The Industrial Revolution: Blame Genetics

Latin caption: Count Guy has led Harold to William duke of the Normans

According to Gregory Clark, a researcher at UC-Davis, the Industrial Revolution is as much about Genetics as anything else. Examining population data, he finds that most people alive in the U.K. today are descended from the upper classes during the Middle Ages. The reason for this is that the wealthy had far larger families than the typical peasant. Over a span of less than 1,000 years - an increasing percentage of the population was descended from these progenitors.

The surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.

Because they grew more common in the centuries before 1800, whether by cultural transmission or evolutionary adaptation, the English population at last became productive enough to escape from poverty, followed quickly by other countries with the same long agrarian past. The approach is innovative, but somewhat controversial, and was influenced by the work of Jared Diamond, a popular geographer. Read the article at the NY Times. (you may need to register)

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