The period in focus here; 1600-1800s being a time frame endowed with limelight attention from much of the debates within economical historiography of socio-political and geographical units, sees seated within it the processes or continuities which set in motion differences which were perceived, constructed and identified in later narratives. Hence proving itself an epoch integral, while understanding the later observed divergence accredited to north western Europe or at times just Britain in particular. By reflecting on the conditions of life in both Europe and Asia between 1600-1800; to studently possible extents, the intention is to also deconstruct the plethora of conventional Eurocentric academic narratives that posit the phenomenon of the divergence as a result of an inherent or internal character quality of a socio-regional unit. Until decolonization as a discourse within academia along with other reasons caused shifts in the focus of global academic historiography, the most popular frameworks employed in understanding the European leap in its economical timbre was one which credited Europe with traits of internal institutional and economic superiority. In the older perspectives Asia was understood to be a unit lacking any ability to cope or keep up with the shifts happening in Britain; for reasons of being different in manifestation of its growth or progress. A unit stunted due to its reliance on Asiatic modes of production, demographic realities and traditionalist impediments.
For instance China was considered to have involuted growth; growth which consumed labour without causing corresponding progress. Conventional prepositions also relied on Europe’s demographic features; which kept population in line and ready for economic growth, as a way of advancing European exceptionalism. The beliefs of this likes were contested and challenged by a set of post-colonial scholars who tried to present a more holistic account on why western Europe deviated away from any semblance in economic progress it possessed in actuality with Asia pre 1850s. A rather difficult framework which can’t be dispensed off would be that which understands Colonial accumulation of capital; extraction of New world, African and Indian resources through imperialist ventures, to have enabled Britain’s divergence in the global arena. While colonial ventures remain important in understanding the trajectory of European rise to a dominant economic power, awarding all the credit to colonial tendencies would indeed be a huge academic blunder. Academic literature produced by historiography of contemporary times are distant from the tendencies of conventional frameworks that endorse European exceptionalism.
Hence this piece particular piece will rely heavily on the accounts of Kenneth Pomeranz; a historian of the Californian school of East Asian historians, Partha Sarathi Gupta; a British European Historian of Indian origin and Robert C allen; an economic historian, in its attempt to re-read and form a better understanding of narratives around changes in global economies. Hence distancing ourselves from frameworks which cling on rather strongly to divergence due to differences, we shall explore divergence from similarities, pluralities of growth and resemblances. As ” Joseph Stiglitz puts in it the review of the economics of information, “”Economies with the same deep properties could have markedly different equilibria”‘. For understandings around economic realities have grown complex over a long period of time. Kenneth Pomeranz in his seminal work ” The Great Divergence” is of the opinion that the world on the eve of the industrial revolution was still a polycentric one.
He understands parallels to have existed between the west and the east up until 1750s. To be precise parallels in terms of metrics like consumption( comfort goods were being purchased on a comparable scale across), literacy rates( saw hardly 10 percent difference across both east and west), life expectancy( rate of life expectancy was around an average of 32.5 for Britain as well as Japan and China prior to 1800 ), market strategy and ecological concerns.