The Path Of A Civilization

This humble case study of mine would be on the progress of time, technology, thoughts & techniques throughout human history and will look at how acceptance or rejection of innovations lead to either progress or downfall of a civilization. Let us look into some prominent developments in our history and how various civilizations reacted to them.


samarth misra


Aakriti Club, JIMS VK

a year ago | 11 min read

Technological advancement causes forceful adaptation. By Samarth Misra

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This humble case study of mine would be on the progress of time, technology, thoughts & techniques throughout human history and will look at how acceptance or rejection of innovations lead to either progress or downfall of a civilization. In the modern day and age, every nation is busy with a constant race of technological advancement. A nation needs to keep up with the progress in technology to stay relevant on the global stage. 

Even on an individual level, the average person needs to keep up with the technological trends by either innovating or adapting them to have a social life. This peer pressure of technology is also essential for employment prospects. This phenomenon is not unique to our current times, as history time and again shows us how technology and innovation dictate the ages. Before proceeding, I would like to set some metrics and guidelines as follows:-

  • We would be going over various examples of innovations on why they succeeded or failed on a civilizational level. The causes would be determined via examining the circumstances or direct accounts. The Speculation is not to be taken as facts but rather as causative theories backed by available data and can be subject to change, revision, or dismissal with new data.
  • We would also be going over the factors involved in the development & progress of technology as well as the key factors present in its adoption or rejection by a civilization. The term civilization here broadly represents any country, cultural group, kingdom, regional identity, nation-state, and any group of people that has reached a point of collective identity and complex societal & political structures of administration.
  • The Definition of technology, innovation, etc, will be established to the reader for clarity and will be based on my understanding. These will be in Bold Italic for ease in distinction.
  • I do not hold or claim to hold any distinction or doctorate in the involved fields, i.e, Science & history. The study is entirely based on my research and the sources available to me.

Technological Advancement & Innovation

Throughout human history, nothing has been as constant as the progress of technology and the growth of innovation. Many great civilizations were able to thrive based on the factor of superior or new technology and fell due to the technology being outdated. Technology is, without doubt, the utilization of a civilization's available knowledge, research, innovations, ideas & resources for its progress, betterment, strengthing, and giving it an edge over other civilizations.

Technology has multiple factors necessary for its progression. The growth of a single factor subsequently results in the growth of Technology altogether. These factors are as follows:

  • Knowledge

Knowledge is available to everyone to varying degrees. Knowledge can be of many different things like practices, methods, flora and fauna, geography, scholarly disciplines, etc. It can also be said that it is both a factor for technology and an Ingredient for innovation. For example, the cure for Malaria was developed from knowledge of mosquitoes, their habitation  & behaviour, and existing biology & chemistry, which then lead to innovation in medicine.

  • Research & Innovation

Research is very necessary for the gathering and refining of knowledge as well as for creating Innovation. The process can be both direct and indirect. For Example, the Invention of Gunpowder happened by accident through research on Immortality, thus being Indirect.

Innovation is the creation of something new through the accumulation of knowledge, research, and necessity. Innovation is something that can come from a combination of circumstances and ideal conditions. One example of it is the formation of Nation states, which was an Innovation of thought possible due to multiple factors like Unrest, the decline of monarch authority and religion, previous innovations in weaponry and warfare, etc.

  • Ideas

Ideas are the geneses of innovation. Every innovation in existence has emerged from an Idea, which either creates, modifies, or replaces the Innovation. Ideas often emerge from pre-existing knowledge and refinement of it via research. They also emerge when a set of conditions are met or a problem emerges. For example, the idea of substituting coal for charcoal and later innovation of coal-powered furnaces emerged in feudal England due to the shortage of timber.

Note that the problem faced does not always create the same idea due to the existence of multiple factors and variables. The same shortage was faced in feudal Japan as well and was dealt with by regulating forestry and timber production.

  • Resources

Resources are the inventory of wealth, minerals, goods, and any tangible or intangible asset a nation may have at its disposal. Resources have been a key driver in human politics and history since the dawn of civilization, from tribal disputes over grazing ground to the modern-day armed conflicts over minerals like oil. It is no surprise that is a key factor in the development of Technology and innovation.

A nation's ability and need to utilize the potential of a resource determines the enrichment of innovation via that resource. The absence or shortage of a resource can also lead to the development of new technology. For example, the availability and abundance of papyrus to the Egyptians allowed them to innovate in the usage of papyrus scrolls, while the use of animal skins as parchment was widespread in Europe as the papyrus was scarce, making it much more costly.

Adoption & Rejection of Technology & Innovation

The spread of a new Technology & Innovation is determined by its acceptance and rejection by other civilizations, which in turn depends on multiple factors. Though there can be any number of factors contributing to it including unique factors which will be elaborated on later in the case study, there are a few key factors always in play. These are:

  • Culture & Society

A civilization's cultural practices are a very important factor in its generation of ideas and innovations and how open it is in adopting foreign ones. Culture is in turn shaped by many internal factors like history and traditions. To illustrate, a bellicose culture would be much more open to the adoption of new and better weaponry (a form or by-product of military technology) than a pacifist one. Similarly, a Society that promotes and holds scholarship in high esteem will create more innovation than a society that shuns new ideas.

  • Politics

Though the politics of a nation is greatly influenced by the aforementioned factor of culture & society, is also greatly impacted by dynamic internal and external pressures and changes. This point will be further elaborated on later in this case study.

  • Geography

The location of a civilization and its proximity to centres of innovation is a major factor in the adoption of technology. A nation surrounded by many other competing nations would be pressured to adopt and develop new technology to maintain its influence and sovereignty. On the other hand, an isolated civilization would see slow to negligible progress. There have even been cases of regression in technology due to complete isolation.

  • Economic

Though technology may be superior to the current method and is beneficial in one place, it doesn't mean it is cost-effective in other places, leading to a slower pace of adoption of that technology compared to other places. 

Case Study

Technological advancement has for most of human history a large civilizational impact, enough to change the geopolitical scenario of its time. A brief example of this would be the rise of Rome and the Pax Romana in Europe for roughly two centuries as a result. For now, we will look at some of the major technological advancements in the world, how certain nations reacted to them, and the effect they had on the nation afterwards.


Gunpowder is perhaps the accident that changed the world by accident. It was a mixture of saltpetre, sulfur, and charcoal. The most accepted origins date back to the 9th century AD, in china where it was discovered due to a mishap by monks in search of the elixir of immortality. It was implemented in warfare due to its incendiary nature by the Chinese and then later spread by the Mongols via their conquests.

Which led to the Era of Firearms. Firearms truly revolutionized warfare We would now see how Europe and India Adapted to this new technology.


The Europeans were the most successful in their use of Firearms compared to other areas of the world. They were the ones to advance the technology to the early modern drill armies which were later adopted by and built upon everyone else. The first instance of early firearms in Europe can be dated back to the 1400s. The use of firearms became common around the 1600s and saw huge advancements in technology. We can say that the Europeans were successful in adapting the technology.

The Reasons:

  • The Renaissance: Europe had gone through a period of renaissance, which encouraged the growth of free thought and greatly diminished the institutions that restricted it like the church. This led to greater innovation and openness to foreign ideas.
  • Increased Competition: European Kingdoms faced stiff competition from each other as well as forces considered non-European and hostile like the ottomans. The ottomans used firearms & other gunpowder weaponry, which prompted European nations to go into a gunpowder arms race with them and later each other.
  • Changes In Administration structures: Europe was going through a shift from decentralized feudal structures toward a centralized state. This in turn incentivized switching from a levy army to a standing professional military force. This allowed a uniformity in equipment and improvements in it to give it an edge over the others.

The Effects:

The Europeans were able to dominate the globe thanks to their technological superiority. The early adaption and advancement of firearms were a major factor in the ability to colonize the New World. The modern military structures around the world have their roots in the European model of Drill Infantry and Artillery. The Acceptance and Innovation of firearms can be said to be a catalyst for the ushering of the age of European Imperialism.


Firearms came to the Indian subcontinent from the outside. The first origin was via the maritime trade routes of south Indian kingdoms and the second was via invasion from northwest India. The Indians were one of the first adopters of firearms in warfare and made many innovations on their own but the use of firearms in Indian warfare remained secondary to the use of cavalry and saw stagnation and failure to adapt to the latest methods of firearm warfare.

The Reasons:

  • Proximity to Hordes: One reason firearms remained secondary was that the subcontinent was contending with kingdoms with cavalry-centred armies. Early firearms were not as accurate and took a lot of time to shoot a volley, which made the Indian rulers focus on cavalry and utilize firearms in relatively small numbers.
  • Political Instability: Indian subcontinent went through a period of political instability where the kingdoms were unstable and decentralized. Which resulted in small states rising and falling rapidly.
  • Levy Conscription: Indian kingdoms didn’t let go of the feudal structures which led to reliance on levy armies responsible for their equipment. Though there were kingdoms that reformed their armies into standing professional armies, it was too little too late.

The Effects:

The Indian subcontinent though having its gunpowder empires, was unable to modernize its use of firearms, resulting in reliance on imports of firearms. This gave the European powers exporting firearms to the key players in India a degree of Influence, later turning them from traders to colonizers. The small kingdoms that couldn’t afford to import were swallowed by Indian and European powers. This eventually led to the colonization of the Indian subcontinent by Britain, a European power.


The Industrial revolution can be regarded as the gateway to the modern world that we live in. from the first textile loom to entire industries, it was the driving factor in the increase in the standard of living throughout the 20th century. It originated in Great Britain due to an era of European imperialism, the usage of coal, and development in the fields of textile and metallurgy. This allowed the textile production of Britain to exceed that of the entire Indian subcontinent in the 19th century. Soon this advancement in technology was necessary to compete on a global stage, spreading among the European nation. To examine the reaction toward this technological advancement we would look at East Asia.


The Qing dynasty of Manchuria which was ruling China at the time was in an isolationist phase with a general distrust of foreigners in anything other than trade. They didn’t industrialize and still relied on their export of certain monopolistic items such as chinaware, silk, tealeaves, silver, and certain precious stone. They were unable to match the influx of goods from Europe post-industrialization such as tea leaves and silk which now they were no longer the major supplier of. 

The Reasons:

  • Isolationism: the Qing dynasty remained very isolationist and conservative and shunned any foreign innovation or Idea, making any efforts of modernization futile. This combined with restrictive trading led to them losing the position of strength due to obsolete armies and thus losing an opportunity to allow an inflow of new technology.
  • Population & Infrastructure: Due to china’s size and population, most of China's production of goods was labour intensive requiring little usage of machinery. This did not incentivize the development of infrastructure which was one of the factors for industrialization.
  • A centralized State Without Authority: Though the Chinese system of governance promoted centralization, it had become very bureaucratic and corrupt over the years. This left the already strained state to tax the citizens even harder, leaving no room for them to invest in modernizing or industrializing.

The Effects:

The Qing empire unable to compete with the industrial output of the west was relegated to a secondary power. This failure led to them falling under the influence of several European powers and the Japanese empire, an industrial and modernized Asian power. This is referred to today as the “century of humiliation” in Chinese history. They were forced to make various concessions and lose territory to various imperialistic forces and eventually collapsed.


The Japanese under the Tokugawa shogunate were like the Chinese very isolationist. This was also due to mistrust of foreigners after the Christian uprising in Japan. For nearly 200 years they had Imposed this self-isolation, severing most diplomatic ties with the outside world except trade. The Dutch were the only European power allowed to trade in japan, which was restricted to Kyushu only. This all changed with the Perry expedition from America in which they send gunboats (warships) as part of the delegation of the cost of Edo (Tokyo). The Japanese were forced to sign a humiliating free trade agreement. This kick-started the Meiji restoration and the rapid industrialization & modernization of Japan.

The Reasons:

  • Humiliation & Example: The forced agreement humiliated Japan into losing authority in the shogun. This and the fact they had witnessed the Chinese getting forced to concede to the west was an alarming realization for the Japanese. 
  • Balanced Approach: The Japanese took a balanced approach. On one hand, they studied the west to understand and implemented these innovations back home. On the other hand, they maintained pride in their cultural identity by making the emperor a symbol to avoid a conservative backlash.
  • Restructuring Of Administration: After the Meiji restoration, the Japanese Administration was restructured from feudal domains to centralized prefectures. While this was done out of fear of internal and external threats, it had the positive effect of allowing the state to effectively invest in the industrialisation of every prefecture.

The Effects:

The Japanese were able to modernise and industrialize and thus avoided the fate of colonization and subjugation unlike most of Asia. Their efforts led them to become the only Asian Imperist power of its time, challenging the spheres of influence of many other nations. This early modernization and Industrialization also helped their military to be at par with the Europeans at the time. They even won the Russo-Japanese war of 1903, becoming one of the only Asian powers to defeat a western state.


With the examination of the two distinct cases, we can conclude that the forceful adaptation of a successful technology is inevitable. It is necessary for the survival or prosperity of civilisation. Failure to adapt leads to loss of relevancy and subjugation which encourages any civilisation to innovate, adapt and advance their technology to ensure their survival, Thus concluding my case study.


Created by

samarth misra


Aakriti Club, JIMS VK







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