The Mechanics of the Industrial Revolution

63 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2020

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)

Date Written: June 2020

Abstract

For contemporaries, Britain's success in developing the technologies of the early Industrial Revolution rested in large part on its abundant supply of artisan skills, notably in metalworking. In this paper we outline a simple process where successful industrialization occurs in regions that start with low wages and high mechanical skills, and show that these two factors strongly explain the growth of the textile industry across the 41 counties of England between the 1760s and 1830s. By contrast, literacy and access to capital have no power in predicting industrialization, nor does proximity to coal. Although unimportant as a source of power for early textile machinery, Britain's coal was vital as a source of cheap heat that allowed it over centuries to develop a unique range of sophisticated metalworking industries. From these activities came artisans, from watchmakers to iron founders, whose industrial skills were in demand not just in Britain but across all of Europe. Against the view that living standards were stagnant during the Industrial Revolution, we find that real wages rose sharply in the industrializing north and collapsed in the previously prosperous south.

Suggested Citation

Kelly, Morgan and Mokyr, Joel and O'Grada, Cormac, The Mechanics of the Industrial Revolution (June 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14884, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3628205

Morgan Kelly (Contact Author)

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
2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
708-491-5693 (Phone)
708-491-7001 (Fax)

Cormac O'Grada

University College Dublin (UCD) ( email )

Dublin 4, 4
Ireland

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