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Why Did the Industrial Revolution Begin in England in the Middle of the 18th Century?

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Why Did the Industrial Revolution Begin in England in the Middle of the 18th Century?

Our essay prompt poses a two-part examination. First, why did England bushwhack a way to industrialization over other comparable nations like China, Colonial America or even more analogous European counterparts like Holland? And second, what in particular about mid-18th century England precipitated this alleged socio-economic upheaval in ways that had not occurred previously in history? Amongst the myriad of competing and complementing causal factors, in this essay I will investigate the intersecting role of demography and market forces in England’s manufacturing gains. I postulate that the unique demography of Britain allowed its population to serve not just as a labor input, but also as a formidable determinant of industrial demand, thereby cementing economic influence on the structures that eventually typified the post-Industrial Revolution world.

When examining labor input from a supply perspective, England’s population was distinctive for being industrious and high quality . Wage labor was therefore significantly more expensive than in other countries, which prompted inventive energy and capital substitutions, in turn creating unprecedented economic incentives for technological advances in production . Even more unusually, English wages did not fall despite a growth in population, a phenomenon only replicated in the Low Countries. In both situations, the escape from the so-called Malthusian trap was explained by trade-induced labor demand. However the transition from an agrarian to mercantile economy was not merely incidental, but a fundamental prerequisite for the successes of the 18th century. In fact, the country’s ability to so successfully leverage itself as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ can be compellingly explained as a cultural transmission or adaptive evolution of its population. Gregory Clark was led to make this intriguing hypothesis while studying the loss of 1/3rd of Europe’s inhabitants to the Black Death in the mid 14th century, and the improved disease-resistance of the surviving English populace. He postulated that the relatively insular island nation had self-selected a population over generations ‘largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages’ . Perhaps, similar trends would not have occurred so significantly in low-dispersion frontier colonies in North America, countries with more distributed populations like Germany or France, populations like Southern Italy with higher immigration, and amongst nobility with lower fertility rates like the Chinese Qing. This ‘downward social mobility’ caused by enhanced survival rates of upper class offspring, better primed the English to escape the Malthusian constraints of an agrarian economy through a middle class orientation rooted in higher literacy and a strong work ethic. Clark’s theory provides a Darwinian

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