Greetings, intrepid Temps-Voyageurs! Let us not tarry, for there is much to explore in this quaint and curious volume for Christianist 10th-graders, World History and Cultures In Christian Perspective. Last week, we finally reached the founding of the USA, that pivotal moment when the Founders decided which parts of the Bible to include in the Constitution. (To be fair, World History doesn’t actually say that, limiting itself to the far more cautious “the hand of God was clearly visible in the framing of the Constitution.”)
Today, we visit the exciting world of the Industrial Revolution, which you may remember was that time during the Olympics Opening Ceremonies when chimneys came out of the floor and Kenneth Branagh looked like Abe Lincoln but was actually the Great Industrialist Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Now, let’s be off, and mind you don’t tread on any butterflies. (Ha-ha, that is a joke — evolution is not real, so stomp as many as you wish!)
Now, if you learned about history in the Government Schools, you may have been indoctrinated in the Marxist belief that the Industrial Revolution resulted from some confluence of economic and technological developments. This just shows how badly you have been lied to! In reality, it was an “indirect but profound result of the spiritual revivals that swept Great Britain and America in the 18th century,” because, you see,
The rise of modern science had led to the discovery of many of the natural laws that God established to govern the universe, but it took a revival of Biblical Christianity to thoroughly dispel superstition and motivate men to seek ways of using these discoveries for the benefit of mankind. Driven by a renewed sense of responsibility and a desire to help others, men began to apply modern science to industry resulting in an explosion of new technology (p. 343).
Oddly enough, the holy profit motive is not mentioned! Similarly, spiritual progress was mostly what led to improvements in agriculture beyond the subsistence level:
During the first part of the l8th century, the masses of lower-class Englishmen both in towns and in the country were known for their crime, immorality, drunkenness, ignorance, and poverty. Many depended on “charms” and astrology for good crops. Such superstition always produces fear, and many people feared the forces of nature rather than following God’s command to harness nature for the good of man (Gen. 1:28).
This end of superstition brought about a new era of science-minded agriculture, and today, only simple, superstitious savages would think that supernatural intervention will help their crops or affect the forces of nature.
The Wesleyan revival of the 18th century changed the way people thought by changing their hearts. Englishmen began to depend less on charms and astrology, and more on principles (God’s laws) of agriculture, to make their crops grow. As farmers gained a greater sense of responsibility and as inventors gained a new desire to help others, the stage was set for greater productivity. Work was given a new sense of nobility. People began to take seriously the injunction of Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men(p. 343).”
And what evidence do the editors give us that increased agricultural production was the result of a turn to the Bible? Well, for one thing, work was considered more noble, since it was in boldface and italics, indicating it will be on the test. For another thing, agriculture definitely became more advanced during this period, and not before, when people were spiritually deprived. We guess that’s pretty much settled beyond dispute, then.
The book then goes on to discuss the miraculous benefits wrought throughout England, America, and Western Europe by the Protestant work ethic, defined here as
the way of life based on the Biblical teaching that God expects all men to work and that all work is a noble duty to be performed toward God… lt brought the greatest good, physically and spiritually to those individuals who obeyed God’s command to use part of the profits of their industry to help others.
World History conveniently leaves aside the detail that the term was coined in 1904 by Max Weber, who was himself not exactly a born-again Christian. It’s also a gross oversimplification of Weber’s thinking (for one thing, Puritans did not use their wealth to “help others,” since that was thought to encourage sinful idleness among the 47 Percent). But it’s a much tidier story to say that it was all part of God’s plan to help more people live better lives.
So anyway, on to the Industrial part of the Revolution:
Much has been said about the evils of life in the industrial cities of the 18th and 19th centuries. Indeed there were difficult living conditions (low wages and poor housing) and bad working conditions (long hours, air and water pollution created by factory waste, dangerous working areas, and child labor). But many Europeans had suffered even worse conditions on the farms they left behind…These people found it more profitable to leave the farms and work in the cities, where they could improve their standard of living.
They were underprivileged anyway, so this, this was working very well for them. The text approvingly cites the 1843 visit of Mrs. Cooke Taylor to the factories of Lancashire. She had expected, based on “the statements put forward in the newspapers,” to see people suffering from “starvation, oppression, and over-work,” but after her visit, wrote
“Now that I have seen the factory people at their work, in their cottages and in their schools, I am totally at a loss to account for the outcry that has been made against them. They are better clothed, better fed, and better conducted than many other classes of working people” (p. 346).
This scrupulously detailed account, taken from F.A. Hayek’s Capitalism and the Historians, gives the lie to all that nonsense by Dickens, Blake, Frances Trollope, and others about the travails of the urban poor. We would not be surprised to find out that many of them had color televisions, too.
For the most part, the Industrial Revolution is depicted as a wonderland of improved living conditions and thrilling inventions, summed up by another italicized proclamation that will, of course, be on the test:
Improvements in technology always improve upon or add to our natural resources to make life better for all (p. 347).
Anyone who says otherwise is a malcontent, a socialist, and probably a dirty Papist. Capitalism, we are told,
is the only economic system consistent with personal liberty and responsibility. It is also called free enterprise because it leaves the individual free to make something of himself if he has the enterprise (energy and initiative) to do it. A nation is free when its people accept the responsibility for their own welfare. When the people turn that responsibility over to the government by demanding more services and regulations, the nation loses its freedom (p. 354).
The enslaved masses of Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands really have no idea how they suffer, we suppose. And where the secular student might read about the “Gilded Age” as a time of great wealth and privilege for some, and exploitation and tainted meat* for most, the reader of World History will not find that term at all. Instead, we learn this about John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan:
Such successful entrepreneurs have been called “robber barons” and have been criticized for their relentless” drive to eliminate competition, expand their businesses, and increase their profits. But their critics often forget the manifold benefits these “captains of industry” brought to mankind. In their drive to increase their own wealth, they brought manifold benefits to others; through their businesses, they not only provided thousands of jobs but also stimulated other industries. Each also helped to provide the world with much-needed commodities to help create better, safer, and more enjoyable living conditions for mankind (p. 355).
Or at least, those members of mankind who didn’t develop black lung disease or get their arms ripped off by machinery, and not everyone did! Of course, the text does warn us that greed for its own sake is bad and sinful, while
Riches yielded to God bring great blessings; the person under God’s control will see every possession as a gift of God and will obey God by giving part of his wealth back to Him in tithes, offerings, and charity (p. 356).
Oh, and those child laborers that we mentioned a few paragraphs back? They were just fine, really, which is why the authors quite literally never mention them again. “Child labor” isn’t even in the Index. Maybe a charity gave them a Bible.
* Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a staple of most histories of the era, is nowhere to be found. Sinclair himself gets a brief mention later on, as a “socialist writer” who “charged America’s industries with being ‘oppressors’ of common workers.” The big silly.
Next Week: The British Empire, and why Darwin ruined everything.Related