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I'm working on a project right now, and in this world I was hoping for a rapid industrialization and technological development. In the span of 70-80 years I plan to have this world go from the (roughly) 14th century to the 19th. There are ruins scattered about the world of people who did it before, so 'modern' people would be able to reference those to make it easier I assume? Unfortunately, most of the easy to get resources are long gone as well.

EDIT: I should have been more specific with the technology. By 19th century I mean 1880-1900.

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    $\begingroup$ It all depends on how many already knowledgeable people you have working for you, and how how large is your pre-existing industrial, agricultural, and educational base. The USSR did it for a very large part of its population and territory, but they could rely on millions of already educated people and on a sizeable pre-existing infrastructural base. For a simple example: how many educators can you dedicate for how many years to the task of alphabetizing the masses and masses of serfs? What will they eat during this time? What will they eat once the serfs start being employed in industry? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 15, 2022 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds like your industrial revolution wouldn't need the same preconditions or circumstances as the historical one, since as you put it, they find ruined evidence of a previous time. However, you are leaving an important detail out of it, which is the nature of the problem that wiped out the predecessors who had accomplished it before. This is part of the answer to the question because we don't know what resources are available to the surviving human group. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2022 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ To go through an industrial revolution, they first need an agricultural revolution to both boost the population and to provide enough food to sustain the large surplus of non-farm workers needed to operate factories, mines, etc. That alone is going to take more than 70-80 years without some sort of herculean effort with the full cooperation of the populace. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2022 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ Get rid of narcissism, ego, and an adversarial approach. Replace it with social responsibikity, goal sharing, co-operation, common goal and mutual synergy. It also requires a common unified government. You could probably do it in 40 years or less. Look at the progress China has made in just 40 years. $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2022 at 3:56

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Consider looking at examples within this world.

When I visited the People's Republic of China in 1984, there was little industrialization. When I went back 30 years later, nearly every aspect of life had been changed.

Most of this was internally generated. Much knowledge was imported, either of specific processes and techniques, or of the evidence seen in the then-industrialized world that things were possible. Engineering is always easier when one knows that the desired result is possible.

If your society had been slowly building a functional base of metallurgy, ceramics, and metrology, with an impetus and focus on the people to push forward, coupled with knowledge imported from the outside, vast development is possible.

Your question makes the problem harder, since you posit that this is a second wave development. The primary resources, such as iron ore, may have been depleted, but the materials of the first society wave must still exist. Can your people stumble on a landfill, or a concentrated former military base, or some other lost industrial facility?

The written knowledge may be harder to recover. Asimov's "Second Foundation" involved a pseudo-religious cult preserving history. In the absence of that, you could discover a large, underground science experiment along the lines of the current deep neutrino detectors, or even the LHC. Those facilities would have local reference copies of construction diagrams, plus the machine-tool shop to locally construct many repair parts.

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    $\begingroup$ "Most of this was internally generated." citation needed. China sends its brightest out of country for their education, makes special deals with foreign companies to provide industrialization, and brings in vast wealth by selling cheap labor exports. This suggests strongly Chinese industrialization is a result of mostly mimicry with coincidental positioning. Also, most importantly, none of this is available in the OP's scenario. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Jan 16, 2022 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ I meant that most of the bulk materials were internally generated. I stated that the development was built the "know how" from the rest of the world, and I tried to equate that with knowledge that might be found in a few preserved places from the prior technology wave. $\endgroup$
    – cmm
    Jan 17, 2022 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ Fortunately, I plan on there being a somewhat relevant religion devoted to the procurement and repair of pre-apocolypse materials, literature, and technology. Do you think that might be able to speed things up? $\endgroup$
    – Preott
    Jan 17, 2022 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ The religion that you plan could benefit from some significant backstory, and could, itself, be a character in a story. You can take it anywhere you might want, from the development and evolution of the religion itself, to the influence on any secular government, to the deliberate leakage of the "secrets" from inside the religion to those outside. Going further really doesn't belong in the comments. $\endgroup$
    – cmm
    Jan 18, 2022 at 22:14
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Longer than 80 years

If they had the tech and the resources, they could do it in that much time, but without the resources it's gonna be much harder for several reasons.

Coal and iron mines are hard to find and develop.

For an industrial revolution you need lots of iron and coal. This means deep mines and experienced miners, which takes quite a few years.

With no easily accessible resources they'll have trouble building a lot of stuff.

Trade is needed for an industrial revolution.

One of the reasons people tech up is so that you can sell lots of cheap goods to foreigners. This means boats, and trade with other nations.

That's hard to do if you don't have any wood.

Lead is needed for chemicals.

The lead chamber process needs lots of sulphur dioxide and lead to make sulphuric acid, which lets you make a ton of other chemicals.

Unfortunately, you lack resources, so you can't do this.

The industrial revolution relied on centuries of experience mining and accessing resources. Without resources, you can't rush it.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was never aware that lead was necessary for chemicles (or at least I forgot it a long time ago.), so thank you for reminding me. As for wood, it would have grown back long before this story takes place, but coal and iron would be more problematic. Large-scale recycling might work at first for iron, but this would be a several thousand year timespan. Perhaps I could just give this world a lot more coal than our own? $\endgroup$
    – Preott
    Jan 17, 2022 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, you could give the world a lot more coal. There is the problem that there's not much coal near the surface, and most is underground, but you could also have the prior civilization be less reliant on coal and more reliant on wood burning. You could also leave lying around some ancient well preserved mines. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jan 17, 2022 at 10:04
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On a virgin field with the knowledge not only of what to build but where to get the materials for it you could do it in a generation. By which I mean something like taking a full set of ordinance survey maps and the Encyclopedia Britannica back to the bronze age.

However here we're talking about a post apocalyptic setting, that's rather different. Some resources, like refined metals, are possibly more accessible in the form of material from ruined cities while other resources like high energy density fuels, low sulfur self coking anthracite in particular, are going to be next to non-existent. Deposits of pure chemical elements like sulfur are going to be a wildcard (once you have electricity you can do much of the work of sulfuric acid with cheap nitric acid made using a spark trap but in some applications it remains indispensable). Without feed stock for the chemical industry and high energy fuels for foundries etc... you can't bootstrap the early industrial revolution steps that let you spread the load across many marginal resources instead of a few high quality deposits.

You also have an issue concerning population density, the industrial revolution was only possible because Europe, and especially the UK, was able to mechanise farming and move a largely rural population into cities allowing greater job specialisation and division of labour; in a post apocalyptic setting many strategically important sites for cities are covered in ruins that may or may not be safe to inhabit. "Good" farmland will be thinly scattered and could be low in productivity for any of a number of reasons. Supporting any large urban centre becomes a tenuous proposition under those circumstances.

With the right knowledge and in the right place, with good water, good farmland, dense fast growing hardwood forests and rich pickings from the bones of one of their dead forebears vast cities they could make a go of it but 80 years is only three generations and the population probably simply won't be able to grow enough to make it work.

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  • $\begingroup$ You couldn't do it in a generation. There are just too many cases of "make the tools to make the tools" in the critical path. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Jan 16, 2022 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark There aren't that many qualitative changes in the technology between the late bronze age and the early industrial revolution there are relatively small improvements in efficiency and vast increases in scale going from stone and bronze to cast iron as a primary material. The tools that built the first steam engines can all be made by a blacksmith. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jan 16, 2022 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ In this setting, this apocolypse would have happened roughly 5,000 years prior. The ruins are very well preserved due to a mix of climate and a near obsession with leaving a legacy by the pre-apocolypse nations. $\endgroup$
    – Preott
    Jan 17, 2022 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash, but they can't do it at scale. A blacksmith might be able to turn a wagon-load of iron ore into steel over the course of a year; a mechanical crusher, hot-blast furnace, and Bessemer converter can turn a train-load of iron ore into steel in a day. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Jan 17, 2022 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Preott Any sort of devotion to preserving the ruins of the past is going to slow you way down. After the apocalypse, for a couple of generations in temperate climates, a city is a mine not just for raw material but for a lot of finished goods like gears and machine tools and for knowledge as well, but it's a mine with an expiration date; if those generations don't exploit those resources they're going to lose a lot more ground technologically than if they do and have a much harder time clawing anything back. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jan 18, 2022 at 4:45
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It really depends on how many people and resources you have. I’m not sure I am entirely understanding your situation, but from the information you provided, it seems feasible.

Consider also, that the economic forces of your society will have a very dramatic effect on the speed of innovation. Technology can advance pretty quickly in a booming economy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Of course, it also depends on how many knowledgeable people you have as well. $\endgroup$
    – Kal Madda
    Jan 15, 2022 at 22:47

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