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Coal and the European Industrial Revolution

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  • Fernihough, Alan
  • O'Rourke, Kevin Hjortshøj

Abstract

We examine the importance of geographical proximity to coal as a factor underpinning comparative European economic development during the Industrial Revolution. Our analysis exploits geographical variation in city and coalfield locations, alongside temporal variation in the availability of coal-powered technologies, to quantify the effect of coal availability on historic city population sizes. Since we suspect that our coal measure could be endogenous, we use a geologically derived measure as an instrumental variable: proximity to rock strata from the Carboniferous era. Consistent with traditional historical accounts of the Industrial Revolution, we find that coal had a strong influence on city population size from 1800 onward. Counterfactual estimates of city population sizes indicate that our estimated coal effect explains at least 60% of the growth in European city populations from 1750 to 1900. This result is robust to a number of alternative modelling assumptions regarding missing historical population data, spatially lagged effects, and the exclusion of the United Kingdom from the estimation sample.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9819.

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Date of creation: Feb 2014
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9819

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Keywords: Coal; Geography; Historical Population; Industrial Revolution;

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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Le charbon et la Révolution industrielle
    by ? in D'un champ l'autre on 2014-02-04 15:49:00
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Cited by:
  1. Juan Moreno-Cruz & M. Scott Taylor, 2014. "A Spatial Approach to Energy Economics: Theory, Measurement and Empirics," CESifo Working Paper Series 4845, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Sofia Teives Henriques & Paul Sharp, 2014. "The Danish Agricultural Revolution in an Energy Perspective: A Case of Development with Few Domestic Energy Sources," Working Papers 0056, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

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