The Industrial Revolution is an ambiguous term, freighted with multiple meanings, interpreted differently by different writers. First, it describes the extraordinary transformation the British economy experienced between 1760 and 1850. In these years Britain moved from being a largely self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and still principally agrarian society, to being an economy where a substantial fraction of food, raw materials and energy was imported, or mined from the earth as coal, and where the great majority of the population was engaged in industry and commerce. But second, and more importantly, it has come to mean the general move in the world economy in about 1800 from the pre-industrial economy, which experienced extremely low rates of efficiency growth, to the modern economy, where efficiency growth is rapid and persistent. That shift from low rates of efficiency advance to rapid rates had nothing inherently to do with industry or industrialization. Efficiency advance in agriculture has been as rapid as in the rest of the economy since 1800. So for the more general use of the term ‘Industrial Revolution’ the ‘industrial’ component is a misnomer, but a misnomer that we have to live with.
KeywordsHuman Capital Total Factor Productivity Real Wage Industrial Revolution Demographic Transition
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