In order to understand the industrial revolution we must understand the historical forces and the human qualities which wove together to create it.
The common story told in the history books is one of exploration, technological revolution and European, or intellectual enlightenment thinking. A few history tellers include mention of the human cost in displacement, overwork, poverty and disease. In order to really dig in and understand the deep currents of human development we must look in a new way.
We will go all the way back to the magna carta and the legend of Robin Hood. The magna carta is considered the foundation of democracy. In fact, it was the theft and destruction of the commons. It took the rights and the property that were held in common by all the people and reserved them for the aristocracy. Some might consider such a pattern to be the same one that underlies colonialism and modern American and European culture.
The story of Robin Hood can help us understand what really happened. But we must skip over the original story, in which King Richard is the hero and King John the villain and look to the modern film starring Russel Crowe. It is the version of the story that most accurately depicts the times.
King Richard III was a war monger and a soldier through and through. With the blessing of the Pope he blew through the treasury of the Crown fighting wars for control of trade routes in the middle east, though by all accounts he was in it purely for the sport and the blood, not for the political or commercial, let alone spiritual gains. In fact, he bankrupted his country and borrowed to the hilt from other European monarchs and aristocracy. Having met limited success and run out of money and credit, in 1198 he was making his way home through Europe, pillaging everywhere he went to support his troops and in the hopes of stealing enough money to pay his debts. Without leaving an heir, he died of a battle wound and his younger brother, John, the villain of the Robin Hood story, was crowned king.
It was left to King John to repay the debts accrued by his unscrupulous brother. He levied taxes as best as he could but the people were unfavorable to the plan and even so could not meet the payments owed by their crown. It is out of this disfavor with the Crown that the legend of Robin Hood arose. In 1213 things came to a head as the kingdom was at war with a host of continental monarchs and other aristocrats to whom it owed money. In 1215 the Pope intervened to restore peace, but at a cost. In Catholic practice of forgiveness always requires penance.
Until 1215 much of the land in England was held in common by the villagers and farmers. Each family might have a small plot for vegetable gardens, small orchards or a few chickens but the grain fields, the grazing meadows and the hunting and gathering forests were common property. Manor lords and aristocrats may have had the largest holdings, and added responsibilities as judges, military captains and in the role of liaison with the higher lord or king, but they were not owners or dictators. The people were by and large free and equal. They were ruled by common law, much of which was based on common sense, the coming and going of the seasons and the goodwill of their neighbors.
In order to hold the creditors of his dead brother and their armies at bay, King John was forced to sign away the rights of the peasants and free men of England or face losing the entire country to foreign lords. He gave those rights to the manor lords and aristocrats on the condition that they use their new found advantage to collect revenue for the crown which it could use to pay its debts. Thus was born the modern era of contract law in which rights can be signed away and the goodwill of the community can be supplanted by contracts. It is well known that he who writes the contract wins. This is even more true of contracts we don't know we've agreed to or which have been written and signed on our behalf, without our full knowledge or consent.
The magna carta was a contract between the crown and the aristocracy to fleece the people in order to pay the debts of the crown under the protection of the Church. The rights we are taught it gave were in fact the ones stolen from all the people and reserved only for a certain class, a class of thieves. The blueprint for such actions is old. Debt based money has a five thousand year history. Athenian democracy was created by Solon around 595 B.C. in response to a mortgage crisis which was displacing farmers and threatening to bring starvation upon the entire state. Even the Bible outlines the use of debt to conquer and enslave in the Book of Deuteronomy written around the time of Solon.
It took twenty years but in 1235 the first enclosure laws were passed in England allowing manor lords to claim common land as their own, enclose it and charge the former owners for its use.
Enclosure, the theft of the commons for private gain, and pressuring the people into indenture if not outright slavery became corner stones of colonization and industrialization. For the first few centuries the process was slow. By the sixteenth century, it was becoming more common. Britain had great land for grazing sheep and the international market for wool was growing. People were kicked off their farms through enclosures and were replaced with sheep. Herding and shearing sheep required far less labor than growing food and the profit margins were far greater. Entire villages and towns were deserted as people lost the ability to provide for themselves and their families as free men. Bands of vagabonds wandered the land as criminals. It was a crime to be landless and homeless, yet enclosures were forcing large numbers off the land that had been their ancestral land for uncountable generations.
In the early sixteenth century the Crown passed laws that were called, “Anti Enclosure Acts.” In reality they promoted enclosure and got the king involved. Instead of preventing or reversing enclosures, the enclosure acts simply fined those enclosing the land and the fines went straight into the coffers of King Henry VIII. In essence the king was claiming the land as his own and allowing the aristocrats to buy it from him. The people who had lived on the land for hundred or thousands of years were not considered at all in this new contract between the state and the aristocracy. This was the same king who, when he could not support himself in the style to which he had become accustomed, simply cut the all the coins with cheap metals, making them half silver and doubling his own wealth overnight. He also kicked the Pope out of England, claimed for the King divine right to rule and took for the Crown all the churches, monasteries and other lands previously owned by the Church.
Theft and arbitrary self declaration of superiority as a means of consolidating power, forcing free men into slavery or indenture through violence and the use of religion to validate the process began with King John in 1215 and was solidified as the primary means of ruling in the early sixteenth century by King Henry VIII. We can see the same themes in action throughout the history of the British empire and much of the European colonial drive up to this very day.
This method of rule was obviously not popular among those who were told they were less than. It led to rebellions and civil wars. It created economic classes where there had been none and led to class warfare as the “upper” class, defined by their ability to steal, attempted to convince the “lower” class, defined by their inability to stop the theft, to accept their new, subservient position. England remained in a state of civil war, to one degree or another, until they met with the next great social evolution of humanity, the modern private central bank against which no revolution was possible.
In this great upheaval we see the metaphor of the bonsai tree at work. When generation upon generation farms the same land and eats the local fruits of their labor, they are, literally, made of the earth upon which they live. The plants draw the soil up into themselves. The humans eat the plants and animals, made of the earth in which they grow. We are the people of the earth. We are created out of it as certainly as the trees and the wheat. When the deep roots, the tap roots, are cut, we may still survive, but we are no longer connected. We rely on the bigger structures of society, the bonsai masters who create the boxes and trim the branches.
We are no longer part of vibrant, self sufficient, self determining communities. We become part of larger communities of rootlessness. We go where the masters want us to because this is where they have created jobs for us. We are constrained by the walls of our boxes, rootless, placed here or there by the master gardeners for their own purposes.
It has even been hypothesized that this loss of connectedness leads to the sun gazing religions and concepts such as ascension. When we can no longer feel our roots, and all we know is the visible, what choice do we have but to pray to that which appears to be high, ignoring, forgetting, even cursing that of which we are made, the unseeable depths of the soil which no light can penetrate.
This drive to ascend the false hierarchy of money and position within the bonsai garden can be seen all around and it is destroying what is left of our communities of place and our heart to heart human relationships. Look around with these new eyes, this new sense of the potential depths of our existence and our root connections and it begins to make sense.
The theft and uprooting that had begun locally spread to become an international phenomenon known as colonization.
In 1415 Prince Henry of Portugal convinced his father and older brothers to conquer the city of Ceuto, opposite Spain across the Straight of Gibraltar. It was the beginning of a long career in which he sponsored naval exploration and technological innovations which spawned the age of global empire building.
While the story of each colony is unique and complex in its way, the pattern common to all is fairly simple. Europeans arrived, conquered the natives, subjugated them and stole their resources. This included rare metals like gold and silver as well as fine woods, agricultural land, water sources and whatever else they could take. It included enslaving local populations. Sometimes locals were chosen as subservient rulers. Other times viceroys or governors from the colonizing country were sent. The same patterns can be seen around the world today. Some people call it neocolonialism. Others call it capitalism. Others call it slavery.
In the modern world the means of control are often more subtle, even seemingly generous. For instance, in the cities of Nigeria locals can go to medical school, buy homes and even cars. They may even support the theft of tribal lands by corporate militias when those tribal lands sit atop vast mineral wealth, a fraction of which will go to fund the college education of their children and fuel their private cars.
This more subtle means of subjugation was made possible by the brilliant invention of the seventeenth century, the private central bank.
Private Central Banking
The first two hundred years of exploration and colonization, commonly known today as globalization, were a slow crawl compared to the next two hundred years. By the end of the sixteenth century international merchants and their aristocratic investors were chomping at the bit, trying to find ways to speed up the pace of conquest and extraction of resources. But they were limited by a shortage of liquidity. That is, there was only a certain amount of gold available to pay for new ships, to hire capable captains, to provision voyages and to otherwise grease the wheels of commerce. Cash is king and there was not enough of it.
So the gold smiths of Amsterdam began printing money based on nothing and lending it out to the commercial merchants to facilitate expanded trade. It was not based solely on nothing. In fact, there was some basis for their gold certificates. They issued the certificates at ten times the rate of gold they actually stored in their warehouses on the docks at Amsterdam and Rotterdam so to be clear we should say that ninety percent of the gold certificates they lent out were based on nothing but the promise of loot from the colonies. Of course, issuing this fake money devalued the money of everybody else by ninety percent.
Another corner stone of the modern industrial world was laid. International merchants and bankers colluded to devalue the labor of everybody else based on the promise of what could be stolen and the modern international financial markets were established.
Understanding these cornerstones of modern civilization and their historical context may seem to the casual reader a bit superfluous. In fact, it is central to the conversation at hand regarding infectious diseases, vaccination, health generally and the course of social evolution we are now choosing. As we will see in our chapter on the developments in science over the past century, we can no longer deny the role of consciousness in creating the whole of our human experience, both in a broad cultural context, in the context of personal history and in the way we create health and illness collectively and individually.
Illness can no longer be thought of solely as a response to an infectious agent, an internal malfunction or a list of symptoms. As we shall make clear through the course of this book, illness and wellness are as much states of consciousness as they are fixed physical realities, possibly more so. These states of consciousness and even the physical manifestations of them may be experienced from the perspective of, “I,” but they are clearly collective and relational. The social forms, the norms of collective and interpersonal relationship that we have chosen over the ages play significant roles in our personal and collective health. We have already seen this in examining the ancient plagues and the pandemic of the Americas. As we approach the industrial revolution we will see the roles of consciousness and social form in our states of health in more stark and undeniable detail.