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.
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…
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