Why Did the Industrial Revolution Start in Britain?

94 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2015 Last revised: 7 Dec 2015

See all articles by Leif van Neuss

Leif van Neuss

University of Liège - HEC Management School

Date Written: December 7, 2015


The main goal of this paper is to provide an integrated overview of the literature devoted to identifying the causes of the British industrial revolution. Why did the industrial revolution, a fascinating and multifaceted event which brought about modern economic growth, occur in eighteenth-century Britain? This question has animated a lot of discussions among scholars and is still nowadays heatedly debated in the literature. This debate is reflected in the large spectrum of theories which aim at explaining the true origins of the British industrialization. The paper first sheds light on a rising debate concerning the evolution of British incomes per capita before the British industrial revolution and the “Great Divergence”. The paper then investigates the proposed causes of the British industrialization, aggregating them into seven broad categories, i.e. (1) geography and natural resources, (2) demography, (3) agricultural progress, (4) urbanization and consumer revolution, (5) trade and empire, (6) institutional and political factors, (7) science, technology, and human capital.

Keywords: economic history, industrial revolution

JEL Classification: N, O10, O30

Suggested Citation

van Neuss, Leif, Why Did the Industrial Revolution Start in Britain? (December 7, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2696076 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2696076

Leif Van Neuss (Contact Author)

University of Liège - HEC Management School ( email )

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