“Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998)

The influence of slavery on the development of the British Empire and the Industrial Revolution goes beyond mere numbers. I enjoyed this overview, but I believe the author overlooks the influences of slavery on modernity. Labor organization, free trade, and other such components of the Industrial Revolution (though I’m hesitant to say free trade was a component of the ID) cannot be measured via cliometrics alone. Books like Justin Roberts’ Slavery and the Enlightenment in the British Atlantic, 1750-1807 and Simon Newman’s a A New World of Labor present, offer perspectives on the organization of labor, which emerged from the slave trade. However, I like the section “Major macro inventions, and growth, of the type seen in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s happened many times in human history”–very important.

A Fine Theorem

I taught a fun three hours on the Industrial Revolution in my innovation PhD course this week. The absolutely incredible change in the condition of mankind that began in a tiny corner of Europe in an otherwise unremarkable 70-or-so years is totally fascinating. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath are so important to human history that I find it strange that we give people PhDs in social science without requiring at least some study of what happened.

My post today draws heavily on Joel Mokyr’s lovely, if lengthy, summary of what we know about the period. You really should read the whole thing, but if you know nothing about the IR, there are really five facts of great importance which you should be aware of.

1) The world was absurdly poor from the dawn of mankind until the late 1800s, everywhere.
Somewhere like Chad or Nepal today fares better…

View original post 1,712 more words

Whittaker Chambers, LIFE Magazine, and the Enlightenment

I am thoroughly enjoying this blog and would like to share it and “spread the word.”

Persistent Enlightenment

The final version of Dialectic of Enlightenment, a book that (as I’ve argued in an earlier post) may have less to do with “the Enlightenment” than its critics sometimes assume, was published at the end of 1947 and more or less ignored for the next two decades.1 A few months earlier a discussion of the Enlightenment that is now completely forgotten turned up in a rather unlikely place: the September 15, 1947 issue of LIFE magazine. No less unlikely was its uncredited author, a man who, a year later, would become famous for things other than his writing: Whittaker Chambers.

Whittaker_ChambersChambers had joined Henry Luce’s influential and profitable publishing empire eight years earlier with an article for Time on Finnegans Wake. Prior to that, he had written for various Communist publications and worked as a spy for the Soviets. By 1937 he had broken with the…

View original post 3,652 more words

Atlantic, Transatlantic, and the History of Capitalism?

The University of Exeter offers several interesting podcasts on the history of the British Empire.    The first podcast on the site discuses Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson’s “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” a quintessential essay for students of the modern British Empire.  I first came across this essay while studying post colonialism in a global history class and again when studying the African historiography.

I focus on the British slave trade in the  late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Right now, I am investigating The Company of Merchants Trading to Africa (hereafter CMTA).  The history of the CMTA helped me understand contemporary thoughts about the changing roles of companies, merchants, and the state in the eighteenth century.  While studying the CMTA, I came across a work by Judith Williams, an American (U.S.) historian writing before Gallagher and Robinson.  Her work portrays the ‘innocent’ vision of free trade, which Gallagher and Robinson challenged in their article.  This helped my grasp an appreciation for a larger perspective of the political and economic aspects of Empire from the eighteenth century through the early twentieth century (though I am careful not to take a teleological/ Whiggish approach).

Reading “The Imperialism of Free Trade” with my current studies on the CMTA reminded me of transatlantic history, where professors and students push the Atlantic time period closer to the twenties century than normal–looking at the long duree .  But this is also occurring at a time when scholars are publishing works on the history of capitalism.  Will eighteenth-century Atlantic history, transatlantic, and the history of capitalism overlap or interact?

I hope to elaborate on this later and any feedback would be greatly appreciated.