chapter  1
19 Pages



Over the last two centuries the uncompleted process of industrialization has been reshaping the world. Beginning in Britain, it diffused across Europe and North America and spread, often gradually but sometimes dramatically, to other parts of the globe, especially in Asia. Scholars and politicians around the world have traditionally been more impressed by the geographical limits of the process as they observed it at any one time than by its speed and increasing scale. The spatial unevenness of industrialization created huge gaps between rich and poor countries. But the spread of modern manufacturing has now continued to the point where it involves hundreds of millions of people belonging to soci eties previously considered as intractably resistant to rapid economic development. In order to understand the past trends and to consider the future, we now need to answer, not only the traditional question of why some parts of the world are poorer than others, but also the new question of how so much of the world has either achieved, or made striking progress towards, levels of manufacturing output that used to be the preserve of a small minority of countries. In short, it is time to explain what is now a global – albeit still far from universal – history of industrialization (Bénétrix et al. 2012). The traditional perception of industrialization was founded on the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution, which was driven by the introduction of machinery and steam power. In contrast, the experience of the global diffusion of industrialization suggests the significance of both the deployment of abundant resources of labour and the improvement of the quality of labour (human resource development) as major determinants of change. This history includes patterns and experiences that are far from being mere replications of Western precedents. This volume calls for a major rethinking of our understanding of industrialization for global history, by bringing the East Asian experience of ‘labour-intensive’ industrialization into focus and, thereby, reinterpreting both the Western experience of ‘capital-intensive’ industrialization and the equally distinctive experiences of countries in other regions of Asia and in Africa and Latin America. It is intended as a contribution to what will have to be a major scholarly effort to define and explain these variations, and to consider how they contributed to the global spread of industrialization.