Explaining the Great Divergence: Medium and Message on the Eurasian Land Mass, 1700-1850
Between 1700 and 1850, per-capita income doubled in Europe while falling in the rest of Eurasia. Neither geography nor economic institutions can explain this sudden divergence. Here the consequences of differences in communications technology are examined. For the first time, there appeared in Europe a combination of a standardized medium (national vernaculars with a phonetic alphabet) and a non-standardized message (competing religious, political and scientific ideas). The result was an unprecedented fall in the cost of combining ideas and burst of productivity-raising innovation. Elsewhere, decreasing standardization of the medium and increasing standardization of the message blocked innovation.
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