For Teachers: Teachers' Guide

China and Europe: 1780-1937

* This section of the website corresponds to the 1450-1750 and 1750-1914 units of Advanced Placement World History


In the sixth section, Pomeranz and Wong use Jan De Vries’ concept of the "Industrious Revolution" to describe the global economic transformation that occurred between 1500 and 1800.

  • During this period, the real price of basic necessities, such as bread and rice, increased. People offset this increase through increased domestic production of goods for the market and increased reliance on specialized goods produced by others.
  • China and Europe continued to be similar in this period in terms of real wages, life expectancy, and consumption of non-essential goods.
  • Around 1800, China and Europe also continued to remain roughly comparable in terms of the ecological transformation.
  • Given the extensive similarities between China and Europe, only the European use of fossil fuels, the steam engine, and the presence of colonies and plantations in the Americas can explain why Europe industrialized during the nineteenth century.
  • The Chinese, meanwhile, began to experience significant ecological decline in the peripheries of the empire, which led to outbreaks in famine and population decline during the nineteenth century.
  • The core regions of China along the coast reached out to other parts of East Asia for its resource needs and participated in an extensive maritime East Asian trade boom. These economies of these regions even began to transform into a more industrialized economy, similar to the transformation in late nineteenth century Japan.
  • But because of the uneven development between China’s declining inland peripheries and its more dynamic coastal core regions, as well as European incursions, the Qing dynasty was unable to implement a widespread industrialization policy.
  • Instead, some areas of China continued to export finished goods and other regions became exporters of raw materials.
  • A similar uneven economic development can be found around much of nineteenth century Asia.