The surprising rise of muscle power, the salty source of Scottish Lowlands wealth, the Dutch Republic's energy abundance, and why doesn't anybody ever talk about lime?
There is much horsepower in these articles
Up until WWII, business people often considered it to be a depression when prices fell. When countries industrialized, the impact was often an expansion of supply in the face of static demand, leading to price decreases. So, for the Dutch collapse, was there a collapse of supply? Or was it really an expansion of supply causing falling prices?
Lime also supplies calcium, which is necessary for some soils. Sometimes sulfur is as well; that is not usually an issue if people are burning fossil fuels nearby, but sulfur deficiency is a bit more common these days. Sulfur, now a waste product from petroleum production, is also useful as a pesticide.
My mother remembered using a "dog-power" in the early 1900's to power the washing machine. Dog made himself scarce on wash days.
The way we used lime on the farm was to decrease the acidity of the soil. Not sure how that would relate to the early use of it. No expertise here, but sandy soils might be more subject to losing fertility over the years.
Thank you for your article, Anton.
I enjoyed learning about lime’s role in the transition to coal
Coal and cement.
One of the by-products of burning coal is "ash".
Interestingly, The Romans added a type of volcanic "ash", known as "Poxzzalan", from the region" to enhance the binding properties of the basic mortar made from "burnt" limestone. in modern times, this has been replaced by "fly ash", which is the particulate residue from burning coal on an industrial scale.
Also used in the "plaster" that forms the "skin" of the hulls of ferro-cement boats. The fly-ash is not completely hydrated in the formation of the cement "plaster". In the event of a "crack" forming in the hull whilst at sea, the process is that a bit of seawater will enter the "crack" and finish hydrating the fly-ash, causing expansion that will seal the "crack".
There are limits to this "healing" process. If your keel gets ripped off striking a barely-submerged empty shipping container in mid ocean, all bets are off.
The building of lime kilns is really interesting across Highland Scotland, especially considering the location of some of them in context of fuel. For example, take a look at the Tomphubil Lime-Kiln near Schiehallion.
The "turnspit dog" wasn't just in Bristol- it was a breed of dog created for this purpose, and allowed to go extinct when no longer needed.
There's an unknown link to why a bunch of guys invented the horseless carriage in the 1880s: the Great Horse Flu. In 1872 there was a worldwide influenza pandemic that affected horses but not people. The flu strain did not kill the horses, but they were weak for maybe 7-21 days, depending. The horses were unable to do their jobs, and the horse-powered economy seized up in many places. About a third of Boston burned down because the horses could not pull the water carts used by the firefighters.
If you were an enterprising inventor in 1875 or 1880, the "horseless carriage" was suddenly a very interesting idea.
I too, am now somewhat intrigued and curious about the collapse of Dutch industrial development, and looking at the dates when this occurred although not previously being aware of this occurrence, I have some food for thought.
Could the Industrial development collapse not have had something to do with the establishment of the VOC/ Dutch East India company and their establishment of a trafe route to the East/ Asia to purchase spices and other goods from that region, which involved a "halfway" settlement at the Cape of Good Hope ( South Africa ) established woth the landing of Jan Van Riebeeck at the Cape in 1652, as this developed into more than just a "halfway house" to replenish ships of the VOC, but a colony which exported a multitude of mainly agricultural products back to the Netherlands?
The agricultural products, together with the array of goods being purchased in Asia, most probably quite cheaply, could quite possibly have led to the collapse of Dutch industrial development as they opted for contracting the supply of what they needed, out to cheaper sources.
If this were to be the case, it would expose an early version of what has happened in the US over the past three plus decades.
Speaking of soil fertility I always found it strange that composting was developed only in the 20th C, despite allegedly being used historically for making some dyes. Maybe that's because they already had uses for some of this stuff, like throwing kitchen scraps to chickens/pigs/dogs instead of on a compost plie.
Very interesting points about the “improvement of animals”; to what extent did people making the improvements think about them in economic terms?
Roger Osborne mentions lime in his popular history of the industrial revolution 'Iron, Steam and Money' (2014), though it is only a mention, and he does call it a fertiliser. But he does credit it as a 'highly significant element' in the rise of agricultural productivity and thus so much else. Credit where credit's due and all that.
Very interesting historical research as always. Just a couple of questions. You state , ",,,the actual inventors involved are still a bit of a mystery. It’s something I need to return to, as “lots of anonymous people just invented through trial and error and adaptation” just doesn’t cut it for me — I’ve never found such stories to be true upon closer investigation." What evidence do you have that prior to the eighteenth century new discoveries were not shared and adapted within a community rather than a 'light bulb' moment of ingenuity through one inventor. A second question: When writing this piece for Nesta were you asked to consider what impact any of this rapid industrialisation had on the environment and what lessons we could learn from past environmental mistakes? A very interesting book on this question is by Jarring and Le Roux 'Contamination of the Earth'. The purpose of today's energy transition after all is premised on anthropogenic harm not just shortage of supplies and opportunities for further industrial growth.
hello anton i sent you something by return email does that get to you?
Hello Anton tried again