Applying Natural Sciences to Studying History: Regarding the Example of England and the Industrial Revolution Part II

Lucy Badalian
Victor Krivorotov


In the previous article of this series we presented a bio-ecological approach to studying history. It was shown that societies from the first civilizations to our days are techno-ecosystems (coenoses) and do not differ much from the natural ecosystems of a lake or a forest, which are also restricted by their supplies of food. Historically, a succession of distinctive nestled geo-climatic zones was domesticated as the older ones were exhausted due to growing demographic pressure. In this context, evolution is not synonymous with competition. Cooperation of mutually dependent species is crucial for domesticating a new ecosystem, while at specific moments in its lifecycle, competition intensifies leading to speciation. In this article, we use this concept for analyzing a specific society. We show that the Industrial Revolution was England’s specific adaptation to the limitations of its geo-climatic zone. Timber, the main resource of the pre-industrial age, was essential for ship building and metal smelting. It was abundant in its main rival’s, France’s, geo-climatic habitat, but scarce in deforested England. Using its abundant local resource, coal, in an innovative way, this particular society, just like an emergent biological species, gained an evolutionary edge over its neighbors by opening access to new sources of food. The “workshop of the world” started with export-oriented textile production and ended as the major colonial power of its time. At the start of its rise to supremacy, during the 1805 battle at Trafalgar, Lord Nelson smashed the combined French-Spanish navies using short and light cast-iron cannons. They were much less precise than the long bronze ones favored by Napoleon, but, in the right hands, gave the first taste of industrial might to the England’s foes. Under Britain’s dominance, the 19th century’s Oikumene was completely remade and covered with smokestacks. We show subsequent stages of England’s industrialization as related to similar stages in biological ecosystems.


Article in: English

Article published: 2006-09-15

Keyword(s): evolution; ecosystem; coenosis; technology; history

DOI: 10.3846/coactivity.2006.32

Full Text: PDF pdf



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