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Maps of the spread of the Agricultural & Industrial Revolutions

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2018

This is a map showing the spread of the cultivation of crops across Europe.

Map of the spread of the Agricultural Revolution

The legend is a bit hard to read, but the map indicates that it took ~2000-4000 years for farming to spread from Turkey to Britain. Several thousand years later, the Industrial Revolution boomeranged back out from Britain across Europe:

Map of the spread of the Industrial Revolution

The dates and areas on both of these maps are rough & approximate1 but the important thing to notice here is the acceleration of the pace of technology. The technology of farming (seeds, techniques, tools, etc.) took thousands of years to spread across Europe but the expansion of industrial technology happened on the order of decades in the mid 19th century. That’s an incredible quickening.

And now? Seconds.2 An app launched in China can be downloaded moments later in a cottage in England or a cabin in Quebec and cutting edge scientific papers published in Brazil can be accessed almost instantaneously in India or Kenya. That’s fast enough that plotting it on a map doesn’t make sense…charts like these tell the story of technology adoption much better:

Technology Adoption

Time To 50 Million Users

  1. Maps like these are necessarily approximate, interpretive, and can change due to new discoveries and such. I’m not gonna give you a full rundown on the current state of the research into the spread of farming and industrialization. Check out Wikipedia (farming, industrialization) and work your way elsewhere if you’re really interested.

  2. Acknowledging that just because something can be distributed worldwide in a couple seconds doesn’t mean everything is equally available in every part of the world. Even now, the William Gibson quote still holds: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”