England since, like, ever

Prof. Clark sits in the “what revolution?” camp among economic historians that try to date the industrial revolution. His data:

Why does this matter? Well, if there was no revolution, only evolution, to modern industrial society, you need an underlying evolutionary mechanism. Clark favors genes-based stories, but most other folks are more comfortable with culture-based stories. In either case, its hard to look at Clark’s data and pick a year before 1900 that would look like a revolution in efficiency.

11 thoughts on “England since, like, ever”

  1. Perhaps you should look at the data logarithmically (is that the right word?) instead of in absolute terms?

  2. This stupid bank account doubles my money every week. I put a penny in over a month ago and I’m only up to 64 cents. This shit isn’t going anywhere, I should take my money out and put it in T bills or something.

  3. In absolute terms the gain from 1760 to 1860 is ~50 on the Y axis. Not that much compared to the rate of gain from 1900 onward. But in relative terms it’s a doubling. Which seems pretty substantial in the context of the mostly flat 200 year period before it.

    I don’t really mean to critique Clark’s paper or his findings; it just seems that the last statement is more philosophical than useful. Are economic historians really looking to say something like “January 28th, 1829, 10:14 AM GST was the moment everything changed?”

  4. Well, its about the words you use, I guess. Can a revolution said to occur over 100 years (3 or 4 generations)? A set of theories that these data make hard to swallow are ones where particular innovations (e.g. steam power or some singular institution) leading to the transition to the modern economy.

    BTW, another point is that the mid-19th century efficiency level is the same as the 15th century high. So the “revolution” — that’s usually placed around 1800 — doesn’t even get efficiency to levels above those seen in the middle ages until 65 years later.

  5. What an Austrian theory of the IR would look like:

    the Bank of England is one of the oldest central bank, dating back to 1694. The Industrial Revolution started in the mid-18th century as a direct result.

    The Industrial Revolution is a just a temporary boom caused by the Bank of England’s manipulation of interest rates. Eventually we will have to pay the piper and return to the pre-Malthusian living standards, as central bank manipulation can only result in a temporary credit boom and always ends in a crash.

    Right? :)

  6. Huh. I was going to post something about England and coal and Industrial Revolutions but apparently some Clark guy up at Davis co-authored a paper debunking that assumption.

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