Why did manuscript production increase rapidly?

Why did manuscript production increase rapidly?


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What are the reasons for the significant increase in manuscripts being produced during the later medieval era? Was it due to improving financial conditions, or were there technological advances that simplified production techniques?

I find either potential explanation not to hold much water as these increase can be witnessed even in the midst of the Black Death, or the many disasters that befell European society during the 13th century. Also manuscript production is a process that seems predicated on extensive manual labour rather than technology.

What am I missing?


I'd say it was a combination of the growing economy and population, increasing urbanization, and the appearance and spread of universities (and other forms of schooling), which meant increased literacy and thus demand for books. There were some technological changes which made books cheaper and easier to produce, such as the shift from parchment to paper1 and the pecia system2, which probably contributed as well.

A good paper looking at this issue is Buringh and van Zanden (2009).

Up until the 13th Century, an important factor was the growth in the number of monasteries (the main centers of both book production and "consumption"), which followed the growth of the population and the economy. Beginning in the 12th and 13th Centuries, the combination of increasing urbanization and the spread of universities created a new source of demand for books.

As for the Black Death, Buringh and van Zanden have this to say:

The Black Death of 1348 and the resulting decline in population levels had a complex effect on book production. In the short term, output probably declined significantly… However, after this temporary decline, production rebounded significantly, and an even sharper increase in output began, resulting in an almost tenfold increase in the next hundred years.


1. Paper production in Europe seems to have started in Italy in the 13th Century and spread northward to other countries in the 14th Century.

2. The Pecia system essentially parallelized manuscript copying by chopping a book up into multiple parts, each of which was copied by a different scribe. The pecia system was driven by the rise of universities: it developed as a way of supplying books to the growing number of students.


An Accelerated History of Internet Speed (Infographic)

The story of the internet so far has been one of both ever-faster speeds and ever-higher demand for connectivity. According to Cisco, worldwide internet traffic reached more than 20 exabytes per month in 2010. (An exabyte is a billion gigabytes.) The smart money says demand is only going to keep rising.

Fortunately, the physical infrastructure of the internet is equipped to handle it, at least for a while. The undersea cables we use now can be upgraded to move data at 100 gigabytes per second, about 10 times faster than current speeds. And a $1.5 billion project is underway to reduce the lag time of signals between London and Tokyo by 60 milliseconds using a fiberoptic cable in the Arctic Ocean, the first of its kind in that part of the world.

The infographic below, compiled by Gator Crossing, a Houston-based web hosting service provider founded in 2002, provides a history of the internet along with some facts even dedicated web geeks might not know. Such as the fact that as of 2010, about half of rural households in America did not have internet access at home. Where's Google Fiber when you need it?


Railroad Expansion

Three forces reshaped the United States between 1860 and the end of the century. First was the Civil War second was the continuing tide of westward expansion third was the American Industrial Revolution. Common to all was the railroad. It not only enabled the preservation of the Union, but also permitted the kind of rapid industrialization that made the United States a world power.

The Civil War was the defining event for nineteenth-century America, and railroads played an important role in the conflict. As the North industrialized rapidly between 1820 and 1860, railroads helped create --and prospered from -- the rise of factory production and diversified large-scale agriculture.

In the South, railroads played a marginal role in the cotton and tobacco economy. With little industry to support them, the railroads that did crisscross the inland South were lightly built, often poorly maintained, and generally inferior to those in the North. In the end, the North's industrial superiority -- epitomized by its superb railroad system -- enabled it to pummel the Confederacy into submission.

Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis recognized the need for an effective railroad system in the war effort, and military men on both sides used railroads skillfully. The South, however, had neither the factories capable of building new locomotives in wartime nor the political will to forge the existing railroad network into a smoothly functioning system.

The North, on the other hand, quickly created the United States Military Railroad to expropriate and operate any railroad it needed. The Union Army appointed Daniel C. McCallum and Herman Haupt as ranking officers, giving them extraordinary powers to provide railroad support for northern troops.

Throughout the war, opposing forces recognized the tactical advantages of either controlling or destroying railroad supply lines. But it was not until Union General William Rosecrans found himself under siege at Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1863 that leaders discovered the true strategic value of railroads.

Over the objections of cabinet members and even some generals, Lincoln approved a daring plan to send two entire Army corps on a circuitous rail route to reinforce Rosecrans. Despite the short notice and complexity of the plan, railroad convoys carried 20,000 men, their full equipment, ten batteries with horses, and more than 100 cars of baggage and supplies 1,100 miles in just seven days (11 days from idea to execution).

Fifteen months later, 17,000 men made the reverse movement in an equally timely fashion on their way to complete the Union victory at Richmond, Virginia. War would never be the same again, for the railroad had proved to be a powerful military weapon as well as an agent of civilization.


History of Bronze Age Art (In Europe: 3000-1200 BCE)

The most famous examples of Bronze Age art appeared in the 'cradle of civilization' around the Mediterranean in the Near East, during the rise of Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), Greece, Crete (Minoan civilization) and Egypt. The emergence of cities, the use of written languages and the development of more sophisticated tools led the creation of a far wider range of monumental and portable artworks.

Egyptian Art (from 3100 BCE)

Egypt, arguably the greatest civilization in the history of ancient art, was the first culture to adopt a recognizable style of art. Egyptian painters depicted the head, legs and feet of their human subjects in profile, while portraying the eye, shoulders, arms and torso from the front. Other artistic conventions laid down how Gods, Pharaohs and ordinary people should be depicted, regulating such elements as size, colour and figurative position. A series of wonderful Egyptian encaustic wax paintings, known as the Fayum portraits, offer a fascinating glimpse of Hellenistic culture in Ancient Egypt. In addition, the unique style of Egyptian architecture featured a range of massive stone burial chambers, called Pyramids. Egyptian expertise in stone had a huge impact on later Greek architecture. Famous Egyptian pyramids include: The Step Pyramid of Djoser (c.2630 BCE), and The Great Pyramid at Giza (c.2550 BCE), also called the Pyramid of Khufu or 'Pyramid of Cheops'.

Sumerian Art (from 3500 BCE)

In Mesopotamia and Ancient Persia, Sumerians were developing their own unique building - an alternative form of stepped pyramid called a ziggurat. These were not burial chambers but man-made mountains designed to bring rulers and people closer to their Gods who according to legend lived high up in mountains to the east. Ziggurats were built from clay bricks, typically decorated with coloured glazes. See Sumerian Art (c.4500-2270 BCE).

Persian Art (from 3500 BCE)

For most of Antiquity, the art of ancient Persia was closely intertwined with that of its neighbours, especially Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), and influenced - and was influenced by - Greek art. Early Persian works of portable art feature the intricate ceramics from Susa and Persepolis (c.3000 BCE), but the two important periods of Persian art were the Achaemenid Era (c.550-330 BCE) - exemplified by the monumental palaces at Persepolis and Susa, decorated with sculpture, stone reliefs, and the famous "Frieze of Archers" (Louvre, Paris) created out of enameled brick - and the Sassanid Era (226-650 CE) - noted for its highly decorative stone mosaics, gold and silver dishes, frescoes and illuminated manuscripts as well as crafts like carpet-making and silk-weaving. But, the greatest relics of Sassanian art are the rock sculptures carved out of steep limestone cliffs at Taq-i-Bustan, Shahpur, Naqsh-e Rostam and Naqsh-e Rajab.

Minoan Art (c.2100-1425 BCE)

The first important strand of Aegean art, created on Crete by the Minoans, was rooted in its palace architecture at Knossos, Phaestus, Akrotiri, Kato Zakros and Mallia, which were constructed using a combination of stone, mud-brick and plaster, and decorated with colourful murals and fresco pictures, portraying mythological animal symbols (eg. the bull) as well as a range of mythological narratives. Minoan art also features stone carvings (notably seal stones), and precious metalwork. The Minoan Protopalatial period (c.1700 BCE), which ended in a major earthquake, was followed by an even more ornate Neopalatial period (c.1700-1425 BCE), which witnessed the highpoint of the culture before being terminated by a second set of earthquakes in 1425. Minoan craftsmen are also noted for their ceramics and vase-painting, which featured a host of marine and maritime motifs. This focus on nature and events - instead of rulers and deities - is also evident in Minoan palace murals and sculptures.

Named after the metal which made it prosperous, the Bronze Age period witnessed a host of wonderful metalwork made from many different materials. This form of metallugy is exemplified by two extraordinary masterpieces: The "Ram in the Thicket" (c.2500 BCE, British Museum, London) a small Iraqi sculpture made from gold-leaf, copper, lapis lazuli, and red limestone and The "Maikop Gold Bull" (c.2500 BCE, Hermitage, St Petersburg) a miniature gold sculpture of the Maikop Culpture, North Caucasus, Russia. See also: Assyrian art (c.1500-612 BCE) and Hittite art (c.1600-1180 BCE). The period also saw the emergence of Chinese bronzeworks (from c.1750 BCE), in the form of bronze plaques and sculptures often decorated with Jade, from the Yellow River Basin of Henan Province, Central China.

For Bronze Age civilizations in the Americas, see: Pre-Columbian art, which covers the art and crafts of Mesoamerican and South American cultures.

For more about the history of painting, sculpture, architecture and crafts during this period, see: Bronze Age art.

History of Iron Age Art and Classical Antiquity (c.1500-200 BCE)

Art of Classical Antiquity witnessed a huge growth during this period, especially in Greece and around the eastern Mediterranean. It coincided with the rise of Hellenic (Greek-influenced) culture.

Mycenean Art (c.1500-1100 BCE)

Although Mycenae was an independent Greek city in the Greek Peloponnese, the term "Mycenean" culture is sometimes used to describe early Greek art as a whole during the late Bronze Age. Initially very much under the influence of Minoan culture, Mycenean art gradually achieved its own balance between the lively naturalism of Crete and the more formal artistic idiom of the mainland, as exemplified in its numerous tempera frescoes, sculpture, pottery, carved gemstones, jewellery, glass, ornaments and precious metalwork. Also, in contrast to the Minoan "maritime trading" culture, Myceneans were warriors, so their art was designed primarily to glorify their secular rulers. It included a number of tholos tombs filled with gold work, ornamental weapons and precious jewellery.

Ancient Greek Art (c.1100-100 BCE)

Ancient Greek art is traditionally divided into the following periods: (1) the Dark Ages (c.1100-900 BCE). (2) The Geometric Period (c.900-700 BCE). (3) The Oriental-Style Period (c.700-625 BCE). (4) The Archaic Period (c.625-500 BCE). (5) The Classical Period (c.500-323 BCE). (6) The Hellenistic Period (c.323-100 BCE). Unfortunately, nearly all Greek painting and a huge proportion of Greek sculpture has been lost, leaving us with a collection of ruins or Roman copies. Greek architecture, too, is largely known to us through its ruins. Despite this tiny legacy, Greek artists remain highly revered, which demonstrates how truly advanced they were.

Like all craftsmen of the Mediterranean area, the ancient Greeks borrowed a number of important artistic techniques from their neighbours and trading partners. Even so, by the death of the Macedonian Emperor Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, Greek art was regarded in general as the finest ever made. Even the Romans - despite their awesome engineering and military skills - never quite overcame their sense of inferiority in the face of Greek craftsmanship, and (fortunately for us) copied Greek artworks assiduously. Seventeen centuries later, Greek architecture, sculptural reliefs, statues, and pottery would be rediscovered during the Italian Renaissance, and made the cornerstone of Western art for over 400 years.

Dark Ages
After the fall of the Mycenean civilization (12th century BCE) Greece entered a period of decline, known as the Dark Ages - because we know so little about it. Sculpture, painting and monumental architecture almost ceased.

Geometric Period
Then, from around 900 BCE, these arts (created mainly for aristocratic families who had achieved power during the Dark Ages) reappeared during the Geometric period, named after the decorative designs of its pottery.

Oriental Period
The succeeding Orientalizing period was characterized by the influence of Near Eastern designwork, notably curvilinear, zoomorphic and floral patterns.

Archaic Period
The Archaic period was a time of gradual experimentation the most prized sculptural form was the kouros (pl.kouroi), or standing male nude. This was followed by the Classical period, which represents the apogee of Greek art.

Classical Period
Greek architecture blossomed, based on a system of 'Classical Orders' (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) or rules for building design, based on proportions of and between the individual parts. The Parthenon on the Acropolis complex in Athens is the supreme example of classical Greek architecture: other famous examples include: the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Hephaistos, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Theatre at Delphi, and the Tholos Temple of Athena Pronaia. In the plastic arts, great classical Greek sculptors like Polykleitos, Myron, and Phidias demonstrated a mastery of realism which would remain unsurpassed until the Italian Renaissance. But painting remained the most-respected art form - notably panel-paintings executed in tempera or encaustic paint - with renowned Greek painters like Zeuxis, Apelles, and Parrhasius added new techniques of highlighting, shading and colouring.

Hellenism
The beginning of the final Hellenistic phase coincided with the death of Alexander and the incorporation of the Persian Empire into the Greek world. Stylewise, classical realism was superceded by greater solemnity and heroicism (exemplified by the massive statue "The Colossus of Rhodes", the same size as the Statue of Liberty) as well as a growing expressionism. The period is characterized by the spread of Greek culture (Hellenization) throughout the civilized world, including techniques of sculpture and mosaic art. Famous Hellenistic sculptures include: the celebrated "Venus de Milo", "Dying Gaul" by Epigonus the Pergamon Altar of Zeus (c.166-156 BCE) "Winged Victory of Samothrace" and "Laocoon and His Sons" by Hagesandrus, Polydorus and Athenodorus.

Greek pottery developed much earlier than other art forms: by 3000 BCE the Peloponnese was already the leading pottery centre. Later, following the take-over of the Greek mainland by Indo-European tribes around 2100 BCE, a new form of pottery was introduced, known as Minyan Ware. It was the first Greek type to be made on a potter's wheel. Despite this, it was Minoan pottery on Crete - with its new dark-on-light style - that predominated during the 2nd Millennium BCE. Thereafter, however, Greek potters regained the initiative, introducing a series of dazzling innovations including: beautifully proportioned Geometric Style pottery (900-725), as well as Oriental (725-600), Black-Figure (600-480) and Red-Figure (530-480) styles. Famous Greek ceramicists include Exekias, Kleitias, Ergotimos, Nearchos, Lydos, the Amasis Painter, Andokides, Euthymides, and Sophilos (all Black-Figure), plus Douris, Brygos and Onesimos (Red-Figure).

Etruscan Art (c.700-90 BCE)

In Etruria, Italy, the older Villanovan Culture gave way to Etruscan Civilization around 700 BCE. This reached its peak during the sixth century BCE as their city-states gained control of central Italy. Like the Egyptians but unlike the Greeks, Etruscans believed in an after-life, thus tomb or funerary art was a characteristic feature of Etruscan culture. Etruscan artists were also renowned for their figurative sculpture, in stone, terracotta and bronze. Above all Etruscan art is famous for its "joi de vivre", exemplified by its lively fresco mural painting, especially in the villas of the rich. In addition, the skill of Etruscan goldsmiths was highly prized throughout Italy and beyond. Etruscan culture, itself strongly influenced by Greek styles, had a marked impact on other cultures, notably the Hallstatt and La Tene styles of Celtic art. Etruscan culture declined from 396 BCE onwards, as its city states were absorbed into the Roman Empire.

For more about the history of painting, sculpture, architecture and crafts from Etruria, see: Etruscan art.

Celtic Art (c.600-100 BCE)

From about 600 BCE, migrating pagan tribes from the Russian Steppes, known as Celts, established themselves astride the Upper Danube in central Europe. Celtic culture, based on exceptional trading skills and an early mastery of iron, facilitated their gradual expansion throughout Europe, and led to two styles of Celtic art whose artifacts are known to us through several key archeological sites in Switzerland and Austria. The two styles are Hallstatt (600-450) and La Tene (450-100). Both were exemplified by beautiful metalwork and complex linear designwork. Although by the early 1st Millennium CE most pagan Celtic artists had been fully absorbed into the Roman Empire, their traditions of spiral, zoomorphic, knotwork and interlace designs later resurfaced and flourished (600-1100 CE) in many forms of Hiberno-Saxon art (see below) such as illuminated Gospel manuscripts, religious metalwork, and High Cross Sculpture. Famous examples of Celtic metalwork art include the Gundestrup Cauldron, the Petrie Crown and the Broighter gold torc.

Roman Art (c.200 BCE-400 CE)

Unlike their intellectual Greek neighbours, the Romans were primarily practical people with a natural affinity for engineering, military matters, and Empire building. Roman architecture was designed to awe, entertain and cater for a growing population both in Italy and throughout their Empire. Thus Roman architectural achievements are exemplified by new drainage systems, aqueducts, bridges, public baths, sports facilities and amphitheatres (eg. the Colosseum 72-80 CE), characterized by major advances in materials (eg. the invention of concrete) and in the construction of arches and roof domes. The latter not only allowed the roofing of larger buildings, but also gave the exterior far greater grandeur and majesty. All this revolutionized the Greek-dominated field of architecture, at least in form and size, if not in creativity, and provided endless opportunity for embellishment in the way of scultural reliefs, statues, fresco murals, and mosaics. The most famous examples of Roman architecture include: the massive Colosseum, the Arch of Titus, and Trajan's Column.

If Roman architecture was uniquely grandiose, its paintings and sculptures continued to imitate the Greek style, except that its main purpose was the glorification of Rome's power and majesty. Early Roman art (c.200-27 BCE) was detailed, unidealized and realistic, while later Imperial styles (c.27 BCE - 200 CE) were more heroic. Mediocre painting flourished in the form of interior-design standard fresco murals, while higher quality panel painting was executed in tempera or in encaustic pigments. Roman sculpture too, varied in quality: as well as tens of thousands of average quality portrait busts of Emperors and other dignitaries, Roman sculptors also produced some marvellous historical relief sculptures, such as the spiral bas relief sculpture on Trajan's Column, celebrating the Emperor's victory in the Dacian war.

For more about the history of painting, sculpture, architecture and crafts of ancient Rome, see: Roman art.

Early Art From Around the World

Although the history of art is commonly seen as being mainly concerned with civilizations that derived from European and Chinese cultures, a significant amount of arts and crafts appeared from the earliest times around the periphery of the known world. For more about the history and artifacts of these cultures, see: Oceanic art (from the South Pacific and Australasia), African art (from all parts of the continent) and Tribal art (from Africa, the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, Burma, Australasia, North America, and Alaska).


Why did manuscript production increase rapidly? - History

It took American labor longer than industrialists to successfully organize on a national basis. By the 1820s, craft workers in the Northeast had organized the first unions to protest the increased use of unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the production process. But these were local organizations. It was not until 1834 that the first national organization of wage earners, the National Trades' Union, was formed. By 1836, the organization claimed 300,000 members, but it rapidly lost membership during the financial panic of 1837.

In 1852, printers' locals in 12 cities organized the National Typographic Union, which fought for a common wage scale and restrictions on the use of apprentices. It was one of five national unions formed in the 1850s. Another 21 national unions were organized in the 1860s. By the early 1870s, about 300,000 workers were organization, making up about nine percent of the industrial labor force. But during the financial depression from 1873 to 1878, membership in labor organizations fell to just 50,000.

During the 1870s and 1880s, American workers began to form national labor unions in order to effectively negotiate with big corporations. The Knights of Labor was one of the most important early labor organizations in the United States. It wanted to organize workers into "one big brotherhood" rather than into separate unions made up of workers who had a common skill or who worked in a particular industry.

The Knights were founded in 1869 as a secret organization of tailors in Philadelphia. At first, the union had a strong Protestant religious orientation. But a decade later, when a Catholic, Terence V. Powderly was elected its head, the Knights became a national organization open to workers of every kind, regardless of their skills, sex, nationality, or race. The only occupations excluded from membership were bankers, gamblers, lawyers, and saloonkeepers.

At its height in 1885, the Knights claimed to have 700,000 members. Despite the Knight's rejection of strikes as a tactic in labor disputes, the union won big victories against the Union Pacific railroad in 1884 and the Wabash railroad in 1885. The Knights had a wide-ranging platform for social and economic change. The organization campaigned for an eight-hour work day, the abolition of child labor, improved safety in factories, equal pay for men and women, and compensation for on-the-job injury. As an alternative to wage labor, the Knights favored cooperatively run workshops and cooperative stores. The organization held the first Labor Day celebration in 1882.

The Knights declined rapidly after the 1886 Haymarket Square riot in Chicago, in which 11 people were killed by a bomb. The American Federation of Labor, a union of skilled workers, gradually replaced the Knights as the nation's largest labor organization. Unlike the Knights, which sought to organize workers regardless of craft, rejected the strike as a negotiating tool, and had a broad-based reform agenda, the American Federation of Labor was made up of craft unions and committed to "bread-and-butter" unionism. Its goals were narrower but also more realistic than those of the Knights. It sought to increase workers' wages, reduce their hours, and improve their working conditions.


Toyota’s Management History

One of the items Toyota highlights on their web site is winning the Deming Prize in 1965.

Professor Deming and Toyota President Fukio Nakagawa at the Deming Prize award ceremony (1965)

  1. To promote all-around quality control, including at affiliated companies such as suppliers and dealerships.
  2. To establish simple and effective management systems without being preoccupied by form, paying particular attention to ensuring checks and actions, and rotating the management cycle rapidly.
  3. To enhance overall planning and, from a long-term perspective, achieve swift and precise decision making and execution through coordination among management structures.

Toyota continued their efforts and became the first company awarded the Japan Quality Medal in 1970 (a company is eligible 5 years after winning the Deming Prize).

From Toyota’s Japan Quality Medal page, 1970 Basic Toyota Corporate Policy:

  1. Harness resources in and outside the company to grow and become a Global Toyota
  2. Practice ‘Good Thinking, Good Products’ at all times to raise the reputation of Toyota as a maker of quality products
  3. Establish mass production systems, achieve low prices, and contribute to the growth of the Japanese economy
  4. Be aware of the public nature of the automotive industry and contribute to the welfare of society

The Toyota history website includes a view into Toyota’s learning and continual improvement of their management system. In 1979:

A two-year management capability improvement program was implemented with the department and section managers specifying topics for operational improvement. Compared to the improvements being made at manufacturing sites, increases in the efficiency of management and administrative departments was lagging and the number of managers who had not experienced the Deming Prize screening was increasing, resulting in a rising sense of a need for improvement of the management skills of department and section managers.


Toyota understood the importance of adopting these ideas throughout the organization back in the 1970s. And some people still today think of these ideas as limited to manufacturing operations. There is still such a long way to go in improving the practice of management.

Meanwhile [1983], along with the establishment of the TQC Promotion Department President Shoichiro Toyoda announced a policy for the management team to take the lead in tackling quality control. Accordingly, the 1st QC Study Group, attended by all board members, was held over three days and two nights in June 1983. The themes for discussion, which included “integration and increased efficiency in sales, product planning, development, and production” and “strengthening of dealer corporate systems”, focused on internal coordination and coordination with dealer, as that was important immediately after the merger. From that year on, the QC training seminar for executives meeting came to be held every year, and in 1991, its ninth year, the group was renamed the Executive Study Group.

Toyota’s long term commitment to continual improvement of management practices has lead to an excellent management system. That management system is often referred to as the Toyota Production System and was also given the name “lean manufacturing.” Over time the lean manufacturing name has morphed as it is used by many people but at the core it is the Toyota Production System.


Why did manuscript production increase rapidly? - History

In the early years of the 1960s, prices were relatively stable, rising at a very slow rate. Between 1960 and 1965, the Consumer Price Index, a measure of the general price level, rose 6.54%, with an average annual percent increase of approximately 1.14%. This was particularly remarkable in light of the fact that the Kennedy Administration and early Johnson Administration had implemented policies which were designed to stimulate economic growth and reduce unemployment. Economic planners generally have to make a trade-off between maintaining low unemployment and low inflation. The Council of Economic Advisors, under Walter Heller, constructed a plan to maintain a healthy level of growth within controlled parameters that limited inflation. A stimulative tax cut was proposed, and then successfully implemented. In addition, the Federal Reserve resolved to maintain low interest rates, and the Kennedy Administration put pressure on industry and unions to keep price and wage increases to a minimum to ensure that there would be no upward pressure on the general price level. Thus, until 1965, the American economy was growing, the unemployment rate was falling, and there was almost no inflation.
Beginning in 1965, however, the general price level began to rise at an increasing rate. The CPI rose 23.07% from 1965 to 1970, with an annual percent increase of about 4.25%. While industrial production continued to rise and unemployment continued to fall, the economy came under severe pressure. The rapidly increasing general price level was unpopular, and eroded the incomes of the elderly and other Americans living on fixed incomes. High inflation also discouraged people from saving money, and increased the pressure on the dollar, which was already in a precarious position because of its role in the international monetary system. An increase in the demand for loans for defense contractors led the Federal Reserve to raise the discount rate from 4 to 4.5%.

The major disruption to the delicate balance achieved in the first half of the decade was the war in Vietnam. In July of 1965, President Johnson committed American forces to Vietnam. Wars generally bring about inflation, but the unrelieved financial demands of the war became a serious burden on the economy. The Defense Department estimated U.S. expenditures in support of obligations in Southeast Asia as $103 million in 1965, $5.8 billion in 1966, $20.1 billion in 1967, $26.5 billion in 1968, and $28.8 billion in 1969. Johnson did not want to consider it an all-out war, so he was reluctant to request that Congress pass a tax to finance the war. For two years, he held back, thus blowing a growing hole in the federal budget. Johnson's desire to maintain the Great Society domestic programs while fighting the war in Vietnam contributed further to federal debt. The production requirements which the war effort necessitated also pushed the economy beyond the careful constraints the Council of Economic Advisors had suggested to promote non-inflationary growth.

By 1966, the government wage and price controls were breaking down. This, combined with rising interest rates signaled the end of non-taxationary solutions to control inflation. After an economically painful 1966, Johnson was forced to overcome his resistance to taxes. On January 10, 1967, in his State of the Union Address, Johnson said, "I recommend to the Congress a surcharge of 6 percent on both corporate and individual income taxes&mdashto last for 2 years or for so long as the unusual expenditures associated with our efforts in Vietnam continue." Congress did not pass the tax until 1968, at which point the legislation levying a tax also required a reduction in government expenditures. On June 28, 1968, Johnson signed the Revenue and Expenditure Control Act into law, with its $10 billion tax increase and a $6 billion spending reduction. Many Great Society supporters were concerned that the spending reduction would threaten domestic social programs. Nevertheless, Congress was unable to cut the full $6 billion from the budget, and the fiscal 1969 budget ended up with a $3.2 billion surplus and intact Great Society programs.

Along with the American failures in Vietnam, the inflation of the late 1960s was a major factor in the breakdown of the Johnson Administration. Beyond its actual economic effects, it contributed to a general discontent with Johnson and his policies. In addition, the "Great Inflation" proved difficult to eradicate, continuing to plague the American economy into the 1970s, and defying control until 1982.

Percent Change of Consumer Price Index (1960-1970)
YEAR CPI (1967=100) % change from previous year
1960 88.7 &mdash
1961 89.6 1.01
1962 90.6 1.12
1963 91.7 1.21
1964 92.9 1.30
1965 94.5 1.72
1966 97.2 2.86
1967 100.0 2.88
1968 104.2 4.20
1969 109.8 5.37
1970 116.3 5.92


The History of U.S. Rice Production - Part 1

Rice has been an important crop in the economy and history of southwest Louisiana. Many people may not know, however, that the cultivation of rice in what is now the United States began in the Carolina colonies. The first recorded effort at rice cultivation was conducted by Dr. Henry Woodward of Charleston, S.C., in 1685. Dr. Woodward obtained the rice seed from Captain John Thurber, who had sailed his ship to Charleston from the island of Madagascar. The production of rice spread rapidly in this area, and by 1695, rice was being used for the payments of rents to the British Proprietors. In 1691, Peter Guerard was granted a colonial patent for the development of a pendulum engine to remove rice hulls. By 1700, South Carolina was exporting 400,000 pounds of rice annually.

At that time rice production depended on ponds and rainwater. Because labor was scarce in the region, Carolina planters began importing slave labor from Africa to plant and harvest rice. Because rice was being grown in many areas of Africa during these times, the Africans contributed their own methods of planting, hoeing, harvesting, threshing and polishing, which dramatically improved rice production capabilities. Production reached more than 1.5 million pounds by 1710 and more than 20 million pounds by 1720. The colony adopted a standard of weights and measurements for rice in 1714 that specified the size of the barrel used to ship rice, which is the origin of the barrel (162 lb) still used for measuring rice yields in southwest Louisiana today.

Rice cultivation and yields in the region greatly improved after 1750, when planters developed a system to use the tidal flow of coastal rivers to flood rice fields. The Atlantic Ocean tides, when rising, forced fresh water ahead of the seawater, which raised the fresh water level upriver. Around 1750, Mr. Mckewn Johnstone began devising a system of water gates that were forced open when the tides rose and closed as the tides receded. Using these gates as well as levees along the rivers, he was able to capture this fresh water and effectively use it to flood his rice production fields. Individual fields could be flooded and the water level adjusted independently of adjacent fields. This ingenious system opened thousands of new acres to rice production.

A second innovation that improved the industry was an improved, tidal-powered rice mill that was developed by Jonathan Lucas of Charleston in the late 1700s. He realized that the tidal water used to flood rice fields could also turn a waterwheel. Using the mortal and pestle milling approach, Lucas developed a water-driven milling system that could mill more than 100 barrels per day. Many such mills were constructed throughout the Carolinas and Georgia as well as in England, where they were used to mill rough rice imported from the colonies.

By the 1780s production in the region (South Carolina and Georgia) had reached 80,000,000 pounds. Then as today, about half of the annual rice production was exported and half was consumed in the United States.

Rice Moves to Louisiana

Several factors changed the face of U.S. rice production in the mid 1800s. The introduction of steam power allowed for steam-powered pumps, which assisted the development of rice production along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Water was pumped over levees into rice fields. Roller mills that had been first developed for use with wheat were adapted for use with rice. After 1850, a great deal of production developed along the Mississippi River, and New Orleans rapidly became the new center of rice milling and marketing activities. Events during this time – the Civil War, the end of slavery and the lack of available capital – caused serious problems for the U.S. rice industry between 1865 and 1880. Rice production along the East Coast declined rapidly. Most production during this period was on small areas along the Mississippi River, and these fields were often threatened by eroding levees and periodic floods.

Next month we will discuss the movement of rice production into the coastal prairies of southwest Louisiana. (Much of this history was obtained from Rice-Origin, History, Technology, and Production edited by Smith and Dilday).


Writing systems

Several types of writing systems evolved alongside the physical surfaces that accommodated them. The earliest of those systems included ideographic scripts, which use abstract symbols to represent concepts rather than words, and pictographic symbols, which represent concepts by visually depicting them. Logographic systems use signs called logograms to represent either words or morphemes (linguistically, the smallest units of semantic meaning) Egyptian hieroglyphics and the cuneiform scripts of the ancient Middle East provide examples. Chinese characters are logograms that can contain phonetic information and can stand for related or unrelated concepts in other East Asian languages, including Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Syllabaries, such as Japanese kana or the Cherokee orthography, map syllabic units to an assortment of symbols. More familiar, perhaps, are consonantal writing systems, in which symbols represent only consonants (leaving vowels to be inserted by the reader, as in Arabic, Hebrew, and Phoenician, the parent of Greek writing), and alphabets, where both consonants and vowels are matched to unique signs (Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, Mongolian, and the rationalizing alphabet of the International Phonetic Association, among scores more).

Writing systems appear to have arisen separately in various parts of the world as well as through direct genetic influence. For example, Mesopotamian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Chinese characters, the Cree syllabary, the Pahawh Hmong script, and the Vai syllabary have distinct, entirely independent indigenous origins. This is not to say that the general idea of writing was not paralleled by or imported from an adjoining culture but rather that the specific symbols and systems of writing were in such cases formulated without explicit prior models. On the other hand, the Latin alphabet, directly descended from Greek and ultimately Phoenician letters, changed over time to become the conventional writing system not simply for the English, Celtic, Romance, and other Indo-European languages but also for Turkish, Finnish, Basque, Maltese, and Vietnamese. Some systems have an uncertain origin, such as the Germanic orthography known as runes.

Methods for getting this inventory of different kinds of symbols onto available surfaces have varied a great deal in strategy, in the time and energy required for the task, and in the permanence of the product. Until the invention of moveable type, writing was often the job of specialists who spent long periods generating singular, quite perishable texts. Paper books proved to be rapidly and easily replicable with the printing press, making possible mass readerships, but they too have faced problems of fragility, wear, and oxidation (relieved by acid-free paper). The digital age has raised new opportunities and challenges associated with sustainability, while it has also called copyright conventions into question by making publication, replication, and distribution fast, simple, and individually driven. (See also writing: Types of writing systems and History of writing systems.)


The Consequences

In the end, through a combination of disastrous economic policy and adverse weather conditions, an estimated 20 to 48 million people died in China. Most of the victims starved to death in the countryside. The official death toll from the Great Leap Forward is "only" 14 million, but the majority of scholars agree that this is a substantial underestimate.

The Great Leap Forward was supposed to be a five-year plan, but it was called off after just three tragic years. The period between 1958 and 1960 is known as the "Three Bitter Years" in China. It had political repercussions for Mao Zedong as well. As the originator of the disaster, he ended up being sidelined from power until 1967, when he called for the Cultural Revolution.



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