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Reconceptualizing the Industrial Revolution

Reconceptualizing the Industrial Revolution

Jeff Horn
Leonard N. Rosenband
Merritt Roe Smith
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Reconceptualizing the Industrial Revolution
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays offers new perspectives on the Industrial Revolution as a global phenomenon. The fifteen contributors go beyond the longstanding view of industrialization as a linear process marked by discrete stages. Instead, they examine a lengthy and creative period in the history of industrialization, 1750 to 1914, reassessing the nature of and explanations for England's industrial primacy, and comparing significant industrial developments in countries ranging from China to Brazil. Each chapter explores a distinctive national production ecology, a complex blend of natural resources, demographic pressures, cultural impulses, technological assets, and commercial practices. At the same time, the chapters also reveal the portability of skilled workers and the permeability of political borders. The Industrial Revolution comes to life in discussions of British eagerness for stylish, middle-class products; the Enlightenment's contribution to European industrial growth; early America's incremental (rather than revolutionary) industrialization; the complex connections between Czarist and Stalinist periods of industrial change in Russia; Japan's late and rapid turn to mechanized production; and Brazil's industrial-financial boom. By exploring unique national patterns of industrialization as well as reciprocal exchanges and furtive borrowing among these states, the book refreshes the discussion of early industrial transformations and raises issues still relevant in today's era of globalization.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-28950-4
    Subjects: History, Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    Jeff Horn, Leonard N. Rosenband and Merritt Roe Smith

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe claimed in 1825 that “wealth and speed are what the world admires, and what all are bent on.” He took particular note of “railways, express mail-coaches, steamboats,” all products and symbols of the early stirrings of large-scale industrialization.¹ This book considers the Industrial Revolution in a broad range of national settings. Each chapter explores a distinctive production ecology—a complex blend of natural resources, demographic pressures, cultural impulses, technological assets, commercial practices, and a host of other features. Yet these studies also reveal the portability of skilled workers and technologies, as well as the porosity of...

  6. 2 Deconstructing the British Industrial Revolution as a Conjuncture and Paradigm for Global Economic History
    (pp. 21-46)
    Patrick K. O’Brien

    Industrialization is an important historical process, drawn out or truncated in time and occurring in local, regional, national, continental, and global contexts. While it involves social, cultural, political, and geopolitical forces, its outcome can be parsimoniously encapsulated in statistical form as a conjuncture of economic transformation from an agrarian to an industrial economy.¹ In quantitative terms, what economic historians have observed and measured is structural change, proceeding more or less rapidly until the majority of a national workforce ceases to be engaged with the production and servicing of primary products and becomes employed either directly or indirectly with the production...

  7. 3 The British Product Revolution of the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 47-64)
    Maxine Berg

    Historians seeking to explain Britain’s industrial ascendancy in the eighteenth century now focus on its distinctive energy sources and, above all, on its technological precocity. Where once they identified mechanization and steam power as the keys to Britain’s success, they now look more broadly to a peculiar concentration of “useful knowledge” deployed to invention and to productivity gains.¹ While “useful knowledge” has contributed to a wider concept of invention, invention must also connect outward from process to product, from production to consumption. To what extent was Britain’s Industrial Revolution about products as much as it was about processes? What can...

  8. 4 The European Enlightenment and the Origins of Modern Economic Growth
    (pp. 65-86)
    Joel Mokyr

    The consensus is that modern economic growth was started by the British Industrial Revolution. As is well known, during the Industrial Revolution itself, growth was in fact fairly modest, but the sudden take-off of gross domestic product per capita after 1825 or thereabouts was made possible by a long period of laying the foundations.¹ The transformation was tantamount to a phase transition, a sea change in the mechanics of economic growth, with technological progress gradually coming to dominate the process, accounting for its novel features. But what were these foundations exactly? This chapter addresses this issue of foundations.

    Before doing...

  9. 5 Avoiding Revolution: The French Path to Industrialization
    (pp. 87-106)
    Jeff Horn

    France’s path to industrialization was tortuous, prolonged, and unique. The French did not follow Britain’s model of industrial development, but not for lack of trying. In the decades before 1789, French policymakers and entrepreneurs made serious and sustained efforts to emulate what they understood as the wellsprings of British industrial success: elite domination and the co-optation of the working classes while funneling working-class inventiveness into productive channels. French attempts to compete with Great Britain made great strides during this era, as witnessed by their willingness to sign a commercial treaty in 1786. Premature as this move proved to be, it...

  10. 6 The Political Economy of Early Industrialization in German Europe, 1800–1840
    (pp. 107-124)
    Eric Dorn Brose

    The four decades after 1800 represent a critical period in the economic and technological history of Prussia—the era of early industrialization. For many contemporaries, however, this era was confusing and, in the end, often disappointing. Indeed, whether bureaucrats or businessmen, few individuals accurately predicted the country’s industrial future. Some, like the technocrat Peter Beuth, wanted an “aesthetic industrialization” replete with country factories, neoclassical in design, producing fabrics, prints, and other items with ancient motifs. The captains of the government mining corps (Oberberghauptmannschaft) adhered to centuries-old techniques, confident that these traditional ways promised the most prudent path of industrial development,...

  11. 7 Reconceptualizing Industrialization in Scandinavia
    (pp. 125-150)
    Kristine Bruland

    The Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) have undergone spectacular development processes and are now among the most successful economies in the world in terms of both economic indicators and social and health outcomes. However, for many centuries, Scandinavia was a poor region. It was certainly not obvious to eighteenth- or nineteenth-century observers that it would become rich. As Norwegian professor Anton Schweigaard remarked in 1848, “Industry is most backward in this country.”² Although these economies had resource advantages—in timber, fish stocks, waterpower, and ferrous and nonferrous ores, for example—the resource base was arguably no greater than...

  12. 8 Crafting the Industrial Revolution: Artisan Families and the Calico Industry in Eighteenth-Century Spain
    (pp. 151-168)
    Marta V. Vicente

    “If Catalonia were all of Spain, Spain would over shadow England,” stated the Anglophile Spanish journalist Francisco Mariano Nipho in 1779.¹ A year later, he reiterated his admiration for Catalonia’s industrial achievements by declaring it to be “a little England at the heart of Spain.”² Nipho’s exaggerated claim had a grain of truth. In less than fifty years, the growth of the cotton industry and its main product, calico cloth, had brought dramatic changes to the city’s industry. From only eight manufactures in 1750, at the end of the century, Barcelona owed its “splendor and wealth” to its 150 calico...

  13. 9 Taking Stock of the Industrial Revolution in America
    (pp. 169-200)
    Merritt Roe Smith and Robert Martello

    In December 1791, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton delivered hisReport on Manufacturesto the Second Congress of the United States. In it, he argued that:

    not only the wealth, but the independence and security of a country, appears to be materially connected with the prosperity of manufactures. Every nation, with a view to those great objects, ought to endeavor to possess within itself all the essentials of national supply. These comprise the means of subsistence, habitation, clothing, and defence. The possession of these is necessary to the perfection of the body politic, to the safety as well as to the...

  14. 10 The Many Transitions of Ebenezer Stedman: A Biographical and Cross-National Approach to the Industrial Revolution
    (pp. 201-228)
    Leonard N. Rosenband

    In 1829, Ebenezer Stedman began the difficult task of restoring a derelict paper mill. The old workshop in Georgetown, Kentucky, the first to produce paper in the “Great West,” had been the victim of a series of ineffectual and alcoholic tenants. To reconstruct his newly leased mill, Stedman, just twenty-one years old, relied on practices and instruments inherited from the papermakers of Massachusetts, Great Britain, and Europe. He soon prospered and “began to feel” that he was “some Boddy.”¹ He rented a room near the courthouse, where he bartered with blacks for hemp tow, the coarse, less desirable fibers that...

  15. 11 Reconceptualizing Russia’s Industrial Revolution
    (pp. 229-250)
    Peter Gatrell

    The long history of Russian industrialization was indelibly marked by two dramatic periods when investment, employment, and output increased at a rapid rate. The first phase belongs to the final years of the old regime and lasted from around 1885 to 1913. The second upsurge belongs to the period of early Stalinism, between 1928 and 1941. Comparisons between these two phases of industrialization have been rare in the historiography. A notable exception was Alexander Gerschenkron, who insisted on the need to relate economic and political factors to understand Russian economic backwardness and the strategies adopted for overcoming it, in the...

  16. 12 Financing Brazil’s Industrialization
    (pp. 251-270)
    Anne G. Hanley

    Brazil, it can reasonably be argued, did not experience an industrial revolution. It is more proper to say that Brazil began to industrialize in the late nineteenth century in a process similar to Britain’s First Industrial Revolution, but in the context of Europe’s Second Industrial Revolution. While no national accounting figures assess values for the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors as a share of national income before 1939, qualitative evidence suggests that industry’s share in the nineteenth-century Brazilian economy was small, highly concentrated, and characterized by the production of simple consumer goods. Brazil’s most important industrial sector, cotton textiles, counted...

  17. 13 Trade and Industry in the Indian Subcontinent, 1750–1913
    (pp. 271-290)
    Prasannan Parthasarathi

    At the end of the nineteenth century, industrial capacity in India was limited. In the decade 1900–1910, industry accounted for only 11 percent of national income and a little more than 10 percent of total employment. By contrast, in the same period, industrial production contributed 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States and 40 percent in Britain. In 1913, per capita levels of industrialization in India were less than 2 percent of those in Britain and less than one-third of those for Brazil and Mexico. The limited contribution of industrial production to GDP in the...

  18. 14 Cultural Engineering and the Industrialization of Japan, circa 1868–1912
    (pp. 291-308)
    Ian Inkster

    Any initial conception of Japanese industrialization should perhaps begin with some acceptable benchmarks.¹ Until the political changes of 1868, the autarchic political economy of Tokugawa Japan did not effectively cocoon the economic system of over 30 million people in a dark age, but it did severely limit the free movement of the factors of production and diluted any injection of useful and reliable knowledge from outside. It also taxed land heavily and reduced the commercial motivations of innovative groups.² Recent reconceptualizations of Tokugawa performance have stressed demographic change, institutional evolution, and agricultural growth over a very long term, and this...

  19. 15 What Price Empire? The Industrial Revolution and the Case of China
    (pp. 309-328)
    Peter C. Perdue

    Two questions dominate the study of industrialization in China: Was imperial China a contender to be the first country to industrialize, and why was China so slow to industrialize once the Industrial Revolution had begun? Twenty years ago, no one had ever considered the first question remotely plausible, but the great burst of Chinese economic growth since the reforms of the 1980s and further research on the vigor of the imperial Chinese economy have shown how advanced China was on the eve of industrialization. Recognizing China as substantially equal to Europe in economic terms around the year 1800 also questions...

  20. Index
    (pp. 329-356)