Missing Out on Industrial Revolution

Eric Jones

Published: December 2008

Explanations of industrialisation stress England’s nineteenth-century abrupt departure from a common Eurasian pattern. This paper examines the preceding de-industrialisation of Southern England and limited development of Tokugawa Japan (the shogunate that ruled Japan from 1600–1868), which throw clearer light on the processes involved. English industrialisation was regional, resulting from competition within a market unified by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century improvements in communications. The old industries of Southern England were eliminated before the application of steam to manufacturing in the North. Underpinning regional competition were transportation investments encouraged by the ‘elite settlement’ of 1688, and by market ideology. The paper shows that Japan independently followed a parallel path between 1600 and 1700. Its elite settlement was weaker than England’s but both countries were already constructing the ‘open access orders’ characteristic of modern economies.

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