In recent years there has been some penetrating historical writing on the pre- and early conditions of rapid industrialization in Britain and western Europe. While not establishing any exact theoretical framework, these studies affirm a number of general propositions, such as: the importance of social, including political, preconditions; the necessity of an adequate business structure; and the value of studying change more minutely to see the effect of regional as well as national differences. An overall conclusion that emerges is that rapid change to substantially higher productivity is a very complex social process in which the same conditions may operate in various areas with differing force and effects. Furthermore, it appears that no single social science provides an adequate array of questions. Studies in anthropology, economics, geography, political science, social psychology, and sociology can contribute to theory, or isolate important variables, but these must in some fashion be tested against reality over time by materials supplied chiefly by historians.
The United States with its continental differences and semi-autonomous state administrations offers excellent opportunities for both regional and comparative study. One topic that is particularly attractive, because it has been relatively neglected, is the rapid industrialization of the Delaware and Susquehanna areas—southern New Jersey, eastern Maryland, northern Delaware, and eastern Pennsylvania. This article is a brief preview of the types of research that some of us will pursue in forthcoming years. The examples cited come more from Pennsylvania than from the other states because of a larger secondary literature.