29 July 2009

Triumph of the English

While students in my American Indian History course are taking an exam that some find brutal, I spend some time reading my scribblings in an old spiral notebook. Modern classrooms are equipped with computers, including access to the library and JSTOR, so I again tracked down a critical footnote in A Patriots History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen and wrote from there. Then, I searched my own blog to find that I have penned in my notebook an alternative ending for my post "Triumph of the English" (April 2008).

Schweikart and Allen maintain that the English triumphed over rival European powers--principally Spain and France--in the struggle for North America because they cultivated a climate receptive to innovation.

Receptive Climate
Insofar as the response to crises has to deal with a continuing legacy of competing claims, and sustains and tolerates ideological diversity, innovation is enhanced.
Jack Gladstone, "Cultural Orthodoxy," 132
Schweikart and Allen bury their exposition of the English "culture of technological inquisitiveness" within their discussion of Europe’s generally receptive climate for "risk taking and innovation" that "reached its most advanced state in England" (15). The stirrup was invented in the Middle East, but used to effect hundreds of years later by Charles Martel’s knights at Poitiers, they tell us (citing a text that lists neither stirrups nor Martel in the index). But Poitiers is in France. They present no English examples to buttress their hypothesis. Rather they quote from the second paragraph of Jack Gladstone’s 1987 Sociological Theory article, "Cultural Orthodoxy, Risk, and Innovation: The Divergence of East and West in the Early Modern World."

After quoting Gladstone, Schweikart and Allen step away from his arguments. First they emphasize "stability of the state, the rule of law" (15). Gladstone highlighted the lasting effects of such crises as the Puritan Revolution, as well as its precipitating causes. The revolution, he argues did not manifest immediately the requisite institutional changes until the reign of William III (William of Orange).

Although the English radicals failed to fully institutionalize their rule, and the monarchy and Anglican Church were restored, the radical challenge left a legacy which served as a hedge against reassertion of absolute authority.
Jack Gladstone, "Cultural Orthodoxy," 130

Gladstone cites the English Bill of Rights (1689), explicit religious toleration, and the Act of Settlement (1701).*

Schweikart and Allen offer a list of the benefits of toleration of new ideas: "entrepreneurship, invention, technical creativity, and innovation" (15). The last three fall within Gladstone's use of the term innovation, but he cautions against over-emphasis upon entrepreneurship, which "is more a facility for exploiting opportunities and filling economic niches than a facility for technological innovation" (128). Of course, as I mentioned in the original version of this post, Schweikart and Allen highlight innovative business practices.

They draw Gladstone into their argument, it seems, because they like one passage:

The West did not overtake the East merely by becoming more effecient at making bridles and stirrups, but by developing steam engines ... [and] by taking unknown risks on novelty.
Gladstone, as cited in Schweikart and Allen, 15.

That quote comes from the end of the second paragraph. They might have cited another passage near the end of the first page.

Concurrent innovations in agriculture, transport, manufacturing, financing, machining, education, and marketing, rather than a few major inventions, were responsible for the transformation of the West.
Jack Gladstone, "Cultural Orthodoxy," 119

Gladstone's thesis buttresses the minor chords in Schweikart and Allen's song, but he does not contribute to their crescendo highlighting property rights as the foundation of English and American success.

*Gladstone does not actually mention the Act of Settlement, but mixes up the long and short names of the English Billl of Rights as if they were separate acts. However, his descriptions, dates, and citations reveal his intended reference.

No comments:

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP