growth. I don't believe that this is actually the case but I'm making the point that even though we should beware that correlation does not imply causation in this case there isn't a good correlation.

    Population increase in 1750 relative to 1500:
    World 35.21%
    Africa 23.26%
    Asia 78.01%
    Europe 13.10%
    Latin America -60.00%
    North America -66.67%
    Oceania -33.33%

    And in terms of raw numbers a graph
    worldpop.png

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    I'm going to say what I always say. There is no way to know the greatest. There are too many variables to know what the greatest is. It is an evolution, and we are all part of that.
    The moment an instant lasted forever, we were destined for the leading edge of eternity.

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    Writing.
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    I would go with moveable type and writing. Writing allowed the storage and sharing of ideas and knowledge and moveable type allowed it to be affordable.
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    Writing was already present in most places by the 1400. The problem was, language wasn't standardized. There is a famous story where 3 merchants try to get eggs for breakfast in a small town. The first merchant asked a woman for "ǣġes" and she replied, "I don't speak French." The next person heard the word "French" and asked for eggs in French, "œufs". This merely baffled the woman. The third guy asked for "eyren," which she understood.

    What's interesting is all three words would have been common at the time. All four speakers were speaking English, but the state of society locked most people to a single area which caused local quirks in language which couldn't be understood.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    Writing was already present in most places by the 1400. The problem was, language wasn't standardized. There is a famous story where 3 merchants try to get eggs for breakfast in a small town. The first merchant asked a woman for "ǣġes" and she replied, "I don't speak French." The next person heard the word "French" and asked for eggs in French, "œufs". This merely baffled the woman. The third guy asked for "eyren," which she understood.

    What's interesting is all three words would have been common at the time. All four speakers were speaking English, but the state of society locked most people to a single area which caused local quirks in language which couldn't be understood.
    And most people were illiterate at the time. Maybe public education was the biggest transformative development.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  22. #22
    Agriculture was already around by 1400 as well. Another major change was the mindset of people during that time they were starting to question a lot of the dogma that was around at the time. Starting with Copernicus and Luther, plus discoveries like telescopes and then the use of lenses to make microscopes, and the experimentation of Galileo rolling balls down tracks, dropping things off the tower of Pisa was more like the apple with Newtown. But the printing press allowed all this to be passed around more freely. It was kind of starting to roll a snowball down a hill in cartoon as soon as it starts it keeps on going.
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    I'm pretty sure the reason human population increases is due to sexual reproduction. :-)
    Limitation to this I think were poor nutrition leading to lowered fertility rates, high infant mortality, and disease pandemics killing reproductive aged peasants.
    Improvements in nutrition from agricultural production as above (ploughs, horse collars) probably led to higher fertility rates.
    A shift from feudalism to private markets probably improved food production and distribution due to financial incentives.
    Later the colombian exchange helped with potato calories. It is often forgotten that the Irish potato famine killed mostly those 'additional' Irish people who were born due to the extra calories the potato brought to Ireland in the 1st place. What the potato gave, the potato taketh away .



    in modern times i'd have to say the Haber process.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process
    "It's only a model....?" :-)
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    Why all the focus on 1400? The OP question covers a much broader timeline, and yet there's been a focus on "recent" history, and inventions built on the backs of earlier and much more well-established technologies that enabled them.

    How do we define and determine "greatness"?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Backroad Astronomer View Post
    Agriculture was already around by 1400 as well.
    I think maybe for nine or ten thousand years

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Why all the focus on 1400?
    I would say the subject of the thread, and the text of the OP, don't quite match. The text refers to a much narrower time period.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Why all the focus on 1400? The OP question covers a much broader timeline, and yet there's been a focus on "recent" history, and inventions built on the backs of earlier and much more well-established technologies that enabled them.

    How do we define and determine "greatness"?
    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    And most people were illiterate at the time. Maybe public education was the biggest transformative development.
    I am fascinated by this early 1300-1400 period. A lot of interesting things happened. Not much of it would have been "great", just fascinating.

    There was a peasant revolt in the late 1300 (1388?) where the peasants targeted documents of charter and title and burned the ones they felt precluded them from self-government. In some cases, they were able to read French and Latin documents because they could speak those languages and make the leap to phonetically spelling in those languages. Thank you alphabet! That was not an uncommon ability. It just that most people didn't get hauled in to court which required reading skills. (If you read a tiny bit, you could access other courts which might be safer for you.)

    But it does point to the alphabet as being an important innovation for European languages in that larger time range.
    Last edited by Solfe; 2020-Jul-23 at 09:09 PM.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post

    There was a peasant revolve in the late 1300
    "You do the Hokey Pokey, and you turn yourself around..."
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    "You do the Hokey Pokey, and you turn yourself around..."
    I would be much better with pencil and paper than with the internet.
    Solfe

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    Whoops

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    These four things came together in Europe around this time (horsecollars and the new style of plough were long established in Asia). And yet Europe saw the smallest increase in population of the Old World continents. If we were to actually be driven by the data then there is more evidence for the hypothesis that these four innovations combined to reduce population growth. I don't believe that this is actually the case but I'm making the point that even though we should beware that correlation does not imply causation in this case there isn't a good correlation.

    Population increase in 1750 relative to 1500:
    World 35.21%
    Africa 23.26%
    Asia 78.01%
    Europe 13.10%
    Latin America -60.00%
    North America -66.67%
    Oceania -33.33%

    And in terms of raw numbers a graph
    worldpop.png
    Just because the stats don't suppoprt my thesis doesn't mean I can't be the next U.S. President.

    Your points are well taken. Maybe NCN's suggestion regardin literacy is correct.

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