The origins of the Industrial Revolution

CEPR’s Policy Portal:

Economists have long studied the causes of the Industrial Revolution, relying frequently on comparisons between England and other European countries to understand “Why England and not France or the Low Countries?”. Many hypotheses have been advanced – from the abundance of cheap fuel in the form of coal (Pomeranz 2000, Fernihough and O’Rourke 2014), to the effect of the slave trades (Williams 1944), to technological change inducing high wages (Allen 2009), to a series of institutional shocks leading to innovation and industrialisation (North and Thomas 1973, Acemoglu et al. 2005). In a recent paper, we test a subset of the main hypotheses about industrial success across 16,000 villages in England (Heldring et al. 2017). Aside from measuring a large number of geographical attributes of each village, we focus on a large shock that hit the English countryside in the mid 16th century – the Dissolution of the Monasteries. While in the previous literature the subject of study was essentially England versus the rest of the world, we can explain regional variation in industrial activity across England.

My emphasis.