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  • Volume 7: Production, Destruction and Connection, 1750–Present, Part 1: Structures, Spaces, and Boundary Making
  • Edited by J. R. McNeill, Georgetown University, Washington DC, Kenneth Pomeranz, University of Chicago
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Book description

Since 1750, the world has become ever more connected, with processes of production and destruction no longer limited by land- or water-based modes of transport and communication. Volume 7 of the Cambridge World History series, divided into two books, offers a variety of angles of vision on the increasingly interconnected history of humankind. The first book examines structures, spaces, and processes within which and through which the modern world was created, including the environment, energy, technology, population, disease, law, industrialization, imperialism, decolonization, nationalism, and socialism, along with key world regions.

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Contents


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  • 10 - The politics of smallpox eradication
    pp 258-282
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Connection' is, obviously, central to a work that aims to explore 'world history' in particular, rather than all history that has happened in the world. It forms one of the major ways that we bring remote peoples and places into the same analytical frame. The beginning of 1750 is sharply marked by an increase in the prevalence of world wars, events that connected larger-than-ever parts of the globe in overlapping campaigns of destruction with world-altering consequences. In demography, economy, and ecology, the 1750s is likewise a watershed. Industrialization in some societies often led to soaring demand for commodities they could not easily produce at home, so rubber, cotton, jute, and other primary products became enormous sources of potential profit. 1400-1800 as an era of 'proto-globalization', in the loose sense of a world with much more frequent and influential intercontinental connections. Imagined or mediated communities can have wildly varying scales, scopes, durability, and degrees of emotional power.
  • 12 - On nationalism
    pp 306-330
  • View abstract

    Summary

    A host of scholars, scientists, journalists, and others have begun to bandy about the term 'the Anthropocene', a term popularized by the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen since 2000. Geologists are struggling vainly to create a common definition of the term to match definitions they accept for other eras, epochs, and periods such as the Miocene or the Holocene. Several big shifts took place to nudge us into the Anthropocene, but the biggest of all was the adoption of fossil fuels and the leaps in energy use since 1750. Food and fiber frontiers formed only a part of the impact on the land in the age of fossil fuels. The Anthropocene witnessed unprecedented global population growth. Energy and industrialization, population growth and urbanization brought on the Anthropocene. The recognition of climate change, and anxieties about future prospects, animated a new dimension of international politics and climate politics which centered on the question of how to reduce carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
  • 13 - Assessing imperialism
    pp 331-365
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In the last two centuries, world agriculture succeeded in producing enough to provide more food per capita than ever before, in spite of an almost seven-fold increase in population, and to supply industries with raw materials, all using less land, capital, and labor per unit of output. Production can be augmented by using more inputs such as capital, labor, and land, and/or by using them more efficiently. This chapter highlights a key distinction between the number of agricultural workers and their share of the total workforce. The farmers have introduced thousands of innovations, which for the purpose of illustration can be grouped into four categories. They are new practices of cultivation, new plants and animals, chemical products, and machinery. In the economists' jargon, institutions can be defined as the set of formal or informal rules that determine the ownership of the goods and factors and regulate the interactions among individual agents or households.
  • 14 - Self-strengthening and other political responses to the expansion of European economic and political power
    pp 366-394
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter discusses the basic mechanism of global industrialization with reference to how local resource constraints were eased through the introduction of modern technology and institutions in core regions of the world. The adoption of a multipolar perspective implies a degree of departure from the existing literature. The chapter reviews the early modern European economic development from a reciprocal comparative perspective. According to Eric Jones and others, Europe as a region achieved a series of major technological and institutional innovations, worth calling the 'European miracle', between 1400 and 1800. In describing postwar economic development up to 1980, Harry Oshima stressed the common socio-environmental characteristics of monsoon Asia, stretching from East and Southeast Asia to South Asia. The character of the Asian path originates from the unique environment, with differences between East Asia and South Asia. The chapter speculates whether ongoing industrialization will be a threat to global environmental sustainability.
  • 15 - Decolonization and its legacy
    pp 395-419
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Technological change accelerated with the Industrial Revolution and extended to all processes on all continents from smelting and mining to power production, to transportation, agriculture, and housing, and to communications. This chapter focuses on the United States, Europe, and the former Soviet Union because these nations have been the major engines of technological change since the 1750s for economic reasons; political reasons; military concerns; and the competition between these states for resources and power. A crucial aspect of the Industrial Revolution, tied to the others, was the rise of steam power. Historians have had their differences over the social consequences of the Industrial Revolution, particularly its impacts upon living standards. Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations have begun to tame the Mekong River delta with scores of hydroelectricity projects that raise questions of post-colonial oustees and environmental degradation. After 1750 a revolution in transportation changed the face of human interaction, commerce, military thinking, diet, leisure, and much else.
  • 16 - Genocide
    pp 420-441
  • View abstract

    Summary

    By the 1750s a few regions of Western Europe were in the early stages of energy transition from plant fuels to fossil fuels and from animate prime movers to machines powered by combustion. Great powers of the past that continued to rely on traditional energy sources and on animate prime movers were swiftly left far behind: in aggregate terms China, with its large population, remained the world's largest economy until the 1880s. This chapter concentrates on just six universal measures for energy developments. They are energy density, power density, the maximum power of prime movers, the efficiency of energy conversions, the per capita consumption of useful energy, and, the maximum energies of weapons. The history of modern energy use make it clear how the combustion of fossil fuels and massive deployment of efficient prime movers created a world in which material comforts, private consumption, mobility, and the overall quality of life are so different from the pre-1750 era.

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