Organizing the causes of the Industrial Revolution

Mark Koyama writes,

Consider some prominent views about what caused the British Industrial Revolution. At the risk of grossly simplifying matters we can put them into three bins.

…Third, there are those who argue that ultimately only innovation can explain the transition to modern economic growth. This is the position of the majority of economic historians. Label them group 3. However, this third group is divided between those who seek to explain the increase in innovation in purely economic terms (3a) and those who see this as an impossible task and argue that the answer has to be sought elsewhere, perhaps in something that can be broadly defined as culture (3b).

Pointer from Tyler Cowen. The essay is about whether Rome could have had an industrial revolution. Recommended.

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One Response to Organizing the causes of the Industrial Revolution

  1. JK Brown says:

    The key seems to be more about recognizing the innovation and probably having more than just a few with the liberty to pursue ideas at their own risk. The steam engine was invented in 100CE, but considered a novelty by its inventor.

    I’m partial to the idea presented in William Rosen’s ‘ ‘The Most Powerful Idea in the World’, that it was patents, or more precisely the right of generally powerless individuals to generate wealth from their idea for a period before it became essentially common property.

    “Heron, the great inventor of Alexandria, described in detail what is thought to be the first working steam engine. He called it an aeolipile, or “wind ball”. His design was a sealed caldron of water was placed over a heat source. As the water boiled, steam rose into the pipes and into the hollow sphere. The steam escaped from two bent outlet tubes on the ball, resulting in rotation of the ball. The principle he used in his design is similar to that of today’s jet propulsion. Heron did not consider this invention being useful for everyday applications: he considered his aeolipile invention as a novelty, a remarkable toy. ”

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