The Anglican religion, England’s state religion, can hardly be called protestant like the Lutheran or Calvinist religions, it’s a pseudo Catholic religion. When King Henry VIII personally replaced the Pope as head of the Church of England, he and the country remained very much Catholic. In time, that church was strongly influenced by the Puritans and the Lollards who had followed John Wycliffe’s teachings and wanted to change the liturgy, but it remained true to its Roman Catholic roots. The strong anti-royalist or anti-papist feelings in England in the 17th century were a sign of the growing opposition to Church abuse, of course, but the Catholic Church’s demise was mainly due to the work of the Jews and the Huguenots who had created the East India Company in Amsterdam, in 1602. As the company dominated world trade, its owners became very powerful, and they were more determined than ever to destroy their mortal enemy, the Holy Roman Empire, or the Ancien Regimes of Europe.
When Charles I was decapitated in 1649, it marked the beginning of the end for the Absolute Kings of Divine Right and the Ancien Regime of England. At that time, the East India Company effectively controlled the economy of the Netherlands, but it had always wanted to move its headquarters from Amsterdam to the City in London. However, because Cromwell had disappointed his sponsors when he failed to establish a proper parliamentary system in England, they had had to postpone democracy for another 40 years until the circumstances were favorable for William and Mary to wear the crown.
In 1694, once established in the City at the helm of the Bank of England, investment in research and development (R&D) could start in earnest. Because they were sure to have their loans repaid in a timely and just fashion, they invested with abandon and launched what became known as the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to ready credit, the English economy became dynamic, and European know-how flowed into the country. The bankers then started financing infrastructure projects in order to facilitate tax collection, internal trade, commerce and exchange of ideas. However, developing road and canal transport didn’t happen overnight, and the Industrial Revolution had to wait for the steam engine to really get started.
Denis Papin, a Huguenot from Hesse, had developed the cylinder and piston concept as early as 1695, but the use of steam was not fully exploited until James Watt invented the condenser in 1765. The Industrial Revolution coincided with the creation of the Bank of North America and Elie Whitney’s mindboggling invention, the cotton gin with interchangeable parts, in 1781. The main industry of the times, cotton, had experienced a great leap forward with the invention of the flying shuttle in 1733, the spinning Jenny in 1764, and the spinning frame in 1769, but it was the use of steam power and the invention of the cotton gin that revolutionized the greatest industry of the times.
On the iron side of things, railroads started being built in early 19th century, but the rails were made with wrought iron and were not durable. Sir Henry Bessemer, another Huguenot, changed all that when he invented a steel making process in 1856. In his blast furnaces, air oxidized and raised the temperature of the molten pig iron, while a small quantity of molten pig iron containing manganese was added and converted the whole large mass of molten iron into steel in just minutes, without the need for any additional fuel. That’s when track started being laid non-stop across Europe and America. In 1876, limestone was added to draw out phosphorous and make the steel less brittle, turning it into the wondrous material we know today.
Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1844, Elias Howe, the sewing machine, in 1846, Graham Bell, the telephone, in 1876, Thomas Edison, the light bulb in 1879, Galileo Ferraris & Nikola Tesla, the A/C motor in 1888, and Charles Steinmetz, the A/C transformer in 1893. When George Westinghouse bought Tesla’s invention and started distributing A/C electrical current over long distances, the whole world lit up.
The Bank of England created in 1694 was the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution, but it didn’t get started until steam power became a functional everyday reality. But more was to come. Because the Bank of England was made up of dozens of private bankers, it didn’t speak with one voice, and though the bankers had become very powerful, they had also become very English, and very parochial. It wasn’t until the first genuine international banker created the Bank of North America in 1781, and officially took over the English monetary system in 1810, did the world have an international financial institution that spoke with one voice. Today, two hundred years after that takeover, we are the ones who enjoy the benefits of the great market economies made possible by that man and his dynasty.