Chris Harman

A people’s history of the world

Part five
The spread of the new order

Chapter 1. A time of social peace

Chapter 2. From superstition to science

Chapter 3. The Enlightenment

Chapter 4. Slavery and wage slavery

Chapter 5. Slavery and racism

Chapter 6. The economics of ‘free labour’


18th century
Chinese agriculture and industry recover for half a century.
Revolts by Sikhs and Marathas lead to break up of Mogul Empire in India.
Economic stagnation in much of eastern and southern Europe.
Peter the Great begins building of St Petersburg 1703, tries to introduce west European science and techniques to Russia.
Unification of England and Scotland 1707. Defeat of attempted Stuart Restorations 1716. Agricultural revolution in Britain, spread of enclosures to almost all land. British economy overtakes France and then Holland.
Voltaire publishes first philosophical work 1734, praises English system.
Bach develops counterpoint and fugue form in music.
Battle of Culloden, defeat of final attempt at Stuart Restoration in Britain, bloody destruction of remnants of Highland feudalism 1746.
Diderot begins publication of Encyclopédie to popularise ‘Enlightened’ ideas 1751.
British East India Company takes control of Bengal 1757.
Rousseau publishes Discourse on the Origins of Inequality 1755 and The Social Contract 1762. Voltaire publishes satirical novel Candide 1759 pouring scorn on optimism. Banning of Encyclopédie 1759.

Execution of two Protestants in France 1761 and 1766.
‘Enlightened despotism’ – monarchs in Prussia, Russia, Portugal and Austria try unsuccessfully to reform rule.
Growth of Glasgow as a major commercial and industrial city. ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ of David Hume, Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith.
Britain defeats France in war over control of new colonial lands 1763.
Height of slave trade, growth of Bristol, Liverpool, Bordeaux, Nantes. Slave population of North America 400,000 (out of three million) 1770. Arkwright founds first spinning factory at Cromford in Derbyshire 1771. Attempts at ‘scientific’ justification for racism – Long’s History of Jamaica 1774.
Watt and Boulton build first generally applicable steam engines 1775. Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations preaches order based on ‘free labour’ and ‘free trade’ 1776.
Revolt of North American colonies against British rule, Tom Paine’s Common Sense popularises Enlightenment ideas for mass audience. Declaration of Independence declares ‘all men are created equal’ (but is silent over question of slavery) 1776.
Henry Cort devises more advanced way of smelting iron using coal 1783. Beginnings of industrial revolution in Britain – 40 percent of people no longer living on the land.
Mozart’s symphonies and operas, The Marriage of Figaro 1786, Don Giovanni 1787.


Last updated on 26 January 2010