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Joseph S. Lucas and Donald A. Yerxa, Editors

Joel Mokyr, "The Riddle of 'The Great Divergence': Intellectual and Economic Factors in the Growth of the West" 

James Hoopes, "Managerialism: Its History and Dangers"

Alfred J. Andrea, "The Silk Road: Part II" 

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, "Honor, Hatred, and America's Middle East"

"Rethinking Local History: An Interview with Joseph A. Amato"

William Palmer, "The World War II Generation of Historians"

James Hitchcock, "Christopher Dawson and the Demise of Christendom"

Dermot Quinn, "Christopher Dawson and the Challenge of Metahistory"

Pattern and Repertoire in History: An Exchange:
Ronald Fritze, "A New Repertoire for Historians?"
John Lukacs, "'Scientific' History?"
Bertrand M Roehner, "Predictions and Analytical History"

Padraic Kenney, "The Threads of Revolution: Central Europe's Moment"

Jeremy Black, "Europe, 1550-1800: A Revisionist Introduction"

Clark G. Reynolds, "Odysseys to Planetary History"

Barry Strauss, "From those Wonderful People Who Killed Socrates"


Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society

September 2003

Volume V, Number 1


by Joel Mokyr 

There is a newly found interest among economists in the issue of what Eric Jones two decades ago called “The European Miracle” and what Kenneth Pomeranz more recently termed “The Great Divergence.” Even in an age in which Eurocentrism, triumphalist or otherwise, has fallen out of favor, the most radical social scientists have to concede that whatever one might think of its causes, modern economic growth has transformed the world. This is equally true for countries that experienced economic growth early and in large doses and those hopeful or frustrated societies who are now known as “developing economies.” 

How did it all begin? Economists have increasingly demanded an answer from historians, threatening that if they do not get one, they will supply one themselves.[1] The story they tell is that the Industrial Revolution started in the late 18th century and (with a lag) prompted what they call “modern economic growth.” Before the Industrial Revolution the world was “Malthusian” and experienced little, if any, economic growth. In the 19th century the West started suddenly to grow, making (almost) everyone in it rich. This was accompanied by growing investment in human capital (mostly education), inducing people to have fewer (but better educated) children, and sustained technological progress, reinforcing the process of growth.

Historians can poke endless holes in these stylized facts. There was more growth in the premodern economies than economists suppose, and evidence that the world was in a “Malthusian trap” before 1750 is decidedly mixed. The connection between education, economic growth, and human fertility is hugely complex and differs across various Western societies. The details reveal a far more nuanced and subtle story than the crude stylized facts that inspire economists to build their models. But the basic story must be right: whether the world economy before 1750 was indeed in a stasis or not, there can be no doubt that economic growth as we know it is a novel phenomenon. For instance, income per capita in the UK in 1890 was about $4100 in 1990 international dollars. It grew in the subsequent years by an average of 1.4% per year. Had it been growing at that same rate in the previous 300 years, income per capita in 1590 would have been $61, which clearly is absurdly low. Whatever the exact cause, the century of the pax Britannica witnessed the departure of the Occident Express with the British car in the lead. The train ride took the Western world to unprecedented prosperity, leaving much of the world behind on the platform. By 1914 the current division between rich and poor countries, termed by one wry economist “twin peaks,” had been created.[2] A century later it is still there in rough lines, and whereas some nations have been able to hop across the chasm, it is hard to deny that the chasm between rich and poor economies is a signal characteristic of our planet. And there is no sign it is getting any narrower. 

How are we to think of this? Should we think that there was something defective about societies such as Paraguay, the Philippines, or Cameroon which prevented them from growing? Or was there something unique about the Western experience in the 18th century that mutated and created a new kind of society, unlike anything seen before? This way of phrasing the question may seem to some similar to whether a zebra is white with black stripes or vice versa. Yet if we do not want to think of much of the world as failures, we are forced to think about a unique event that occurred in the West before the Industrial Revolution. One approach is to postulate that all economies have the potential to grow, but that obstacles prevented them from realizing this potential until the Industrial Revolution. What we have to search for above all is something that helped dissolve these “blocking factors” which before 1750 imposed upper bounds on the economic growth of preindustrial society.[3]

In my view, the Enlightenment is one factor that could have made the difference. The Enlightenment combined a belief in the possibility and desirability of social progress with a faith in rationality and the ability of knowledge to improve the human condition. It resided firmly in the realm of discourse, rhetoric, persuasion, and beliefs. Oddly enough, few economists have made explicit attempts to connect ideological and intellectual changes with economic development. Most economists tend to believe that changes in power, technology, income, and prices determine economic outcomes, and in the end they, not ideology or beliefs, are “exogenous variables.” Ideological change does not affect economic history, some economists believe, because it cannot be verified; it is “a grin without a cat.”[4] A growing number of economists, led by Nobel laureate Douglass North, have begun to demur with regard to this view. What people believe about one another, or about their physical environment and its creator, has an impact on how they go about their lives, what they aspire to, and on the institutions they create. Moreover, because technology and institutions are changed by a fairly small number of people, the beliefs of the elite and the leadership matter more than public opinion or the ideology of the common man. The Enlightenment was a movement of elites: the literate, the educated, and the powerful. Yet these were the people responsible for the crucial changes that made the take-off” into sustained growth possible. 

Let me address two points. The first is the myth that the Industrial Revolution was purely British affair, and that without Britain Europe would still be largely a subsistence economy. The historical reality was that many if not most of the technological elements of the Industrial Revolution were the result of a joint international effort in which French, German, Scandinavian, Italian, American, and other Western innovators collaborated, swapped knowledge, corresponded, met one another, and read each other’s work. The technological basis of the Industrial Revolution was no more confined to Britain than the Enlightenment was confined to France, although it was in Britain where its first successful products emerged. The second point to note is that the real difference between the Industrial Revolution and other episodes characterized by a clustering of macroinventions was not just in the harnessing of steam or the sudden rise to prominence of cotton in the 1780s. While the impact of the great inventions of the years of Sturm and Drang on a number of critical industries stands undiminished, the most important difference between the Industrial Revolution and previous clusters of macroinventions is not that technological breakthroughs occurred at all, but that their momentum did not level off and peter out after 1800 or so. In other words, what made the Industrial Revolution into the “Great Divergence” was the persistence of technological change after the first wave. The first wave was followed after 1820 by a secondary ripple of inventions that may have been less spectacular, but these were the microinventions (extensions and improvements to earlier breakthroughs) that provided the muscle to the downward trend in production costs. The second stage of the Industrial Revolution adapted novel ideas to new and more industries and sectors, and eventually these are the ones that show up in the productivity statistics: the perfection of mechanical weaving after 1820; the invention of Roberts’s self-acting mule in spinning (1825); the extension and adaptation of the techniques first used in cotton to carded wool and linen; the continuing improvement in the iron industry through Neilson’s hot blast (1829) and other inventions; the continuing improvement in steampower, raising the efficiency and capabilities of the low pressure stationary engines, while perfecting the high pressure engines of Trevithick, Woolf, and Stephenson and adapting them to transportation; the advances in chemicals before the advent of organic chemistry (such as the breakthroughs in candle-making and soap manufacturing thanks to the work of Eugene- Michel Chevreul on fatty acids) and the introduction and perfection of gas-lighting; and the breakthroughs in engineering and highprecision tools by Maudslay, Whitworth, Nasmyth, Rennie, the Brunels, the Stephensons, and the other great engineers of the second generation. 

How, then, did the Enlightenment bring all this about? I propose two complementary mechanisms: the first focuses on what I have called the “Industrial Enlightenment”; the second on what may be called the “Institutional Enlightenment.” 

There was an important part of the Enlightenment that was obsessed by “the useful arts,” regarding them as indispensable in bringing about the progress that Enlightenment philosophes believed in and hoped for. The power of knowledge, enunciated by Francis Bacon (deeply admired by Enlightenment thinkers), was at the center of attention. Progressive manufacturers, landowners, and administrators embraced Kant’s proposed slogan for the Enlightenment, sapere aude (dare to know). Specifically, the Industrial Enlightenment contained three elements. One was the insistence on understanding the natural regularities that lay beneath operating techniques and made them work. If such principles could be understood and generalized, it was reasoned, techniques could be improved, extended, and applied to new areas. In his famous essay on “Arts” in his Encyclopedie, Diderot noted that “it is clear from the preceding that every ‘art’ [technique] has its speculative and its practical side. Its speculation is the theoretical knowledge of the principles of the technique; its practice is but the habitual and instinctive application of these principles. It is difficult if not impossible to make much progress in the application without theory.” 

A second element of the Industrial Enlightenment concerned the diffusion of and the access to existing knowledge. The philosophes fully realized that knowledge should not be confined to a select few but should be disseminated as widely as possible. Some Enlightenment thinkers believed this was already happening: the English philosopher and psychologist David Hartley (1705–1757) believed that “the diffusion of knowledge to all ranks and orders of men, to all nations, kindred and tongues and peoples . . . cannot be stopped but proceeds with an ever accelerating velocity.” Again, Diderot perhaps said it best: “We need a man to rise in the academies and go down to the workshops and gather material about the [mechanical] arts to be set out in a book that will persuade the artisans to read, philosophers to think along useful lines, and the great to make at least some worthwhile use of their authority and wealth.” The idea was that in addition to improving existing techniques, workers be exposed to what economists call . . . Enlightenment thinkers began slowly to realize that “freedom” included the freedom to innovate and not have one’s machines smashed by Luddites or prohibited by authorities. “best-practice” techniques. The somewhat naive view was that if only artisans and farmers could see how the best of them carried out their practice, they would adopt these and progress would occur. 

Third, the Industrial Enlightenment sought to facilitate interaction and communication between those who controlled propositional knowledge and those who carried out the techniques contained in prescriptive knowledge. The philosophes of the Enlightenment echoed Bacon’s call for cooperation and the sharing of knowledge between those who knew things and those who made them. This type of interaction is exemplified by such organizations as the Lunar Society, in which manufacturers and engineers rubbed shoulders with scientists and medical doctors. Jean Antoine Chaptal, the French chemist and politician (1756–1832), made a distinction between savants and fabricants and stressed the importance of their communication. Not only would this place the knowledge of scientists at the disposal of artisans, it would also bring to the attention of scientists the problems faced by farmers, sailors, and artisans, and help set the agenda of natural philosophy. Needless to say, some of the most prominent members of the Industrial Enlightenment— such as Benjamin Franklin, Count Rumford, Claude Berthollet, Humphry Davy—combined the features of the inventor and the scientist. But other inventors had recourse to reading technical works and manuals that became increasingly available after 1815, or talking to scientists in the so-called philosophical societies. 

As a result, the Industrial Revolution of the 1760s and 1770s did not fizzle out the way earlier waves of technological progress had. By drawing upon an ever-growing basis of knowledge and understanding of natural regularities and phenomena, engineers, mechanics, chemists, pharmacists, and others concerned with production efficiency could keep up the rate of invention, which led to the advances in steel, chemicals, and electricity that mark the “second” Industrial Revolution. Not all this knowledge was “correct” (by our standards), and none of it was complete. Much of it was based on a very partial understanding of the physics and chemistry in question. But it was much more than had been there in 1700. Moreover, the growing “flow” of inventions itself kept enriching the knowledge base on which it drew, thus creating a “positive feedback effect.” 

The second mechanism I am suggesting concerns political and social ideology and might be called the “Institutional Enlightenment.” Mercantilist thought had been based on the notion that economic activity was a zero-sum game, among nations as much as among individuals. The notion that mutual exchange at market prices, the allocation of resources to wherever they yielded the highest return, and free entry and exit into trades and mobility between them actually enriched the entire economy—whereas monopolies, exclusions, arbitrary taxes, and tariffs imposed a cost on society—had a lengthy gestation. Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, one of the most persuasive documents ever published, summarized and popularized many decades of thought. Equally important, 

Enlightenment thinkers began slowly to realize that “freedom” included the freedom to innovate and not to have one’s machines smashed by Luddites or prohibited by authorities. Enlightenment thinkers and the politicians inspired and informed by them slowly started to fight the uphill battle against privileges and exclusionary rules. In some absolutist countries their efforts depended on the goodwill of the ruler: the work of Joseph von Sonnenfels in Austria and Pedro Rodriguez de Campomanes in Spain to weaken guilds and enhance occupational freedom and unregulated markets depended on the goodwill of their monarchs and was more often than not cast aside. The fate of the reforms (the famous “six edicts”) proposed by Turgot upon his appointment in 1774 was sealed soon enough when Louis XVI fired him two years later; but the suppression of the guilds and the abolition of labor services were passed without a second thought—together with a plethora of other Enlightenment inspired reforms—after 1789. 

The French Revolution and the ensuing wars created an institutional response in other European nations. Many of them realized that restrictions on labor and occupational mobility, unstandardized weights and measures, internal tolls and tariffs, unequal taxes, badly defined property rights, and other medieval debris encumbered economic performance. The best example is Prussia, where many of the post-1806 reformers explicitly acknowledged their debt to Adam Smith and the Enlightenment. In areas where the French influence was too little or too late, or where internal resistance to Enlightenment ideas was strong, the Institutional Enlightenment did not have the desired impact, and economic “rationalization” did not get far. In those regions—Iberia, Southern Italy, Eastern Europe—economic development was slow. 

In Britain things were different. The Institutional Enlightenment did not need the shock therapy administered by Napoleon’s armies. In the 17th century Britain had attained the institutional nimbleness that allowed it to change the rules of the game when these were realized to be harmful, without the dependence on the goodwill of an absolute monarch. Thus when the road network was deemed inadequate, turnpikes emerged; when the Calico Acts or the Statute of Apprentices and Artificers were deemed to be obstacles to economic performance, Parliament abolished them (1774 and 1811, respectively). Luddism was mercilessly suppressed and innovation, if not actively encouraged, surely was looked on favorably. After 1820, with the ascent of the “Liberal Tories” under William Huskisson, Britain began slowly to move toward freer trade, though it took three more decades to get there. On the whole, the process was smoother and easier in Britain than on the Continent, but the difference was one of degree. By contrast, nothing of the sort occurred in China, the Ottoman Empire, or Africa. 

It should be emphasized that the various institutions that needed to be reformed were not just tossed out as anachronistic relics of past ages; somebody usually stood to benefit from them and fought tooth and nail to retain them. This was even true for the bewilderingly complex system of weights and measures that the rationalizers replaced with the metric system.[5] It was true a fortiori for the guilds, the tax exemptions, the price controls on bread, and the rights of common fields and free pasture. What economists call “rentseeking” (economic activity meant to redistribute rather than to create wealth) had been the hallmark of the ancien régime. While no society has ever been without it, the attitude toward it can be of prime importance. In order to overcome the resistance of vested interests, often concentrated and well-organized, policy makers had to be persuaded that it was in the national interest to carry out the reforms. By 1800 or so, mercantilist thought was being replaced in the minds of Europe’s leaders by Enlightenment ideas, whether they got them first hand from The Wealth of Nations or from some other source. 

Economic historians ignore ideology and cultural beliefs at their peril. It seems ironic that economic science today should settle for a historical materialism in which beliefs and knowledge have no autonomous existence, in which rhetoric, argument, persuasion, and the intellectual life of nations have no impact on institutional change. Whether or not the Enlightenment “caused” the American and French Revolutions, it is hard to think of their courses without the power of enlightened ideology. To quote one rather influential 20thcentury economist: “I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas . . . . soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.”[6]

Joel Mokyr is Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and professor of economics and history at Northwestern University. His The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700–1850 will be published by Penguin Press in 2004. 

[+] Some of the material in this paper is adapted from my books The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy (Princeton University Press, 2002) and The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700–1850 (Penguin Press, 2004), and my paper “Thinking about Technology and Institutions,” presented at the Macalester International College Roundtable, “Prometheus’s Bequest: Technology and Change,” October 10–12, 2002.

[1] For instance, Oded Galor and David Weil, “Population, Technology, and Growth,” American Economic Review 90 (2000): 806–828; Robert E. Lucas, Jr., Lectures on Economic Growth (Harvard University Press, 2002); Charles I. Jones, “On the Evolution of the World Income Distribution,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 11 (1997): 19–36; and William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth (MIT Press, 2001). 

[2] Danny T. Quah, “Twin Peaks: Growth and Convergence in Models of Distribution Dynamics” The Economic Journal 106 (1996): 1045–1055. 

[3] On the matter of “growth as a normal condition” and the blockages and obstacles to it, see especially Eric L. Jones, Growth Recurring (Oxford University Press, 1981) and Stephen L. Parente and Edward C. Prescott, Barriers to Riches (MIT Press 2000). 

[4] Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. and Robert D. Tollison, Politicized Economies: Monarchy, Monopoly, and Mercantilism (Texas A&M University Press, 1997), 14. 

[5] Kenneth Alder, “A Revolution to Measure: The Political Economy of the Metric System in France,” in M. Norton Wise, ed., The Values of Precision (Princeton University Press, 1995). 

[6] John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of, Employment, Interest, and Money (Harcourt, Brace, 1936), 383–84.


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Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society

September 2003

Volume V, Number 1


by James Hoopes 

About twenty-five years ago the United States began to be a business civilization in a new, largely unnoticed, and subtly undemocratic way. The rise in corporate power over the past quarter century has been obvious. It has been less clear, however, how radically our time differs from previous periods of business preeminence in American history. In the past the nation’s democratic political tradition had intellectual resources—Puritanism, republicanism, individualism, pragmatism—with which to challenge business power. But now corporations themselves possess a sophisticated social philosophy that speaks the language of democracy. 

This new corporate social philosophy— managerialism, I will call it in this essay—had its origins in the 1920s and 1930s at the Harvard Business School. The school’s dean, Wallace Donham, aimed to create a managerial worldview that would be central not only to business but to society at large. His vision now seems to be coming to realization. Witness George Bush, our first president with a master’s degree in business administration, which he earned at Harvard. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is another businessman become politician with a Harvard MBA. Ditto for Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. 

Those old enough to remember Mitt Romney’s father, George, understand at least the surface difference between the previous and present generations of corporate politicians. George Romney, governor of Michigan in the 1960s and president of the American Motors Company in the 1950s, was a liberal Republican who wrecked his chance of winning the presidency in 1968 with his famous gaffe that military brass had “brainwashed” him into his initial support of the Vietnam War. He and other CEOs who went into politics in that era suffered terribly from foot-in-mouth disease—one thinks of “Engine” Charlie Wilson, Eisenhower’s defense secretary, and his much lambasted remark: “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.” Corporate politicians of that era often came across—somewhat unfairly in the cases of George Romney and Charlie Wilson—as less prepared to answer to a sovereign people than to give it its marching orders. 

Our latter-day corporate politicians are far more sensitive to the nuances of democratic politics than their predecessors, thanks in part to their MBA educations. In their graduate business studies Bush, Bloomberg, and Mitt Romney learned the mélange of democratic and elitist ideas that is today’s managerial ideology. That ideology enables many thousands of powerful CEOs and managers to conceive of themselves as democrats, both in corporate life and in the political arena. 

In my recent book, False Prophets: The Gurus Who Created Modern Management and Why Their Ideas Are Bad for Business Today, I attempted to write the history of managerialism and the mostly forgotten men and women who created it. These pioneers devoted enormous amounts of intellectual energy to glossing over the conflict between America’s official values of freedom and democracy on the one hand and, on the other, the reality that most citizens earn their living under corporate bosses with a great deal of arbitrary power over their work lives. This managerial tendency to hide rather than face the contradiction between our political values and our workaday lives began almost as soon as big business first emerged in America. Even the notoriously dictatorial Frederick W. Taylor (1856–1915) tried to present himself as a progressive social reformer, a friend and helper of working people. 

But the main genesis of managerialism lay in the human relations movement that took root at the Harvard Business School in the 1920s and 1930s under the guiding hand of Professor Elton Mayo. Mayo, an immigrant from Australia, saw democracy as divisive and lacking in community spirit. He looked to corporate managers to restore the social harmony that he believed the uprooting experiences of immigration and industrialization had destroyed and that democracy was incapable of repairing. A man of enormous personal charm, Mayo was a gifted psychotherapist but also an intellectual charlatan who molded his data to fit his preconceived ideas. He was one of the most important social scientists in American history and still exerts enormous influence over the way we live and work. Mayo and the researchers he gathered around him—the “Harvard human relations group”—created the mix of democratic appearance and elitist substance that still dominates the management movement in America and, increasingly, the world. 

Mayo was the main interpreter of the famous Hawthorne experiment at a telephone assembly plant of that name outside Chicago. The experiment is remembered mainly for the “Hawthorne effect,” the idea that employees raised their output for no other reason than that they were working under the observation of the experimenters. Much of modern management’s emphasis on sympathetic understanding and generous recognition of employee effort is an attempt to generalize the Hawthorne effect into a people-handling technique. 

But the Hawthorne experiment, as Mayo interpreted it, had other, more important effects on management ideology that have not received as much attention. Mayo argued that the relaxed supervisory regimen of the experiment allowed the workers to form themselves into an organic community. The emotional satisfaction of belonging to that community supposedly accounted for their increased productivity. But as scholars have shown (notably, Richard Gillespie in his excellent 1991 book, Manufacturing Knowledge: A History of the Hawthorne Experiments), a significant number of the employees in the experiment were anything but happy. They disliked the intense observation to which the experiment subjected them and saw it as an invasion of their privacy. They raised their output not because of the satisfactions of organic community but because the experimenters’ desire to control variables gave the workers unusual assurance that the piecerate that determined their pay would not be cut, no matter how much they earned. Mayo’s bogus interpretation of the Hawthorne experiment started the idea— true, of course, to a certain extent—that costfree emotional and spiritual rewards can substitute for money as a motivator of employees. 

In addition to the supposed pleasures of organic community, the Harvard human relations group offered workers the satisfaction of bottom-up power. As political scientists have long observed, even the most oppressed people have some reciprocal power. The Harvard group, pointing to workers’ power to resist organizational goals, pushed managers toward gentle human relations techniques such as understanding, empathy, and recognition. The more extreme members of the Harvard group propounded the idea—still accepted by a fair number of management theorists—that managers have little real power or even none at all. 

If managers have no power, why do employees obey their orders? The human relations group answered that workers’ feeling of powerlessness in the face of a manager’s order is a self-delusion, a cover up of their moral weakness. Workers want to feel powerless in order not to face their fear of accepting responsibility for the organization’s success or failure. A manager’s order only appears to be a downward delegation of authority. In reality an order is an occult ritual by which powerful workers fearfully delegate responsibility upward to the manager! 

Of course, there is a great deal of truth to the idea of bottom-up power. Employee commitment and participation spell the difference between profit and loss in many enterprises. Eliciting employee involvement is an important part, maybe the most important part, of a manager’s job. That is why the human relations techniques taught in courses such as Organizational Behavior (OB) are an integral part of management education. The first course in OB—created at the Harvard Business School in the 1950s—was the brainchild of Fritz Roethlisberger, Mayo’s foremost disciple within the human relations group and co-author of a massive tome on the Hawthorne Experiment, Management and the Worker (1939). OB is now a required course in business schools across the United States and, increasingly, around the world. The OB idea of bottom-up power seems ever more relevant in an increasingly competitive global economy where companies with fast, flexible teamwork win the race to bring new products to market. 

But the idea of bottom-up employee power also has a cultural function in democratic society at large, which explains why management ideologues greatly overstate it. On the face of it, bottom-up power seems democratic and consistent with America’s historic political culture. When employees bring their democratic values to work, managers assuage their feelings of lost freedom and dignity with the idea that the corporation is a bottom-up organization, not the top-down hierarchy that in reality it is. A certain linguistic confusion in the management ideology helps accomplish this cultural function. Managerialism confuses “power” in the physical sense of power to do the job with “power” in the political sense of power over oneself and others. By emphasizing the first sense of power, management gurus imply that employees also enjoy power in the latter sense. 

By waxing eloquent about the importance of employee empowerment, gurus enable the managers who pay their fees to feel like humanist liberators or at least like good American democrats. In prosperous companies able to afford high wages, generous benefits, and good working conditions, employees may indeed conceive of themselves as not just crucial participants in doing the company’s work but as more or less autonomous members of a workplace community. One can scarcely doubt that such good feelings add to the health of the enterprise. An economic downturn and layoffs, however, may disabuse employees of such illusions. But managers, who share the normal human inclination to think well of themselves, may cling all the more strongly to the idea that they are not top-down bosses but democratic leaders of employees’ bottom-up effort. If managers have no top-down power, how do they run the company? The human relations group answered that although power is bottom-up, morality is top-down. The manager is not a boss but a leader who inspires employees’ cooperative effort through exemplary moral courage in accepting responsibility for results which not he but the workers have the power to control. Management theorists generally overlook or ignore the potential of this idea for fatuous flattery of managers and, worse, its potential to produce conceit and moral arrogance in “leaders.” 

Corporate America pays enormous sums to leadership gurus to run training seminars for managers. As with the idea of bottom-up power, there is of course much to the idea of the importance of leadership in business organizations. But a good deal of leadership training is counterproductive. It overemphasizes moral influence and underemphasizes top-down power as management tools. 

Managerialism deceives managers into thinking they are leaders more than bosses. The consequences for managers when they try to put such fables into action can be terrible and, for employees, still worse. When employees don’t leap to follow the “leader,” the fortunate managers are those who do not lash out in anger and destroy what moral influence they really do have. Managerialism can also promote corrupt management. Overstating the importance of moral leadership vis-à-vis top-down power is, paradoxically, a recipe for immorality. A fair part of the immense amount of CEO arrogance, conceit, and thievery we have witnessed in recent years has been perversely rationalized and supported by managerialism and its unethical idea that the manager is a moral leader. It is easy enough to understand managerialism’s insidiously corrupting logic in the abstract. Why shouldn’t leaders, who exist on a different moral plane from their followers, trust themselves to skirt rules they expect their followers to obey? 

In short, management ideologues, by proclaiming the idea of the leader as a moral examplar, have made many corporate executives moral egotists. What managers really need to learn is moral caution in the use of their power. But how can managers learn that their undemocratic power endangers their souls when their ideology denies that they even have power? 

Managerialism aims unrealistically to make corporations democratic. It is more likely to make democracy corporate. Messrs. Bush, Bloomberg, and Romney are scarcely the only Americans with an MBA degree. Our universities now churn out 100,000 MBAs a year or a million a decade. Many more undergraduates major in business disciplines than in American history. Other citizens pick up management ideas from social contacts at work, from company training seminars, and from the how-to-manage pulp sold in airport bookstalls. Our political leaders at all levels, from the White House to local government, will increasingly have been schooled in managerialism. 

This change in the education of many of our prominent citizens raises the disturbing possibility that the principles of constitutional law and liberal democracy will be more and more challenged by the principles of organizational behavior as guidelines for governing America. Jefferson’s prescient warning that “power believes it has a great soul” and is therefore always suspect is more and more likely to be forgotten (or rather proven) in favor of the unwittingly undemocratic claim that our officials are moral leaders. The danger, of course, is that our leaders, and we too, may question our democratic right to doubt such paragons. 

Managerialism is scarcely the only antidemocratic force loose in our culture. But many of the others—religious certitude, xenophobia, intolerance, ignorance, irrationality, and fear—are old and well known. Managerialism is newer and easier to miss, partly because it speaks the bottom-up language of democracy with the cool civility it has learned in corporate life. But its threat to democracy is real. 

All the more irony, then, that managerial theorists created their false ideology in an often sincere but always mistaken attempt to make corporate life consistent with democracy. They would have done better both for business and democracy to admit the truth that Americans live two lives. At work we create wealth under top-down power that contradicts the freedoms and rights we cherish in the rest of our lives. The best possible act of corporate “social responsibility” would be to acknowledge the conflict and therefore help maintain the balance between the topdown management power that has made us rich and the bottom-up political values that keep us free. 

Managerial ideologues could well argue that managerial corporations have shown themselves the most effective institutions for improving the material conditions of human life. Yet even if that is true, the moral dangers of management make the corporation at best a necessary evil in an imperfect world. Abandoning the self-righteous, moralistic pretense that has become fashionable for managers in recent decades may be hard on some managers’ egos. But it would be the surest, though hardly perfect, safeguard against the undemocratic moral arrogance their power promotes. 

One suspects that the inducements of democratic virtue and the chance to undo managerialism’s subtle undermining of democratic culture will not alone change the corporate mindset. The job will require the efforts of citizens outside the corporation as well as in it. We all need to better understand the risks and rewards of the new managerial ideology. That is a good reason for cultural historians to become business historians. To paraphrase Clemenceau on war and generals, management is too important to leave to CEOs. 

James Hoopes is Distinguished Professor of History at Babson College. His most recent book is False Prophets: The Gurus Who Created Modern Management and Why Their Ideas Are Bad for Business Today (Perseus, 2003).

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by Alfred J. Andrea 

IN THIS ESSAY’S first installment Alfred J. Andrea considered the first golden age of the Silk Road—the era of the Han, Kushan, Parthian, and Roman Empires—and looked briefly at the early influx of Buddhism into China following the collapse of the Han dynasty in 220 C.E. 

This second and last installment picks up the thread of Buddhist penetration into China and surveys the succeeding 1300 years of the classical Silk Road. The period from roughly 200 C.E. to about 600 C.E. witnessed the domination of the trade routes of Inner Asia by the Sogdians, an eastern Iranian people. Sogdiana was the Greek name for the steppe region just east of the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, roughly modern Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and southern Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan. The Sogdians were politically divided into small city-states, such as Bukhara and Samarkand, but were culturally united. More than any other people, they served as the overland merchants who connected the lands of western Eurasia with those of the East and were major vectors of goods and ideas. Indeed, “Sogdian” was a synonym for “merchant,” and the Iranian language of Sogdiana was the lingua franca of Central Asia’s trade routes. Sculptures of Sogdian merchants, with their conical hats (Phrygian caps), full beards (often colored red), and large noses, were a standard item for Chinese ceramic sculptors for centuries. 

The Sogdians dealt with strong, fairly stable states in Persia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and India, but China was a political mess. Still, Sogdian merchants carried on their work in Inner Asia, often protected by nomadic Turkic tribes who benefited from the Sogdians’ activities. And that work was more than just buying and selling goods....

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by Bertram Wyatt-Brown 

In light of the perilous situation we face in dealing with foes bent on liquidating American power, national authorities and the public at large must acquire a greater comprehension of how those enemies think and why their hatreds consume them. In fact, some leaders have begun to recognize the hazards of our cultural illiteracy. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, for instance, observes: “America will require a wider-lens view of how the world sees us, so that we can better understand the world, and our role in it.”[1] This is especially true for U.S. relations with the populations and governments of the Middle East. Sadly, our apprehension of these countries and their cultures, religious divisions, and ethical conventions is woefully inadequate. For years the U.S. intelligence services misunderstood the perils of religious extremism in the Arab world. One former officer recalled that throughout the 1990s his fellow members of the security agencies were told that religious factors had to be considered “soft and nebulous—as well as potentially embarrassing in those years of epidemic political correctness.” Forced by the recent tragic events, the American military, secret services, and State Department authorities at last have become all too aware of Wahabbism, the extremist Arab fundamentalism, along with the particularities of the Shiite and Sunni branches of Muslim faiths. But the crucial role of honor in Middle Eastern societies has been largely unacknowledged despite its pervasiveness and motivating potency.

The ethic of honor serves as the fundamental system of justice in communities and nations where civil society has few institutions and where the rule of jurisprudence of a more elaborate and objective character exists only weakly or not at all. Under these circumstances, honor is not perceived as an ideal of upright individualism. Rather, the possessor of honor has maintained or achieved a high reputation in the public arena for his martial valor, familial loyalty, and male protectiveness and authority over possessions both material and human, that is, his female dependents and offspring. Upon his arms and that of his tribe or clan rests the security of his household. . . . 

[1] Chuck Hagel, “Defining America’s Role on the Global Stage,” USA Today 131 (May 2003).

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IN AN IMPORTANT NEW BOOK, Rethinking Home: A Case for Writing Local History, Joseph A. Amato makes the case for an innovative approach to writing local history. Drawing on his background in European cultural history and a wealth of experience writing about the local and regional history of southwestern Minnesota, Amato argues convincingly that local history should be vastly more captivating and important than it currently is. Local history, as conceptualized in Rethinking Home, is a long way from the antiquarian stereotype so often disdained by professional historians. But neither should it serve as the mere microcosmic reflection of academic historians’ macrocosmic constructions. In the process of advancing a new blueprint for local historians, Amato raises a number of important questions about the relationship of the various scales of historical inquiry, indeed about the very nature and purpose of historical inquiry itself....

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by William Palmer 

In recent years much has been written about an extraordinary generation of Americans, those born between about 1910 and 1922, usually known as the World War II generation. This generation has become synonymous with hardship and sacrifice. In the 1930s their generational identity was formed in the crucible of the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, and World War II. Their triumph as a generational force was announced in 1961 by John Kennedy, himself a member of the generation, when he remarked in his inaugural address that his election signified the “passing of the torch to a new generation of Americans.” 

There is also a World War II generation of historians, a group that exerted comparable influence over the historical profession. Those entering graduate school between the mid-1950s and the early 1980s were likely to find their reading lists dominated by works written by members of this group. In American history it is scarcely conceivable that anyone could have emerged from graduate school without a substantial study of the work of Richard Hofstadter, Edmund Morgan, C. Vann Woodward, or Kenneth Stampp. In English history, the works of Christopher Hill, Lawrence Stone, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and Geoffrey Elton were equally sacred texts. . . .

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by James Hitchcock 

The English historian Christopher Dawson (l889–l97l) is perhaps thought of primarily as a medievalist. However, by far the largest body of his work dealt with the 19th and 20th centuries. As much as he was a historian, he was even more a cultural critic searching for historical answers to the crises of modern times. He remained a relentless critic of industrialism, urbanism, and acquisitive capitalism, all the forms of materialism which he believed were at the root of modern disorders. To these he opposed the Catholic idea of a universal spiritual society and, without idealizing the Middle Ages, believed that this universal society had come closest to realization during the 13th century. He identified religion as the heart of every culture and considered religion and art more important than economics. Few historians have ranged over the entire panorama of history as boldly as he. 

His best-known and most widely read book, The Making of Europe (1937), dealt with what modern people call the Dark Ages. But, while acknowledging the material decline which followed the fall of Rome, Dawson insisted that the centuries after 400 were among the most spiritually rich in Western history. . . . 

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By Dermot Quinn

Christopher Dawson, the great Catholic historian of the last century, has fallen out of favor. It was not always this way. When Dawson’s Gifford Lectures of 1948–49 were published as Religion and the Rise of Western Culture he was acclaimed as “the most exciting writer of our day” by the Saturday Review of Literature. He was, that paper thought, “unequalled as a historian of culture.” The New Zealand Tablet saw the book as “a primer for all thinking men of the 20th century.” The Spectator praised it as “one of the most noteworthy books produced in this generation about the medieval world.” Even the New York Times exclaimed that “it would be difficult to find a volume of comparable scope in which the institutions of medieval life are so brilliantly characterized.” Similar enthusiasm greeted Dawson’s Dynamics of World History. Commonweal hailed Dawson as “certainly the first scholar in the English-speaking Catholic world, perhaps in the whole world.” The New York Times extolled a writer who “for breadth of knowledge and lucidity of style” had “few rivals.” A pattern was thus established. Dawson’s work consistently garnered the highest praise, often from publications of radically different perspectives. This should not surprise us. From his earliest days his reputation was exceptional. Ernest Barker, who tutored him at Oxford, thought Dawson “a man and a scholar of the same sort of quality as Acton and von Hugel.” David Knowles considered him “in his field the most distinguished Catholic thinker of this century.” As impressive as these testimonials are, they may also affect us in a more melancholy way. Generous, even extravagant, they seem to mark the distance between the generation that admired Dawson and the generation that has left him behind. A profound change has occurred, and not for the better. We should weep not for Dawson but ourselves. . . .

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CONTINUING A THEME begun in the February 2003 issue of Historically Speaking, this exchange once again addresses the relationship between historical scholarship and scientific methodology. In Pattern & Repertoire in History (Harvard University Press, 2002) Bertrand Roehner and Tony Syme attempt to bridge the methodological gap between the social and natural sciences by advancing a case for “analytical history.” Here two historians, Ronald Fritze and John Lukacs, offer their reactions to Pattern & Repertoire in History. Their essays are followed by Bertrand Roehner’s reply. 

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by Ronald Fritze

Roehner and Syme are two scholars seeking to formulate principles for the practice of historical sociology or sociohistory by which they hope to create a discipline that combines the best of history and sociology. History will provide the detailed information about the past while sociology will provide the theoretical structure and empirical organization. Many scholars reject the possibility of such a truly scientific approach to the study of history. They argue rightly that major historical events like the French Revolution or World War II are unique phenomena. Roehner and Syme agree that a large event like the French Revolution is unique in its entirety. But they argue that such big and complex events can be broken down into simpler, component parts. These simpler and smaller scale events are not unique and so are susceptible to an empirical and scientific approach. In the 17th century René Descartes advocated such a process of simplifying complex phenomenon into smaller units with the goal of revealing underlying organization or patterns. This method is called the “modular approach,” but Roehner and Syme have also labeled it “analytical history" . . . .

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by John Lukacs 

This ambitious book is yet another breathless attempt to assert that the study of history can (and ought) to be made “scientific,” since history itself demonstrates recurrent elements that follow the “laws” of natural science. 

From beginning to end its assertions are unconvincing. 

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by Bertrand M. Roehner 

Certainly we would not suggest that the modular approach can be useful to all historians. Although it may provide a more unified perspective in many fields, only in a few can it lead to testable predictions. For the time being it would be great if a few historians can keep these ideas in a corner of their minds in order to put them to use whenever they come across a case to which they can be applied with profit. Although Pattern & Repertoire tries to offer a more “scientific” approach, the essays by Ronald Fritze and John Lukacs made us realize that we did not go far enough in this direction. This in itself is a crucial step forward and an important achievement of this forum. . . .

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by Padraic Kenney 

“In Poland it took ten years, in Hungary ten months, in East Germany ten weeks: perhaps in Czechoslovakia it will take ten days!”1 These words, spoken by Timothy Garton Ash to Vaclav Havel in late November 1989 during a planning session in Prague’s Magic Lantern Theater, have become one of the memorable phrases of that revolutionary time. There are a few others (every revolution has them, of course): Gennadi Gerasimov’s quip that the Brezhnev doctrine had been replaced by the “Sinatra Doctrine” (itself a misquote, but never mind); Lech Walesa’s devastating retort, in a television debate, that the Polish communists might be taking the country to the future, but on foot, while everyone else was traveling by car; and Ronald Reagan’s Berlin exhortation: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” 

Garton Ash’s bon mot, though, seems to encompass the entire sequence of events, in a way dear to the hearts of students everywhere. In fact, I offer it to my students every semester, as a handy mnemonic device. It was also instantly popular in Czechoslovakia itself. Before Garton Ash could relate his story in the New York Review of Books, the phrase had been immortalized on hand-painted banners in Prague; in Poland commentators dryly added the ominous prediction that in Romania the revolution would require only ten minutes. 

Yet when it comes to making sense of the revolutions of 1989, Garton Ash’s quip is not a very good guide. It was not, of course, intended to be so; it would be a dreary world were people held accountable for the accuracy of their jokes! Nevertheless, Garton Ash’s line is incorrect in three fundamental ways: it underestimates the past; elides the present; and allows for an overly benign view of the future. . . . 

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by Jeremy Black 

At the beginning of the 1990s criticism of conventional views of absolutism led to the publication of a number of self-consciously revisionist works including Nicholas Henshall’s The Myth of Absolutism: Change and Continuity in Early Modern European Monarchy (1992) and my own A Military Revolution? Military Change and European Society, 1550–1800 (1991). Henshall was particularly vigorous, dismissing absolutism as an anachronistic historical construct, imposed on the period by later generations. 

An awareness of the pendulum of historical research suggested that this approach would, in time, be countered, and indeed in 2002 John Hurt published Louis XIV and the Parlements: The Assertion of Royal Authority, an impressive work that explicitly contests the revisionist interpretation and, instead, seeks to demonstrate a harsh reality of expropriation and lack of consultation at the core of absolutist government. 

This riposte encourages another look at the whole question. The conceptual points that nurtured early revisionism can now be clarified by a mass of important new research. In particular, studies of court culture have mushroomed, while there has been a welcome “thickening” of the geographical matrix of our detailed knowledge of the period. It is also easier now to include the overseas activities of the European states in the analysis. This is far less true, however, of the necessary comparative dimension with non-European powers, much of which still requires probing. . . .

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by Clark G. Reynolds

IN “CROSSING BORDERS” (Historically Speaking, November 2002) Peter Paret reflected on his distinguished career as a military and art historian. Paret’s essay was the first in a series of autobiographical sketches by senior historians that will appear in these pages. The series provides prominent and accomplished historians with the opportunity to comment on their careers and to offer reflections on professional lives dedicated to historical inquiry. 

Our second installment is from the recently “retired” (from teaching only) Clark Reynolds. One of the nation’s leading naval historians, Reynolds is known for his work in the history of naval aviation and for his brilliant conceptual analyses of history and the sea. The Naval Institute Proceedings selected his The Fast Carriers: The Forging of an Air Navy (McGraw-Hill, 1968) as one of the ten best English-language naval books published in the Institute’s first one hundred years, and his 1975 essay “American Strategic History and Doctrines: A Reconsideration” (reprinted in History and the Sea) received the American Military Institute’s Moncado Prize. 

For better or worse, no history graduate student to my knowledge has ever been encouraged, much less subsequently hired, to focus on global history per se. Our pedagogical canon demands specialized preparation in European, U.S., Asian, or any national history except as linked to some broader sub-discipline like the history of science, technology, religion, gender, or the military. Anything bigger—namely, the universal history which went out of style between the world wars—has been eschewed by the profession until the very recent (and still problematic) vogue for world history.

Yet I was not only encouraged by my graduate teachers to think beyond the specialty but was expected to do so. As a result, I moved toward world history, though by no means consciously or even deliberately. I have continued to harbor deep suspicions of most of those historians who claim distinction as world historians, especially if their frame of reference is strongly biased (anti- or pro- this or that for moral, political, religious, racial, gender, or other reasons). My quest to understand the bigger picture developed as a series of ultimately converging odysseys shaped by inner fires of curiosity and propitious intellectual conditions. . . . 

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Barry Strauss 

Those of us lucky enough to teach in a university today know that holding a professorship is not merely a privilege but a public trust. Virtually every university in the United States, including private universities, depends upon some degree of public funding. Without taxes paid by people who do not enjoy the good life of the university, few of us could be professors. Without the tax-free status of all universities, few professorial jobs would exist. The public has given us a great gift; the minimum that we owe the public in return is to debate the great issues in our disciplines. 

For historians, that means three things. First, it means discussing everything from politics, economics, and diplomacy, to war, revolution, and class struggles, and from ideas, work, and sex, to the family, slavery, and religion: in short, the full spectrum of subjects that make up the historical experience, of which these are just a sample. Second, it means speaking and writing in a language that educated laypeople might understand. Third, it means presenting and discussing every political opinion. In short, historians must be universalists. . . .

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To the Editors:

Niall Ferguson’s essay (April 2003 Historically Speaking) grafts the globalization of current times onto that of the British Empire and finds a non-contextual resemblance between the International Monetary Fund’s prescriptions and late 19th- and early 20thcentury British economic policy. Yet Ferguson skillfully avoids the fact that too often Britain acted as a protectionist nation vis-à-vis its colonies. John A. Hobson wrote in Imperialism: A Study (1902): “Imperialism repudiates Free Trade, and rests upon an economic basis of Protection.” Moreover, Britain’s trade with its colonies as a proportion of its trade with other countries in the latter half of the 19th century either remained stagnant or declined, which clearly contradicts Ferguson’s “unequivocal” claim that the “policy of free trade was beneficial . . . to her colonies.” 

With regard to the issue of “unprecedented” overseas investment, Ferguson neglects to mention that shares in the “immense” Indian railways came with a 5% sovereign-guaranteed return. British capital investment in India was small, and excluding the guaranteed investments in railways and public debt, negligible. 

Ferguson cannot explain why imperial Britain’s IMF-style policies did not lead to economic growth, while similar policies have doubled India’s growth rate in the past decade. Perhaps the “autarky” after independence should be reevaluated, and not just dismissed as “wrong conclusions” arrived at by the nationalists. 

Left to their own devices, countries like India could have gone the Japanese route. Despite its handicaps —many of them direct consequences of imperialism —India has made great strides in areas like nuclear and space technology, and this after only fifty years of independence. 

Anup Mukherjee 
Jabalpur, India 

To the Editors: 

In the June 2003 issue of Historically Speaking Stephen G. Brush (“Why Did [or Didn’t] It Happen?”) asks why the Scientific Revolution happened in Europe in the 17th century but does not provide an answer. An explanation, if not a simple determinant, recalls factors and conditions already well known to historians, and my argument here is that their coincidence was essential for the birth and maturation of the Scientific Revolution. 

The emergence of humanism in the 16th century, deriving mainly from the recovery, or new translations, of the ancient classics, revived an awareness of the Greek inquiry into nature and, especially, the Greek search for natural laws. In the same century, the long tension between spiritual and temporal power was finally tipped in favor of the latter. Examples: the self-promotion of Henry VIII to be supreme head of the Church of England; the Concordat of Bologna (1516) that gave Francis I the authority to nominate French bishops; and the principle of cujus regio ejus religio as proclaimed in the Religious Peace of Augsburg, neither a religious nor a theological principle, but a political one. 

Secular power was achieving control only of religious authority, not of religion itself. Yet those actions provoked fears that the precedent might eventually encourage secular authority to tinker with the articles of faith. And the eventual logical response was to advocate the separation of church and state, at the very least to insist on the toleration of dissent. The movement to deny religious authority the enforcement of belief pertained equally to a refusal to allow religious authority to censor new scientific ideas. 

In his essay Brush refers in particular to Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, all remembered as astronomers. Copernicus, as well, had studied canon law and earned his living as a cathedral canon. Yet he never took orders. During his study for a medical degree in Italy, he heard discussions of Pythagorean astronomical ideas, convincing him of a heliocentrism that remained to be demonstrated. Kepler trained for the Lutheran ministry, in the course of which he received a good classical education. Later employed as a mathematician-astrologer, he ended up not in the ministry but in astronomy. Galileo was meant to be a physician, but failed to complete his medical degree. But he did attend the lectures of the physician-botanist Andrea Cesalpino, who sought to demonstrate the natural order in the plant world. Whatever their differences, these scholars represented the new emphasis on the study of nature rather than the supernatural, and they were undermining the authority of medieval Aristotelianism. 

Such individuals were generally laymen, another manifestation of the secularization evident in the 16th century. Members of the clergy, to be sure, were not instantly overshadowed; but the gradual emergence of laymen as founders and leaders of intellectual and civic organizations, virtually completed in the 18th century, has been well documented and would be considered one measure of the advancement of the Enlightenment. The new intellectual climate, gaining command in secular society, gave people the freedom to inquire into the properties of nature and permitted the hope that new knowledge could contribute to the improvement of this life, not the life beyond the grave. Described as useful knowledge, the phrase implied a new knowledge meant to liberate us from ignorance and superstition. 

Here is one illustration of these trends: it would have been a rare monastery or convent that did not have an herbal garden, maintained by the religious for medicinal benefits. But in the 16th century, coinciding with the burst of exploratory expeditions overseas, botanical gardens made their first appearance in Western Europe. Without exception, they were founded by secular authority and administered exclusively by laymen. Although the initial impulse was religious—to create new Gardens of Eden—they evolved quickly under lay direction to become gardens meant to display the natural order in the plant world—from a classification based upon medicinal affinities to a classification based upon natural plant families. 

My argument, in short, explains the Scientific Revolution as the beneficiary of the recovery of Greek natural science, the ascendancy of secular over religious authority, the dominance of laymen in civic and intellectual organization, the right to dissent in a liberal climate, and the emphasis given to the natural order over the supernatural. Nowhere else but in Western Europe did these essential ingredients ever coincide. 

It is understandable that scholars in the 19th century, who saw in the 18th-century Enlightenment the ascendancy of secularism in both government and ideas, should have defined modernity as the inevitable triumph of the secular over the religious. As Thomas Albert Howard (“A ‘Religious Turn’ in Modern European Historiography?” Historically Speaking [June 2003]) recognizes, the upswing of conservative Islam, popular Catholicism, and especially of Protestant Pentecostalism, which is beyond dispute, testifies to a widespread decline in secularization. Its further message is the erosion of modernity, replaced by postmodernism, not only in popular religion and popular culture, but on campuses as well. Historians in the future may well call this reaction the Anti-Scientific Revolution. 

Finally, it should be noted that a conventional interpretation of the French Revolution, which asserts that the revolutionaries had set out to dechristianize the nation, is no longer tenable. Only the lunatic fringe, les enragés, conspired to extirpate religion. A substantial majority of the revolutionaries, no doubt, as children of the Enlightenment, were nonbelievers. But they also knew that a great portion of the population, whether they were true believers or not, had not shared in the Enlightenment. Beyond the cruelty inherent in the denial of faith to those whose lives depended upon religion was the maintenance of social order, which was profoundly Christian in formation. Their perception of the necessary coexistence of two cultures, one incomprehensible to the other, considerably antedated the dichotomy described by C.P. Snow in 1959. While Sir Charles clearly predicted danger ahead if the breach between the literary and scientific cultures was not bridged, in the ensuing debate about the validity of his argument the persistence of the earlier and more profound dichotomy faded from view. In the aftermath of the Cold War, its vitality has again taken center stage, and the triumph of secularism and the other goals of the Enlightenment, liberty and civility, seem more distant than ever. 

Roger L. Williams
University of Wyoming 

Stephen G. Brush replies: 

I thank Roger Williams for his letter summarizing a plausible reason why the Scientific Revolution happened in Europe in the 17th century. As he states, his explanation is based on “factors and conditions already well known to historians,” and I am sure he knows that historians of science have also proposed other plausible explanations, some of them directly opposed to his. The problem with this approach is that if you have only one event of this kind to be explained, there is no convincing way to show which of the several plausible but competing explanations is the correct or at least the most satisfactory one, or to prove that, as Williams asserts, the “coincidence” of a specific set of factors and conditions “was essential” to cause that event to occur. 

One way around that difficulty is to study counterexamples: other historical situations in which some but not all of those factors and conditions were present, and in which a major scientific revolution did not occur. Historians of the English Revolution/Civil War such as Conrad Russell consider this method to be a legitimate historiographic approach, yet most historians of science avoid applying it to the Scientific Revolution. In particular, it is generally agreed that both China and Islam advanced a significant distance toward achieving such a breakthrough at a time when science was at a much more primitive stage in Europe. Therefore it seems to me that we should look more closely at China and Islam, perhaps with Williams’s factors in mind, to see why the Scientific Revolution did not happen there, and that might provide a way to test proposed theories for why it did happen in 17th-century Europe. Unfortunately, I am too old to spend several years learning the languages and cultural histories of China and Islam well enough to do this myself, so I can only try to encourage younger historians of science to do it.

Stephen G. Brush
University of Maryland t

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