Transactions of the Japan Academy
Online ISSN : 2424-1903
Print ISSN : 0388-0036
ISSN-L : 0388-0036
The British Industrial Revolution
: A Historiographical Essay
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2022 Volume 76 Issue 2 Pages 203-234


 The historical interpretation of the British industrial revolution has undergone a significant change since the 1960s. The publication of British Economic Growth, 1688-1959 by P. Deane and W. A. Cole in 1962 marked an epoch by applying national accounting methods to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century historical data. Their stage-specific estimates of real gross domestic product (GDP) growth were thought to reflect the acceleration process of industrial and GDP growth in the c.1760-1830 period, during which a series of innovations are said to have revolutionised the scene of manufacturing. However, this interpretation was radically revised by Nick Crafts' 1985 book, British Economic Growth during the Industrial Revolution. With his estimates of slower rates of GDP growth and arguments derived from growth accounting analysis, it is suggested that the contribution of new technologies (such as steam engine) to output growth was surprisingly low, taking more time in harvesting the fruit of a general-purpose technology (GPT) than we tended to assume. The thesis of slow growth was reconfirmed by a 1992 joint-paper by Crafts and Knick Harley and the growth accounting scenario by Crafts' own 2018 book. (View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)

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