The Modern Revolution: Crash Course Big History #8

Hi, I’m John Green. Welcome to Crash Course Big
History. Today, we’re going to look at the Modern Revolution. Mr. Green! Mr. Green! But, what does modern
even mean. I mean, I know that fax machines and Super Nintendo are modern, but like people
used to think that toilets that flushed were modern. That’s actually a pretty perceptive question,
Me From the Past, so if we are going to talk about modernity, we should probably define
modernity. But first, I have great news. There is a future, me from the past, where
video games are so much better than Super Nintendo. In fact, this machine plays 24,000
games, and it is in the office of future you. What were we talking about? Oh right, modernity.
So some historians date the beginning of the Modern Era with the beginnings of The
Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Some date it to the French Revolution in 1789.
Some push it further back to 16th and 17th century European colonialism. And, some date modernity
with the European Renaissance and call anything past the year 1500 “early modern.” But through a Big History Lens, all of these
are just signs of acceleration in human collective learning, which was already underway and took
its first tiny steps in East Africa 250,000 years ago. Then again, it would be silly to call the
first human foragers “Early-Early-Early Modern.” So for the purposes of today, let’s say the
“Early Modern” period began around 1500, and the “Modern Modern” period around 1750, with an
acknowledgement that it’s all a little bit arbitrary. And I know what you’re wondering, but no, 1750 was
several decades before the first flushing toilets. [Theme Music] So, last week we looked at how Collective
Learning, which relies on population numbers and connectivity to produce new ideas, grew by leaps
and bounds with the introduction of agriculture. By the year 1400, the human population had
advanced magnificently, but the world was still divided into four isolated world zones: The
Americas, Australasia, the Pacific, and Afro-Eurasia. From a Big History perspective, what makes
the European explorations worthy of a place in an episode called “Modern Revolution” is
that they eventually united all four world zones into a global system. An increasingly
connected network of potential innovators was great for collective learning. But why did the Europeans feel so motivated
to expand? Well, a lot of reasons. One, Ottoman dominance of overland trade routes with Asia,
particularly after the conquests of Constantinople in 1453, made Europeans seek alternative routes
to the populous and rich lands of the East. Two, European states were fairly small compared
to some of the vast empires of Asia, and needed to compete for more resources to fuel their
almost constant wars. And three, the fruits of exploration undoubtedly had
positive effects. Whether it be the many advanced inventions and consumer goods imported from China, or the spices
of India and Indonesia, or crops from the Americas. That last one should not be underestimated.
Crops like the potato, which earned the nickname “Ready Made Bread” because it was easy to
prepare combined with maize, and squashes, and tomatoes, and various yams allowed farms
in Europe to support more people. This was also good for Asia where these crops
were introduced in the 17th century. And, let us not forget about the vast amounts of
silver that the Spanish “acquired” from the Americas, or the many cotton, tobacco, and sugar
farms that Europeans bolstered their economies with. The unification of world zones also had many,
many negative effects. For instance, it was terrible for people who worked on those cotton,
and tobacco, and sugar farms. Europeans increasingly relied on African slaves,
the first of whom were granted to the Portuguese by African rulers, and then you know, several
centuries of horror ensued with an incomprehensible number of African slaves dying in the appalling
conditions of the Atlantic crossing. Life was also pretty miserable for the slaves
that survived the journey, and generations of their descendants. Also, because Afro-Eurasia
was a modestly connected, thriving cesspool of disease, Europeans had developed many immunities. When they started arriving in the previously
isolated Americas in the late 1400’s and 1500’s, the indigenous inhabitants had no immunity
to those diseases. This resulted in one of the most horrific events in human history. A cocktail of
various European diseases — most notably smallpox — killed off an estimated 50 million
people in the Americas in little over a century. A similar tragedy played itself out in Australia when
Europeans started arriving there in the 18th century. Now, along with all this horrific stuff, the
unification of the world zones was, nevertheless, a good thing for collective learning — which
would eventually prove our salvation in many ways. And this global system continues to increase
in complexity and connectivity today. Which is why people can now look at THIS on their
smartphone. Anyway, the unification of the world zones
did not in itself lead to a breakthrough in the way humans harvested matter and energy. The last major shift happened with the arrival of
agriculture ten thousand years prior. The colonizing European societies of the sixteenth, seventeenth,
and eighteenth centuries remained agrarian. But the explorations did allow for a network
of exchange that eventually did lead to a major breakthrough in how humans harnessed
more energy and produced more and more cultural complexity, The Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain,
as they’ll be happy to tell you, in the 18th century, but it was a global revolution involving
collective learning shared across the global system. But a number of innovations that kick-started
industry originated in Britain, like the more intensified use of steam engines, or the use
of coke to refine metals. Not that Coke, yeah, that coke. Also, they invented many textile
machines, and Britain had lots of coal and it was relatively easy to mine. Thank you
trees that died hundreds of millions of years ago, we’re going to turn you into industry,
and smog. But all those British breakthroughs wouldn’t
have been possible without a huge global network of trade that supplied raw materials, like
cotton, and that opened new markets where Britain could sell its goods. And it wouldn’t have possible to expand that
network of trade in the first place without gunpowder, and the compass, which both came
from China. The methods of porcelain manufacture that were important to the industrial revolution
in Britain also came from China via Germany, and the improved methods of farming which
freed up many British farm workers for industrial wage labour in the cities came from Flanders,
in the Netherlands. Early designs for steam engines came from 18th century France, and
much of the designs for these machines depended on mathematics preserved and transmitted by
Islamic and Hindu civilizations. So up until the end of the 18th century virtually
all production in human history was propelled by human or animal muscle power, or else,
by wind and water power. But it turned out that coal and oil had stored energy from the
sun that had built up over hundreds of millions of years, and using those resources dramatically
increased the energy that humans could harness. Huge numbers of goods could be produced by
factories at relatively low prices which meant that over many decades goods that had previously
been seen as luxuries by common people, were suddenly viewed as necessities. By the 1900s
most Europeans enjoyed a standard of living higher than the kings of the middle ages.
Coal and oil also allowed mechanization of agriculture, which raised the carrying capacity,
increasing the population. And new modes of connectivity beginning with the telegraph
and then later the telephone increasingly bound the human species together allowing for swift
and rapid exchange of ideas. For 250,000 years, if I wanted to tell someone who lived a hundred miles
away from me something, it took me days to do so. For the last hundred years, it’s
taken me seconds. Because a slight tweak in modes of production
in the 18th century and the adoption of fossil fuels led to an explosion of productivity
and invention in the 1800’s and 1900’s, people often compare The Industrial Revolution to the
Cambrian Explosion about 540,000,000 years ago. Remember, when a new skill or trait open
up new ways or ‘niches’ to extract energy from the environment, evolutionary change can proceed
very quickly. In the Cambrian Explosion that evolutionary change was biological. In The Industrial
Revolution that increased pace of change was cultural. Consider bike design. In the 1800’s there
were many many different designs for bikes. Some of which look amazingly terrifyingly
unsafe. In the beginning of innovations for bicycles a huge number of designs filled all
of the available niches. Eventually those designs started competing with each other
and a few forms won out. You got the road bike and the mountain bike and the BMX bike. Just a
little bit different variations of the same thing. Another example is the adaptive radiation
of electronics. Take a look at all the stuff you needed in the 1980’s to do what your average
cellphone can do today. And that was only a few decades ago. Many new ideas sparked
an increase in the human standard of living, in the complexity of societies, in tons of
different ways. The explosion of cultural evolution that started 200 years ago has yet
to cease. The Cambrian Explosion went on for millions
of years. The Agricultural Revolution proceeded for thousands of years. We’re still right
in the middle of the Modern Revolution; maybe only at the beginning. The huge shift in human
activity and a rise in complexity may continue long after our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
That is, so long as we don’t do something stupid, which, you know with homo sapiens
is always a distinct possibility. And let’s not forget about the rise in complexity
that’s been happening since the beginning of the universe 13.8 billion years ago. A
star is essentially a pile of hydrogen and helium. It’s extremely simple. By comparison,
a brain that arose via biological evolution is an intricate network of billions of connections
and building blocks. Industrial society is an immense whirring global network of millions
upon millions of brains, more closely connected than ever before. The products of this society
raised complexity even further. Bottom line is this: if the first part of
this series, which looked at the vastness of the universe, made you feel insignificant,
just remember that now at the tremendous heights of technological progress humanity is, in
terms of networks and building blocks, the most complex system that we know of in the
universe. And there’s currently no end to the potential
for rising complexity in sight. This brings us to a longstanding historical question:
“Why did The Industrial Revolution happen in Britain?” Great Britain was certainly uncommonly
well-positioned. That said, so was China. So why didn’t The Industrial Revolution happen in,
say, Song Dynasty China, between the 10th and 13th centuries? So we know the two main drivers of collective
learning are population numbers and connectivity, and China has had both for a long time. The medieval
Chinese had much more advanced agricultural methods than Europe; they paid attention to
weeding and growing crops in rows, and frequently used tools like the seed drill. And they were doing it all
centuries before that stuff was even heard of in Europe. In the 900’s, the spread of wet rice farming
in Southern China raised the carrying capacity even further because rice fields simply produce
more food. They are more efficient. Also, rice is easier to prepare than the laborious
European process of turning wheat into bread. So, during the 10th and 11th centuries, the Chinese
population increased from about 50 or 60 million to about 120 million. That’s a lot of new
innovators. So many, in fact, that Song China came close to having a modern revolution of
its own. I mean, coal was used to manufacture iron, production increased from 19,000 metric
tons per year around 900 CE to 113,000 metric tons by 1200 CE. The Song Dynasty was the
first to invent and harness the power of gunpowder, and then later, in the 15th century, Zheng
He conducted overseas explorations decades before Columbus. Textile production showed
the first ever signs of mechanization in ways similar to the European Spinning Jenny. But. China had dry coal, while the British
needed to pump water out of their coal mines in order to mine coal, which led the British
to build steam engines. So, why didn’t the modern revolution start
in China around 1000 CE? Well, it might have been the cultural and political climate, and
a shift away from innovation and commerce at the end of Song China in 1279. Possibly
because they hadn’t united the world zones in a network of trade and unified collective
learning. And possibly because the right combination of cultural innovations required to launch a Cambrian
style explosion of growth just didn’t happen. The point is that collective learning is such
a powerful force that from the explosion of the world population from only 6 million people
10,000 years ago to 954 million by the end of the Agrarian era, the right combination
of ideas that led to the industrial explosion might have happened almost anywhere. So long as there are brains to think and exchange
ideas, so long as there are energy flows on the earth, humanity has a tremendous potential
for rising complexity. The modern revolution was accompanied by explosive
growth in human population. It took 250,000 years for humanity to achieve its first billion
people. By 1900, the world’s population was 1.6 billion. Today, there are over 7 billion
potential innovators who are now connected by the lightning speed of the internet, and
collective learning is more powerful than ever. Humans now have unprecedented control and
power over the Earth’s biosphere, which has prompted some scientists and scholars to claim
that the Holocene is over and we now stand on the threshold of a new era: the Anthropocene. During this age, we may continue to raise
complexity in our little pocket of the universe to wondrous new levels, hopefully to the growing
benefit of all humans rather than just a privileged few. Thanks to collective learning, our potential
is awesome. Unless, that is, we hit a wall like agrarian societies did every few centuries
when their population growth outstripped their rates of agricultural innovation. We are now in an era of immense danger, where
the modern global system of humanity might exhaust the resources of the Earth, in the
same way that agricultural societies often exhausted the resources of the field. More
on that next time.

  1. You are an immortal spiritual being having an earthly experience
    Those who are foolish enough to follow the darkness will be left behind
    Make no mistake, these are the last days
    Get saved before it`s too late
    Salvation Prayer
    Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner.
    I pray that you will forgive me for all of my sins,
    that you will come into my heart and be my Lord,
    the savior of my life.
    I confess that you died on the cross to save me from my sins
    and I am committed to turning away from those sins.
    I ask that you fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I can be born again. Wash my sins away with your blood and make me as pure white as snow. Put a hedge of protection around me as I go forth in doing your will. Thank you Jesus for saving me, as I know that only through my faith in you that all this is possible. Amen!

    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life

  2. i think tradition also retards inovation to an extent the longer a society stays stable the more ritual and traditions seem to develop and the more new ways of doing things are looked down upon. i see alot of inovation coming after periods of upheaval or after the establishment of new societies and while some of this is due to need and improvisation due to lack of the traditional tools , resources ,or knowlage there is also a much lower emphasis on hereditary crafts and skills ie i do it just like my father and his father before him following a process that goes back 500 years. while this would be just one of many factors i belive it to be an overlooked one

  3. It's very interresting, however I do not believe, that any of us could stop any big negative developments like overpopulation or climate change.

  4. China, has never been open to sharing innovative ideas, which are carefully guarded. (but not hesitant to heist ideas) Britain however, was more open to sharing because of its ruling class, which had a more cooperative interrelation among members. This idea might be worth more development for an entire episode, because sharing is at the root of the rise of the PC, modern successful companies like Google, social media, and CrashCourse.

  5. China was right at the corner of industrial revolution. But there was an unexpected exception wiping out all the process: The Mongols!💀💀💀

  6. Slavery is as old as mankind, what is important to note is that the West (Britain) ended it in quite short time.

  7. The British just unlocked mechanization on their tech tree faster. That's a surefire way to get to the Industrial Era.

  8. It's such a shame that at one point in time that vast network of millions of millions of brains in all their connections and connectedness felt the need to create a nuclear bomb. Post 1945 is a much scarier time. That single invention changed the way we view the mortality of our spices. It once was god will destroy us all in a fire from heaven, and now it's just you know, nukes. Between that though I imagine there was quite a bit of peace. When enough people didn't believe in the bible so intensely as to hold a crusade and the knowledge that through a certain chain of events enough bombs could end this amazing civilization we've managed to construct. At least how we know it. You guys should do an episode about collective apocalyptic anxiety or something to that effect.

  9. Actually. Flanders is in Belgium. Not in the Netherlands. Even though I could understand why you said the Netherlands because Flanders was a part of the Netherlands back then but then you should have expanded the territory of the Netherlands to include Flanders.

    For short. Flanders was mentioned but showed at the wrong location.

  10. If you love john and hank green. And other channels like seeker daily, the science show and the school of life. Follow my account on twitter and Instagram to stay curious twitter : @AstroGeoPoliEco
    Instagram: @AstroGeoPoliEco2017

  11. So, if the Indigenous Americans had no immunity to Asian/European diseases, wouldn't a majority of them be doomed today, even if they somehow had not made contact for hundreds of years? Seems intellectually dishonest, a common theme with these videos.

  12. Why is that your 'Good' Earlier Videos were a lot of fun Animations, and now, it's just talking heads. This seems to be a reflection of { Laziness } ? / Oops. i was ( supplement ( a day or two later ! ) ) thinking of the; Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell Videos; because your animations are very similar ( ? ) ( ? ) ?

  13. Why didn't Industrial Revolution happen in 13th century China? It was all due to the Mongols! Why did Industrial Revolution happen in the Great Britain? It was also due to the Mongols!

  14. Think you missed one possibility: that it happened in Europe because of European creativity and ingenuity. People always miss that one.

  15. They built a lot of different types of machines and factories with machines in them, so they can make a lot of products real fast

  16. The Song dynasty may have been well on its way to an industrial revolution. …The major thing that stopped that was, wait for it: The Mongols.

    After they took over China and set up the Yuan dynasty, they lost the motivation to keep innovating towards that industrial revolution.

  17. Basically; More States ==> More demand in Resources ==> More Chaos ==> More Wars ==> More Scheming ==> More Innovation ==> More Development. Europe's History in a nutshell. Europe's History is dramatic unlike Histories of Bigger Empires like in Ancient China and Middle East.

    Euro-centric Historians were like: "Why would we discuss histories in those huge empires with only one power governing, its so boring there, sometimes it takes a few hundred years before a revolution or a civil war begins. Unlike in Europe, a lot of states compete with one another, a lot of scheming, leads to major event, history worthy".

  18. Several factors to consider re: no industrial revolution in China:
    Coal less easily accessible in China, therefore more expensive to transport.
    The revolution was driven by the textile industry, which required the mass farming of cotton. England had the cash crop plantations in their New World colonies, whereas the Chinese didn't.
    The New World crops required to free up farm workers for factories weren't yet available in China. Rice was productive, but not as productive as corn or potatoes/yams.

    And don't forget those darn Mongols! Kaifeng was sacked at the height of its pre-industrial sophistication in 1232. England being an island nation made invasions exceedingly difficult, once they'd established naval superiority.

  19. The emporer in china at the time didn't want colaborated inovation because he thought it would change chinese culture.

  20. You really skimmed over colonisation in Australia. Would love a video explaining what happened further. I know, but many racist Australians don’t so informing them might help “close the gap”. I’d do it myself but no one what’s to hear a Non Indigenous Australian female talking about racism. You guys are so respected, I think it would mean a lot more coming from you.

  21. You would think in how far humans have come most of us would only be working only a few hours a day and living like kings, I guess unprotected sex doesn't help.

  22. Why can't you say that dogmatic eastern culture is not suitable for innovative intellectual as much as open mindedn western culture? Is it too difficult to say?

  23. If Europeans invented something it's always some 'coincidence.' Unfortunately this analysis is not universal, they only apply it to the west.

  24. Also, there is no mention of the cultural and literary influence of modernization, especially in the colonized nations.

  25. u underestimate spice 1 spice ginger make ur penis last x3 if u put it on the back in a oil instead of eat it

  26. imagine how advanced we could get if every population could have the resources to contribute. overpopulation would be the problem tho

  27. I notice you two have mention how the europeans stole "the silver" from the natives of the Americas. But, how come neither of you metion ALL THE GOLD they took from our ancestors. 🧐

  28. The Portuguese were first to explore the seas than Colombos ( who was actually also portuguese but Portugal refused to allow him to sail the Atlantic from Portugal to China and the spanish Kingdom picked his idea up)

  29. Crash Course is a blessing, I just wish more people took the time to watch and learn. Society can do so much better.

  30. Go read Germs, Blood and Steel by Jared Diamond. It's pretty misleading to say Europeans were able to spread over the world because of crops from the Americas. Eurasians were ahead of the rest of the world because they found themselves in a region with the best plants to use for crops, most suitable animals for domestication, and a West East continental axis that provided a large area with a similar climate so that crops, domesticated animals and technology could spread easily.

  31. Why human don’t know phone computer etc in past 1900 years? If human is to have same brain content, human should have already technologically advanced in past thousand years.

  32. Why not in China? You're not "collective learning" if you're not literate. Despite their numbers in population, the English had numbers in educated literate and hence a superior education system. Chinese characters are perhaps more useful than letters – but only after you've learned them, which was prohibitively difficult.

  33. People don’t realize how good most of the current population has it! This is all so amazing and interesting

  34. Because China was so advanced they culture revolves around the fact that they were more advanced, so they did not innovate. Keep in mind half of their innovators, women, had very little rights. In fact, it wasn’t until a few decades ago that China finally modernized. And even then it was only caused when warmongers outed diplomacy in it’s infancy and took modernization by it’s horns and steered it towards communism and the World Wars.

  35. Calling a time period the Modern Era was a mistake, because you can never leave the modern era. The Early, Early, Early, Early Modern Era just doesn't cut it.

  36. At 2:32, you mention that European states were relatively small compared to the vast empires like China and India. Why were Asian empires able to unite far greater numbers of people and areas of land under a single central authority while in Europe there were much smaller groups kingdoms and empires?

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