A close look at the eighteenth-century English and French economies does show that improved transport had an important impact on the process of industrialization in many ways. The appearance in England of the four phenomena which characterize the Industrial Revolution - regional specialization, increasing scale of production, the emergence of new industries, and a dramatic increase in the rate of technological innovation - can be explained in terms of the improvements in England's transport network during the eighteenth century. The non-occurrence of the same phenomena in France can be seen as a natural result of the fact that her transport system remained of very poor quality throughout the century.
This work has bridged the gap between the literature on transport and the literature on industrialization. To be sure, the connection between transport and the Industrial Revolution has been suggested before, though never in as much detail as here. I have gone beyond the necessary first step of showing that England had the best transport system in the world to show how she was thus enabled to experience the Industrial Revolution. The key to this analysis was an ability to show that various technological innovations could indeed flow from the environment created by transport improvements.
This argument would have been less convincing had I looked at England alone. Comparative studies are too little used in economic history. In claiming that early modern transport was a necessary condition if the Industrial Revolution was to occur, one must show not only how the possession of such a network could facilitate industrialization, but how the absence of such a network would make the Industrial Revolution impossible. By looking at French industries, one could see that their development was hobbled by an inadequate transport network.
Especially noteworthy is the degree to which the small-scale, geograph