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Material Production Preceding the English Revolution

During XV, XVI and XVII centuries many inventions and scientific discoveries were made. V. Zombart writes that in XV century the smelting of iron starts to appear and water power starts to be used for the process. Before that time, iron was made straight from the ores and production was carried out chiefly in wooded areas.

Wikipedia writes on "Smeltmill": "Smeltmills were water-powered mills used to smelt lead or other metals. The older method of smelting lead on wind-blown bole hills began to be superseded by artificially-blown smelters. The first such furnace was built by Burchard Kranich at MakeneyDerbyshire in 1554, but produced less good lead than the older bole hill. William Humfrey (the Queen's assay master), and a leading shareholder in the Company of Mineral and Battery Works introduced the ore hearth from the Mendips about 1577. This was initially blown by a foot-blast, but was soon developed into a water-powered smelt mill at Beauchief (now a suburb of Sheffield)."

Nenthead_Mines_Smelt_Mill

Attempts at introducing rational agricultural system appear at this time. A seed drill is introduced in Europe in XVI century. Wikipedia describes the seed drill as a machine used for sowing the seeds precisely and covering them with soil. The seed drill greatly improves the productivity of a field.

Jethro Tull's Seed drill, (Horse-hoeing husbandry, 4th edition, 1762

Some start experimenting with field rotation. In Germany, in 1587 a book about rational cattle breeding appears.

First mention of the use of compass in Europe is from 1195, but widespread of the use compass dates from XV-XVI century. In 1492 Columbus leads his three ships to discovery of the New World. Flemish mapmaker Mercator (1512-1594) constructs rather accurate maps used for navigation. From 1585 to 1595 a world atlas in three volumes was published, an example from which is given on the photo below (Europe). In XVI century "Nautica" appeared as a new art of guiding a ship. In 1575 a good essay on seafaring came out called “Itinarario de Navegacion a los Mares of tierres occidentales”.

A the end of XVI century chocolate production appeared in Italy. In XVII century it spread to France. Also in XVII century a cork for enclosing vine bottles became widely used, which made possible the production of champagne.

Manufacture of stockings appeared in Spain in the first half of XVI century. An English king Henry VIII got a gift of silk stockings from Spain. In 1564 a first English manufacturer of stockings appears.

At the end of XV century lace-making spread in Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Germany. Lace-making becomes mass production in Italy in XVI century. In XVI century an iron is invented in France for giving shape to lace products.

A grand piano is invented by Bartold Christophori (1655-1731), an instrument-maker from Florence.

First real carriage appeared in Spain in 1546, and in England in 1580. XVII century saw the rise of large parade carriages with large glass windows.

A Gala Coupé, 18th century; Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels

First umbrella, to protect against the rain, appeared in Paris in 1622. A bit later an umbrella to protect against the sun became fashionable.

On the topic of mirror production, Wikipedia writes: “In classical antiquity, mirrors were made of solid metal (bronze, later silver) and were too expensive for widespread use by common people; they were also prone to corrosion…. The method of making mirrors out of plate glass was invented by 16th-century Venetian glassmakers on the island of Murano, who covered the back of the glass with mercury, obtaining near-perfect and undistorted reflection. For over one hundred years, Venetian mirrors installed in richly decorated frames served as luxury decorations for palaces throughout Europe, but the secret of the mercury process eventually arrived in London and Paris during the 17th century, due to industrial espionage.”

The art of making wall paper comes from China. It spreads in Europe in XVII century.

The secret of gun-powder became known in Europe in XIII century, but it starts to be produced on massive scale in XVI century. First gunpowder factory dates from 1578. In XV and XVI centuries a harquebus was invented, which allowed infantry to successfully challenge a mounted knight. His armor no longer protected him against the bullets made of lead. Cervantes shows Don Quixote (1605) as a knight dreaming about the glories of the day past.

An early firearm used in XV - XVII centuries, a harquebus.

Francis Bacon, in his "New Organon" writes that 3 discoveries shaped the new Europe: the compass, the gunpowder, and the printing press. The first allows for the great discoveries (the New World), the second defeats the knights, brings down the fortresses and castles of the feudal barons, and the printing press allows for the rapid spread of literature.

Gutenberg reinvented the printing press in Germany in 1430's and it rapidly spread throughout Europe.

Watches as we know them today were invented in XV, XVI, and XVII centuries. In 1500 the pocket watch was invented. In XVII century the clock with the pendulum was invented by Galileo (1564-1642). The importance of watches is in influence that they exert upon producers, as they tend to rationalize their behavior, saving time and labor.

One of the earliest watches, from 1530

As for fundamental sciences, Copernicus (1473-1543) has made a revolution with his theory that the Earth rotates around the Sun. Galileo looks at the sky through the telescope invented in 1609. William Harvey (1578-1657) discovers the system of blood circulation in a body.

A diagram of the veins, from William Harvey's anatomy book

Our conclusion is that a political revolution is preceded by a general advancement in the methods of material production and material culture of the times. Moreover, this advancement is not confined to one country, but has at least a continental, but really a global character (e.g. the voyages of discovery, the spread of the gunpowder, the printing press, etc.) Hence, the political revolution is not really "national", but is an instance of a global political revolution of the times.


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