Exam 2 Unused Essay:
Question: In his book The Industrial Revolution and the New Economic History Joel Mokyr lays out several geographical, political and societal reasons why the Industrial Revolution started in Britain. While he refrains from singling out one of these factors as causal to the Industrial Revolution, he maintains that a combination of these factors, particularly the laissez-faire attitude of the government towards the economy and the societal factors favoring individual invention and innovation, led to this rapid change in Great Britain. On the basis of Mokyr’s text, please discuss which geographical, political and societal factors favored Britain to spearhead the Industrial Revolution.
Why Britain Led The Industrial Revolution
These key factors, geographical, political and societal, favored Britain at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The geographic construction of Britain provided it simple access to natural resources. Consequently, these readily available raw materials helped generate technological advancements. Additionally, the “natural fortress” barrier provided by the archipelagic nature of British Isles isolated Britain from events on the continent. Although not immune to war, the effect was less severe. Hence, Britain did not need to spend as much to protect itself. This meant fewer Britain intellects needed to “wasted their talents and energies on unproductive military careers.” (Mokyr)
Following the Civil Wars of the seventeenth century, Britain operated on a more stable economic platform. This stability helped to shelter the economy from pressure groups, providing greater flexibility to members. The Civil ware also improving property rights, this gave investors greater control of their investment and returns. With improved potential to increase retained revenue, entrepreneurs had greater incentive to be profitable, to increase revenue, and to invest in higher risk endeavors.
Mokyr, Joel, “The Industrial Revolution and the New Economic History”, in The Industrial Revolution, ed. Steven M. Beaudoin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 2003), 93-102.
Hansen, Valerie and Kenneth Curtis. Voyages in World History, Volume 2 Since 1500. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.