Reading Notes: Week 3: The British Industrial Revolution
In two decades N.F.R. Crafts' vision of the industrial revolution--slower than that of Deane and Cole, or Ashcroft, more concentrated among leading sectors, more ambiguous in that it left Britain with a comparative advantage in products made by relatively low-skilled labor and with a labor relations system hostile to productivity improvement--has become the conventional wisdom of economic history. What are the components of this view? And does it make sense?
Peter Temin argues that it does not make sense--that what we know from trade statistics counts heavily in favor of the older view, and against the Crafts view of the industrial revolution.
Do you buy Temin's argument? What might be going wrong with it? How would you check whether it was reliable?
Joel Mokyr has put together a book on the British industrial revolution. We read Mokyr's overview--Mokyr's view of where the consensus has settled, for the moment at least. We read Gregory Clark's attempt to synthesize what we know about agriculture in industrial Britain. And we read David Mitch on education and skills--factors that are today seen as the essence of economic growth, but that have always been underemphasized in past studies of the British industrial revolution.