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Resources. What do you need? Where do you get them? How do you pay for them? Those are all questions that need to be answered for any real industrial project. And in the 1632 universe, those same questions also need to be answered for the technological developments that the writers in the universe want to develop, want to see brought forward so they can tell the stories they want to tell. No handwaving allowed. Eric Flint's mantra from the very beginning has been "realism and probability," not "theoretically possible."
You bring up the question of resources in any gathering of 1632 writers, whether physical or virtual, and the discussions turn to iron and steel and copper and coal and how soon production can be raised. Some of the more experienced and longer-sighted writers might bring up the ease and costs of transport. But they're all leaving something out of their considerations.
The one resource that is consistently overlooked or underestimated by almost all the authors is manpower. Writers tend to assume that the manpower needed for any project will be available as, when, and where needed. But that may not be the case.
In our previous article, Time Can't Change Me, Part 1 (Grantville Gazette 72) we made the following statement:
The resistance to changes and innovations proposed by (understandably enthusiastic) newer authors is not a matter of engineering. (Although frankly, we don't think you can quickly train the labor pool of the 1630s to the tasks being proposed—and shift so many out of food production into that industrial role—to be able to create the factories and mines and transshipment matrix that would be required to work so many changes in a single generation. The diversion of labor from agriculture in a low-tech culture needs its own discussion.)
Writers in the 1632verse are frequently cautioned to remember that the seventeenth century was not the Victorian era. The social mores of Victorian England do not apply to the Germanies in the 1630s, and the technological infrastructure of the early 1800s hasn't been created yet. But the inverse is also true. The seventeenth century was not the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. There's a reason why it's considered part of The Early Modern Era.
The economies of Europe, at least those west of Russia, were not peasant economies. Even Poland, with its form of serfdom, had advanced to some extent beyond that. Western Europe was still a low-technology culture, but it was noticeably advanced over Medieval Europe, much less something like ancient Egypt. Most of Europe was above pre-industrial. Indeed, they qualified as proto-industrial. And they served as the incubator for the original Industrial Revolution in our historical timeline approximately four generations later.
But this raises an issue that very few of the 1632 writers, new or old, have spent much time addressing. It's not glamorous, or zoomy, or technically cool. It's not sexy at all. And it's something we all too often want to hand-wave out of consideration, if not existence. But it is key to dealing with the 1632 universe.
How do you rapidly mobilize a society and culture that is heavily rural and at best proto-industrial to rapidly develop the foundations of modern industrialization?
The short answer is, you probably don't.
There are both cultural and logistical reasons for that. We presented part of the cultural considerations in the previous article, wherein we wrote with a single voice. In this article we're going to take a different approach. The logistical consideration will be presented first in a section written by David, then Charles will step in to expand on more of the cultural aspects of the issue, after which we will conclude.
So, herewith David's presentation on the logistic considerations.
Robert C. Allen, Ph.D., a noted scholar of economic history, published a very interesting paper in 2000 entitled Economic Structure and Agricultural Productivity In Europe 1300-1800. It's an interesting read about the economic history of much of modern Europe, and we recommend it to you. We reference it because he provided some information about population makeup that we need to consider.
According to Table 2 in Dr. Allen's article, the population of Germany in the seventeenth century broke down in the following fashion: