200 years of change for the better

I got the link for this interactive graph from David Brin’s site, Contrary Brin, who says:

A classic animation showing how life expectancy and wealth have varied in a wide sampling of nations, across the last 200 years. See China “bounce” during the 1840s T’ai Ping Rebellion and points scatter during the two world wars, then a more recent acceleration as much of the world catches up – at last – with the West.

It is indeed a pleasure to watch — mostly — though you sure do see points dip and scatter during various disasters. But check it out. It’s hard to remember how terrible life expectancy was 200 years ago. Look at the bottom of the graph and there are all kinds of countries where life expectancy was around twenty-five. Wow.

And can you ever spot the Cultural Revolution. Grim.

Given how times are tough right now all over the world, it’s kind of reassuring to look back to the year 1800 and see how far we really have come, and imagine that whatever happens, hopefully most of the world won’t see more than a slight dip before continuing upward.

For you historians out there: what the heck is going on all through the 1800s that causes India to dip down over and over like a bouncing rubber ball, before it finally starts to climb?

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2 thoughts on “200 years of change for the better”

  1. India from c. 1700 was in a time of troubles due to the fall of the Mughal Empire and the growth of British authority. Things didn’t really settle down until after the Sepoy Mutiny in the 1850s when the British government took direct control from the East India Company.

    (My understanding is that the demographics of India also involve an awful lot of guesswork down to the 1880s, but there may be better techniques or data than I’ve heard of.)

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