I've been creating a science fantasy conworld, but I'm honestly not interested as much in pre-industrial stuff. But I don't want to ignore the pre-industrial history, so I'm looking for a way for the Industrial Revolution to happen as soon as possible.

While most fantasy settings are medieval, this one is not. Furthermore, while most settings assume a dark ages of some sort before renaissance and industrialization, this doesn't have to be true -- the Song Dynasty of China nearly industrialized several hundred years before England, and it only didn't because the Mongols invaded. So I'd like to avoid the dark ages trope as well.

Limitations and conditions of the magic involved: magic requires a human to be performed (NB: it can be performed without humans, but that is difficult enough to be done long after industrialization), electricity and heat/fire magic is possible, alchemy/transmutation is also possible. Magic is fuelled by mana, which is found naturally in the world, generated from solar and kinetic energy. Assume the magic is more like elemental manipulation and such, not Harry Potter-esque "clean yourselves, dishes".

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    $\begingroup$ Industrial revolution was really driven by war and the need to manufacture. What reason do your people have here to industrialize? $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Feb 23, 2015 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ War, conquest, and economics, too. $\endgroup$
    – user6383
    Feb 24, 2015 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ "The Song Dynasty of China nearly industrialized several hundred years before England": this is powerfully non-traditional history. The Song Empire was about as industrialized as the (Eastern) Roman Empire had been in the 6th century; that is, not really. Their economy was firmly based on agriculture. Yes, they were a bit more advanced technologically than other contemporary polities, but the difference was not all that great. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 30, 2019 at 5:03

3 Answers 3


2 Minute Version:

"And as my third wish, I desire a complete implementation of a Kardashev Type II industrial infrastructure around the planet's primary."

Harry Potter Version:

"Manufacturo perpetuum mobile!"

Dark Satanic (mana-)Mills version:

A century at most. Presumably, mana can be harnessed with high efficiency compared to steam or solar power by a previously agrarian civ. Moreover, magic can be used to refine tools, including tools that make magic more powerful. Since the mana resource does not need to be mined, and needs no infrastructure to develop, the magic-driven industrial revolution can proceed at accelerated pace. Even if magic is hard to master, schools of Thaumaturgic Engineers will start churning mages out on industrial scales. The artefacts they create will soon pervade every household, improving productivity at rates undreamt by our measly coal-driven industrial revolution. The only source of concern would be the social implications. How quickly would these Engineers take power, and how would the reactionary forces react against them? Think the French revolution at 10x speed.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow, you literally answered the question 6 seconds faster than me $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2015 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ @grimmsdottir As if by magic. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2015 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ Respondio cito! $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2015 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ I did some reading when I was considering answering this. While my idea of the Industrial Revolution was like yours (coal-drive engines and industry) apparently it actually started out as a textile-based cottage industry - people sitting around churning out clothing. That was the initial impetuous on Earth to start the industry drive, and I'm not sure how much magic would impact something like that. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2015 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ Would it be plausible to have a government decree that everybody should be trained in magic, like the mandatory archery of 1500s England, and while the top go into military, the rest begin using their abilities to assist in work, eventually systematizing and industrializing? $\endgroup$
    – user6383
    Feb 24, 2015 at 6:46

Alright then, to be able to do something, you will generally need these 3 things in order to do a thing, anything in fact.

  • Can you do the thing?
  • Do you know how to do the thing?
  • Do you want to do the thing?

Can they do it?

Since you stated that magic can only work with a user nearby doing it, and there are no simple things like:

not Harry Potter-esque "clean yourselves, dishes".

What I would imagine the industry of a magic society would then be a bit like the city from the Legend of Korra, where they had fire bender clock in and shoot lightning at a dynamo thing, which then powers the rest of the city via electricity. I would then imagine that if your magic is primarily elemental manipulation, than it would also likely end up like that.

Not only that, since your mana is solar and kinetic powered, your power generators would then be actually quite reasonably green and eco friendly.

So, can they create electricity? The answer would be a simple yes. If your magic using society from the far future was cast out to another planet or something, they would be very quickly be able to industrialize things. However, that is based on a fairly important thing that needs to be discussed next, which is:

Do they know how to do it?

Very obviously not at first, so they would have to go through roughly the same progression of science in order to be able to create dynamos to generate electricity, uniform spring steel in order to build factories, and some other things.

This would probably be the factor that makes the magic using society fairly slow at industrializing, I would imagine, as there would be fairly little need for a magic using society to advance their sciences to the point of industrialization.

Your society would need to be forced into advancing their industrialization, and for that I can imagine a short and simple Dark Age where their magic simply stopped working for some time, like a century or so, would cause industrialization to happen quite surprisingly fast.

Do they want to do it?

Well, as their population grows, subsistence and local craftsmen would simply be unable to work well enough, so of course they would see a need to increase their production of anything, from food crops to magic wands in order to be able to sustain their growing population


Well considering how japan in the real world was able to industrialize unto a modernist type society within two decades instead of two centuries like some sorts of the world, I think using magic as a developmental catalyst to speed up the scientific innovation process a society could industrloze to WW2/Cold war Era equipment within 10 years... if it was guided by a very smart and infutential leader who had modern knowledge and foresight


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