Precocious Albion: A New Interpretation of the British Industrial Revolution

Posted: 8 Aug 2014

See all articles by Morgan Kelly

Morgan Kelly

University College Dublin (UCD) - Department of Economics

Joel Mokyr

Northwestern University - Department of Economics

Cormac O. Grada

University College Dublin (UCD) - Department of Economics

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Date Written: August 2014

Abstract

Many explanations have been offered for the British Industrial Revolution. This article points to the importance of human capital (broadly defined) and the quality of the British labor force on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. It shows that in terms of both physical quality and mechanical skills, British workers around 1750 were at a much higher level than their continental counterparts. As a result, new inventions — no matter where they originated — were adopted earlier, faster, and on a larger scale in Britain than elsewhere. The gap in labor quality is consistent with the higher wages paid in eighteenth-century Britain. The causes for the higher labor quality are explored and found to be associated with a higher level of nutrition and better institutions, especially England’s Poor Law and the superior functioning of its apprenticeship system.

Suggested Citation

Kelly, Morgan and Mokyr, Joel and Grada, Cormac O., Precocious Albion: A New Interpretation of the British Industrial Revolution (August 2014). Annual Review of Economics, Vol. 6, pp. 363-389, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2477763 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-economics-080213-041042

Morgan Kelly

University College Dublin (UCD) - Department of Economics ( email )

Belfield
Dublin 4, Dublin 4
Ireland
+353 1 706 8611 (Phone)
+353 1 283 0068 (Fax)

Joel Mokyr

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
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United States
708-491-5693 (Phone)
708-491-7001 (Fax)

Cormac O. Grada

University College Dublin (UCD) - Department of Economics

Belfield
Dublin 4, Dublin 4
Ireland

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