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December 05, 2011



I do a lot of research for my book(s) to understand the technologies of the 14th through 16th centuries in Europe as well as comparable times in other places (e.g. Tokugawa Japan, the blast furnaces of ancient China, women's footwear in 17th century Siam, etc.). Part of each of those researches involved finding out who controlled the foundries and workshops, who defined the terms of trade, and otherwise established the cultural apparatus underlying these technological features. The thing that kept coming back to me was that in basically every society, there was a single hierarchy of authority covering both spiritual and temporal matters. Only in Europe did there seem to be a persistent tension that constantly prevented stable ascendancy of any hierarchy, meaning there were always spaces for others.

I hadn't considered how that might tie in with political fragmentation and (relative) population mobility, but I do think there has to be a link there. Many other societies had fragmented political blocks, but since those vertical fragments could rapidly align and re-align at the top, mere movement could hardly guarantee a change in powers-that-be. Horizontal fragmentation, on the other hand, invites an eventual winner to the power struggle if the political units remain static and sealed.

Also, as Nathan notes, Europe remained somewhat culturally-integrated, and very plausibly attributes this to Christianity, which is even more plausible when one considers the sort of split that could easily have occurred when the Crusaders sacked Constantinople. I was also researching Orthodox theology lately for a different novella and was surprised to see how small the doctrinal differences really are (relative to, for example, the Shia-Sunni split, which seems much sharper to me).

classic restoration

It's the western way. As usual.

link building

Definitely part of the history. I can see some roots of the western.

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