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on 6 December 2017
This is far better than a simple textbook. It offers very interesting insights into a well-trodden path of industrial development in the UK. The connexion between wages and technological innovation is reiterated but is very important. Also the size of the urban population and technology. The energy market is well understood and placed in context.

I bought this as a Kindle and that was an error of judgement. Graphs and data presentation is so poor as to be unusable. As these are central to the enjoyment of the book I strongly advise against buying Allen's book on Kindle.
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on 19 February 2012
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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on 11 September 2009
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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on 2 July 2009
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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on 21 July 2009
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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on 20 January 2010
The problem with Allen's latest production is that it is neither frankly a manual nor an academic work. If it is meant as the former, it is too argumentative, and if the latter it lacks proper supporting material.

Allen's argument is that the industrial revolution happened in Britain and could only happen there, because it had high wages and low energy costs, in the eighteenth century. The book models the labour savings of certain technological innovations to show that these were only worthwhile in Britain. Thus it says the spinning jenny could only make a positive return in Britain, not France or India. But as an example of its flawed assumptions, it supposes that the workers manning the jenny would only work part-time. Recalculating Allen's IRRs based on full-time work shows the jenny was just as worthwhile elsewhere. Indeed, the question is how Britain managed to flood France with cottons after signing the free-trade treaty of 1786, if French manual costs remained lower than British mechanised costs.

Allen also runs a regression-type model to explain the industrial revolution using different factors (government, energy costs, trade, enclosure) across different countries and sub-periods. But the factors are hand picked and the correlations certainly say nothing about causes. This all sounds rather futile. The last chapters are more interesting: on invention and the role of the Enlightenment, looking at a group of seventy major and less major inventors and their links with Enlightenment figures and institutions, as well as the role of broader cultural factors, such as interest in experimentation, belief in a Newtonian / mechanical world, and numeracy. If you have to read this book, I would advise checking the introduction and then skipping to that section.
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on 19 July 2009
Robert Allan has produced a thorough analysis of a phenomenon that has engaged economists, historians and political theorists for some time Why did the Industrial Revolution take place in Britain long before the industrialization process took hold elsewhere-in Europe, let alone Asia.

The answer includes a through review of original documents, statistical analysis of existing data, comparative data from other European countries, nods to other scholars, and a series of conclusions that by and large flow from the data presented

One could quibble with his comment that the juxtaposition of coal and iron ore occurred only in northern England and take issue with his dismissal of a fairly effective legal system as a factor. Indeed, he regards patent protection as an obstacle, rather than a spur to R & D, which his data does not support.

On the whole, it is reasonably accessible to anyone with general background in English and European history and modicum of immersion in contemporary economic theory.

Readers with a background in Weber, Tawney and Marx will find their views challenged

Its not the for the faint of heart
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on 5 April 2011
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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on 20 May 2015
Reads more like a text book than the usual pop history. Alternative views are given an airing and there is plenty of detailed argument. I would say this was for A-level and above rather than casual readers.
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on 30 January 2015
There is not a single book on the topic that is more analytical and consistently argue that this one.
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