You can stop progress - a Look at Three Nations that Did

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay


Spain in the early 1500's

Spain before unification c. 1400


Effects of Reconquest


The Holy War Mentality

Spain and the New World

Effects of New World wealth

Where did the money go?

Polarization of Spain

Modern Recovery

Since the death of right-wing dictator General Franco in 1975, King Juan Carlos has led Spain into a remarkable moderation and modernization. Spain's Gross National Product is now about half that of France and close to that of Canada. Typical of Juan Carlos' style: the Catalan language, spoken in the northeast, was suppressed under the Franco regime. Juan Carlos granted Catalonia autonomy, and delivered the opening address of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics not in Spanish but in Catalan. To say the crowd went wild is putting it mildly. There may yet be a happy ending to a grim story.

In 2006 I visited Spain for the first time. I was amazed at the good roads and the general level of efficiency. One place I visited was the Valley of the Fallen north of Madrid, Franco's attempt at fostering reconciliation. Upon entering the courtyard, I was immediately reminded of Albert Speer's architecture and said to my wife "This is exactly the sort of place a Fascist would build." But overall, Spain seems to have moved beyond the Franco era in a way few divided nations are fortunate enough to manage.

Ming China, 1368-1900

Mongol conquest: North 1215, South 1279

Yuan dynasty reaches peak with Kublai Khan 1260-1294

Ming dynasty ascends

Foreigners expedited or killed

Conservative tendencies of Ming China

Europeans establish contact with China

Missionaries in China

Subjugation by West


A study in stereotyping

"Traditional" model:

Japan develops high feudal civilization, opened to West by Perry's visit 1854, rapidly adapts and becomes a world leader in technology.

More likely model:

Japan has always been one of the most technologically advanced nations of the world. West was not generally aware of Japanese technology until late 19th century.

Japan meets the West for the first time

Japan and Weapons

Giving up the Gun - a unique episode of technological reversal

Reason was a general distaste for firearms despite their utility.

How done

Why it worked

Other notes on Japanese technology before late 19th century industrial revolution.

Summary of the three nations:

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Created 20 May 1996, Last Update 4 June 1997

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