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Now contrast that with what happened with ocean-going fleets in Europe. Columbus was an Italian, and he wanted an ocean-going fleet to sail across the Atlantic. Everybody in Italy considered this a stupid idea and wouldn't support it. So Columbus went to the next country, France, where everybody considered it a stupid idea and wouldn't support it. So Columbus went to Portugal, where the king of Portugal considered it a stupid idea and wouldn't support it. So Columbus went across the border to a duke of Spain who considered this stupid. And Columbus then went to another duke of Spain who also considered it a waste of money. On his sixth try Columbus went to the king and queen of Spain, who said this is stupid. Finally, on the seventh try, Columbus went back to the king and queen of Spain, who said, all right, you can have three ships, but they were small ships. Columbus sailed across the Atlantic and, as we all know, discovered the New World, came back, and brought the news to Europe. Cortez and Pizarro followed him and brought back huge quantities of wealth. Within a short time, as a result of Columbus having shown the way, 11 European countries jumped into the colonial game and got into fierce competition with each other. The essence of these events is that Europe was fragmented, so Columbus had many different chances.

Essentially the same thing happened in China with clocks: one emperor's decision abolished clocks over China. China was also on the verge of building powerful water-powered machinery before the Industrial Revolution in Britain, but the emperor said "Stop," and so that was the end of the water-powered machinery in China. In contrast, in Europe there were princes who said no to electric lighting, or to printing, or to guns. And, yes, in certain principalities for a while printing was suppressed. But because Europe in the Renaissance was divided among 2,000 principalities, it was never the case that there was one idiot in command of all Europe who could abolish a whole technology. Inventors had lots of chances, there was always competition between different states, and when one state tried something out that proved valuable, the other states saw the opportunity and adopted it. So the real question is, why was China chronically unified, and why was Europe chronically disunified? Why is Europe disunified to this day?

The answer is geography. Just picture a map of China and a map of Europe. China has a smooth coastline. Europe has an indented coastline, and each big indentation is a peninsula that became an independent country, independent ethnic group, and independent experiment in building a society: notably, the Greek peninsula, Italy, the Iberian peninsula, Denmark, and Norway/Sweden. Europe had two big islands that became important independent societies, Britain and Ireland, while China had no island big enough to become an independent society until the modern emergence of Taiwan. Europe is transected by mountain ranges that split up Europe into different principalities: the Alps, the Pyrenees, Carpathians — China does not have mountain ranges that transect China. In Europe big rivers flow radially — the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube, and the Elbe — and they don't unify Europe. In China the two big rivers flow parallel to each other, are separated by low-lying land, and were quickly connected by canals. For those geographic reasons, China was unified in 221 B.C. and has stayed unified most of the time since then, whereas for geographic reasons Europe was never unified. Augustus couldn't do it, Charlemagne couldn't do it, and Napoleon and Hitler couldn't unify Europe. To this day, the Europe Union is having difficulties bringing any unity to Europe.

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