Tragedy in Three Acts: A Revolution, a Theory, and a Theology That Devastated Western Christianity, Part 1

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Most people have never considered the ideas I will be presenting this week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone write on this subject (apart from me), either from a Christian or secular perspective. I believe with all my heart that what I write here today and in days to come is key to understanding nearly every issue facing modern society, and it explains much of Western Christianity’s history since 1820. Most of all, it helps us Christians understand how we must face the past to work toward a better future.

This is not a happy post, but one that might anger some. I know because I discussed elsewhere some of the issues raised covered here and people have reacted strongly. We do not want to face our failings. Humility does not come easily to us. But unless we understand the broken past, we will forever base our perceptions of the world on a flawed foundation.

Cerulean Sanctum, as a blog, covers issues facing the American Church. For the purposes of this post, we’ll expand that to include the West, England in particular. The story of how three social, intellectual, and theological changes rocked the Christian world and forever altered how we live, starts in that country.

And it does so, appropriately enough, with hot water.

Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine, James Watt made it workable, and Richard Trevithick perfected its practicality for a number of small-scale uses. The advent of steam power combined with the growing use of machinery to enable mass produced goods. In England, the textile industry’s growing automation married the steam engine, which led to the increased use of powered machines in manufacturing. With iron foundries flourishing from the switch from coal to coke comes the first great wave of the industrial revolution in the early 19th century.

But the industrial revolution was not the first revolution of its kind in England. The agricultural revolution preceded it. Fat from the slave trade and its unusual abundance of resources and dense population, growing capitalism in England essentially stamped out the last vestiges of feudalism. Land ownership increased among the lower-middle class and poor. Better farming techniques raised production levels. Soon, the agricultural revolution in the English countryside spawned what was known as cottage industry. Farms churned out textiles and other goods produced in the home for sale on the wider market. This continued to build wealth among people without access to family estates. Boom times came to the whole of England.

Yet just as cottage industry was swelling the coffers of rural inhabitants, competition arrived in the form of the modern factory. Wool spinning powered by steam enginePowered by steam, driven by iron machines that churned out goods faster than the home workers in the country could match, factories assaulted the agricultural revolution, laying waste to the shared wealth that cottage industry provided. The industrial revolution’s relentless march concentrated wealth in the hands of the few and created what would become a tragic revisiting of feudalism in England.

As cottage industry shriveled in the wake of industrialism, the youth of the countryside, seeing their future livelihoods threatened, abandoned the farm in droves for the promise of the factory.  But as Charles Dickens would document in his novel Hard Times, the promise proved a lie. The factories, rather than doling out success, oppressed those who chose to work them. Sadly, as the youth went, so did the family farm. Without youthful labor, many families could no longer work the land and sold out to larger landowners or endured a form of indentured servitude to the same. Soon, entire families (and even villages) were forced into the factories.  Destitute and manipulated by the wealthy factory owners, these farmers-turned-factory-workers became the new underclass.

Seeing this drastic change, the intelligentsia of England formulated a well-meaning but devastating question: How was it that some people prospered while others did not? The question dominated the parlors of mid-19th century England, spilling over into one of the bastions of thought, the Church. (This question will later have great ramifications for Christians, as we will see.)

Hard Times notes another trend in England of the 1850s. With the industrial revolution in full swing, England’s success piggybacked on the practical application of science. After all, applications of facts led to the invention of the devices that powered the factories. Facts were king, and science provided the answers that became fact. That thirst for fact based in science opened a large door, for the year that brought Hard Times yielded another book, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

Contrary to what some might believe, the powerful idea in Darwin’s book that would forever engrave it in the modern psyche was not evolution, but the concept of the survival of the fittest. On the Origin of Species used science to explain the question of why some prospered and some did not. Those that did not were simply unfit to compete.

The intelligentsia drew the next application of the fact of the survival of the fittest, therein solving the riddle of the underclass: Not all men are created equal.

This application of Darwin, what would become known as social Darwinism, would soon find its way into the Church and manifest in a most unusual bifurcation, as we will see in the days ahead.

By the 1870s, the industrial revolution had kicked into high gear, with steam-powered vehicles crisscrossing the planet. This opened distant lands to travel. As the ability to move about the planet increased, so did empires. For the wealthiest, it afforded more opportunity to plunder and grow richer. To them, it was a golden age, where the sun never set on the Empire, and the world was rife with possibilities.

The Church, seizing on what it saw as a Golden Age of Triumph, reinterpreted its eschatology to fit. The result reinvigorated postmillennialism, the school of thought that (in a nutshell) has the Church handing over a perfected earthly kingdom to Christ. Christians would invest their wealth and fix all the problems of the world through science, education, art, and the aesthetics of high culture, to be rewarded for their labors by the Master at His Second Advent.

Postmillennialism swept away most other schools of eschatological thought in the years between 1850 and 1929. It proved the backbone of the abolitonist movement, with many Christian abolitionists seeing slavery as a key impediment to delivering a perfected world to the Savior. All social evils fell under the withering gaze of postmillenialists, with social responsibility coming to the fore. Enduring institutions like the Salvation Army and my alma mater, Wheaton College (with its postmillenial motto of “For Christ and His Kingdom”), formed in this time period,  fueled by the triumphalism of the age.

Few Christians would understand, though, that the triumph was instead a fatal miscalculation.

I firmly believe that  industrialism, social Darwinism, and postmillennialism collided, creating a perfect storm that washed away key parts of the foundation that had supported the modern Church since the Reformation. In Part 2, I will explain how these three caught the Church asleep, damaged Western Christianity, and resulted in societal changes that the Church has been fighting fruitlessly ever since.

Thanks for reading. Next part in the series…

34 thoughts on “Tragedy in Three Acts: A Revolution, a Theory, and a Theology That Devastated Western Christianity, Part 1

  1. Elizabeth Anne

    You left out an important name, Dan – Calvin. Calvinism, and the idea of predestination, laid a moral framework (the Elect and the rest) that Darwinism would graft onto. Darwin really only wrote about physical survival: the moral belief was there even before that.

    (Ironically, Darwin was partially driven by his committment to abolition. He wanted to prove that all humans had a common descent, and thus the “scientific” underpinning of slavery was bunk.)

    • Yes, Elizabeth Anne, you touch on an important issue. I’m a little cautious in pushing this point, but you are right. That framework did fuel some of the social Darwinistic fervor and justify a lot of things that were not justifiable.

    • “Calvin. Calvinism, and the idea of predestination, laid a moral framework (the Elect and the rest) that Darwinism would graft onto.”

      Actually the Bible laid the groundwork for predestination and sovereign election, not Calvin.

    • Bob,

      Now that I’ve got that attention, I hope I’m wise enough to hold it and not disappoint! Thanks for reading.

      Most of all, given your background, if you know of any books that have examined what I am discussing here, I would certainly like to know. I’ve not found anything that really goes into depths on how these three things interacted and their effect on the Church as a whole.

  2. I don’t know if I agree or disagree. But I am looking forward to the rest of your challenging ideas. I do have a question though: don’t you think this is really just part of the larger issue of “humans aren’t perfect, and we can’t create perfect systems, but we keep trying” syndrome?

    It seems to me the Bible is filled with stories of people who have ideas (some better, some worse), but all falling short in the end.

    Israel so wanted to be like everyone else that they essentially made their lives miserable for the next few thousand years. As humans we just seem to really like to move out on our own. That seems to be more of the problem than capitalism, socialism, or any other type of “ism”.

    I understand that industrialism has a lot of problems. But is it any more screwed up than any other idea we’ve tried?

    • e. barrett,

      Sin is at the root of everything bad. How we understand sin and our ability to perceive it matters, though. This is the story of how we missed it in the 19th century and the ramifications for us in the 21st century.

  3. David

    I look forward with interest to where you’re going with this…Human philosophy has always at the root the sin of declaring humankind equal (at least) with God. Thus Humanism, merely a modern way of declaring, “You will surely not die!”

    While you are pondering, don’t forget the Eugenics philosophies, which took social darwinism to active extremes, and found a willing partner in some areas of those who called themselves The Church. Laying the groundwork for Hitlers final solution, it also delayed the US entry into World War 2, not on isolationist grounds, but because many of the intelligentsia of the US agreed with Hitler. It was when the unwashed masses were faced with the acts of Nazi Germany that Eugenics was swept away.

    Christianity has much to answer for…And we have unfortunately attempted now to apply the mass-marketing tricks of Madison Avenue to the very personal act of rejecting the original sin. Mega-churches, revivals, “seeker-friendly” and celebrity preachers have made a mockery of Christ and His death, and all because we are still trying to create heaven on earth by our own strength. We may as well be called “Mechanically Separated Christians” for all use we are.

  4. Normandie

    This is like waiting for the next edition of a serialized cliff hanger. As part of the immediacy crowd, I want it now!

    Patience, patience. I know. You’d think after all these years, I’d have learned some… Of course, I do wish the Lord had just granted it back all those years ago when I made the mistake of asking for more.

    Good job, Dan. Keep us thinking.

  5. I am taking a graduate level class on cultural history of the US in 1860-1920. This is a great post and really fits everything I have been reading the last month. Rebecca Edwards and David F. Noble have some great works on that time period.

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  7. Diane R

    Wow! I can hardly wait until the second installment. This is good stuff. I’m wondering if Finney will be thrown into the pot somewhere…LOL.

  8. Fascinating! On the tails of Elizabeth Anne’s comment about Darwin’s abolitionist impulses–I understand that another nineteenth century philosopher (Spencer?) was also responsible for the spread of social Darwinism which the tycoons of the day quickly embraced. Darwin himself rejected social Darwinism; he believed man had evolved beyond mere self-interested competition.

    On a different, but related, note, Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists and When Atheism Becomes Religion, spoke at the University of Missouri last night on The Looming Collapse of the American Empire. While his focus is different from yours, his message certainly correlates with it. The transcript is available here: http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/the-looming-collapse-of-the-american-empire-by-chris-hedges/

    • Naomi, Bene D, et al.,

      Like many of the op/ed crowd, Hedges is 99 percent right on the problem. However, when he expresses his view on what the core principles are that we have forgotten, he blows it big time. Universal healthcare? Is he serious? The United States isn’t in the mess it’s in because of a lack of universal healthcare (and trust me, I have very strong opinions concerning healthcare issues).

      The United States is in the position it is in for a very good reason.

      As some of you regular readers know, my church has been showing The Truth Project. Last night was the teaching on The American Experiment. This comment by Alexander Solzhenitsyn from his Templeton Address (1983) was quoted. It begins thus:

      More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

      Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

      What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.

      The leaders we have around the world have been raised in a higher educational wasteland founded on the principle that God is a nice idea, though not a genuine reality. Therefore, we must do what we think is best. (Ironically, what Russia thought was best—Marxism—was born amid the confluence of industrialization, social Darwinism, and postmillennialism.)

      For a perfect illustration of this, look at the cabinet our new president has selected. They are the brightest of the bunch with regard to this godless, modern education, yet they are devoid of what matters most.

      As I have noted in this two-part series, Christians jumped on this bandwagon and promoted the ideals that flourished during the 19th century without realizing that the ultimate base of those ideals was man-centered and godless. The result was inevitable. We helped foster the very beast that would turn and bite us. The upper class Englishman of refinement and proper Christian breeding failed to realize a truth that the good ol’ boy down South knows instinctively: You lie down with dogs, you get their fleas.

      One of the men of my church who was at that meeting (and who comments here from time to time) said that he believes that it is too late for America. That may well be. We may be at the end of our empire. We may even be at the end of the world. I don’t know.

      What I do know is what Solzhenitsyn so perfectly summarizes: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

      But there is hope in that statement. And the hope is that men will remember God. That’s where we come in. My question, therefore, must be this: What are we doing to help men remember God?

      • Matt

        I think Hedges is a bit extreme in his statements, and I find his defaulting to myriad underlying assumptions, judgments, and stereotypes and other agenda-driven dribble a bit obnoxious. I think he has some good points, but the tenor of his delivery sounds a little Chicken littleish to me. I much more appreciate Dan’s thoughtful analysis and more even handed approach.

        Not to mention that Dan (and probably anyone else reading this blog) brings a key ingredient to the party–namely, that there is a faithful God who hears us, and wants to be involved in bringing life even in dire situations such as the current economic crisis. I don’t see much of that perspective in Hedges’ address.

        Then again, I could be wrong, and the world as we know it may be coming to an end in the next few weeks.

      • But what does it mean for a nation-state/culture to “remember God”? Do you mean returning to a pre-Enlightenment mix of Catholicism and pagan superstitions? To use your own example, at what point in history has Russia remembered God?

  9. Matt

    Naomi,

    Excellent question! And how much can a nation or state really engage with these issues, especially in the times we find ourselves in where the affairs of nations seem dominated by politics, economics, and geo-political strife–with God seemingly far from the collective consciousness of the major players on these stages? I guess that this has always been the case.

    I suppose one the the Christian hopes is for an awakening similar to the 1st and 2nd great Awakenings in American history, which had an influence on culture and society (but of course one which inevitably wanes with the progress of time).

    Another thought I had is of a grass roots kind of awakening that has been taking place in many non-western countries over the past 10-20 years. Its individual units are small and de-centralized in nature, fast growing and centered around house churches and other simple expressions of church life. Perhaps this could be a vehichle of the kind of systemic transformation that all of us feel in our hearts the true gospel of the kingdom contains?

    Any other good thoughts out there about how we as the church can alter our lifestyles or even our expression of faith, both individually and as a community of faith?

  10. Pingback: Great post by Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum « Damascus Road
  11. The name Naomi was looking for is Herbert Spencer, and so-called social Darwinism is really “social Spencerism,” and i’d argue in the interest of historical fact that there was much interest in the era of the Corn Laws and the Irish Question (think Swift and Eliot, and Disraeli v. Gladstone) over wanting to justify why some prosper, usually by inheritance or marriage (think Austen), while others are stuck in squalor.

    Darwin was not interested in many of things that were later claimed on his behalf, most emphatically the idea of applying “the survival of the fittest” to society. See Darwin’s work with the “Down Friendly Society” and the appalling Rev. Ffoulkes (and his very different response to evangelist Fegan, let alone the original Lady Hope story), and Ffoulkes i suspect anticipates where this series is going with regard to Churchianity and class justification as it plays out in faith communities. But i think it helps to clarify what’s to be laid at Darwin’s doorstep and what has no reasonable connection – as with Karl Barth, who later in his life liked to remind people that he was “not a Barthian.”

  12. Dave

    My overall perspective of this piece is that it is not a credible source of historical information and I would be very wary of taking it too seriously for that reason. It appears more than anything else to be an early bud in the springtime of intellectual development. It seems someone has been learning about a few topics and has offered a unifying theory for the problems of the world (note: as defined by his/her perspective). The early bud reference is one I get from Milton, who accuses universities of “preposterous exaction, forcing the empty wits of children to compose theams, verses, and Orations, which are the acts of ripest judgement and the finall work of a head fill’d by long reading, and observing, with elegant maxims and copious invention. These are not matters to be wrung from poor striplings, like … the plucking of untimely fruit.”

    Below is a point by point review of the article.

    “Most people have never considered the ideas I will be presenting this week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone write on this subject (apart from me), either from a Christian or secular perspective.”

    This is a huge red flag. While the notion that most people have never considered the historical context of their present may be true when taken in view of all of humanity…. it is still hard to say that most people have never ‘considered’ the impact of Darwinism and industrialization on the world. Then… to say that this author himself has never seen anyone (other than himself, lol) write on such a important topic, serves more to illustrate the illiteracy of the author than to promote his insight. Indeed, his lack of reading comes through in his lack of sources. In fact the only books the author references are Origin of the Species by Darwin, The Decent of Man by Darwin, and Hard Times by Charles Dickens. I have not read anything by Darwin, but I have read Hard Times. It is a hyperbolic story that takes the average plight of workers to the extreme, pits industry and greed against innocence, ignorance and art. Its a story with an agenda, not history. Like watching the movie, “Super-Size Me” in order to observe the eating habits of contemporary Americans.

    “The agricultural revolution preceded it. Fat from the slave trade and its unusual abundance of resources and dense population, growing capitalism in England essentially stamped out the last vestiges of feudalism. Land ownership increased among the lower-middle class and poor. Better farming techniques raised production levels. Soon, the agricultural revolution in the English countryside spawned what was known as cottage industry.”

    “Fat from the Slave Trade” is an exaggeration. Slaves were not nearly as common in England as in the American colonies, and the profit of such enterprises as capturing slaves is always in proportion to the risk of failure and the cost of carrying on these activities. The more numerous the salve trader the slimmer the profit margin… and the profit in any one trade does not long exceed the average profit for other investments due to the market equilibrium which is reached. So it was obviously not excessively profitable for england for any extended period of time (probably only at first), and it certainly did not make the overall fortunes of England “Fat”.

    Adam smith says very clearly in his book “Wealth of Nations” and with many calculations and examples that a slave is not cheaper to his master than a hired free man in raw economic terms. It was not due to the cheapness of slave labor that England prospered and it certainly did not cause England to become “Fat”.

    Cottage industry, which the author tends to idealize in this article had a much more sobering reality. Listen to this excerpt from Adam Smith, “There still subsists in many parts of Scotland a set of people called Cotters or Cottagers, though they were more frequent some years ago than they are now. They are a sort of out-servants of the landlords and farmers. The usual recompense which they receive from their masters is a house, a small garden for pot herbs, as much grass as will feed a cow, and perhaps an acre or two of bad arable land. When their master has occasion for their labor he gives them about 2 pecks of oatmeal a week besides. During a great part of the year he has little or no occasion for their labor. When such occupiers where more numerous than they are at present, they are said to have been willing to give their spare time for a very small recompense to any body, and to have wrought for less wages than other laborers. Stockings in many parts of Scotland are knit much cheaper than they can any-where be wrought upon the loom. They are the work of servants and laborers who derive the principle part of their subsistence from some other employment.”

    That is the reality of cottage industry… it’s poor people who give their time extremely cheaply, selling homemade items cheaper than a factory could produce them…. which means they benefit very little thereby – exchanging several days of their labor for something a factory can produce in a few hours time.

    “By the 1870s, the industrial revolution had kicked into high gear, with steam-powered vehicles crisscrossing the planet. This opened distant lands to travel. As the ability to move about the planet increased, so did empires. For the wealthiest, it afforded more opportunity to plunder and grow richer.”

    Empire increased as steam power allowed people to move more quickly… actually several empire bigger than any to come in the future has already come and gone using only horses and feet for travel. My advice to the author, do not mistake Chronology for greatness. consider the Spanish Empire in the age of Sail for example…

    I notice also in this passage that he equates profit with plunder, which are two very different things. Profit being the lawful gain through the hazard/employment of some quantity of stock, versus plunder which is the unlawful seizure of another persons stock/wealth. The author seems to vilify prosperity.

    “Postmillennialism swept away most other schools of eschatological thought in the years between 1850 and 1929.”

    This is true, and postmillenialism morphed over the years into Dispensationalism. “The Dispensational teaching of today, as represented, for example, by the Scofield Reference Bible, can be traced back directly to the Brethren Movement which arose in England and Ireland about the year 1830.” Moving AWAY from the age-old church belief in amillenialism. The rapture itself was first propogated in Robert Norton’s 1861 book, The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets; In the Catholic Apostolic Church.

    “If we Christians in the West don’t like the world we see around us, we need to look no further than the mirror for part of the cause.”

    … Ah now I see the purpose of this article… to convince others to pursue a mental self-flagellation. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Dave

    • Dave,

      Thank you for writing.

      A few counterpoints:

      1. One does not normally go looking for doctoral dissertations on blogs. 😉 My intent is not to present an academic-journal-ready defense, but a more approachable overview.

      2. As to the Industrial Revolution, Social Darwinism, and Postmillennialism and their corrosive effects on society (and the Church in particular), I most definitely have found and read books that discuss the effects of any two of those three together, but never all three, and especially not covering how the synergy of the three bred the outcomes they did, especially within the Church. If you have, kudos to you! I would love to read that book or paper, so if you could share the title(s), I would greatly appreciate it.

      3. That Hard Times was popular fiction does not remove it from consideration as a credible source, no matter how “hyperbolic” you may think it is. The fact remains that Dickens’ novel opened the eyes of many to the plight of rural denizens caught in the gears of industrialization. Its appeal to the masses does not render it worthless. Quite the contrary; I have read several historical pieces noting the relevance of the novel to the subject and its accuracy. That I may find Adam Smith “hyperbolic” in many of his statements does not diminish The Wealth of Nations as a credible source. As to my dearth of sources, I must say that solely relying on Adam Smith for rebuttal doesn’t seem to strengthen your own case. Again, this is not a dissertation. If I had the time, I could cite all the sources you wish. Now if you could help me find the time to go back and look up every book I have read on these subjects over the course of 30 years while actually bringing in an income that will pay my bills, I’m all ears!

      4. Hugh Thomas’s The Slave Trade notes Britain as number two in scale of trade, second only to Portugal. Slaves were less common in England than in America, yes, but it was British companies, not American, doing the trading. That the sugar trade eventually greatly eclipsed the profits of the slave trade does not diminish the reality that it was the slave trade that made trading sugar (and a large number of other trades) possible. I stand by my assertion.

      5. Smith describes the remnants of British feudalism, which was on the wane during the rise of cottage industry. Yet fewer and fewer English families labored under the watch of a wealthy landowner. Those that escaped that system did so by cottage industry and the ownership of land, even small lots. If Smith’s assertion were the majority view at the time of industrialization, wealthy landowners would have fought industrialization tooth and nail to preserve feudalism. That this did not happen proves my point. Scotland is also a very poor example, as that country lagged severely behind England, which is a bit like going to the worst case and using it as the norm.

      6. Regardless of whether cottage industry was profitable as a whole, it was certainly profitable for the individual families that engaged in it. Scale is not the issue here; self-determination is. While my income is statistically insignificant compared with the GDP of the country I live in, it meets the needs of my family and allows us to retain some autonomy.

      7. As to prosperity, I am all for it. Just not at the expense of others, which many would consider “plunder.” And “at the expense of others” is part of the rationale behind Social Darwinism.

      8. I’m glad that you agree with my statements on postmillennialism.

      While I note your disagreements on the degree of my assertions (and the necessity to assign blame and move beyond it), what I don’t see from you is disagreement with the conclusions I draw concerning the synergy of Industrialization, Social Darwinism, and Postmillennialism and their outcomes. If you draw different conclusions, what then are they?

  13. Dave

    2. As to the Industrial Revolution, Social Darwinism, and Postmillennialism and their corrosive effects on society (and the Church in particular), I most definitely have found and read books that discuss the effects of any two of those three together, but never all three, and especially not covering how the synergy of the three bred the outcomes they did, especially within the Church. If you have, kudos to you! I would love to read that book or paper, so if you could share the title(s), I would greatly appreciate it.

    That’s like saying, “I’ve never found a book on chemistry AND cooking so I thought I’d bring to light this new information about how chemistry and cooking combined to make my lunch today.” 🙂 A book is an item of grammar in my opinion. It’s like taking the idea of a sentence or paragraph and blowing up into a larger size. Many of the same rules apply. A good sentence and a good paragraph and a good book focus on one MAIN idea at a time. I admit that is no book on ALL THREE topics combined, just as there is no book on how Physics, Ambition, and Astronomy produced the American Revolution… but they are certainly all contributing factors. I”m saying that each of these topics and their individual contributions to the outcome you have in view has been extensively treated elsewhere and your assertion that what you are writing is adding NEW content is incorrect.

    3. That Hard Times was popular fiction does not remove it from consideration as a credible source, no matter how “hyperbolic” you may think it is. The fact remains that Dickens’ novel opened the eyes of many to the plight of rural denizens caught in the gears of industrialization. Its appeal to the masses does not render it worthless. Quite the contrary; I have read several historical pieces noting the relevance of the novel to the subject and its accuracy. That I may find Adam Smith “hyperbolic” in many of his statements does not diminish The Wealth of Nations as a credible source. As to my dearth of sources, I must say that solely relying on Adam Smith for rebuttal doesn’t seem to strengthen your own case. Again, this is not a dissertation. If I had the time, I could cite all the sources you wish. Now if you could help me find the time to go back and look up every book I have read on these subjects over the course of 30 years while actually bringing in an income that will pay my bills, I’m all ears!

    I don’t trust Charles Dickens to document historical reality for us. It’s like writing a history of the civil war from the political cartoons of the day. Hard Times is caricature, not evidence (I’m being imprecise here for the sake of brevity). My point was that you seem to use Dickens as a historical record by referring to him in the following phrases:

    “But as Charles Dickens would document in his novel Hard Times, the promise proved a lie.”

    “Hard Times notes another trend in England of the 1850s. With the industrial revolution in full swing, England’s success piggybacked on the practical application of science”

    Adam Smith is hyperbolic… right… But if an author is using hyperbole consistently and to an extreme throughout a piece of fiction… it seriously brings into question the book’s credibility as a source for any discussion of historical facts.

    Let me say this too about your “if I had the time, I could cite all the sources you wish’ comment… is it okay to write something as ‘new’ historical perspective without doing research first…. I’m not saying you couldn’t document anyone’s position on any topic using online searches, but IF you have read widely on this topic as you seem to indicate, and if you have given the topic sufficient thought as it relates to what you’ve read, then I would expect to find additional sources. I.E. no one who reads deliberately and carefully needs to ‘look up’ books they’ve already read. Citations are only a chore for those who don’t have them yet. 🙂

    Relying solely on Adam Smith for a rebuttal? Actually I am relying on your lack of sources for the rebuttal. In your article you are making an assertion. I am only asserting that you have not provided enough sources. I don’t need a source to say, “where’s your source?” I am making no other substantive assertion.

    4. Hugh Thomas’s The Slave Trade notes Britain as number two in scale of trade, second only to Portugal. Slaves were less common in England than in America, yes, but it was British companies, not American, doing the trading. That the sugar trade eventually greatly eclipsed the profits of the slave trade does not diminish the reality that it was the slave trade that made trading sugar (and a large number of other trades) possible. I stand by my assertion.

    You didn’t understand my comments about the profitability of the slave trade.

    5. Smith describes the remnants of British feudalism, which was on the wane during the rise of cottage industry. Yet fewer and fewer English families labored under the watch of a wealthy landowner. Those that escaped that system did so by cottage industry and the ownership of land, even small lots. If Smith’s assertion were the majority view at the time of industrialization, wealthy landowners would have fought industrialization tooth and nail to preserve feudalism. That this did not happen proves my point. Scotland is also a very poor example, as that country lagged severely behind England, which is a bit like going to the worst case and using it as the norm.

    You haven’t read Smith carefully or completely, look up when he wrote, re-read his comments. He is an expert on the topic. You say cottage industry… but you don’t know what it was.

    6. Regardless of whether cottage industry was profitable as a whole, it was certainly profitable for the individual families that engaged in it. Scale is not the issue here; self-determination is. While my income is statistically insignificant compared with the GDP of the country I live in, it meets the needs of my family and allows us to retain some autonomy.

    Your first sentence seems to contradicts itself. Regardless of whether it was profitable overall, it was certainly profitable for everyone who did it? Scale is not the issue? I was telling you almost no one who participated in cottage industry did so for anything other than a few extra bucks of spending money… it’s not a viable means of livelihood as practiced by the vast majority in history and today. It is not the ideal.

    7. As to prosperity, I am all for it. Just not at the expense of others, which many would consider “plunder.” And “at the expense of others” is part of the rationale behind Social Darwinism.

    If I buy a pair of shoes for $10 and sell it to you for $20 five minutes later because you walked by barefoot and complaining of your need for shoes, does that mean I plundered your $20? 😀

    8. I’m glad that you agree with my statements on postmillennialism.

    While I note your disagreements on the degree of my assertions (and the necessity to assign blame and move beyond it), what I don’t see from you is disagreement with the conclusions I draw concerning the synergy of Industrialization, Social Darwinism, and Postmillennialism and their outcomes. If you draw different conclusions, what then are they?

    Everything that ever happened has contributed to the world we have today. Your terms are so broad, your sources so few, and your conclusion so personal (look in the mirror, etc.) that it needed a strong challenge in my opinion. This could be a much much longer discussion….

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