What if Roman and Chinese Industrial Revolution?

Oct 2015
1,195
California
How far ahead technologically would the world be today if at some point the Romans and Chinese had undergone an extensive Industrial Revolution that revolutionized their society just as extensively as the Industrial Revolution revolutionized our world in otl?

OTL - Hero, of Alexandria invents a functioning Steam Engine, the 'Aeolipile' (a spinning device powered by Steam) in the First half of the First Century AD. Commonly held to just have been a curiosity, there is No documented evidence to show that it was ever put to practical use. While we know that Heron had an understanding of may mechanical principles, he built an automaton driven by weights and pullies, 'programed' by wound cords. he never seemed to have found a use for the 'Aeolipile' and his steam engine was lost to History.

POD - Heron discovers the principle of the 'Cam-Shaft', allowing for the transfer of circular motion into Linear motion. Such a discovery would have opened up Whole new avenues of possibilities for the Steam engine and the possibility of even steam powered vehicles, ships, nearly 2 Millenia prior to their actual development.


What if for some reason the Romans had found practical military usage for Hero's steam engine and they adopted it to first power their ships and other practical uses gradually developed from there like a railway network connecting their frontier forts for faster legionary travel? For that to happen they would need steel. And this is where China comes in. China also came very close to undergoing an extensive Industrial Revolution.

China in particular had all the precursors and prerequisites to embarking on a full scale Industrial Revolution. It had the resources, the geographic convenience of river ways, and the manpower and just as importantly an enterprising desire. They were mass producing steel a thousand years before Europe, and built massive blast furnaces for that which wouldn't be found anywhere else in the world until the 19th century. Except for the period when the Han government monopolized the steel industry it was returned to private ownership in the latter half of the Dynasty. So private entrepreneurship (which is almost a prerequisite for industrialism) was certainly present in Han China. In fact entrepreneurs invested heavily on joint stock companies and in ship building which engaged in overseas trade and local trade along the Grand Canal. Prominent merchant families and private businesses were allowed to occupy industries that were not already government monopolies. Merchant and artisan guilds (which in Europe were also precursors to its Industrial revolution) were formed in China during the Song period which the state had to deal with when assessing taxes, requisitioning goods, and setting standard worker's wages and prices on goods There was no physical reason why China could not have embarked on the industrial revolution because they were already at the brink of it.

What if the Industrial Revolution that took place in 18th c England and the 19th century US had taken place instead in China and Rome and the two eventually exchange technologies, allowing Romans to import Chinese steel to build their railways? Contact between the two would have been inevitable if the Industrial Revolution had occurred.
 
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