In the 17/1800s, England was very much powered by steam. However, not much advanced in the department outside of factory machinery. I feel that, had workers been given decent wages and hours, maybe inventors would have felt more inclined towards creating steam-powered devices for everyday people. But in this scenario, would coal- and electric-powered devices have been created more rapidly, due to the influx of people with time to do research of their own/with enough income to receive college educations?
What do you think would be the ideal scenario for a steampunk society to come about? Do you think there's a time in human history where we could have done a few things slightly differently and ended up with this instead?