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Precocious Albion: a new interpretation of the British industrial revolution

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  • Morgan Kelly
  • Joel Mokyr
  • Cormac Ó Gráda

Abstract

Why was Britain the cradle of the Industrial Revolution? Answers vary: some focus on resource endowments, some on institutions, some on the role of empire. In this paper, we argue for the role of labour force quality or human capital. Instead of dwelling on mediocre schooling and literacy rates, we highlight instead the physical condition of the average British worker and his higher endowment of skills. These advantages meant that British workers were more productive and better paid than their Continental counterparts and better equipped to capitalize on the technological opportunities and challenges confronting them. non-peer-reviewed

Suggested Citation

  • Morgan Kelly & Joel Mokyr & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2013. "Precocious Albion: a new interpretation of the British industrial revolution," Working Papers 201311, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:201311
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/4796
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Random thoughts on critiques of Allen’s theory of the Industrial Revolution
      by pseudoerasmus in Pseudoerasmus on 2016-12-02 02:35:02
    2. Labour relations & textiles: addenda
      by pseudoerasmus in Pseudoerasmus on 2017-09-27 05:01:55
    3. Industrial Revolution in Britain: it was thanks to human capital
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-10-31 20:01:00
    4. Le rôle du capital humain dans la révolution industrielle
      by ? in D'un champ l'autre on 2014-06-21 23:43:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. B. Zorina Khan, 2018. "Human capital, knowledge and economic development: evidence from the British Industrial Revolution, 1750–1930," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 12(2), pages 313-341, May.
    2. Ravshonbek Otojanov and Roger Fouquet, 2018. "Factor prices and induced technical change in the Industrial Revolution," Working Papers 92, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Business and Management, Centre for Globalisation Research.
    3. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2016. "Did Science Cause the Industrial Revolution?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(1), pages 224-239, March.
    4. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2017. "Jewish communities and city growth in preindustrial Europe," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 339-354.
    5. Edwards, Jeremy, 2018. "A replication of "Education and catch-up in the industrial revolution" (American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 2011)," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 12, pages 1-33.
    6. Chiu Yu Ko & Mark Koyama & Tuan†Hwee Sng, 2018. "Unified China And Divided Europe," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 59(1), pages 285-327, February.
    7. Humphries, Jane & Schneider, Benjamin, 2020. "Losing the thread: a response to Robert Allen dagger: a response to Robert Allen," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 102559, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2019. "Economic History: «An Isthmus Joining Two Great Continents»?," Rivista di storia economica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 1, pages 81-120.
    9. Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2015. "Adam Smith, Watch Prices, and the Industrial Revolution," Working Papers 201505, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    10. Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2016. "Adam Smith, Watch Prices, and the Industrial Revolution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(4), pages 1727-1752.
    11. de Pleijt, Alexandra M., 2015. "Human capital and long run economic growth : Evidence from the stock of human capital in England, 1300-1900," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 229, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    12. James Harrigan & Ariell Reshef & Farid Toubal, 2018. "Techies, Trade, and Skill-Biased Productivity," Working Papers 2018-21, CEPII research center.
    13. Baten, Jörg & Keywood, Thomas, 2019. "Elite Violence and Elite Numeracy in Europe from 500 to 1900 CE: A Co-Evolution?," CEPR Discussion Papers 14013, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. Alexandra M. de Pleijt, 2018. "Human capital formation in the long run: evidence from average years of schooling in England, 1300–1900," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 12(1), pages 99-126, January.
    15. Nuvolari, Alessandro & Tartari, Valentina & Tranchero, Matteo, 2019. "Patterns of innovation during the industrial revolution: a reappraisal using a composite indicator of patent quality," CEPR Discussion Papers 13958, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Álvarez, Begoña & Palencia, Fernando Ramos, 2018. "Human capital and earnings in eighteenth-century Castile," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 105-133.
    17. Sara Horrell & Jane Humphries & Jacob Weisdorf, 2019. "Working for a Living? Women and Children’s Labour Inputs in England, 1260-1850," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _172, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    18. Tom'av{s} Evan & Vladim'ir Hol'y, 2020. "Economic Conditions for Innovation: Private vs. Public Sector," Papers 2004.07814, arXiv.org, revised Oct 2020.
    19. Feldman, Naomi E. & van der Beek, Karine, 2016. "Skill choice and skill complementarity in eighteenth century England," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 94-113.
    20. Billington, Stephen D., 2018. "Patent costs and the value of inventions: Explaining patenting behaviour between England, Ireland and Scotland, 1617-1852," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2018-10, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Industrial revolution; Human capitol; Economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General

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