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The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (New Approaches to Economic and Social History) Paperback – 9 Apr 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (9 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521687853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521687850
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.7 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 215,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Robert Allen has for decades been one of the broadest-ranging and most imaginative scholars in economic history. In this highly original and superbly-researched book, he has set new standards for the study of one of the most critical episodes of human history, the British Industrial Revolution. A must-read for scholars ranging from eighteenth-century history to the economics of modern growth.' Joel Mokyr, author of The Gifts of Athena and The Enlightened Economy

'This important book should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the origins of the industrial revolution. It puts technological change centre stage and places success in invention firmly in the context of economic incentives and business realities that made 18th-century Britain different. This is a stellar demonstration of how subtle economic analysis informed by detailed historical knowledge can provide a persuasive new interpretation of a defining moment in world economic history.' Nicholas Crafts, Professor of Economic History, University of Warwick

'Bob Allen has written, in his usual transparent style, a brilliant book on two of the main questions of economics (or economic history): why did the Industrial Revolution happen in Great Britain, and why did it cause a fundamental break in long term economic development. He argues convincingly that relative prices - high nominal and real wages, and low energy costs - were fundamental in inducing British entrepreneurs and inventors to search for technological solutions that would be labour saving and energy (and capital) using, and that the same relative prices explain why this search process was successful on the British Isles, and much less so on the European Continent. He also demonstrates that, once this process of creative destruction was set in motion, the efficiency of the technologies increased so sharply, that they became highly competitive in different environments - and therefore, after 1820, began to revolutionize the world economy. One of the main strengths of the book is the intimate knowledge the author has acquired of both the technological processes involved, and the economics of industrialization - it is based on a perfect marriage between technological insights and economic analysis.' Jan Luiten van Zanden, author of The Long Road to the Industrial Revolution

'Robert Allen's analysis will delight many economists, for he deals in measurable factors such as wages and prices … This is a beautifully written book, the language as clear as a brook and with the same tumbling energy.' The Economist

'… the smartest thing I have read in at least a year.' Professor J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

'Robert C. Allen's The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective shows that it is still possible to say something new and important on this most crowded of topics, and to do so with lucidity.' Linda Colley, The Times Literary Supplement

'… stunningly good study of the Industrial Revolution … The book is well written and is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the origins of industrial change in the eighteenth century.' Historical Association

'This is the book you should use to teach the Industrial Revolution.' Journal of Economic History

'The relationship between shari'a and politics is obviously complex. Feldman's book provides an excellent starting point for a subject notoriously difficult and little understood. Feldman gives us a good place to start from, from, for it runs counter to most Western thinking on the subject.' The European Legacy

Book Description

This landmark global economic history explains why the Industrial Revolution occurred in Britain by highlighting the ways in which Britain was different from other countries in Europe and Asia. Combining economic, social, technological and business history, Allen shows the importance of globalisation in explaining the divergence of East and West.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Francisca on 19 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
This book I bought for my husband! His own words.... "Very well written and interesting book. As a non economist I found some parts a bit heavy and the book could be greatly improved by higher quality tables".
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Rabeneck on 2 July 2009
Format: Paperback
Robert Allen, in his new book The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (New Approaches to Economic and Social History)wants us to forget idealist explanations of the industrial revolution as the product of individual genius, the application of discoveries made for scientific reasons or even the natural outgrowth of Newtonian science. He explains that technological development was fuelled by a desire to make money, to exploit opportunities resulting from successful mercantile and imperialist state policies. The conditions were right because Britain was a high-wage economy with lots of cheap energy, incentive to substitute capital for labour. Allen takes coke smelting, cotton spinning machinery and the steam engine as case studies to explain the type of (mostly incremental) invention at work, how it related to the British wage/price climate, and why it took place specifically in Britain and not elsewhere.
This history, relying on specific production and price data is in refreshing contrast to mainstream economic and business history, because it's about the actual economy. Recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Suyderhoud on 21 July 2009
Format: Paperback
A very readable book on the industrial revolution in Great Britain and why it happened at that time and that place. The Industrial revolution took place in most developed countries, but Britain is by common consent the first country of occurrence. Robert Allan proves that the main initiating factors are high wages, high urbanization, high literacy, low costs of energy and raw materials and good transport and commercial infrastructure. The same factors could also explain the Dutch prosperous economy (our golden age) before the British industrial revolution. Cheap energy at that time being wind and peat used for land reclamation, factories and shipyards, combined with excellent water transport, high urbanization, high literacy and strong commercial and technical capabilities. Many books have been written on the Dutch golden age, but none along these lines, perhaps Robert Allen can find some time for such a study as much information has already been gathered in this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By yigit senyuz on 5 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Since there are many sources for Industrial Rev, I spent few days on the investigation and came up with Robert Allen's book. After having read %70 of it, I can absolutely state that this is a must-read for all the ones who are interested in the subject. The book includes many figures and charts to underpin it's thesis. And the famous questions such as why did the I.R happened in Britain instead of it's counterparts are answered in a very satisfactorily way. I definitely recommend it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jim Donovan on 28 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
One of my best reads recently had the somewhat dry title "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective (New Approaches to Economic and Social History)". Don't be put off. Written by Robert Allen, Professor of Economic History at Oxford University, it's a very readable* and convincing account of why the Industrial Revolution happened in 18th-century Britain, rather than anywhere else. Allen discounts any notions that Britons were superior entrepreneurs or innovators; indeed, other countries enjoyed similar advances in science, education, institutions and commerce. Instead, after setting the scene with societal and economic developments in the 16th and 17th centuries, Allen points to some primary factors which came together only in Britain and nowhere else:

The highest wages in the world (thanks to the Black Death and its effects on British society).
An abundance of cheap energy from coal (albeit not very useful initially, but developed to supply growing city populations).
Ample supplies of iron ore close to that coal.

Those factor conditions did not come together anywhere else, and so there were not the incentives and rewards for creating the wave of technological and business innovation that transformed Britain (and later the world). Allen also shows that the state played very little distinctive role in the British transformation. It was the cumulative efforts of individual entrepreneurs, engineers and other innovators addressing real business problems and opportunities which, because they were common in Britain, also generated classic cluster effects.

While interesting in its own right, Allen's book reinforced for me much of what is wrong with current economic development thinking.
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By TFS on 30 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is not a single book on the topic that is more analytical and consistently argue that this one.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P. W. King on 11 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most important books on the industrial reveolution for some years.

Allen approaches the problem of why the industrial revolution happened in Britain in the late 18th century by looking at a number of world economies. From this he shows that Britain in this period had comparatively high wages and cheap fuel, the latter particularly in the manufacuring regions. He then focuses on three leading sectors, cotton, steam power and iron. Finally, he examines the intellectual background to innovation, concluding that most of the key innovators were educated, though it is not clear how well scientific knowledge was transmitted.

For iron, he correctly focuses on the importance of coal-based smelting, but he is wrong in concentrating on the production of pig iron, where a breakthrough occured in 1709. This did not relieve the industry from the restriction placed on it by the supply of charcoal. That only happened much later in the century, when economically-viable methods of producing bar iron (wrought iron) came into use. Accordingly, for this industry, Allen has missed the critical issue.
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