March 12: Technology, Investment, and the Industrial Revolution [DeLong]
March 12 Memo Question: Maxine Berg and Pat Hudson write that the "historiography of the industrial revolution in England has moved away from viewing the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a unique turning point in economic and social development." Do you agree with their conclusion that the literature has moved too far in this direction? Why or why not?
- Nicholas Crafts (2002), "The Solow Productivity Paradox in Historical Perspective," (London: CEPR Discussion Paper no.3142) http://www.cepr.org/pubs/dps/DP3142.asp
- Maxine Berg and Pat Hudson, "Rehabilitating the Industrial Revolution," Economic History Review new ser. 45, pp.23-50 http://www.jstor.org/view/00130117/di011838/01p0208u/0
- Peter Temin, "Two Views of the British Industrial Revolution," Journal of Economic History 57, pp.63-82 http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberhi/0081.html
- Jeffrey Williamson, "Why Was British Economic Growth So Slow During the Industrial Revolution?" Journal of Economic History 44, pp.687-712 http://www.jstor.org/view/00220507/di975668/97p1230f/0
More Food for Thought:
Greg Clark argues that eighteenth and early nineteenth century England would have urbanized and "industrialized" even in the absence of the revolutions in spinning, weaving, and ironworking: http://delong.typepad.com/teaching_spring_2006/2008/03/the-industriali.html
More hyper-industrial-revolution revisionism from Greg Clark: http://delong.typepad.com/teaching_spring_2006/2008/03/what-was-the-in.html:
[I]f we want to locate the Industrial Revolution as the beginning of the era of sustained productivity growth then the [sixteenth-century] Dutch have as good a case as the British. If we want to locate it in the era of very widespread productivity growth affecting large sectors of the economy, then the US in the after the 1870s is the best candidate....
[T]he conclusion is that there was little productivity growth in the Industrial Revolution era beyond that explained by the technological revolution in textiles... the accident that textiles were exported on a large scale by 1800, explained by the need to import large quantities of food and raw materials given English population growth after 1760, accounts for a substantial fraction of the gains in productivity. The Industrial Revolution becomes very narrow. It can then be interpreted as just another isolated technological advance [like printing or very long-distance trade that] European economies had been witnessing since at least the fifteenth century.