The Industrial Revolutions


January 7, 2019

When the founding fathers wrote the U.S. Constitution in the 1780s, life on planet earth had changed very slowly over the previous 10,000 years. Life in 1780 wasn’t all that different from life in 1500. Life in 1500 wasn’t all that different from life in 1250. Life in 1250 wasn’t all that different from life in 1000. And so on, and so on.

But then the human experience changed completely: Where we live, how long we live, when we work, when we sleep, how we go about our lives. It’s time we told that story. This is the Industrial Revolutions.



January 31, 2019

In this episode, we cover the origins of human society, which remained relatively unchanged until the Industrial Revolutions:

  • How we evolved into “smart man”
  • How we stopped foraging and started farming
  • How we started building cities
  • How we developed trade and money
  • How we developed government and religion
  • How we invented writing
  • How we developed a system of social inequality
  • How our ideas spread out across the Eurasian landmass
Europe in the Middle Ages

Europe in the Middle Ages

February 1, 2019

Europe was (rightly or wrongly) considered the backwater of the civilized world for most of history. So how is it the Europeans built global empires and changed the world with industrialization?

In this 25-minute episode, I’m going to run through the developments of the Middle Ages and the circumstances of life in Europe that gradually led to a new world order. Topics include:

  • The impact of Ancient Rome
  • The Dark Ages
  • The Crusades
  • The Black Death
  • Trade with the Islamic World
  • The early days of modern finance
  • The rebirth of learning and practical inventions
The Rise of the Global Empires

The Rise of the Global Empires

February 8, 2019

Beginning in the 1300s, a rivalry between two kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula led to a whole lot of exploring, trading, and conquering. Before long, other European powers were getting in on the action. Not only did it transfer the gravity of the world’s political and economic power toward Europe, it set Europe on a path toward industrialization.

In this episode, we’ll explore:

  • The early days of European naval exploration
  • Portuguese trade in the East
  • Spanish conquest in the West
  • The mountain of silver at Potosi
  • How plantation commodities changed the world economy
  • The foundations of the transatlantic slave trade
  • The development of joint stock corporations, modern banking, and insurance
Creating Utopia

Creating Utopia

February 15, 2019

Are we living in Thomas More’s Utopia? In this chapter, we’ll explore his book and his life to chart the path toward the industrialized world we inhabit today, including: The rise of cottage industry; Mechanical innovations; Increasing specialization; The war industry’s impact on mass production; The impact of the Protestant Reformation.

The Textile Industry

The Textile Industry

February 22, 2019

We’ll never know the names of the first farmers of the Neolithic Revolution, but we do know the names of the inventors who kick-started the Industrial Revolutions. Their simple innovations gave us a new world of nearly constant, explosive economic growth and a total restructuring of society everywhere and forever. This is how it happened.

In this episode, we’ll cover: The growth of the global cotton trade in the 17th and 18th centuries; The flying shuttle; The spinning jenny; The water-frame; The spinning mule; The first cotton mills of northern England; The impact of the first industrial revolution in the new United States.

Agriculture, Metal, and Mining

Agriculture, Metal, and Mining

March 8, 2019

During the 18th Century, the British came up with many innovations that allowed them to get more out of the land. Not only did the increased production of food, iron, and coal make the first industrial revolution possible, but many innovations had indirect applications for new technologies.

In this episode, we’ll cover: Jethro Tull’s seed drill; Turnip Townshend’s crop rotations; The resistance of agricultural laborers; Abraham Darby’s coke smelting process; Henry Cort’s puddling process; The legacy of John “Iron Mad” Wilkinson; The use of iron in cotton mills; Britain’s falling timber resources; New mine ventilation techniques; Sir Humphrey Davy’s safety lamp; and the evolution of rail tracks.

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The Steam Engine

The Steam Engine

March 15, 2019

The steam engine was the product of centuries of experimentation, economic necessities, strong business acumen, and colorful personalities. This is how it happened.

Mill Towns Become Mill Cities

Mill Towns Become Mill Cities

March 22, 2019

Nearly half the world’s population today lives in an urban area. Before the first Industrial Revolution, only about 3% did. Industrialization created urbanization. Not only did it create incentives for people to pack themselves into dense cities, it also created the means to overcome the challenges of density.

What’s most amazing about this process is that many new metropolises were seemingly created from thin air. Some old cities did become big cities and some old big cities did become megacities, yes. But more amazingly, some villages that barely existed 500 years ago are now some of the world’s major population centers. 

In this episode, we’ll discuss the impact of the first Industrial Revolution on the British cities of Birmingham, Manchester, and London, and the ways the British government had to adapt.

Economic Ideas (Part 1: The Oldies)

Economic Ideas (Part 1: The Oldies)

March 29, 2019

At the dawn of the First Industrial Revolution, a new academic field emerged: Economics. (Well, something called “Political Economy” anyway.)  But centuries of economic thought had to be supplanted first.

In this Chapter, we review some of the ideas that permeated Europe leading up to the Industrial Revolutions. We’ll discuss the works of Plato and Aristotle, the Scholastics, the Mercantilists, Quesnay and the Physiocrats, Galiani, Beccaria, Verri, and of course, Thomas Robert Malthus.

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