I have a fantasy universe that has magic but I still try to make it the most scientifically accurate I can. However, how can I prevent the Industrial Revolution? This world is medieval, and it needs to stay this was for a long time, at least a couple thousand years. However, a society always evolves technologically: what can I do to stop that from happening? The magic in this world works by crystals, they emit a powerful energy that can be manipulated. They are also very rare, and a small crystal is already very powerful.

To the top answer, I want a solution that can incorporate magical evolution, but has a way to stop or delay the industrial revolution for at least 3000 years, and at least one of the main causes of the delay or impediment of it needs to be magic.

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    $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps it is a duplicate of that question. And this question, and this question. The only difference is the use of magic, which which one can do anything one wishes. The biggest problem is that stopping the industrial revolution means stopping innovation, curiosity, investigation, experimentation, problem-solving, and epiphany. It's a tall order, even with magic. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 16, 2019 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ "and at least one of the main causes of the delay or impediment of it needs to be magic". Isn't that the whole point? $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2019 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ What level of technology do they already have? $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 16, 2019 at 19:52

4 Answers 4


You need cotton spun? Abra cada... Oh you need it all spun. Let me research and get back to you.

Magic manipulation is just another science. The more time and brains is spent on it the better it can be manipulated.

Now for your world to stay delayed (other sciences do not advance) for a few thousands years I would suggest that all great minds of the world throw themselves into Magic.

Think of it as a brain drain from other sciences. This would not stop progress in other sciences but it would slow it down considerably.

To slow it down some more I'm going to throw elitism into the mix. Your magic users see themselves as above everyone else and seldom uses magic to explore the other sciences. They rather spend all their time researching their crystals to see how they can make: their levitation cloud go 1 m/s faster; Shoot a bigger fireball; mend a broken bone; ...

Over time the amount of achievable advancements in magic would be limited by the stunted growth of the other sciences (Need lasers to improve the crystals resonance) and great minds would start to diffuse into other sciences.

For reference of evolution of magic:

  1. Some stones seem to affect people. (Faster, Stronger,...)

    "This is gods doing. We must all listen to god. Throw away your man made tools and pick up gods voice. It will allow you to achieve more"

  2. Melting these stones with a flux gives a glob that is "probably" more potent.

    "The interaction between the forces of the gods will decide who is worthy. Who dare use a sword."

  3. Shape of the byproduct greatly influences what the affect is.

    "The face of god can be revealed as we try to mold it."

  4. Processing these stones gives a glob that is more potent than the normal stone.

    "Melt gods stone with pure white marble. Then wash with water from the sea mixed with a dogs liver."

  5. Complex shapes can now be cast perfectly. Complex shapes are designed by researchers in Magic and can now store multiple functions (can cast fireball and/or levitation).

  6. Components. Crystals are now built as components and combined to make more powerful spells. Think of placing multiple crystal in-line on a staff.

  7. Magic scientists have come to realize there isn't just one crystal but in reality it's the interaction between 5 unique crystals. Concentration of elements of each crystal and environmental conditions when the crystals form as one is now where magic scientists are.

I can keep going but at one point we can simply say that a lack in technology in a different discipline will halt research in magic.

As long as we do not achieve a technological plateau in the field of magic I do not see an industrial revolution. I see a magical revolution followed by an industrial revolution.


Remove fossil fuels A lot of the industrial revolution was only possible thanks to fossil fuels being burned to power steam and other engines. Even today we struggle to replace them with much more advanced technology. If in your world they did not exist at all this would slow down the industrial revolution quite a bit.

Smart people are mages So in our world smart people often become scientists or engineers but this wasn't always the case. At one point in time smart people became clergy instead and focused their energies on religion rather than science. In your case the people smart enough to invent technology are instead all trying to figure out magic and so technology is much slower to develop.

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    $\begingroup$ Any struggle is not to find an alternative, but a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels. The industrial revolution was started on watermills and windmills, not steam power (which came later to feed the needs of industrialization). Furthermore, charcoal works well for most uses of coal (yes, you can run a blast furnace on charcoal - last one in the US shut down in 1945, and is still competitive in some areas of the world without coal), and biofuels can replace petroleum reasonably well. Development would be different, but in not necessarily inhibited. $\endgroup$ Apr 17, 2019 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ Using charcoal has a natural upper limit. If you use more timber than what grows during a year, you end up with deforestation. Forestry was "invented" because people used too much wood. Fossil fuels allow us to use what has grown millions of years ago. So development would be drastically slowed. $\endgroup$
    – Dohn Joe
    Apr 17, 2019 at 15:29

Make Magic More Commonplace

If you make magic rare, then there will be plenty of people looking for ways to gain power, and if magic is hard to come by, then machines are the solution. Even without steam power (as suggested by Eric), wind and water power can go a long way towards powering the revolution.

So the solution? Make it unnecessary. If a gem can be acquired for something a merchant can afford that makes your carriage run without a horse, why would anyone invent a car? If another gem can power a golem who will sew incessantly, people are much less likely to look for a mechanical solution to the problem. The more accessible these are (your cornerstore mage, for instance), the less likely you'll have people looking for alternative solutions, and the longer the tech innovations will be delayed.

Now, you do run the risk of pulling an Inverse Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology." If you have a sewing gem for a clothing merchant, they're going to be interested in getting more. If you're a sewing mage, you're going to want to find a way to make more gems quickly and efficiently. This is likely going to start looking like an assembly line quickly. But it won't look like the ones we saw in our own Industrial Revolution.

  • $\begingroup$ "If a gem can be acquired for something a merchant can afford that makes your carriage run without a horse" So... a car? I think this solution would actually accelerate the industrial revolution. $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2019 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ It depends on what the OP means by "industrial revolution". $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Apr 16, 2019 at 19:11

You might also check how other places avoided the industrial revolution for a long time:

China reverted both to agriculture and to isolation, stunting it at a near-industrialised level for a thousand or so years.

Europe was slowed down by religious fanaticism. Until competition from the Muslims forced the Christians to adapt. And even that was a slow process until Protestantism broke the monopoly of the church.

Africa was apparently a little to aggressive for industrialisation: Every attempt to hoard the necessary resources would quickly be met with a war lord who wants to take them over. Among other similar issues. Whereby outside powers did their best to help such tendencies. How about a little Venice-like country trying to keep everyone down by supplying war lords with weapons, selling drugs and other such backhanded tactics? You may call it perfidious mini-albion...

The Americas developed far slower because they were isolated. So make your continents smaller and more remote from one another, and everything develops much slower. You can do that after they reach your desired level, if you don't want them too different, for instance through a sudden rise in sea levels.

The Holy Roman Empire was always far too conservative, split and legalistic to have any kind of positive development (similar to the EU today). Give the whole world a central bureaucracy, and it will stay very unproductive...

Many European states made laws against factories because they didn't like the pollution with ashes from the coal furnaces. They were quickly overrun by their more industrious neighbors, though.

The Muslim world seems to have deteriorated through more and more strong-man ideology, after their intellectual elite concentrated in Baghdad and the Mongols eventually cut their heads off.

And so on, and so forth.


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