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An Accelerating Divergence? The Revisionist Model of World History and the Question of Eurasian Military Parity: Data from East Asia

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Abstract:

Over the past few years, this journal has hosted an important debate:Joseph M. Bryant’s bold assault on the revisionist model of global history and the revisionists’ equally trenchant defense. A key point of contention is Europeans' relative military modernization vis-à-vis Asians. This article adduces new data from East Asian military history to try to advance the debate. First, it argues that there was a Chinese Military Revolution in the 1300s, which compels us to place the European Military Revolution in a larger, Eurasian context. Second, it uses data from the Sino-Dutch War of 1661–8 to explicitly compare Chinese and European military technology. It concludes that the revisionists are correct that Asian societies were undergoing military modernization along the lines of those in western Europe and that the model Bryant defends is incorrect because it presumes that Asian societies are more stagnant than the evidence warrants. Yet counterrevisionists like Bryant are correct that military odernization was proceeding faster in Europe, which may indicate that they are correct that there was an early divergence — slight but accelerating — between the west and the rest of Eurasia.

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