HIST 80b Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: South Sea Company, Kenneth Pomeranz, Shamian Island

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9 Feb 2017

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The Great Divergence Lecture
“Great Divergence” Debate
The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes and the Clash of Civilizations argued that
the West rose to power due to endogenous factors and coined the term Great Divergence.
Kenneth Pomeranz wrote The Great Divergence arguing that the West did not match China
until the mid 18th century. Landes saw Determinism as the reason for this shift, while
Pomeranz sees contingency as the reason. Parthasarathi argued that the Industrial Revolution
originated from the competition between Britain and India over cotton, therefore exogenous
factors caused the West to rise. He claims that producers in India lost their advantage over
Britain around when Britain adapted free trade policies.
Rise of the West
The creation of the private corporation started with the creation of joint stock companies (ex.
East India Company). Queen Elizabeth I chartered the East India Company (1600). The
companies were privately run monopolies. The Massachusetts Bay Company (1629) and
Virginia Company (1606) were two examples of initially successful stock companies. The South
Sea Company (1711) and East India Company (1600) were involved with cotton textiles,
Chinese tea, and opium (latter), and sugar, and slaves (former). The South Sea Company
dominated the Transatlantic Slave Atlantic. In 1757, the Canton System of Trade restricted
trade with the Qing, and began the transition to modernity. Shamian Island was one of the only
sites of trade the British could go sell to the Qing. The 13 Factories on the island were the
homes of the Factors East India Company agents. In 1757, the Battle of Plassey occurred in
India and resulted in the direct East India Company Rule of Bengal, after Britain defeats the
Nawab of Bengal during the Seven Years War.
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