The Industrial Revolution: capabilities and institutions


In my previous post, I summarised a demand-side explanation of the British Industrial Revolution. In this post, I will outline a supply-side explanation put forward by economic historians Margaret Jacob and Joel Mokyr. According to the supporters of the supply-side explanation, Britain had a supply of human capital who were capable of using science and engineering knowledge to solve practical problems. Besides having a comparative advantage in human capital over continental Europe, by the eighteenth century, Britain had the necessary institutional environment that promoted the principles of the market economy. Interaction between the forces of market economy and science made the practical applications of scientific discoveries more successful in Britain. This did not happen in continental Europe, because, for centuries, the political and religious establishment had been restricting the advancement of science if it conflicted with their political agenda and Western Europe was politically fragmented.

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