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A biophysical model of the industrial revolution

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  • Christopher Kennedy

Abstract

Several biophysical characteristics underlay Britain's Industrial Revolution: improvements in agricultural productivity, large increases in use of coal‐energy supply, and physical construction of infrastructure for industrialization and urbanization. These characteristics are represented in a four‐sector model of Britain's economy (1760 to 1913) including agriculture, mining, construction of capital, and the production of goods and services. The model has a novel mathematical representation of a dynamic general equilibrium between capital, labor, and energy in an economy. Historical data are used to calibrate the model for growth of Britain's capital stock, coal use, and employment during the Industrial Revolution (first and second periods). Model simulations explore the impacts of two biophysical constraints: stagnation in agricultural productivity and reduced efficiency in coal mining in the absence of steam engines. Both scenarios exhibit substantial reductions in the growth of capital stock and significant changes to the distribution of labor. This article met the requirements for a gold‐gold JIE data openness badge described at http://jie.click/badges.

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  • Christopher Kennedy, 2021. "A biophysical model of the industrial revolution," Journal of Industrial Ecology, Yale University, vol. 25(3), pages 663-676, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:inecol:v:25:y:2021:i:3:p:663-676
    DOI: 10.1111/jiec.13077
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    1. Kennedy, Christopher, 2022. "Capital, energy and carbon in the United States economy," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 314(C).
    2. Kennedy, Christopher, 2022. "The Intersection of Biophysical Economics and Political Economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 192(C).

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