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Explaining the first Industrial Revolution: two views


This review article looks at the recent books on the British Industrial Revolution by Robert Allen and Joel Mokyr. Both writers seek to explain Britain's primacy. This article offers a critical but sympathetic account of the main arguments of the two authors, considering both the economic logic and the empirical validity of their rival claims. In each case, the ideas are promising but the evidence base seems in need of further support. It may be that eventually these explanations for British economic leadership at the turn of the nineteenth century are recognized as complementary rather than competing.

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R. C. Allen (2009a). The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

M. Casson (2009). The World's First Railway System: Enterprise, Competition, and Regulation on the Railway Network in Victorian Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

C. Macleod (1988). Inventing the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D. C. North (2005). Understanding the Process of Economic Change. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

D. C. North and R. P. Thomas (1973). The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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European Review of Economic History
  • ISSN: 1361-4916
  • EISSN: 1474-0044
  • URL: /core/journals/european-review-of-economic-history
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