Skip to main content
There are enough theories about why the Industrial Revolution happened in northern Europe between 1700 and 1800 to fill a million blog posts. Two well-known recent additions are Guns, Germs and Steel, which focuses on the peculiar and advantageous geography of norther Europe and its natural resources, and A Farewell to Alms, which provides the quirky but often persuasive explanation that the Malthusian Trap ironically populated England with workers whose upper-class values made them biologically better adapted to invent and use modern technology.
Our last graph is the full 2000 year sweep of the world through GDP/capita (mind the X-axis, of course). The industrial revolution didn't happen everywhere at the same time, but it did have the same effect everywhere: massively rising GDP/person.
The Japanese and Chinese stories are the most dramatic. Japan, which was behind Eastern Europe before World War I, nearly caught the United States by the end of the 20th century. China, which fell behind Africa in the middle of the 20th century, is now perhaps the most massive success story in industrialization history.